I was in a huge banquet hall feeling lost and alone among all the people. I recognized some from high school or college, but I didn’t know any of them well enough to approach and ask for a seat. I debated with myself about how they would react, and was petrified that it would be with either anger or, worse, indifference.
I saw a boy, D., who had been in a college band I knew and had accepted my online invitation, and I offered to perform with him, but his eyes slid over me coldly as though he had no idea of who I was or what I was talking about.
Then I fell in with J. S., a girl from my high school home room, who was staying at the hotel where this gathering was being held and who said I could come to her room while her husband was out.
Her room seemed very odd, and when she said she was going upstairs, she climbed rungs built into the bathroom wall. This seemed dangerous to me, and I realized that ascending them was something I could not do.
When she came back, I noticed there was a red, ropy pole from the bed to the ceiling, as though it were a support. I remarked that I had a canopy bed in my room (which I had just remembered). This pole, it turned out, was the arm of a genie in a bottle, and now she wanted him to serve as a clock. She told me to set him, but I could not get the syntax right at first. Finally, I said something like “O’clock — three,” and the arm that wasn’t holding up the ceiling snapped to the three position.
She and started to play some kind of typical board game, like Monopoly, using the bed as the board and characters like the genie — living, breathing, whimsical creatures.
The details of what she took for granted were remarkable in every way, yet I kept thinking that this was very ordinary way to pass the time that I could do on my own and that perhaps married or sociable people like the ones downstairs at the banquet did not have private lives that were any better or more interesting than my own. I did not find this revelation reassuring, and it did not make me feel less forlorn.