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Party Patrol

I’m anal retentive. I’m a workaholic. I have insomnia. And I’m a control freak. That’s why I’m not married. Who could stand me? — Madonna

Few things get past me at parties. I am a multitasking freak who keeps one eye on whoever’s in front of me while the other scans the periphery. At a soiree one recent evening, my left eye was locked on the individual with whom I was speaking while my right roamed. I was only a few minutes into the conversation when Right detected danger, triggering my synaptic claxons. I turned my head and focused with Bionic Woman precision on David’s masticating jaw.

I deserted the partygoer whose name I couldn’t remember and pushed past three or four people in a hurry to reach David in the kitchen. “You didn’t eat that, did you?” It was a near shriek.

“So what if I did?” David straightened on the barstool and leaned forward, defiant.

I noticed his tongue moving along his teeth — an unconscious, post-chewing sweep. Gripped by panic, I hissed, “There’s weed in those cupcakes!”

“Yeah, I know,” said David. “What’s your problem with that?” This confused me — David doesn’t do drugs, of any kind. He never did, save for a few experimental occasions in college…or so he’d told me. Now he was suddenly licking marijuana-infused butter frosting from the corner of his mouth? Something didn’t gel.

“I just…” I took a moment to gather my wits and then did my best to verbalize my actions while inside I struggled to figure out what the hell David was thinking. “I know that you like sweets, and I saw them bring out the tray, and I saw you sitting there, and I just thought you might have unwittingly downed a ‘special’ treat. But, if you wanted one…as long as you knew what it was… I mean, of course you know I’d have no problem with that. Me, of all people! I was just worried that you were not properly informed, that’s all.”

“Well, I do know what’s in them,” David said. He sat back and smiled mischievously, savoring the moment along with a leftover morsel in his mouth. “But that’s not what I ate,” he revealed. “I had one of those.” He gestured to the plate of cannabis-free pineapple cupcakes beside him.

I sighed with relief. David bristled at this. “What? Did you think I was naïve? Like I wouldn’t know?” he said, wounded and indignant.

“How would you know unless someone told you? Why would you think to ask? Of course I would worry that you might inadvertently eat a tasty-looking cupcake full of weed — you don’t have my superhero power for perceiving the presence of ‘party favors,”’ I said, unable to hide my pride. David rolled his eyes and let the matter drop.

A while later, we watched as a girl walked into the kitchen, snatched a cupcake, and took a huge chomp. As she chewed, she looked up at the faces in the room and widened her eyes. “Why didn’t you guys tell me this was herby?”

“We assumed everyone knew,” said a guy to my left. “Why’d you think they were way up there on that shelf and not on the table with all the other food?”

I shot David a told-you-so-ish look and turned my attention to the unwitting dope imbiber. I expected some kind of freak-out, an “Oh, no, what will I do now?” howled over her shoulder as she ran to the bathroom to try and make herself vomit. Instead, she shrugged and took another bite. To protect anyone else who might have nothing more than a sweet tooth, I took up a position beneath the shelf and deputized myself as ganja guard.

Back when I was single and partied like Amy Winehouse, I had a compulsive need to pilot the party plane. I often insisted on buying the favors and giving them away, rather than going halfsies. To others, this appeared generous. But I knew that this way, all the stuff would officially be mine and thus under my control. I would dole out only so much to certain people every so many hours because I knew how much joy was to be had from each serving and how long it would last. Even blasted out of my mind on an expertly crafted chemical cocktail, a part of me always remained attuned to who had had how much of what and when. This keen awareness I’d developed ensured that none of the good stuff would be wasted on someone whose nervous system was already maxed out.

My friends were grateful for the free fun, while I was content to divvy it up in a way that would maximize everyone’s enjoyment, especially mine. Paramount to my own pleasure was knowing it was my hand on the throttle. The only thing more unbearable than my fear of losing control is being around someone else who’s already lost it.

I stood in the kitchen, chatting and laughing when a friend came in and reached over my head for the tray.

“Hey, whoa, yo!” I said, grabbing his arm. He looked down and gave me a lazy smile, his movements more sedate than a tranqued-up turtle. “You already had one of those, like, ten minutes ago. Why don’t you wait to see how that hits you before going for another? They’re pretty big, and who knows how strong.”

He shook his head in slow motion. “It’s fine,” he said, dragging out the word “fine” in a long, om-like tone.

The cupcakes weren’t mine, so I couldn’t refuse him another. Instead, I tried to reason with him. It occurred to me that my expecting any reasonable thoughts was akin to anticipating a 20-page dissertation on Thomas Pynchon from my three-year-old niece. That didn’t stop me from trying: “But you also had two of those pills and — what? — four or five drinks? Aren’t you worried about how you’re going to feel tomorrow?”

“Nope,” he said, popping the P with his lips, a sound that elicited giggles from my friend and the guy to whom he was now handing a cupcake. (I couldn’t help but note this would also be that guy’s second spiked confection.)

I took a deep breath and let it out, trying to relieve myself of any responsibility I felt over those around me. If they wanted to party, who was I to intervene?

“Have fun,” I said, stepping aside with a controlled smile. My stepping aside was no more than a display of acquiescence — they already had their cupcakes and were noshing away like a couple of pandas tearing into bamboo.

David came up from behind and handed me a glass of Cabernet. “What’s the matter, Captain?” he said, smiling. “Mutiny?”

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