The evening progressed, as evenings do, with laughter and with conversation. I sat mostly in silence, feeling something that I did not recognize. At one point, I closed my eyes. I sent a tender, careful probe to the corners of my mind. When I opened my eyes, I had my answer: Welcome. I felt welcome.
I’ve sat at many tables. I had in fact sat in the very restaurant at which we dined, several times, with people who smiled in my direction. Still the feeling of being wanted rarely rises in my breast. I unfurled it, wrapped it around my shoulders. I waved it over the plates, with their half-eaten meals and their forks set askew. No one so much as blinked. The merriment continued. I didn’t even garner a casual curious look.
A few hours later, the gathering adjourned to someone’s house. Turkish coffee got handed round. Stories flowed. We played a funny video which made me laugh so hard that I hid behind my hands. My stomach ached. Still later, in the dark of my empty house, a smile lingered on my face until I drifted into dreams.
Today, I will bid goodbye to a chapter of my life. I expected to awaken with a sense of sorrow. Instead, I stood at the back door watching the old dog lumber down the stairs, smiling again, waiting for the kettle to boil. Turning back to the room, I regarded the piles of baking dishes in the drain basket without my usual reluctance to confront my chores. Nothing could overwhelm me today. I’ll get myself ready, and take myself to the End of An Era: A Closing Reception. I’ll mix the cider and set out the cookies which I spent all day yesterday baking. I’ll hug each person who enters. When the last note shimmers in the air as Jake and Angela pack their instruments; when the last person slips back into the chill of winter; I’ll still wear this silly grin. I took it home, from last night’s dinner among friends. I consider it a worthy souvenir.
It’s the nineteenth day of the forty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.