We were at a party and it was like we weren't in a pandemic, nobody wearing masks and a packed house and everyone touching the same serving spoons, but oh my God the food was so good and all of us happy and chatty and casually dressed up, the bright lights and noise from the house spilling out into the dark night, the clink of glasses, the colorful abundance of the dessert table, and how have we gone so long without parties?
We were sitting on the sun porch and there was adequate ventilation, but still, I could sniff a whiff of covid in the air. Or maybe not. We keep dodging bullets. Taking all of the precautions and sifting through risk tables and suddenly you wake up one day, and it's been two years and two months and eight days of the Global Pandemic, and even though the cases are rising (again), sometimes you just want to go to a damn party.
The couple my husband and I were chatting with was the same couple we'd chatted with the last time we went to a party. It was three years ago, but it felt like yesterday, and at the same time, it felt like the distant past of a fragmented fever dream. Same hosts and same delicious food and same casual dressed-up-ness. We even picked up where we'd left off in the same conversation: the renovations we were doing on our new-old house.
In the past I told the story of the previous owner's weirdo wooden board obsession and how much dismantling was involved, the various tools and screwheads (whatever the proper terminology is) and the couple seemed interested, the wife, a writer friend, even going so far as to volunteer her services, and my husband and I threatening to take her up on this, but then, alas, it was fall and winter and then came the pandemic.
We dismantled it all ourselves, we told them in the present, one of our main projects during the lockdown. But it did make me want to dial back, go into the past, to a different timeline where there was no pandemic, and the only thing to worry about was dismantling weirdo wooden structures, and in this timeline we'd invite the couple over to help.
Another writer friend entered the sunroom and the conversation morphed into book banning, another thing I wish could take place in an alternate timeline. I want to listen to these people, the writer friend said. Just, hear what they have to say, or do you think they're too dug into their position?
My husband, quiet up to this point, was the one who answered. Two things, he said, and he leaned forward seriously.
First thing, when I'm at work and training people, it's understood that 30 percent of the trainees will be on board and gung ho about everything. Forty percent are in the middle and can swing either way. And the other 30 percent wants no part of whatever you have to teach them. So, forget them. They'll either come around or they'll move on.
And thing two?
He stretched his leg out and pulled up the hem of his pants. Socks, he said. I've noticed that the men here are wearing colorful socks.
He didn't mention anything about alternate timelines or a world where there wasn't a crazed segment of society clamoring for book banning, or a pandemic and the fact that we were (possibly?) all risking our lives attending this party, and okay, maybe it was just me, overthinking it, how I tend to,
but when the other guys in the circle stuck their own legs out and revealed their socks, I snapped a picture and froze us for the moment into this timeline,
which, for better or worse, is likely, the only one we have.