Poetry: ‘A Brief History of Pomona House Parties’

From Pomona poet Michael Torres, youth remembered in nights out.

colored light background

The idea of a “history” has such a heavy weight to it. I’m fascinated with the possibility of histories of something seemingly insignificant or even unworthy of having a history told. For a few years, house parties were very important to me. They could shape a person’s view of the world; they could offer opportunities and lessons. I’ve witnessed this. So much went on in that short period of time in my life. How could I not go back years later, in writing, and try to capture some of it?

We stack packs of Bud Light in our arms, and in the backyard, minutes later, that’s us, creasing cans in our grip. Before sweat, spit, and the fights we start, we smell like Drakkar Noir, Curve, Cool Water, and a small vial of Calvin Klein CK One I bought at the dollar store earlier that day, that I thought was the real deal until further inspection when in faint cursive above the label it read: Inspired by. In the brief history of house parties, I’m inspired by Danny who launches himself into Jonny’s pool wearing all his clothes. I pass out on the homie’s couch from smoking a cigar like a cigarette, or I pass out in the backseat of Rudy’s car after being too down to chase tequila with beer more than twice, and within two minutes. Or I pass out high and on an empty stomach as I try to stand upright for a photo. There’s my body, captured in its collapse towards confetti. A billow of dust and fun. In the brief history of house parties, we watch in awe, the women ride mechanical bulls, then we boo the guys who want to try it until we realize we too could participate, and we turn everything into a competition. In the brief history of house parties Jonny yells, What did I do? to the woman he invited but forgot to dance with. Everyone watches her leave. Too many guys show up with muscle tees under their button-ups. Every pair of jeans ironed. And when too many guys show up, more women leave. Then more guys show up, investigating, prodding, asking, Where all the girls at? They proceed to drink all the beer we brought; they talk to us wrong, like they know us. No one knows us. Jonny, beyond buzzed, says something about his dad owning a Russian bayonet, and me and the homies know (or hope) those words are aimed at everyone drinking our beer. And Jonny’s dad does get the gun out in the brief history of house parties. And glass shatters over pavement like a perfectly misplaced syllable. No one thinks of brooms when the strobe lights are still swooping. The fogger pumps at full capacity, and makes a mystery out of our ordinary lives. Later, after the final page in the brief history of house parties, we’re at the Jack in the Box drive-thru. We ask for three orders of the Two Tacos; Stuffed Jalapeños. We yell about what we said and who swung first. We request ranch; a Big Cheeseburger. Napkins, yes, thanks. We hardly believe how it went down. We ask each other, where were you? We ask for extra ranch. More. Please. Thank you. In the postlude to this brief history of house parties, no one lets Danny inside their car because his jeans are still drenched and he smells like chlorine. We pull away and into a parking spot, and he pops out of the trunk like, Did you remember my Jumbo Jack on sourdough bread? Our laughter one part flail, one part apology.•

This poem appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Alta Journal.

Michael Torres was born and brought up in Pomona, California, where he spent his adolescence as a graffiti artist.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Fiction & Poetry