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Lift: A Serial

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Part Five

June 19

Today I'm having lunch with Anne. I have to confess to being extremely nervous about it. I've made forays into the public eye, yes, but they've been brief missions, just going out to get something and coming directly back home. I haven't really sat in public, in a place where I could see and be seen. Well, I've been to the library and spent maybe an hour reading, but somehow that doesn't count. The library is like a morgue or something — dead books and quiet people who for whatever reason aren't involved with the real world. Who has the freedom to wander through stacks of books during the day expect people who are unemployed or retired or somehow too damaged to interact in the business world?

I realize that it's not a morgue at all, but it does smell musty. God know it's the only place I've felt really welcome since moving here.

Anyway, so: lunch.


It's now evening, night I suppose, eleven or so. What a great day. Weird how you can be full of anxiety and then when everything works out you can't remember exactly what it was that you were so concerned about.

Anne is quite a nice person. She had found this great lunch place where we could sit and see all the people coming and going, but stay out of view ourselves. I don't know how she knew I'd be feeling too much on display out in front — I didn't say anything about it to her that I can recall. We haven't discussed my wings at all. Anyway, we had some very respectable sandwiches and talked about living in the town we grew up in, being single ... basic girl chat. I've not really had that sort of relationship ever, so I don't know how it all came out so easily. Maybe it's instinctual.

I pretty much forgot the existence of my wings completely for the half hour we had for lunch.

Tea is tomorrow. I helped Mom with cleaning — the house is already so clean it's sterile, but apparently mere sterility isn't enough for guests — and now am ready to collapse. Looking forward to tomorrow.

June 20

I came into the kitchen about a half hour before Mrs. Weinstein was supposed to arrive, and found Mom surrounded by piles of tiny sandwiches. Way more than three women could eat. Each sandwich was cut into a little shape, all crusts removed, the bread cut paper thin, colorful fillings peeking out from between the slices. Wonderful, adorable. She had made mini cream puffs and was filling the shells, and there was a large tray of petit fours with pink, white, and green icing.

I sampled a little sandwich with pink filling and it was scrumptious — salty and smoky and tart and yet creamy.

"What's this?" I asked.

"Chopped ham with cream cheese," she said.

I stopped mid-chew.

"It's such a simple recipe and yet everyone loves it," she went on. "There are chopped capers in it. That's what gives the tang."

I looked at her, but apparently she had no idea that there might be an issue.

"Mom, Mrs. Weinstein is Jewish."

She stopped squirting filling into the cream puffs. "Yes, I know that."

"So, Jewish people don't eat ham. They're not allowed."

"Oh my goodness." Realization spilled across her face, followed by irritation. "But that's just a silly rule. They don't still do that, do they?"

I shrugged. "Some of them do. I don't know about Mrs. Weinstein. I just think to be safe we should err on the no-ham side."

Mom looked around at all the trays, panicking. "This is terrible! How am I supposed to know what she will and won't eat? She should have said something."

I calmed her down and we went through the list of what she'd made. The little beef roll-ups with cream cheese had to go too due to the no mixing meat and milk rule ("Those are so wonderful! Everyone loves them. They're wrapped around slivers of roasted red pepper."), but fortunately the turkey was fine and so were the salmon and cucumber things. We stashed the offending snacks for Dad to eat later and rearranged what was left on new plates — not that this was a kosher kitchen but I figured we should make some kind of effort to adhere to the rules, at least the ones I had heard of.

The event itself went quite smoothly. Mrs. Weinstein had a cup of tea and then switched to coffee. The two of them did most of the talking, mostly about their kids. Apparently the Weinstein's son is around my age, so immediately Mom started asking if he was married and so on. I felt like we were re-enacting Bridget Jones Diary, but they kept it short. In all it was a successful afternoon.

June 21

Today I had lunch with Anne again, at a different place. This time we were in the front of the restaurant, and it was an actual restaurant with actual people in sight. Anne suggested that we have some wine, and I took her up on the idea because I could feel people looking and thought some alcohol would be soothing. And it worked. Once I settled down and decided to just enjoy myself we had a great time, joking with the waitress and all. I asked Anne if she had taken my socialization on as a project. After a while she confessed that she had. But she has been very sweet about it. She said the next step is getting me to go out at night. I agreed and we toasted the concept of getting out and meeting men. Looking back on it now, from the safety of my room, I'm less certain about how excited I feel. But we agreed, and I think she has my best interests at heart. So we're going. Tomorrow night.

Part Six

June 22

I might never leave this house again.

June 23

OK, I am ready to think about yesterday. Actually, I'm probably not, and I don't think that thinking about it will be calming. But then again, maybe it will help to get it onto paper and out of my head.

I went out "clubbing" with Anne last night. I was excited about it ahead of time, feeling good, like this would be a fine next step in my reintroduction to the world. Never mind that this world is the small-minded small town that I grew up in and couldn't wait to leave. I guess I thought that people here had generally been OK so far, had adjusted to me just as I had adjusted to myself, would be grown up enough to recognize I'm a person like anyone else.

Anne certainly has been a good person. We had arranged to meet at this bar downtown, where she said there would be good music and a good crowd. I spent more time than I would have liked deciding what to wear and finally settled on a simple, sophisticated outfit of black pants and a dressy camisole. I was going for a hip-and-not-trying-to-show-it look, and I have to say I looked damn fine.

What I didn't think about — or rather, subconsciously knew but tried to keep from my consciousness — was that wings are not generally part of that hip-not-trying image.

Anyway, I get to the bar and go in, look around the space, and don't see Anne. The place had not yet filled up but there were people clustered around the bar. I didn't want to wait inside, by myself, but I sure didn't want to pace around on the sidewalk checking my watch. So I took a stool as far from the action as possible and flagged down a bartender. The bartender gave me a little bit of a look but seemed to have the impression that I was wearing a costume. He kept nodding and smiling as if to show he was in on the joke, whatever the joke might be.

I will say that he could fix a fine martini.

Anne was about a half hour late, and by then I was relaxing a little, not talking to anyone but watching the crowd and trying to figure out who was with whom. And I was being watched too. I found that smiling widely at anyone who stared was very effective at getting them to stop.

At last Anne came in. She settled into the stool next to me and launched into a story about her cat escaping from the house and how she had to catch it before it was hit by a car — she seemed pretty frazzled but overall in high spirits.

She waved to a few people, and it turned out that some of the individuals who had been staring were friends of hers. I have no idea what their names were, but they were nice enough. I suspect that Anne had primed them about me, but they had still not felt comfortable enough to rescue me from my solitude earlier.

So we stood around and talked. It was a bar, there were drinks and cigarettes, and it was all very normal, and I discovered anew how extremely dull a bar can be. I also learned how out of practice I am at small talk. I would have thought it was a basic element of one's character, the ability to chat easily with anyone. But it turns out that you need to have thoughts available to share, topics on standby that you can bring forth when there's a dead spot. I had none of these. Since I don't work now or even read the news, I couldn't adequately banter about my company or industry or market. I asked about other people's jobs and lives, but that required a whole lot of attention, and even then I had little to offer when my turn came. I spent a lot of the evening smiling and nodding.

Whatever I might have felt, the rest of the group didn't seem to have the same problem.

At some point the decision was made to go to another place for dancing. I have never liked dancing, and it seemed a good chance to beg off for the rest of the night. But Anne seemed so pleased with it all, that she was introducing me to new friends and orchestrating this great night out, so I felt awkward leaving. I took my own car, because I couldn't fit in anyone else's anyway, and followed them there.

"There" turned out to be a retro dance place in full Saturday Night Fever mode. I stationed myself as far out of the way as I could and focused on my drink. There was quite a crowd, and once I realized that I was not the center of attention I was able to settle back and observe, try to figure out who was hitting on whom and what the place was about. By this point Anne's friends seemed to have largely given up on me — perhaps I wore them out.

That's when I started to notice that I was moving my wings. I didn't mean to, and I don't think I've done it before: moved them without meaning to, I mean. It was like realizing you're tapping your foot in time with music. That's what I was doing: moving the wings in time with the music. I was filled with this rush of an urge to start moving around, turning or swirling or something, to let go. It was overpowering. I guess it was the song, or maybe the drinks. Maybe it was the dark and heat and sweaty smells. I don't know.

I nearly started off to the dance floor, but I could see that it was full and there would not have been room for a normal person, much less me. So I waved at Anne, too far away to talk to, and headed out the door.

There were people still heading in when I left, so I got in my car and drove. I found a farm. There's no place more desolate than a field lying fallow at night. I ran around for a while, swinging my wings and trying to catch a little wind, making patterns in the air. Eventually Iran out of breath. I started thinking about how I might trip and twist my ankle. I got back in the car and drove home.

Copyright © 2001 Cynthia Closkey