Today I Celia Burnsed myself on the way to work.
You don’t know who Celia Burns is. Celia Burns is not her real name, of course, but I want to tell you her story.
Once I lived in a house at 200 East Poplar Ave. I was out of grad school and still living like a grad student, even though I had a job, because I had spent all my money in Spain the summer after graduation. The house was the last group/student/unrestored house on the block. We called the place 2EPop.
One of my housemates, Michael Beck (and that is his real name) and I decided to throw a party for Christmas. We put gift bags with tissue paper on the walls for decorations. We had been wandering around Tuesday Morning looking for an economical way to decorate. I suggested the bag idea, reasoning that after the party we could take them down and use them to wrap presents.
Michael turned to me in the store, and said “That’s a fantastic idea. Whatever they’re paying you at that school, it’s not enough.”
We also wrapped the door to Michael’s Room–the room off the living room, what was probably originally a parlor–in plaid paper with a giant bow. I had seen it on Mary Tyler Moore, and Michael is from Ohio.
I bought the ingredients for my mother’s Grand Mariner fruit dip. Michael Beck bought the ingredients for Manhattans.
We invited everyone we knew. Our housemate Leslie invited everyone she knew as well, even though she chipped in for nothing. When the restaurant where she worked closed, the entire crew came over and someone stole my Dewar’s, but that’s a different story.
We dressed up. Michael was wearing a suit, and so was I. Mine was kind of a frilly one I had found remarkably cheap on clearance on Nordstrom.com. Many of our guests dressed up as well.
One of them was Celia Burns. She wore a cocktail dress and satin shoes. She seemed to be having a good time at the party, but then she’d had too many of Michael Beck’s Manhattans, and she got a little weepy. She pulled Michael into the other downstairs bedroom, Ed’s room, to talk.
The party was going well. One of my school librarian colleagues was surprised to find that the party was not just for the district’s school librarians, but she and her husband stayed longer than I expected. The librarians and the teachers and the historians and everyone seemed to be having a blast.
It got a little late. One of the teaching assistants at my school asked for her sweater. We opened the door to downstairs bedroom where the coats were.
Michael Beck was sitting on the bed, a horrified expression on his face. Celia Burns was leaning against him.
My colleague fled without her sweater and I was right behind her, but I heard Michael say, “Kathleen! Help!”
I turned around and looked at him. Celia had thrown up in his lap.
Ed was going to flip out. True, Michael Beck’s lap had borne the worst of it, but some had splashed on the bed and the hardwood floor. I gathered rags and cleaning products and handed them to Michael. I located Celia’s best friend in the history program, Carrie, and pulled her in the room.
Carrie comes from money. You would know her last name. At one moment, Michael was tending to Celia in and I was scrubbing the floor. She sipped her drink and looked down at me, and then went back to the party.
Michael and I got Ed’s room in reasonable enough shape that we could tell Ed what had happened. We decided Celia would survive. Michael’s suit, I figured was done for, but he would put it in a plastic bag, hand it to the dry cleaner and run out like he just robbed the place. When he went back to pick it up, it was fine. It was a shame he could never show his face there again; it was an excellent dry cleaner.
Last night I had a migraine. I took the medicine quicky and it wasn’t too bad, but when I woke up, I still felt a little off.
I was almost to work and in the center lane of traffic. I tried to catch it in my hand. My coat caught the worst of it but some went on my sweater and even on my t-shirt.
First bell isn’t until 8:48. I open the library at 7:30. At 7:15, I was in the bathroom scrubbing my shirt. It didn’t help. The assistant principal let me in the school store to buy a new one.
I washed my face and hands, and put up my hair. Even with the new shirt, I smelled puke all day until I came home and took a shower.
My coat is in a bag in the trunk. Following Michael Beck’s example, I plan to hand it off to the dry cleaner and run away.
The car I will have to take to the car wash that does interiors. I will tip the staff well.
I just have to wonder what Celia Burns would say about all this.