Ah, the office party. What can I say about it? Possibly the most awkward social situation known to man cushioned only by an endless supply of free alcohol. The office Christmas party is in a class all its own as far as parties go. Watch “The Office: Christmas Special” and you’ll see the endless combination of things that can go wrong.
The reason office parties have so much potential to be lethal is because you have to see these people every day in a professional
environment for an extended period of time. While in retrospect changing your mind on the way to the bar and getting that fifth tequila shot instead of water, then standing on a table and flashing everyone your tits at a Lower East Side dive bar last weekend was a bad idea, who really gives a fuck? You’ll (probably) never see any of those people again.
Not the case in the office party.
So last night was the dreaded company Christmas party. It started off innocent enough. Ice skating at the Tower of London, pointing and laughing at some sad attempts at being graceful, watching my (usually) extremely reserved boss fly around the rink flailing his arms like a madman. Fine. Then it was on to the pub for a wine tasting.
Everything is going well. We nurse our boredom with bottles of Budvar while we wait for everyone to arrive. We go through the three steps to tasting wine, impatiently sniffing our glasses and waiting for the part where we actually drink
. Out comes the buffet and we stuff ourselves with the reckless abandon only free food can bring. More wine, only now, we’re ignoring the woman leading us through the tasting and chugging the contents of our glasses – Chianti, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Grigio – and thrusting our empty glasses towards her – more
Schizophrenic Editor and Wannabe New Yorker Journalist leave early to go ice skating again and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Their endless tittering and nonsensical squeals of delight have given the entire party an edge that no amount of alcohol could dull.
I’m chatting with Migs, the new salesguy, all night. He’s been working for the magazine for about a month now, but I’ve never actually spoken to him until today. Never even bothered to learn his name, really. I have noticed his amazing grey eyes every time I walked past him though. Those eyes, the topic of giggling discussion amongst many of the female journalists on the floor.
He tells me he used to play American Football in high school, quarterback to be precise, he played basketball too and is a big Knicks fan, he spent a year in Australia, he’s part Caribbean, Portuguese, African, and an amalgam of other things.
Somewhere over the course of the night we start talking about being faithful in relationships.
“Well, I’ve cheated before, so I can’t judge anyone else for doing it, but I’m not like that anymore. I wouldn’t cheat on the girl I’m with now.”
I raise my eyebrows and nod. I’m doing a good job hiding my disappointment as far as I know.
It isn’t long before my very drunk and very discreet coworkers start to wag their little tongues about us. I can feel four pairs of raised eyebrows staring at me. I roll my eyes and lean over to him, “You know they’re all talking shit about us. But whatever, you have a girlfriend.”
“And if I didn’t?” He challenges me.
I think for a second, “ask me that when you don’t.” I smile.
“Touché,” he says raising his eyebrows and looks away.
It’s seven o’clock now. We’ve all been drinking since two. People steadily drop out of the game one by one until there are only six of us left. T the New Head of Research, Asshole Salesman, Closet Gay (and married) Salesman, Cheeky Canadian Journalist, Migs, and me. Last woman standing, as per usual.
We make our way to Gordon’s Wine Bar across the road from the Embankment tube station where more wine is consumed courtesy of the drunken generosity of Asshole Salesman.
“I think I’m gonna head home,” Migs announces.
“Me too,” I say, “it’s already much later than I was planning to stay out.” It’s eight thirty.
We stumble drunkenly towards the station, fumble for Oyster Cards, hear the loud thump as the gate swings open, walk towards the stairs, he turns, “which way are you going?”
“That way,” I say pointing to the entrance for westbound tubes. “You?”
“Alright, well, then, I guess, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He takes a beat, “I don’t really wanna go home.”
In one quick motion he grabs my hand and we’re leaving the station, out the entry, spit back into the chaos of a busy London street on a Thursday night.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“Well, you need the Central Line anyway, don’t you? We’ll just walk towards Holborn and see what’s on the way.”
We start to walk. It amazes me that even after six months here, I still have no idea how to navigate this city. Roads I have walked numerous times all look foreign to me. Yet it’s obvious he knows exactly where he is. The way he walks, there’s a confidence and certainty to it.
He stops suddenly and turns to me. “So, really, if I didn’t have a girlfriend…”
I stop. Think. “I’d probably ask you to come see my place. We are
looking for someone to let it after all,” I say with a coy smile. Nothing will happen between us, I know. I can talk as much shit as I want. I can be a tease, stroke my ego for a while, make him squirm a little, make him question. “But you do, and I wouldn’t go there again.”
? Why not?”
“Because the last time I got in between two people, karma came back to get me.”
“It kicked the shit outta me.”
“You know, I’m planning to go to New York for a year. You’ve got to give me your email address so I can get in touch with you.”
We don’t say much the rest of the walk to the station. We don’t stop.
In front of the station, he grabs me and kisses me on my right cheek, then on my left, except he accidentally on purpose misses and plants his lips onto mine. I yank myself away and look down.
I give him a sideways look, “You in love?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says, nodding.
“Then don’t fuck that up. That isn’t something you fuck with.” Well this is new
“You’re right,” he says.
I groan inwardly.
“I’m such a bastard, I can’t believe I tried to kiss you,” he’s looking down, shaking his head.
“Don’t worry about it,” I say brushing it off. “See you tomorrow.”