Sensory overload immediately crippled Mitch when he stepped foot into the dining hall. All of the lighting and sound equipment that Jodie rented for the show was fully operational, and hopefully no one would get too drunk and accidentally break any of it. Most of the staff and roster were present and filled the enormous room, all in costume and vibing to whatever niche electrohouse that Arin played in the DJ booth. Seeing the amount of bodies in one place was a humbling reminder that it took an impressive number of hands to run both Monument Wrestling Academy and Monster Mash.
He squeezed through the throng to seek out Jodie, but was often apprehended for a few moments of quick conversation or to oblige requests to have pictures taken with various friends. Around 15 minutes in, overstimulation and fatigue reached their peak, which had to be a new record for him. He interrupted anyone else that approached and asked if they’d seen Jodie, and the 3rd or 4th person pointed to the cafeteria window that’d been converted to a bar for the night. Hurrying along and bumping into nearly everyone in his path, he offered apologies while passing through. Eventually, bright purple hair came into his field of view, and he breathed out a sigh of relief.
“Hey,” he quietly greeted and sidled up to her as she conversed with no less than 6 other people, none of which he recognized.
“Hey wife,” Jodie put an arm around his waist and pulled him in close, then introduced him to the group. It turned out that they were all involved with the new brewery, and he took turns to shake each of their hands; if only he put in the extra effort to apply press-on nails, he’d have an excuse to refrain. “His band is going to be opening the show tomorrow,” Jodie explained, which led to small-talk style questions about what kind of music Liner Notes played, how long they’d been around, and the like. Mitch fielded them the same way he did when club owners and agents and producers hung around a green room. As far as he could tell, no one actually cared much about the details, so he kept the answers brief, smiling and nodding along to tangential anecdotes. Some of the company present either were currently, or had been, in a band themselves, so he let them do most of the talking. When a business card was handed to him, along with the suggestion that they ought to get together and jam, he felt like he’d won a game of bingo.
It was fine. Nothing egregious, just the run-of-the-mill networking stuff that he hadn’t prepared for, but was willing to do for Jodie’s sake. Also, she mentioned getting him gigs at the brewery, so he wasn’t going to botch that opportunity just because he didn’t want to interact with anyone new at that moment.
But Jodie, perhaps sensing that he wasn’t all there, suggested that the group go check out an unoccupied cornhole set-up. “Come find me if you need me,” she squeezed Mitch’s arm before taking off, and he assured her that he’d be alright.
He stood there by himself and watched her leave, nerves swelling like a rising tide being forced through a narrow channel that couldn’t possibly contain all of the water. Jodie interacting with new friends or co-workers or whatever they were didn’t upset him, there were plenty of people here that he knew here, and he could very well engage with any of them.
From where he stood, he could see Louis and Desiree already eyefucking one another in a corner, which made him wonder if Nate was still outside. Or maybe he could chill out for once and try to enjoy himself in a social setting, while also wearing an extremely revealing dress that he put on in agreement to be part of a couple’s costume.
He was being a bitch. He knew it. Blame it on the stupid dress.
“Hey, can I get you a drink?” came a voice from behind him, interrupting his train of thought that was at risk of derailing. One of their newer referees played the role of bartender, and it dawned on Mitch how few people here were aware of his personal demons. He took some solace in the idea that he’d done a good enough job coming across as normal, and not as some strung-out junkie that barely held it together without a fix.
Propping an elbow on the counter, Mitch smirked and responded with, “Surprise me.”