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Jacqueline Berger
Ten Minutes

That’s how long we lasted at the party I’d been looking forward to—dreading, looking forward— for weeks. The woman you almost had an affair, excuse me, relationship, with, her invitation read 5-2am, all nudge nudge wink wink about what would go on in the wee hours. Why I wanted to be there had something to do with claiming, owning—the nomenclature of control: if I’m included it’s not happening to me.

I’m not the one who bolted, though I agree it was awkward as the first day of junior high when you're new in town. No one offered us a drink, nothing was even opened, and though we arrived at a reasonable mid-point, our hostess was still ripping Styrofoam off frozen sausages and hurling them on the grill, a frantic hello and quick hug, her man down the street testing out a neighbor’s hotrod, a vehicle so ramped it makes your body shake.

Plus, the place was a mess, goddess tchotchkes crammed on every surface, but you wouldn’t find a book to save your life, and a book might save your life, finding a corner to curl into until the party began.

I won’t say I didn’t contribute to your panic with my snarky introductions to the few guests we talked to. The animal brain took over, my inner cat, hackles raised, all hiss and claw,

We snuck out without saying goodbye. Unlike you to be so unmannered. Sat in the car watching the sunset over the ocean a block away. Not. Going. Back. We went out to dinner instead, overpriced but a great view of the water, the hard waves slapping the rocks, the delicate spray that followed, and our martinis basically glasses of gin which god knows showed real intuition on the part of the waiter.

Some situations don’t resolve but continue to kink, each encounter tightening the knot. Good, I guess, to live with it, our complicated lives, their gutters of rage and grief, jealousy, regret, shiny as scars. And our dog wide awake, waiting in the window as we pulled up.