I just need to make it through this party. I just need to make it through this party and then I can cry.
Alright. I can do this. Just fix a smile on my face and no one will ever know. Say cheese! Now hold it. Hoooold it. Damn, the corners are twitching. My cheeks hurt. I probably look like I’m snarling. As though I’m about to eat someone just to get out of here.
Stay cool. If tears come, just say they’re from allergies. Is there pollen in the air? God I wish there was pollen in the air. A massive, apocalyptic, Alfred Hitchcockian wave of pollen coming right for this backyard. I could say I watched Titanic this morning. Or maybe I could cut an onion. Is there an onion lying around?
Pick up a napkin. Here’s one, by the punch bowl. I’ll pretend to wipe my face and rest behind it for a moment. Ahh. Yes, this is good. But I can’t hide forever; who stands around at a party with a napkin over their face? Weirdos, that’s who.
Everyone is looking.
No one is looking.
They all think I’m a freak.
They’re not thinking about me at all.
Shit, I’m being talked at.
So many words and I can’t hear any of them. I feel like I’m underwater. Like I’ve dunked my head in this punch bowl. (Someone really needs to spike this punch bowl.) How do they do it? Just talk like this. Function like this. Be okay like this. Where did they learn this talent? Is there a class at the rec center? I hope there’s one on Saturdays because I work on weeknights.
Maybe it’s not a skill of theirs but a deficiency of mine. Maybe I lost that chunk of my brain. Lost it like a sock in the dryer. Maybe it ran off from my head like a dog. I should put up signs.
“MISSING: brain part that makes one not want to burst into tears in public. Last seen: can’t remember. If found, please return to the human train wreck by the punch bowl.”
Shit, now the person wants a reply.
“Oh,” I finally choke out. “That’s interesting.”
The person gives me a mystified look, then nods politely and pretends to get distracted by some guacamole. I’m alone again.
I can’t tell if I feel relieved or lonelier than before.
So many people and I feel completely apart from them. I feel like a tiny, tiny Me, standing at the back of my mind and watching through faraway windows. I shout, but the voice doesn’t carry. The distance is too great. I shout and shout and shout but no one hears.
Someone touches my back. I jump and turn around.
“Are you okay?” the person asks.
And with those three simple words, the floodgates open, and no amount of napkins can save me.