Memory is a funny thing. Throughout my life, I have been blessed with an exceptional capacity to retain information. Landmarks and routes of travel, song lyrics, birthdays, the names of TV characters, blitz schemes, etc.; somehow I’ve always been able to store and recall this data at will. But the one area of recollection that often escapes me is the one that can cause the most trouble in social situations: names and faces. When I meet people, I typically forget his or her name faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100m; and, if I’m drunk, the alcohol is like having a hurricane-force wind at Bolt’s back. I often find myself shaking hands with people at parties, thinking that it’s the first I’ve met them, only to be reminded that he or she was actually introduced to me months ago. The phrase, “Sorry—I drink a lot” comes out of my mouth almost as frequently as, “Yeah, I could use another.”
But, although I get a lot of use out of this excuse, its effectiveness is limited—which brings me to this past Friday night. Chappy was celebrating his birthday with a party at his house. His theme was “Beer Olympics,” and he had intended for a champion to be crowned after a series of games of beer pong, cornhole, flip cup, etc. The party never quite took off like he had hoped, though, and the limited number of people who came stuck to pong and cornhole. Zach and I arrived around 10:30 pm, and only about 10 or 11 people were there. I was introduced to everyone in one sweeping motion, since I didn’t know any of Chappy’s friends (or so I thought). And I received the standard mouth-says-“hi”-but-eyes-say-“who’s this fool?” from each of them (or so I thought).
An hour or so after arriving, and well into “Ebony & Zachary’s” domination of the beer pong table (we went 5-0, for the record) in the garage, I struck up a conversation with a fellow partygoer about where he had gone to high school. When I found out that he had graduated from T.C.’s school, I asked if he knew him. He did, and in naming other friends of mine who had gone to that school, we quickly came to my friend Jed. Then he hit me with it: “Well, you know his sister, Juli, right? She’s here.” My eyes followed the imaginary line that his over-the-shoulder gesture aimed into the backyard. Standing out there, glaring at me from the corners of her eyes, was Juli.
Scandals-in-Ocean-City Juli; the same Juli who I failed to recognize when she stood in front of me, looking me in my eyes, on my birthday. I had done it again. I had walked into the party, looked right at her, and said “hi” without any inkling of who she was. And then I had proceeded to hang out and revel with everyone without a second glance in her direction, further reinforcing the fact that I didn’t remember her.
And she was PISSED. I walked over and tried to smooth things over a little. She tried to play it off, as though she hadn’t remembered me, either, but eyes don’t lie. And she kept hers narrowed towards me the entire time that we talked, whether the topic was Ocean City or her brother’s new job. She left the party not too long after that, and all I could do was laugh at myself.
Juli—what can I say? I’m an idiot. I’ll recognize you next time. But, then again, I do drink a lot.