Saturday, June 06, 2009

Katie attends a party.

The city is charming, I thought as I inched forward in traffic, admiring the skyline and the swoops of entry and exit ramps as interstates crossed and flitted off in bypassing directions. I admired the old buildings, listening to Garmin as she directed me toward TinyFriend’s building.

“You will come to my home tonight,” she said, hovering in the door of my office yesterday morning as I blinked and looked away from the study of my monitor. I cocked my head at her, wondering why she thought such a thing and smiled when I remembered.

“Yes,” I promised. “The party. I know. I’ll be there.”

“You will come. You will not call and say you changed your mind,” she informed me, looking simultaneously bossy and hopeful. So I nodded again.

“Party,” I confirmed. “Tonight. Your place.” Yet, hours later, tired from multiple meetings and a rather impressive tantrum, I sighed with a fervent wish that I could change my mind. Pick up some groceries and huddle at home in pajamas. I reminded myself that I loved TinyFriend and dutifully stopped to pick up fresh bread, tapanade and a bottle of wine before driving resolutely toward her home.

The city, I seethed, circling the same three blocks for the sixth time, is ridiculously inconvenient. I couldn’t find parking and there were too many people driving and walking and the charm did not outweigh the multitude of people who moved among the lovely buildings and pretty view.

“How the hell far away from the intersection do I have to be?” I wondered aloud, pulling in behind a line of parked cars and noticing I was rather close to the end of the block. I closed my left eye and looked upward in concentration, trying to remember parking rules that I’ve mostly disregarded since my high school class and muttering before I decided to leave my Jeep and hope for the best. I looked around suspiciously as I walked the four blocks to TinyFriend’s, knowing I was being silly but already dreading walking back to my car after dark. There are (rare) shootings on the news! And I don’t know neighborhoods well enough to assess their worrisome nature, so I decided to fret intensely just to be safe.

“Hi,” I offered, walking into a lobby and holding my wine and bread protectively. “I’m looking for TinyFriend?” I smiled my thanks when he directed me to the appropriate apartment and unlocked the security door. I’ve never met a doorman before, I mused as the elevator ascended. I realized my first ferry ride had been very recent as well, deciding I was quite the country mouse and wishing I was home.

My heels clicked steadily beneath me as I moved toward the door with the proper number upon it. I knocked twice before being allowed entrance and smiled at the group of people – all from Industry – already gathered inside. Answering questions about wine preference and what I brought and how I was, I wondered why we had to see each other socially. Was I not attentive and lovely at work? For the 10 hours I spent there each day? Must we meet again? Yet, remembering Adam scolding me for not going out more, I steeled myself and summoned energy I didn’t have to converse and smile.

M said it wasn’t easy for anyone, I remembered of a conversation by the beach. That everyone got tired and impatient, that nobody really liked congregating with people but they forced themselves to do – and enjoy – it. I regarded her skeptically when she said it and thought her wrong once again. Some people, I decided as I looked around, genuinely enjoyed this. They relaxed into the chatter and nibbled on snacks. They sipped wine and laughed over familiar stories. They moved and mingled, shifting from group to group with a natural grace that I envied even as I forced myself to pretend I didn’t wish I was alone and in pajamas.

I smiled as a woman entered and felt a moment’s sympathy when people welcomed her with exaggerated shock. I ended up seated next to her about an hour later, both of us having sought the comfortable sofa in a quiet corner.

“I don’t come to these very often,” she explained and I nodded. We’re acquainted but have shared fewer the five conversations, all of them friendly but work-related. “I just like being home,” she admitted, sounding suitably ashamed of the fact.

“It’s quiet,” I said, smiling at her with complete understanding. “And after a day of talking and laughing and arguing, it’s nice to just relax after the mental effort.” I giggled when she looked at me with increasing fondness. “I like being home, too.” I confessed easily.

We engaged in conversation, discussing dogs (we love our respective canines very much), travel (enjoy the new cities, exhausted by the business trips), our homes (both in the suburbs, both with limited – though friendly – contact with neighbors) and other stories as others joined and left the conversation.

“We’re like the same person!” I decided after the third time we’d offered identical responses simultaneously. We giggled together and I realized I didn’t feel broken or alone. There were wonderful people – bright, funny, beautiful, charming – who simply preferred their own company on most evenings. I wasn’t wrong or broken or otherwise icky.

“We’ll go together in 20 minutes or so,” she offered when I tried to leave and was firmly rebuffed by the gathered crowed. (Apparently it was “too early.” I’d been there for 3 hours!) I nodded gratefully, sipping another glass of water and counting the moments.

There were four of us who departed in the first group, riding the elevator down together. “I knew you’d be friends,” one woman noted to me and my new twin.

“Of course,” I noted. “We’d hang out all the time, but we both like to be in our own homes.”

“We could talk on the phone,” Twin suggested and I nodded politely. “Actually,” she said after a moment, “I don’t like talking on the phone. So maybe not.”

“Oh, good,” I grinned at her. “I hate phone calls!” I waved to her when we reached our cars and headed home. I felt sleepy and sluggish, drained by the evening even more than the day at work, and was happy to greet Chienne and Sprout when I finally arrived at home. With lots of parking. And very few people.

Having accepted myself as I was, I decided to sleep today. I rose a couple of times, feeling a bit hung over and queasy, and did a bit of work. Then I curled back into my pillows and snuggled under fluffy blankets while the chilly, gloomy day went on unnoticed. I just enjoyed being at home.

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