Being October the dinner party theme was dead leaves and orange candles.
I was sitting across the table from Scott, my handsome neighbour and host. Beneath the table, and out of sight, Scott was massaging my right foot, which I’d placed in his lap as a party gift. And while he was massaging my foot, and paying particular attention to the base of my big toe, which was causing waves of pleasure to flood my brain, his wife, Lori—she’s an artist in wool—was showing off the latest sweater she had knit. It was off-white in colour and had a design of off-white leaves that were raised and nubbly.
“The sweater,” she said, “is like bas-relief sculpture only the medium was wool not stone. My work is a noise in the world.”
And everyone admired her noise.
I was thinking, while still enjoying the foot massage and registering that Scott had moved on to my instep, which he was kneading like a slab of bread dough, I was thinking that we all go through the same dramas, we look in the mirror and say, What happened? Once we had muscles and slowly they deteriorate, which meant that I was actually observing how we were all pretty old at the party despite the distracting jewellery and the cleavage and the exercised bodies everyone had.
Then, as if to counter my unexpressed thought and to keep the world afloat a little longer, Lori asked me to retell an amusing story I had told on a previous visit and everyone looked at me thirstily. But because of the foot massage that was still in progress my mind went blank and I couldn’t remember how the story went. It was something about Mother feeding me moods in her kitchen, or maybe it was Scotch and cigarettes.
I was puzzling over this when Scott, with his significant great qualities, indicated by a squeeze of my heel that I would soon be delivered of mental struggle. So I said, “Perhaps if I went home for a copy of the story I could read it to you,” knowing full well that squirrels and possibly wild rabbits would be prowling the suburban streets that lead to my house and that Scott might offer to protect me on the walk, which is exactly what he did.
Needless to say blood rushed everywhere then, especially when I was putting on my shoes and coat and watching Scott grab his high-powered flashlight. Anticipation, you could say, lit up the mud room as if someone had stuck a finger in my eye and I was seeing, not the faces of my friends, but fairy lights.
And then it occurred to me as we were saying goodbye and telling everyone we wouldn’t be long, that the universe wanted to be tough for Scott and me. It was a special kind of exhilarating toughness, and there was no better feeling. A feeling so emotional and stark it left me believing I could even seduce a mirror. A feeling like I was a fifty-nine-year-old woman newly returned from studying with Sigmund Freud and now I knew everything.