It was that time of year again. Decking the halls with false Christmas cheer, seeing overbearing relatives who only show up for the free food, feeling obligated to buy gifts for people you live with- all in time for the new year. A fresh start; a broke start.
But this time of year also meant the annual Fiesta de Navidad, held by Ray and Tia Hernandez. Ray and Tia comprised the lineage of one of the most popular Hispanic families in the area, but besides their dark features, one wouldn’t be able to tell their ethnicity offhand.
Their parents took an annual trip to Arizona every Christmas Eve to visit their grandparents, allowing the kids to open presents Christmas Eve morning and celebrate in grandeur only mere hours after their parents left. Every year since eighth grade, Tia would throw a party on Christmas Eve night, although the party usually got in full swing at midnight. It became somewhat of a local legend over the years, and when Tia went off to college, she passed the torch to Ray. This year, however, for the first time, both Ray and Tia were of legal drinking age, and so this particular soiree held a special importance, or perhaps it was an ominous foreboding that everyone was grown up now, and therefore had to drink responsibly.
Parents wondered why year after year their sons and daughters came home Christmas morning still loaded, or passed out on the front steps, or why they didn’t come home at all. Others would have to get their stomachs pumped, and in that case parents would spend their Christmas in the hospital eating Fritos and filling out paperwork. Girls would also wake up often questioning whether or not they partook in any sexual activity, and this often spoiled the once-innocent joy of opening presents. Guys hoped they would wake up and remember getting laid, grinning about the early Christmas present they gave themselves. And by all means, these weren’t typical parties like others in the area, where five to ten people get loaded in a basement and play video games.
For this, kegs were ordered in advance, the DJ came around nine, the house was already decorated for the holidays, and an ice luge (or five) simply seemed appropriate considering the weather. They had a pool, (although in cold years it would freeze over,) games were set up around the house, and Tia, working in the restaurant business, always managed to score free food. People were told to bring their own cigarettes, weed, and hard liquor if they didn’t drink beer, while drug dealers could always be counted on to make an appearance. Essentially, once you were there you had no reason to leave, and this decreased the drunk driving incidents tremendously.
Essentially the Hernandez’ parties were pure chaos, but Tia was hoping her little brother’s friends had grown past the phase of nihilistic binging and purging. She was now engaged to a man who considered himself a political scientist. Tia’s job was to spray hairspray on food so it looked presentable in commercials. Still, Tia could have been anything she wanted with the beauty and brains she had. But after awhile she got tired of the feminist values and decided it really was easier to depend on a man as the breadwinner. Although her alcohol tolerance was extremely high, she was hoping to change her drinking habits come the new year, so she’d have to go out with a bang. Therefore she hoped for once that Ray could be the one to take care of her instead of the other way around.
Ray was simply psyched to see all of his high school friends again. He felt somewhat guilty that he was one of the only kids in his grade to go away to college, although his parents constantly reminded him that not many Hispanic kids had that privilege. He enjoyed the first couple years, but still he longed for home. He also was using tonight to forget all the woes of the past four months. He was less than a year away from graduating, but something happened this year that took away his motivation to do the work, and so he was failing now, in his last year. Or maybe he really flunked out his sophomore year but managed to find a job in the area that paid well. He was lucky his parents didn’t ask many questions. But he’d have to think of something when graduation time came around. Fuck it. It’s Christmas vacation. Ray was gonna enjoy being home.
Kasey hadn’t done hard drugs in over a year. This surprised her, as typically alcohol would induce these urges. Somehow though, she trained herself to become a full-blown alcoholic without ever touching other drugs, and to her this was a huge victory.
So when she found out her little brother’s friend Ray was having his annual get-smashed bash, she ignored past memories of doing lines in their bathroom and convinced herself that she deserved to go out and have a few drinks. Plus she wanted to see how all her former friends turned out, all those people who acted superior to her in high school, and everyone who turned their back on her when she needed them most.
This thought alone made her quickly turn into the liquor store lot which she was conveniently passing. She bought a bottle of tequila telling herself it’d be a gift for Tia, whom she hadn’t seen in years. When she got home, she put on some records and decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a few shots, just to take the edge off; it’s better to drown yourself before social interaction instead of during it. The drowning comes at your own pace that way.
Ginny hoped she didn’t make a mistake telling her cousin about the party. But with her best friend gone, she wanted someone to go with. Perhaps the consequence of this would be having to baby-sit her, but she could handle it.
Kasey was supposed to pick her up at seven-thirty, but said she was having car trouble, so Ginny convinced Reno to pick them both up. They arrived at nine. Reno was always late. And Kasey was already wasted.
Ian missed home. He used to love the holidays, but living on the street will change all that. Seeing people pass by with tons of shopping bags filled with junk they don’t need, making it easier for them to pass by a bum like him without noticing the contrast… it was these moments he became accustomed to.
This time a year ago he was home on Christmas vacation, getting ready to go to Ray’s party. He’d fret over what to wear, what to drink, who to be. He would hope he wouldn’t have to save face with all the same people that he wished to forget from high school, but he realized from years previous that despite his going away to college, he still came home and was Mr. Popular. Ray was quite popular too, but mostly cause of his parties and his hot sister.
Ian was the guy who everyone depended on to be at these parties. The guy everyone wanted to swing their arm around and guzzle a beer with. One year ago, he still had the same girls jumping on his lap, flirting not so subtly in an attempt to be his lay for the night, many of them whom he swore were younger than seventeen. Now, these same types of girls would pass him on the street without even a glance.
Because of the cold, he recently sucked up his pride and decided to stay in a shelter. He vowed never to ask anything more of his parents in his life; they’d given him enough. They gave him what he wanted and look where it got him. He managed to get enough change every few days to call them and tell them he was ok, that he got an apartment with a friend from school and was living off campus, that because of New York’s expensive side he had to ditch his cell phone. Sometimes he’d call from a stranger’s cell; surprisingly people were more willing to let him use their phone rather than give him money. This made his parents think that he was using his room mate’s phone. Maybe a few years ago his parents would’ve had the sense to call the number back, or even to recognize that the number he called from was different every time, but they were preoccupied with his little brother, and he’d be a real asshole to distract them from that parental duty.
So tonight, he decided to call his sister Kasey instead. He kicked at debris on the sidewalk to avoid eye contact with the stranger who’s phone he’d borrowed. Expecting it to go to voicemail as usual, he was surprised when his cousin picked up. He could barely hear her over the obnoxious roars in the background.
Ginny tried going outside to better hear whoever was calling. By the time she got there the person hung up. For a minute she thought it sounded like Ian, and for a second she felt guilty that she hadn’t kept in touch with him for over a year. She lit a cigarette.
A couple was walking into the party, fighting, obviously buzzed already. The guy was bitching at his girlfriend for flirting with someone else. The girl got in his face and claimed all she did was have a conversation with someone who happened to have a penis.
So typical, these men being jealous of women like kids are jealous of their toys. And even more typical is a woman using this jealousy to have a spare moment of independence. Or maybe it’s all foreplay.
By the time Ginny went back inside, the ball and chain had kissed and made up.
Kasey was getting advances from men left and right. No surprise there, as despite her bony frame and sickly body, she managed to maintain a pretty face. Also no surprise, as she seemed to be the drunkest person there.
Girls who she didn’t recognize kept coming up to her, saying how good she looked, seemingly out of their own dismay to what alcohol did to their bodies. Kasey could drink any of these chicks under the table, but she didn’t gain a pound, no matter how hard she tried. She knew she went to school with some of them, but hell if she could remember their names. They only knew hers cause of her brother, probably. She wondered if he was coming. She doubted that their falling out would prevent him from coming to his former best-friend’s party.
She knew she’d end up god-knows-where by the night’s conclusion, looking up at some ceiling or some sky, spinning. It was then that she realized she was truly alone, that she really wished her brother was coming if he wasn’t there already, and this pang of loneliness set off the usual spark within her that told her to use. She wanted to laugh or cry, but couldn’t do either. So she shook off the little demon on her shoulder and bonged a beer instead.
Ginny watched her cousin from across the room. She was balancing herself on the counter and staring into space. An awful spectacle.
Ginny used to admire her cousin, almost to the point of jealousy. She was beautiful, and no matter how fucked up her life was, men would throw themselves at her in mercy. She knew that Kasey was a former drug addict, but she would never hold this against her like the rest of her family. Hell, Ginny did them too, she was just blessed with a non-addictive personality.
Still, she could tell Kasey needed a companion. Before she could make her way across the room to her however, a strange face blocked her view. He smiled at her with his brown eyes, and Ginny was immediately attracted. Despite her better judgment, she went outside with him to get high, vowing not to leave Kasey alone after she came back.
After they smoked, the guy tried undressing her before she could even ask him his name. She slammed the door in his face, remembering how her luck with brown-eyed guys was always unfortunate in some way.
She went back inside to find Kasey sitting in a corner, eating wedding cake.
One week ago, Tia was getting married. It was the whole cliche of marrying someone you didn’t love for money and security. She had slept with her current fianc©e three times during the week before she walked down the isle. But it wasn’t until she had to say her vows that she knew she couldn’t marry this other man, this business-man, whom she had seen in a suit so many times before that at their wedding he appeared to her like someone wanting to make final negotiations on her body and soul. To her parent’s dismay, she ran back down the isle she came, but not before noticing a smile of approval on Ray’s face. In turn, she ran from the church with a smile on her face instead of tears. And she managed to keep the wedding cake.
In hopes of saving five minutes of beer, she pulled the cake out on the kitchen’s island and demanded everyone dig in. Her current fianc©e, who proposed to her a mere day after her wedding-that-never-was, cut off the piece that had her former bridegroom’s name on it, devouring it in two whole bites.
Ginny made herself a drink from the Jack Daniels stashed in her purse and took a seat next to Kasey. Her words were jumbled, but she could make out that Kasey didn’t think wedding cake went so well with alcohol. Kasey then shot up and ran to the bathroom.
Ginny watched as the kid she went and smoked with continuously shoved his face in front of every attractive girl there. He must have finally found someone desperate for free weed, as he exited with a redhead soon after.
Then one of Ray’s friends, presumably the comedian, got up on the table and pretended to give a wedding speech. Sadly, no one thought it was funny, and he slumped back down in his chair with a severely sad look on his face. Comedians were always the most faint of heart.
Kasey was glad she threw up. She knew some alcohol came out too, which gave her previously-full stomach more room to keep drinking. Still, when her legs learned to walk again, they just as quickly turned to cement, and everything became distorted like she was walking underwater.
That’s all she remembered before she passed out.
Ginny went to look for her cousin before hearing a bunch of kids say they were going on the roof.
Ray and Tia’s house had a little balcony up top that could only be reached through their parent’s bedroom, which oddly Tia had the sense to lock before every party. Still, it provided a fantastic view of the town, and over the years kids found a way to climb a nearby tree and simply hop from a bent branch onto the descending roof. From there, it was just a matter of keeping your balance and crawling on all fours up the roof until you could grab one of the iron bars of the balcony. Ginny used to do this every year since she started coming to these parties, mostly cause it provided the right atmosphere for a relaxing high. But she found getting up was a whole lot easier than coming down.
She walked towards the bathroom just in time to see her cousin’s blonde head being carried through a doorway. A boy, looking about sixteen, threw Kasey down on a bed. Ginny shoved him out of the way and began slapping her cousin’s face, unsure if she was just passed out or if she did something else. The boy made a smartass remark about people obviously having issues if they get bombed before ten o’clock. Ginny snarled back that you don’t drink yourself to oblivion if you’re happy.
In the next room, Tia’s room to be exact, a couple was getting ready to have sex. They slobbered all over each other in between the removal of clothing, gasping for air every so often to say “I love you” and “let’s not ever fight again, baby.” The girl felt her pants go down, and then her panties. The boy did as he was taught, going down on her long enough to say the alphabet with his tongue. When he finished, she heard the muffled sound of his zipper descending and knew it was her turn.
Kasey woke up from her deep slumber around midnight. When her vision adjusted she saw Ginny sitting Indian-style on the floor beside her, playing a video game with whiskey in lap. She thanked her cousin for staying with her, and she meant it sincerely. Ginny laughed and wished her a merry Christmas. She enjoyed drinking by herself anyway.
From the howling outside the door, they both knew the party was far from over. Ginny joked to avoid any wedding cake from here on out, and Kasey agreed.
Ian decided to drown his sorrows in Olde English. He walked the streets of New York with nothing but a brown paper bag and the clothes on his back. These walks used to give him pride, but now he just felt self-pity. He should’ve gotten whiskey to keep warm, but he just couldn’t afford it. Fuck it though. It’s officially Christmas. And he still had a week before any new year’s resolutions had to be made.
He walked all the way from Central Park to the Staten Island Ferry in no time flat. He was able to ignore the condescending stares of the cops since anyone here on Christmas was obviously homeless. After riding the ferry twice, he walked out onto the hub’s deck. Although he thought he walked himself sober, not eating rushed the alcohol straight to his blood. He watched in slow motion as the blue electricity of the ferry sign illuminated the backdrop of city lights. For a minute, his ego pleasantly inflated. He was ok. He watched as snowflakes began to cloud his already-blurry vision.
In terms of seasons, the summer of the party was in full swing. Autumn didn’t come till around 2AM, an anyone who was still standing after that could proudly say they saw the winter of the fiesta. This year was different however, as the party would be cut short before autumn even came.
Ginny and Kasey were on their third game of beer pong. Kasey must’ve needed that rest cause she was nailing every cup.
Out of the corner of her eye Ginny noticed some older, scraggly-looking character lingering over Kasey. Kasey asked to switch sides. Ginny obliged. The man followed Kasey to the other side. That’s when Kasey dropped her drink and punched the man in his face.
She ignored the stares of those around her and demanded the game continue. She told Ginny the man was an old friend who wanted her to fly to the moon with him. Ginny looked puzzled. “Heroin and crack,” said Kasey, before making the last cup.
Ginny was proud of her cousin.
Patrick was having a bad night. He heard rumors that coming to this party would guarantee him getting laid. But so far every girl worth fucking either ignored him, had a boyfriend, or used him for his weed before swiftly exiting his car. So when a bunch of younger idiots said they heard he had good stuff and asked if he wanted to match up, he agreed. They didn’t want to share the wealth, so they suggested going on the roof.
Besides being the most sober out of them all, Patrick was an agile motherfucker. He impressed them all with how easily he made the climb, then impatiently he helped them all reach the balcony in one piece. They all got high, and luckily one of the boys brought a backpack of beer so they didn’t need to go back down right away. Plus they heard the keg-beer was running out.
For the first time all night, Patrick indulged. He’d work off the calories before the next party on New Year’s, wherever it was.
Ray was pretty wasted, but he wasn’t having such a great time. He missed his best friend, who would always reassure him that you can’t have a bad time when you’re loaded. The last time he spoke to Ian was through his parents, who told Ray that Ian was staying in New York for Christmas, and that he seemed like he wanted to be left alone.
Because he was the host, people would try and make conversation with Ray, out of politeness, but usually this consisted of people who’d just puked on his carpet in the other room. And besides, they were just dull. He wanted to talk to Kasey, the girl who he’d been crushing on every since he hit puberty, but every time he shooed away the annoying adolescents, she seemed to disappear in thin air. From time to time he thought he should make a move on Ginny, the cute cousin of mystery, but he couldn’t shake how his heart wrenched every time he saw Kasey and her flowing blonde hair. He also couldn’t shake the feeling of seeing her leave every party he had with another guy.
So when Ginny called him over to play a card game, and he saw Kasey at her side, he couldn’t have been more ecstatic. Although Kasey was heavily intoxicated, she gave Ray a hug and a kiss on the cheek before whispering to him that she knew her brother missed him dearly. Ray smiled.
It was then that he heard a loud smash, like breaking glass, followed by his sister’s screams.
Underneath an obscure moon and facing the twinkling Christmas lights of the patio, a boy was laying face down in the Hernandez’ pool. His friends, who quickly jumped down from the roof, claimed the boy smoked something that was laced, and bragged about how he could jump from the balcony and land in the pool without breaking the ice. In reality, the boy was peer pressured to smoke, and did, but when he decided to climb down off the balcony, one of his drunk friends stumbled into him by accident, the boy lost his footing, and he rolled off the roof into the pool below. The cops called it death by misadventure.
It was particularly cold that night; cold enough that the pool froze, but not entirely. The boy’s body fell through the ice, but not before his head made a dent in it. The only visible sign of life came from a tiny spiral of blood which dripped from his head into the cracks of the snow that froze over.
That was the last party Ray and Tia ever had.