I met Penelope and liked her right away. I liked her blonde hair and her huge eyes and her op-shop shirt and suede boots. And even though Penelope’s boyfriend was one of my good friends, and he and I had drunk beers and danced and fallen asleep on each other, I was feeling hot in the face and pressure behind my eyes.
I kissed my friend on the cheek (because that’s what you do with good friends), and our hug lasted a few seconds too long and had too much distance between our crotches. I looked at Penelope over his shoulder, could see her pupils blown wide and her body rolling on incapable feet, and the way she smiled slow and warm at the girl who was holding her boyfriend. I was spilling my beer down his back and Penelope was just swaying there. There were vapours rising off the three of us; light a match and we’d all explode.
We danced and people gave us a wide berth. We showered everyone in pints and washed their hair with rum-and-cokes. None of us could sing the lyrics. None of us could hear the music. It was noise noise noise and we were inside it.
And because my friend has a beard and looks like a dirty hippie, everyone always rides him hard and puts him back wet, and he just shakes it off with a passable Jeff Bridges impersonation and a toast. So just like everyone else, I said “Your beard looks like you made it out of your tobacco”, and “I can’t believe they let you into uni”, and added “Loser” to the end of everything. He held up his beer and said “Learner’s permit” and “Arts degree” and “flipping burgers.”
Penelope laughed, laughed fucking huge, laughed so fucking huge you could fit a fist or a bird or a head in her mouth. Her teeth were straight and her tongue was pink. She swallowed us both whole while we looked at each other instead of her and then turned to her in synchronicity and asked, “Do you want another drink?”