The cold night air greets him with almost more energy than anyone at the party does. He steps out of the bar; the cold air hugs his shoulders. Bars and music and loud parties drive him to sink further inside his own thoughts, regardless of how many wild partygoers and riotous crowds might be near.
He leans against the wall and thinks about what he might tell someone if they ask why he’s outside in the cold, instead of inside enjoying the heat of a raving celebration. He doesn’t quite know, but he guesses.
A taxi rolls up and waits. A couple of drunken partiers stumble out of the bar, along with the birthday girl. She hollers goodbye, and waves as they drive off into the night.
“What are you doing?” she asks. He starts to answer, but a wiry hipster with an indirect smile erupts out of the bar and throws the outsider’s thoughts into a spiral.
“Happy Birthday!” he screams, wrapping his arms around the girl.
“Thanks!” she muffles.
Music from the bar meanders out to where they stand, and fades over the hipster’s jovial voice.
“Is that Magnetic Castles?” she shrieks.
“Yes! Nobody knows them, but they’re awesome.”
“Oh my God. I used to fucking love their lead singer.”
“Yes! I was obsessed. I wanted to do things to him. His voice is so… sultry.”
“Sultry? Really? Who uses that word?”
The hipster just laughs, and scuttles the conversation forward, through the next several minutes. Soon, he hugs the girl and hurries back inside, muttering something about a new song that just started playing.
She moves toward the door, but glances toward the outsider before she leaves.
“Aren’t you coming inside?” she asks.
“Um, I think I have to leave soon.”
“Oh, don’t be so lame.”
He shrugs and nods.
“Happy Birthday, by the way.”
“Thanks. You should come inside and get a drink.”
“I’m good for now,” he says, but he’s not really sure what that means.
“Well, okay. We’re gonna have cake soon!”
“Sorry. I can’t really stay much longer.”
“Oh, fine,” she says sarcastically. “Well, give me a hug.”
They hug, awkwardly.
He turns and heads to his car, and sits in the silence. He turns the key and the radio sparks to life. The static clears for the sultry, coarse voice of that same ridiculous band. He doesn’t turn it off. He lets it play, the whole ride back.