Who’s Afraid of Five Minutes?

 

Can’t stop laughing. Enveloped in smoke, I maneuver through the crowd. Nourishment and refreshment are necessities if I’m to last for the long haul.

The air is rife with quips and guffaws. If I bother to pause, some of the murmuring will coalesce and become real conversation. Since I am neither a meteorologist nor a physician, I’m going to pass up the opportunity to discuss the weather or current ailments. The only observations I could offer would be banal and I have no desire to fall any lower on any social scale, if the scaling was judged by banter.

Wanting to walk with purpose toward the dizzying array of foods I can’t pronounce, I quickly feel I’m wading through a swollen river. Each step is slow. I have to struggle to keep my bearings with the wall of humanity I must pass through.

I can’t feel my feet until I register the pain of someone stepping on them. I danced too long. With abandon. Without a thought. The only truly glorious time I’ve spent tonight was dancing. If dancing is truly like sex, I’ve made love to a whole room of strangers. And at least some of us are sated.

Finally reaching the cocktail party groaning board, I help myself to some morsels and turn to survey the room. Aside from a pseudo-flashback (an instance where I didn’t experience a scene but saw it in a movie so it felt familiar) recalling a party scene in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” I feel as though I’m visiting another planet. Who are most of these people? Are there occupancy laws being broken? Is the host a modern Caligula? How did I get here?

Before I start singing Talking Heads songs, I decide to try conversing with some other guests. But other than remarking on anthropological observations on the throng in front of me, I can’t think of a single subject worthy of small talk. So I smile and eat and drink some more.

Aside from some vague notion of my presence being important for business, I forget myself, as in my actual identity, for a bit and just bounce around the room like a giggling, tipsy pinball badly in need of social interaction. Part of my brain just won’t shut off and I register the fact that this night is not all meaningless; each experience outside one’s comfort zone is supposed to aid in growth of some kind. I’m just not sure how eating fancy-schmancy h’ors d’oeuvres, drinking until a future headache is assured, grinding anonymously with another body, and worst of all, enduring and perpetuating small talk- how does one learn or grow from these things? Are there lessons to be gleaned from adolescent discomfort even in adulthood?

When I look at the clock, I see that only five minutes have passed since I crossed the room. Another hour at least then, for appearances sake, and then I can retire to my own humble abode. It may be too quiet sometimes. It may lack the quality of food choices. But I make more sense to myself there. I’ll pop in a movie or maybe read a book. Anything to escape and erase this night.

Before diving back into the fray, I have the thought that I’m most likely not alone with my antisocial thoughts, even at this party. There’s no way to know for certain, but I would wager there are others as desperate as myself to get out of this stifling circus. If only there were socially appropriate signals that we could give each other. If I could come up with a solution, I’d be the pied piper of outcasts and we’d all have smoother sailing.

But then I’d have another social group to navigate. I may as well wave my silent white flag and dig in. It’s gonna be a long night.