The second half of a party is always the best part. The ice has broken, then melted inside red party cups – or if you were weird, the mason jar you brought for yourself, because you were convinced you would save the world by skipping a plastic cup here and a takeout fork there – then mixed with punch and beer and pizza rolls in your belly. People are either passing out or sobering up or hiding in the corner with the designated drivers, nibbling on chips and fighting off fatigue, a narcotic of its own.
The room is dim, glowing green and blue and purple by some kind of gimmicky light: a strip of LEDs or a fake lava lamp or a weird cheap projector that shoots galaxies onto the ceiling and walls.
And, by now, the host has lost control of the playlist. Someone hijacked the Bluetooth speaker and subjected everyone to their own music, and it was a free-for-all from then on. The standard party fare makes its rounds, of course, alongside the same evergreen commentary, praising Mr. Brightside and griping at Who Let the Dogs Out but chanting along to it anyway.
Now that one guy has the speaker. He’s probably got a name, but that’s not important. His archetype has existed at parties since time immemorial. He’s wearing baggy jeans and at least two shirts, one of which is most definitely a holey, washed-out T-shirt. It’s either chilling under a flannel or over a long-sleeved tee. And he probably smells like weed, or else the whole room does, because the smoke is drifting in through the open patio door.
“This is kind of an oldie,” he says through the haze. “I dunno if you’ll know it.”
The guitar rings out. And of course you know it. Everyone knows the Smiths now. It’s the 21st century. Your life isn’t The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
But it’s okay. You lean your head back and you’re right where you’re supposed to be. There’s music and there are people, and you’re all young and alive. You glaze over the bits about not having a home and not being welcome. You’ve dwelt on those lines before and you’ll return to them again, but not now. Now is the time to just be happy to see people and life.
The chorus is here. Everyone sings along to this part. The lyrics are iconic, melodramatic, but it fits. And even though the people around you aren’t really your friends but your roommate’s, you would die by their side right now if it meant staying in this moment for eternity.
Something zooms by outside and you wonder if it’s a double decker bus come to fulfill the prophecy. But no, its noise grows and fades, and it’s gone by the end of the chorus.
The patio door opens and some people come back inside. The last girl in line switches off the porch light. She leaves the room in a purple haze, the light reflecting off the smoke trailing behind her. You tell yourself you’ll join them next time. You already know you won’t. For now, you inhale it secondhand and pretend the fumes are enough.
The song fades out on its titular line. There is a light that never goes out. There is a light… It echoes in your head long after it’s done, long after T-shirt guy has moved on and the potheads have taken over the soundtrack. MGMT is cool too. But it’s not quite the same.
Those lines you tried to ignore come back to you now with a vengeance. They demand attention. You can feel it. It’s not that this party is the greatest thing ever – you could go anywhere, you don’t care, you don’t care. You never, never want to go home.
Allison Miehl is a journalist-turned-tech writer trying to enjoy writing again. In normal times, she likes theme parks, bars and vegetarian food. Now, she fondly remembers the first two things while indulging in the third. Her favorite food group is carbs — tweet her bread pics @allison_typing