Silver bowls sit beside each place at the table. They are old – that much I know. Monogrammed, too, and I somehow divine that they’re meant for soup. A detail that makes no sense, but then what do I know about old, fine things? Edith Wharton, I am not.
Nothing on the table matches anything else. It’s a collection of lovely things that have little more than their beauty in common. For this, I love the setting all the more.
I wasn’t invited to this party; I know that much, too. I showed up at the house of an old friend in the window of time just before company arrives, when the last little things get done. The flowers, over there. Count the chairs. Enough? Turn off the flame under the soup. Uncork the wine.
It doesn’t bother me that my name isn’t on the guest list. I’m welcome in the house for now, and for now it’s enough. I am left to wander through a home that’s old and lived-in and comfortable. One room is lined with bookshelves, the room that explains my friend more than any other.
I leave before the party starts.
(A dream, is all. In life, I would have called first, of course. I like to think I would have made the guest list.)
My dreams lately are of things that feel out of my reach, and I awake to a sense that I’ve missed something, as though I’ve come within a breath’s space of a kiss (you know the feeling).
I could guess at the reasons for them: All of the pretty things laid out on a table? Well, those are my things still packed in boxes. The dinner party could mean that I miss my friends. Or that, as wrong as I may be to think this is how it is, I see their settled lives cleave time in steady, familiar patterns and wish for the same.
The other dreams are a grab bag of people, places, things. My hand falls to my side when I cannot touch what’s in front of me.
I’ve made the call to the school. My youngest, with her sick tummy, will stay home for the day. She wears her misery on every part of her physical self. Her bedhead curls tumble and frizz about her face. Her shirt doesn’t match the pajama bottoms that ride high on her ankles (when did she grow?). Pale skin, paler still against a red pout. As much as she still can, she fits herself onto my lap. Her feet are almost as big as mine now and her legs stretch out across the sofa.
It occurs to me that no one taught me this, how to comfort and snuggle a sick child. I don’t have a single memory of being held this way. All I can think is: some of us know how to do this and some of us don’t. It suddenly feels like an enormous, small thing. (You know the feeling.)
There should be a place for this on a résumé, don’t you think?
She pulls my gray sweatshirt from where I left it on the sofa. “Is this yours?” she asks.
I say yes.
She tugs it over her head until she’s inside it. It’s big on me, but on her, it’s a tent. Sleeves and hem fall past her knees. If I hadn’t already forgiven her every slammed door or stuck-out tongue or I hate you, the sight of her would have absolved her of it all.
She wears it all day.
To this day, I belong. What I can reach is mine. What is mine is enough and it fills me.
And yet. Yet. I know know know myself. And I know that, on another day not so far off, or in my unquiet sleep, I will still (always, ever?) find myself reaching.