The theme of the party was “giving up.” I had just returned from Saskatoon, where I’d visited my parents for the first time in seven years. My friend C explained to me that many of her friends had recently expressed frustration with the fact that their parents were losing their drives, settling instead into a kind of vacant complacency. “That’s not what I meant, exactly,” I said, explaining that both of my parents were still ambitious people, only settled surely into their lives—lives that were much lonelier than I had imagined they were. But, strangely, just as I remembered. The thing was that they had moved, and in moving I had thought they had changed their lives for the better.
I saw a billboard on my way to the party, I don’t remember what for, exactly—probably running shoes. A black woman wearing athletic gear against a white backdrop. The billboard said things such as “fierce,” and “without compromise.” I thought in order to produce and believe in the work you were doing at the company that produced that billboard you’d have to put on mental blinders, to make your life not much larger than what you were paid to do.
At the party I sat on the deck because I was afraid of going anywhere else. It’s where I found my friend C at the beginning of the party. It felt like a long time since I had gone to any party, but probably more accurately it was only a long time since I had been to any party where I knew almost no one. Mostly I wasn’t in the mood. A man came onto the deck. My friend C asked him how he was doing. He said “Oh I feel terrible, completely out of it.” C said, “I’m sorry.” He said “No, that’s how I always feel. But this past week I was really creative, I was having the most creative thoughts.” “Oh,” she said, “do you mean with music?” “No,” he said, “just by myself, just philosophizing. But I didn’t write it down or anything. This was just for me.” The man was conventionally attractive and a musician. He was used to people caring about his slightest impulse. It felt terrible to be confronted with his lazy vanity.
But because I can be cruel I also felt grateful to have seen it, even if I also thought there were obvious, uncomfortable parallels between him and me.
All night I felt disassociated and reticent. It was a weird mood to go to a party in—I should have stayed at home. I expected more from everyone else than I was willing to give. On the walk home I thought that meant that something was going to change for me soon: that I would lose everything, either willingly or because it would be taken from me. I didn’t think anything that I lost would actually matter. I knew all of my priorities were wrong. I was already falling apart. Perhaps the real problem was that I was too surely holding on.
After the party a friend messaged to say I should come to a bar. I said no. She asked me—I thought sarcastically, now I’m not sure—how my girlfriend was doing. I said, “good.” I should have said “great.” Before I left I had to ask a woman I had just met that night to stop leaning on the apartment door. She said no—a joke—but I was momentarily alarmed: was she actually refusing to let me go? It was awful to think. I hadn’t seen C stand up off the couch to hug me goodbye—when I turned around to put on my shoes, she was standing behind me. I hugged her, quickly. I felt like a thief escaping into the night.