Who the fuck picks the theme for these things? Joe wondered.
A giant banner reading “Drop It Like It’s Yacht” hung from the back porch of the EZ house, bedazzled with far too much sparkly glitter for a frat party. What was truly impressive, however, was the seven-foot tall replica of the sinking Titanic, a paper maché monstrosity in the middle of the woodpile that would eventually become a bonfire. Someone had gone to entirely too much trouble for this party.
There were at least thirty or forty people milling about the back yard, but none of them were Bill. Which was unfortunate, because Bill was the only guy Joe knew at this thing. He had initially promised to go with Joe from the start, but as a pledge, he had been “volunteered” for set-up duties. Joe remembered him saying something about manning the drink station for a while, so he went off in search of beer. And Bill. But mostly beer.
Moving into the house, Joe was enveloped in a cacophony of noise.
“PLEDGE MILLER, SURRENDER YOUR BEER!”
“Where the fuck is Liebgott? We’re running low on vodka!”
“Bull, put me down!”
“Joe! Joe Toye!” Bill’s voice broke through. Joe turned, and found himself with his arms full of an already tipsy Guarnere.
“Quite the place you’ve got here, Bill,” Joe remarked, still taking in his surroundings.
“Ain’t it?” Bill said dreamily. “C’mon, let’s go get you a drink.” Joe followed obediently as Bill navigated them through the throng of people.
“Christ, Bill, is the entire freshman class here?”
“Nah, just friends of the guys. And their friends. And their friends,” Bill shrugged. “EZ takes its reputation as the best party frat very seriously. At least that’s what Bull said.”
Joe hummed in response. “Glad to see you’ve got your priorities straight.”
They finally made their way to the plastic tables set up as a makeshift bar that was being manned by a trio of gangly freshmen pledges.
“Babe, get my pal Joe here a beer!” Bill commanded, clapping the red headed one on the shoulder.
“One beer for one Joe, coming right up!” Babe pulled a slightly dented, but cold, can of beer out of one the coolers, handing it to Joe. “I’m Babe, as Bill neglected to introduce us.” He stuck out a hand, which Joe clasped firmly.
“I’m Joe, Babe’s roommate.”
“You live in McCarthy, too? I’m fifth floor, room 517! You should swing by sometime!” Babe exclaimed.
“Sure thing,” Joe said, cracking open his beer. “Cheers.”
“I’m gonna show Joe around the rest of the house, see you later, Babe,” Bill said as he leaned over the table and plucked the fresh beer out of Babe’s hand before darting away, Babe’s protests fading behind the din of voices as they entered what Joe guessed was the living room.
Several silver kegs were set up along one of the walls with a large whiteboard hung up above them, littered with names and numbers.
“LUZ, you’re next, fucker!” Someone cried out, and a chant of “Luz!” began coursing through the room. One of the guys picked up a shorter man whom Joe assumed was the Luz character, slinging Luz over his shoulder to a chorus of catcalls. Joe couldn’t really see the guy, except for the decidedly pert ass that was sticking up into the air, a sight that he could definitely appreciate.
As he was deposited in front of the kegs, the shorter man attempted to right himself, adjusting his boat captain’s hat. And damn, Joe thought, as he caught a glimpse of the guy’s face, it was as if God had sent him the physical incarnation of Joe’s dream man. Well, typically Joe’s dream man didn’t wear a captain’s hat, but he could work with it.
Luz turned, gripping the sides of the silver barrel, as two of the bigger guys each grabbed one of his legs, lifting them above Luz’s head until he was in a pseudo-handstand. Another man then lifted the keg spout to Luz’s mouth, who latched on eagerly. As the nozzle was flipped open, the room reverberated with people counting the seconds, voices growing louder and less in sync as the numbers kept climbing.
“…forty one, forty two,” at that point, Luz raised one of his hands, making a tapping out motion. The nozzle was released, and the two holding him up set his feet on the floor. Luz dragged the back of his hand across his mouth, wiping the stray beer trickling down, then licking that up, too.
“Forty three! That’s a new personal record, Luz-y!” The dark haired guy at the whiteboard called out, and another cheer sounded. Luz gave an exaggerated bow and turned to pick up his old beer, taking another swig of that.
Joe hadn’t expected frat parties to be quite as true to Hollywood standards, but it appeared as if it was pretty on level with the likes of Animal House. Looking at the whiteboard with the scores, he located Bill’s and a grin split across his face.
“Wow, Bill, way to be second to last in the pledge class!” Joe scoffed.
“You shut your mouth, Toye. I’ve only just started my education in the fine art of alcohol consumption, I’m allowed a learning curve!” Bill tried to defend himself.
“It’s alright, Bill, you’re doing better than Bull did at the start!” Luz exclaimed, appearing to Joe’s right, clapping Bill on the soldier. “He only made seven seconds his first time. But I didn’t tell you that!” he winked. Luz turned more towards Joe, quirking an eyebrow up. “Now who is this? A potential new pledge, perhaps?”
“Nah, not really my thing. Joe Toye,” he said. “I’m Bill’s roommate, just along for the ride.” Joe ran one of his hands through his hair, which Luz’s eyes followed eagerly.
“Fair enough!” Luz exclaimed, taking another drink from his beer. “So is this your first frat party then?”
“Yeah,” Joe said, taking a sip of his beer in turn.
“Joe’s not really a party person, but I made him promise to try it out,” Bill added on.
“Then for research purposes, I’m going to need your opinion of the party so far, as an unbiased observer, of course!” Luz claimed, putting his free hand on Joe’s upper arm. There was a mischief in his eyes, and it seemed to Joe as if his mouth had a permanent upwards turn at the corners, as if his smile never really dimmed.
“Uhh, it seems pretty cool? A bit over the top, with the giant ship in the back? Who even picks these themes?” Joe questioned, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly as he was put on the spot.
“That would be me, actually. George Luz, Social Chair of EZ, at your service!” Luz laughed, Bill joining in.
Joe’s ears flushed a bit, trying to recover himself. Of course he would make a fool of himself to the first hot guy he meets at this thing. This is why Joe shouldn’t be allowed to talk at parties. “I mean, it really looks like you really dedicated yourself to the theme!”
George laughed again. “No, no, it’s alright, it’s definitely over the top, but that’s how it’s supposed to be! We’ve got a reputation to uphold!” He took another drink from his beer, crushing the can as it emptied. “Bill, why don’t you go and get me and your friend here some new drinks?” Luz handed his empty can to Bill, as Bill grumbled something about the day when he wouldn’t be a pledge on drink duty. Joe chuckled, chugging down the last quarter of his own beer before passing it off to Bill. With his hands suddenly free, Joe stuck his hands in his pockets.
George leaned in a bit closer, lowering his voice for effect. “I’ll tell you a secret; the only reason I chose this party theme was so that I could blast the Lonely Island song ‘I’m On A Boat’ over and over, and nobody could stop me.” Joe laughed, and Luz’s eyes lit up, pleased with himself for earning a real laugh from the younger man.
“That’s as valid an excuse as any, I guess.” Joe replied, nodding his head. “So how do you get that job, party planning?”
“Elections, like any other position in the house. Get yourself nominated, make a pitch as to why you’d do the best, then the chapter votes.”
“So for social chair is your pitch just ‘I’ll throw really good parties, I promise?’” Joe asked. He was afraid that his very limited knowledge of Greek life wasn’t really working in his favor in this conversation.
Luz seemed happy enough to continue on answering Joe’s questions, at least. “Well, kind of. We probably wouldn’t elect a stick-in-the-mud like Roe to be Social, just because he doesn’t really LIKE social activities,” he said, motioning towards one of the guys in a group by the kegs. “But it’s a little more nuanced than that. I brainstormed some party themes, some ideas for date parties, for formal. Picked out which sororities I think it’d be cool to partner with this year for Greek activities.”
Joe was a little overwhelmed by the amount of social events Luz was listing. How did these guys ever get anything done? “That’s a lot of different stuff,” Joe observed.
Luz smiled indulgently. “Well yeah, but it’s pretty much all optional. And it’s spaced out over the year, so it’s not like we have three date parties in one month.”
“So what’s the difference between a date party and a normal party where people bring their dates?” Joe asked, uneducated about the term.
“It’s a smaller sort of party, where each member gets to bring one date of their choosing. They all have themes, and you make costumes to match each other!” George said excitedly. “It’s almost too hard to narrow down the themes I actually want to use, there’s so many.”
“Sounds fun, I guess.”
“I’m sure you’ll get invited to a few sorority date parties, good looking guy like you!” George reassured, letting his eyes rove over Joe again.
“Uh, well, not really interested in that,” Joe muttered, shifting his eyes around the room. He hadn’t really opened up about his sexuality in high school, not willing to subject himself to that particular torment, but he had vowed to himself that he’d try being more open about it at university. “The girl part, I mean. Going to date things with girls.” He spared a glance to Luz, whose eyes had softened, but was still smiling.
“Same here,” Luz said, clapping Joe on the shoulder. “Well then maybe I’ll see you at one of EZ’s date parties, yeah? Any of the guys would be lucky to have you on their arm!”
Joe gave him a small smile, but he was a little confused. Did Luz mean that there were other gay guys in EZ that would take him? Because honestly, Joe would rather go with Luz, not a different EZ guy. Was this his subtle way of saying he was unavailable to Joe? Shit, this talking to hot guys thing was hard.
“Maybe,” Joe agreed. He saw Bill approaching, bringing a trio of new beers with him.
“Here’s your fucking beers, you lazy asses,” Bill muttered, handing over the alcohol, popping the tab of his own can.
“Thank you, dearest,” Joe said with a smirk, thoroughly enjoying having Bill as his serving wench.
“LUZ, we need you over at the DJ table, Webster’s trying to play his pretentious hipster shit again!” A guy called from the threshold of the room.
Luz turned with a groan. “Liebgott, why the fuck can’t you handle that?”
“Dick said if I kept bitching at Web tonight that he’d cut me off before I started fights,” Liebgott shrugged. “Alcohol is more important.”
With a sigh, Luz turned back to Joe and Bill. “If you’ll excuse me, duty calls.”
Joe and Bill nodded, and Joe had to force himself to look away and under the prolonged eye contact.
“It was really great to meet you, Joe,” Luz said. He turned to go, but then paused and looked back. “Oh, and Bill? If you’d have told me your friends were this hot, I’d have let you put more people on the guest list!” Luz exclaimed before bounding out of the room, presumably to stop Webster from hijacking the sound system to play Bon Iver or something.
Mouth hanging slightly open, Joe just looked after the doorway that Luz had escaped through, stunned. Bill was cackling like mad, thoroughly amused by the look on his best friend’s face. “Damn, already pulling guys on your first night out! Why the fuck isn’t it that easy for me to get girls!”
Closing his mouth, Joe drank a long pull of beer, convinced that he had been dreaming. “Well, can’t do much in your case. A face like yours, not much of a cure for that.” Joe said seriously, smirking a bit at the end. Bill squawked, whacking Joe on the side of the head.
“Whatever, asshole. Let’s go play beer pong.”
Joe shrugged; content to follow Bill around for the rest of the night. He kept mentally replaying Luz’s closing line, and if Bill caught him slightly smiling for no reason, he didn’t say anything.
Throughout the night, Joe kept glancing around the room, keeping a mental note on where Luz was, trying to drink in more of his presence.
The unadulterated joy on Luz’s face as he stood on top of the porch railing, clinging to the corner post, belting out the lyrics to “I’m On A Boat” was contagious, and Joe found himself screaming the lyrics along with the rest of the party. He could swear that Luz kept making eye contact with him on purpose, particularly when the older boy kept making hip thrusts at the line ‘I fucked a mermaid.’ Joe had had to look away, because that much eye contact while Luz was moving his hips like that should be illegal.
And when the Titanic monstrosity was finally burned, Joe couldn’t help but think that the glow of the fire didn’t even compare to the glow of Luz’s smile.