I went to a barbecue a few weeks ago.
I was looking forward to a real summer afternoon of day drinking, sunbathing, and perhaps a hot dog or three. I wore a yellow dress and brought some weed and a bottle of bourbon. When I arrived I was guided to a palm and bougainvillea-soaked backyard.
There were so many grown-ups and screaming toddlers. Despite the fact that I’m no longer a teenager and have bills, I don’t consider myself a grown-up. The difference is slight to the naked eye, and is definitely more philosophical, but it’s there.
There is a tone of voice in grown-ups. Much like that Hollywood accent in old movies, grown-ups talk in a particular tone. They may have small children, whom they seem to dislike greatly, and speak to as if they were programming a robot.
I struck up a conversation with an adorable man who was manning the grill. We talked about The War. I slipped away to refill my drink and almost tripped over a tiny little boy named Oliver.
I dropped to my knees in order to see his eyes. “Hi Oliver”.
He looked at me and took my hand. Oliver led me to the punch bowl labeled Adult Lemonaide. His sticky hand lifted the ladle and he moved it around slowly in the punch, enjoying the sloshing sound.
“Oliver! NO TOUCH.” His mother yelled, frazzled and exhausted, the perpetual victim of this impossible life she’s chosen as the mother of a tiny punch-guzzling toddler.
Oliver looked at me and continued to slosh the punch.
“OLIVER. NO. TOUCH.” Mother turned red.
She picked him up and re-routed him toward a small table covered in broken crayons. “Oliver color?!”, she said in a sticky, desperate voice.
Oliver screamed and ran back to the boozy punch he had come to love.
Mother sighed and sat back down next to her tired husband who looked at least 600 years old.
I followed Oliver to the punch and kneeled down. I stared into his dark blue eyes. They were old and soulful, like that of a golden retriever. I could tell he understood me. He also hated adult parties. He and I, we were cut from the same rebellious cloth. This little toddler and I just wanted to play in the metaphorical punch of life, while these ugly giants kept trying to tell us what to do.
“Oliver, have you ever heard of ice?”
He looked at me with pure curiosity as I reached into a cooler and lifted out a large chunk of beautiful, clear ice.
“Feel how cold it is.” I held out the ice for him to touch.
His tiny, chubby fingers delicately petted the ice, the whole time his big eyes and sticky face fixated on mine.
I held it out to him and gestured, take it, and handed him his own little red cup to keep.
He grabbed the ice quickly, licked it, then plopped it into his cup, and toddled to the other side of the lawn, where he sat like a perfect Buddha, licking and dropping his ice into his cup, over and over, pleasantly entertained by his own miraculous imagination.
“Well good job!”, said the weary mom to me. “How the hell did you figure that out?”
“I’m still a child”, I answered, and drank the rest of my bourbon in a tiny patch of sun.
* No longer weird or based in Alameda.