Yeah I went to the talk, and the reception.
Yeah I went to the dinner, and the party.
It was not a terrible evening. It was okay.
I don't think I did anything especially stupid.
But I feel kind of crummy. Not wretched, you know,
but just kind of lost or left over—
like I'm the little cup of overcooked beans
somebody covered with plastic wrap and pushed to the back of
the fridge. I might drink a little Scotch
just to get sleepy. Everything is okay. But it's like
there's so many voices—all these voices
still skittering around in my head like mice—people
having things to say. Everybody finding lots to say—
this professor gave a talk about the interpenetration
of coexisting cultures—I think that was the concept—
I kind of drifted away in some sections—and then
people clapped so I was clapping and then I was standing
with a cup of wine and trying to have on my face
the I'm-so-interested look. I'm so interested but
I'm also witty and cool. Then I was part of
several little exchanges—not really conversations,
it's more like we're throwing peanuts at each other's mouths.
My peanuts just bounced off the chin or the cheek of
whomever I spoke to. This was partly because the room was so noisy
and my voice is phlegmy and weak. In my next life
I want to have a voice nobody can ignore. But then
I would need to have things to say. Tonight I tried
but I could feel how unriveting I was. I don't blame people
for sliding away from me at the reception, and also at the party.
If I met me tonight I would slide away from me too.

But how do they all do it? Are they happy?
I know some of them are not happy, but at least they seem to be so
present. Whereas I was like glancing at the door
waiting for my interesting life to show up.
My cup of wine kept being empty
which made me feel as if I was standing there in my underwear
so I kept refilling it. I was a blur.
I was a blur on its way to becoming a smudge.
And this was not about the evening being terrible. Actually
that's the scary part of it. This was a normal evening
with me being a fuzzy blur. At dinner I kept trying
to look very interested in the conversation on my left or my right
so it wouldn't be obvious that my only true companion was
my plate of salmon and potato. At one point
the troublingly attractive woman across the table was talking
about the talk we heard on coexisting cultures and suddenly
I felt potentially witty and I said loudly, "Who would have thought
that interpenetration could be so boring?" and I grinned at her
and I felt quite rogueish for a quarter of a second
but she just blinked as if I'd thrown a peanut that hit her eyelid
and then she kind of tilted away from me so she could finish her observation
about the ironies of postcolonialism. My face then felt
like a huge decaying pumpkin. Then for a while
I pushed a piece of salmon around on my plate, seeing it as
a postcolonial island, and I imagined the natives muttering
"Things were better under the emperor, at least you knew who you were."

Then after coffee I drifted along to the party upstairs and I thought
there must be a way to have fun. What is it?
So I ate three brownies. While nibbling the brownies
I tried to maintain the I'm-so-interested look. I'm sure I chatted
with a dozen people. Several times I started a sentence with
"It's fascinating the way" or "It's so fascinating the way"
but at the moment I can't remember what I was saying was
so fascinating. It was something about memories of high school
at one point. At the party there were at least four women
who seemed very attractive and I just wanted one of them
to give me some big eye contact, that's all,
the kind of gleaming twinkling eye contact that says
"I am intensely aware of your masculine appeal"
but this did not happen, and I began to feel resentful,
I resented the feeling that the focus of the evening,
the focus of existence, was always over there or over there
and never like here where I was standing.

So yeah. It was like that. At some point pretty late
people were telling jokes and I started telling several people
the old long joke whose punch line is,
"Let your pages do the walking through the Yellow Fingers"
but somehow it took forever and only one person really heard the punch line
and he just patted my shoulder and said something like
"Time to get this old steed back to the stable."
Then we both laughed and actually I was happy then
for a second. After that I sat on the sofa
drinking something that looked like wine
and I felt I was such a blur it was like I was the sofa's third cushion.
And then apparently my shoes carried me all the way to this room
where it's just me and the Scotch and the empty bed.
Okay, so not that great of an evening, but no tragedy either;
but I'd just like to feel how it feels to be
in focus at the focus, to feel "Hey, you want the party?
Seek no more! The party's right here."