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By Timothy Day
It was not the kind of party that I usually went to. I said this, over and over as I shook people’s hands and made little bows. It felt right to somehow excuse my presence, my very existence as a living and breathing entity occupying a portion of space, ears sucking up their share of the jazz music blaring from some ambiguous source, as if the house itself was alive, an active participant in the festivities, celebrating its size and extravagance.
The musical house, I said to no one, and smiled.
What was that? someone said.
I didn’t have to turn because she was standing in front of me, all shim and sham, bobbing her head back and forth to the trumpets.
I was thinking that the house was musical, I said.
Everything is right now, she said. We’re united in that way.
I paused, then stepped back and knelt down and picked up one side of the rug beneath our feet.
Do you mean to say, I said, that this fabric would be dancing if it could?
Her eyes stayed on me as she stooped and brought up side two.
Perhaps it only needs help, she said.
Her hands began swaying left and right, and since we were united so did mine. The rug flailed back and forth, wider and wider, and on the seventh swing released. It danced through the air before falling on the back of a man in clean white. I clapped at the rug, draped over the man like a kingly robe, and said,
Quite a move.
She nodded and laughed, an eternal effervescence.
I have to try it, I said.
My arms began swinging left and right, disconnecting from my brain, developing a ligament’s life of their own. Her smile as she watched, similarly absent of control. Soon I could feel my feet being lifted from the floor, my musical arms becoming too much to stand. The flustered man in white now free of his patterned attacker, looking towards me with a lowered brow. The rest of the room’s population held tight to their glasses, checking the party schedule handed out upon entrance. With 9:57: Man flailing arms nowhere to be found, I remained nothing but an interruption to 9:30: Wine and friendly discourse. Finally my arms made their move, flinging me off my feet and over to the man in white, hands landing on his shoulders, chest bumping into his drink and causing a spill. Her laugh isolated in a room of silent stare.
I was thrown out by the principal of the elementary school I taught at, who had been invited by the principal of the middle school, who had been invited by the principal of the high school, who had been invited by Mills Denmark, host and former dropout. The thing is that Mills and I were good friends, and I hadn’t been in need of an invitation at all. If I wanted to, I could have had everyone thrown out for a lack of tossing textured adornment. But with my new job insecurity, I stayed out on the steps while the rugs inside hugged floor. 10:02: Man sulks by himself. I heard the door open and looked over my shoulder, hoping to see again the oasis of pale blue that was her dress, the popping of her eyes, alive and musical. Instead it was Mills, throwing himself out of his own party, buzzing with energy from the pools of lemonade; his custom to make it with excess sugar.
I bought a cake today, he said. It didn’t taste like anything.
His voice was squirrely. I squinted.
I tried to make one last month, I said. Still haven’t eaten it.
He laughed and drained his glass.
Cakes expire, he said. There’s a date on the front.
Mine’s not packaged, I said.
Realizing the futility of staying in exile, I got to my feet and rushed in to find her. Scanned the entry and saw nothing. Stood in the dining room and danced forks across table, chairs across floor, hoping to attract her presence. Zipped to the living room, wobbled pillows over couch. Found the man in white and hovered around his frame, the stain on his suit much smaller than I’d thought.
At home, I opened up the fridge and gazed upon my cake, sitting there calmly at the center of the rack. Mold on top that I was almost glad to see. I closed the door softly, made plans to bake the next day.
Timothy Day is a college student living in Seattle, Washington. An absent-minded, head-in-the-clouds type, Timothy considers it a miracle that he has yet to walk into a pole. When this does inevitably happen, he hopes to be carrying a plant.