There was too much food and wine and not enough good company. At least, that was the sober opinion of the evening's honorary guest. When surrounded by dozens of strangers celebrating you, you don't get much time to think things through. Your job is to show up early, make a conscious effort to connect with everyone in attendance, then make a speech proving you deserve the honor bestowed upon you.
David Fields was a prodigious tax accountant with the reputation of being gifted with analysis and computations. Many thought him a magician when it came to working the numerous tax codes in their favor. Or the number of companies he saved from the brink of bankruptcy seemingly through mathematical sorcery. One such client was so appreciative they made a grand gesture of gratitude by throwing David a well-deserved dinner party, tax-deductible, of course.
The evening began as one would expect for a significant social function. The conversations tended towards work or the weather, the kids who just got out of school, the news, politics, and business. However, David was the shy sort until he had a drink in his hand. Something about a whiskey sour in a highball glass gave him the confidence to mingle with a crowd. The alcohol loosened his tongue so that the anecdotes he shared sounded more like songs than a series of monotonous accounting facts. He told tales with such poise and passion that he left many who heard them wondering if they even truly knew David.
On the other hand, he seemed not to remember who each attendee was or what story he had just finished. He merely knew, seemingly by intuition, that whatever he shared was something only he and that guest would find amusing. Not only did it appear he knew how to manipulate numbers, he knew how to work a crowd to his favor, but only under the influence of alcohol. And as the evening wore on, there wasn't a single person left with whom David didn't feel comfortable conversing.
"Let's head to Denton's on First!" someone proclaimed from a thinning crowd of revelers. The man in question raised his empty cocktail glass as a makeshift megaphone. "Denton's on First!" he shouted again with an uncharacteristic burst of enthusiasm. "It's just down the street. Come along. Let's go!"
As he spoke, he pointed across the room towards an equally enthusiastic, or perhaps more enthusiastic, audience of one. David. He and his current tablemates were seated around half-filled glasses of wine and spirits, empty dishes, and scraps of leftover food. They responded to the man's gesture with similar expressions of excitement, and off they went, a motley collection of David's clients and business associates.
Denton's crowd was winding down, for it was later than the group of partiers realized. Stumbling into the swanky jazz bar, their loud and rowdy behavior stirred many of the more subdued patrons from their aristocratic verve, inspiring them to leave in a hurry.
"Oh. My. God. It's Theodora Pratt," David exclaimed.
"Who's that?" one of David's guests asked.
"Only the loveliest cellist in all of Manhattan," he answered dreamily.
"You should go say hello," his friend egged him on.
"No. No, I couldn't do that."
"Why not? It's your night, my man. Seize it!"
"Day-vid! Day-vid! Day-vid!" the crowd began to chant.
Unable to ignore the ruckus, Theodora turned her back to the throng of patrons, patiently tucking her cello back into its case.
Clearing his throat, David approached Theodora, or Dora, as he remembered her. "Hello," he said shyly. Giggles and barely disguised whispers filled the air behind them.
Dora jumped. Her face flushed as she turned, almost bumping noses with her admirer. "David!" she cried. "What are you doing here? Why are you so close to me?"
"Sorry," he slurred. "I didn't mean to sneak up on you. I thought you might've heard me falter up the stage steps."
"It's hard to hear much of anything with your friends over there."
"Sorry," he said again, lost in her big gray eyes.
"Are you drunk?"
"Maybe," he smiled slyly.
"You don't drink."
"Can't say that anymore."
"Someone should take you home before you do something you'll regret."
Smiling wider, he proclaimed, "Is that an offer?"
Gasping, Dora placed her hand on her chest, "David!"
"What? You brought it up. Easy mistake."
"What is an easy mistake?"
"Me. You. This whole conversation," David sighed, looking back at his supporters, some of whom were signaling thumbs up, others waggling their eyebrows.
"What are you doing with those people?"
"Oh. We are all celebrating."
"Who. And me, of course!" David threw his arms up in a v-shape above his head. "Because I am the bestest tax accountant of all time!"
"Yeah, you are big fella!" someone shouted behind him.
Wondering how the others could hear him, he noticed the microphone stand to his left and immediately got an idea.
"Is this thing on?" he mumbled into the mic. Then he tapped it with his fingers for good measure, causing everyone to moan with the loud thud, thud, echoing through the venue. "I just realized I never thanked you guys."
"Awww. It's okay, buddy!" someone replied.
"Speech! Speech!" another demanded. This mantra picked up speed, feeding David's ego.
"I haven't given a speech since college English," he began. "I don't know what to say. I was prepared earlier to give a short acknowledgment for the honor you all gave me tonight, but I can't remember a single word of it." David paused as someone brought him a bottle of beer. After taking a big gulp, he continued.
Looking out into the small crowd, his vision blurred a little. The stage lights made it difficult to define the shapes of the faces he should have been familiar with by now. "Good evening," he began, his mouth too close to the microphone, so it sounded more like, "Good E veninh."
"Being a tax accountant, as you can imagine, is not glamourous unless you count the many high net-worth clients I strategize with daily. My mind is filled with legislation and principles, facts and figures. I love to analyze and assess your risks and turning them into rewards…."
David felt his speech went exceedingly well until someone helped him off the stage and into an awaiting car. Everything became vague and unfocused with the quick maneuvering of the driver.
"Don't get sick on my seats!" was the last thing he clearly remembered.
The sound of thumping bass music woke him with a start.
"What the? How did I get here?" he spoke aloud in his otherwise empty bedroom. Then he realized the music was not music at all but the hammering pulse of his head. "Ugh. I'm never drinking again!" he shouted, rolling over and stuffing his face into his goose-down pillow. As he tried to remember how he got home and into his bed, echoes of laughter and pitying glances flashed through his head. The world he saw and the people he recalled talking to was like another person's life. They were just faceless blurs. Until he checked his phone for messages.
"You've gone viral, dude!" one said.
"Have you called your attorney? I'm pretty sure Mr. Garvey has called his after you outed his questionable investment schemes at Denton's!" said another.
"I can't believe you pissed yourself. I've never actually witnessed someone do that, and on stage to boot! You're the best! Let's get together next week and do it again!" read a third.
"What's with the anal and ass jokes, dude? I thought you were into that girl! I don't think she'll speak to you again! Especially after you threw her cello off the stage. You're a wild man. Who knew!" read another.
Then came the video. It was up to ten thousand views and growing. David didn't dare hit play before a shower and breakfast.
After getting sick in the shower, he decided what he needed was some fresh air. Weak and light-headed, he slowly made his way from his apartment to the corner deli.
"Ah, good morning, Mr. Fields," his elderly neighbor Mrs. Krupp greeted him just outside the building. "Glad to see you are properly dressed this morning," she added with a shrewd look toward his crotch.
Panicked, David glanced down to check that his zipper was up. The action made him feel dizzy, and a ringing started in his ears.
"You don't like so good. You might want to go back and lie down, dear. But, you know, I'm not surprised. You were quite the mess when you came in last night. Or should I say this morning?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am if I disturbed you. I don't usually drink. There was this party…"
"Oh, I've seen it. I think the world has seen it. If not, they will have by this afternoon. I can't wait to tell my granddaughter that one of my neighbors has gone viral! Oh, and you might want to try a glass of prairie oysters for the hangover. Worked for my Simon many a time."
"Raw eggs in a shot of whisky and Tabasco. Got to run. Do take care," Mrs. Krupp called as she hopped up the steps to their place.
"You'd think she was the thirty-something," he muttered as he continued towards the deli.
Inside, he waited in a short line for a fried egg croissant and a large cup of coffee. While enjoying the first bite of his food, he heard some giggles and the sound of a cellphone camera clicking.
"I got it!" a young woman screamed as she ran away with a group of two other girls.
A man came up behind him and slapped him on the back, "Impressive, man. You have made us bean counters famous. I'd offer to buy you a drink, but I bet you probably never want to drink again after last night."
"Do I know you?"
The stranger laughed, "No. No. But I'm afraid me and the rest of Manhattan do. Have you not seen the video?"
David shook his head before placing it in his hands. "I've been afraid to watch it. A friend sent it this morning. Is it really that bad?"
The man grimaced. "Yeah, dude. It's bad. But be thankful. By tonight, some other idiot will have stolen your spotlight, and you can go back to being The Copperfield of Tax Accounting!"
"That's what you called yourself!" the man laughed as he walked away.
David felt so alone at that moment. How could someone be known by thousands and not have a friend in the world to confide in? Just then, his phone pinged with a new message. He almost didn't check it, figuring it was another acquaintance from last night. Instead, he saw that it was from Dora.
"You owe me a grand for my cello, asshole. Oh, and if you want to talk, I'm around this afternoon. I've got leftover pizza and Pedialyte."
Maybe he wouldn't be so alone after all.