Flames danced against the darkened faces of the partygoers who huddle up next to the fire pit; a chilled evening punctuated with laughter and the clink of beer bottles.
Several conversations going all at once. Another cluster of people in the kitchen – the one room in any home that is sure to attract guests – and there’s another couple of people who spread mustard from around the globe onto fresh-grilled bratwurst.
An Oktoberfest party.
A gathering of friends.
I guess you’d say that I am in the suburbs of this particular group. That’s OK, I’m grateful for the invite, the chance to meet now people and see people I haven’t seen in some time and reconnect.
Nearly everyone, it seems, had the same idea and raided beer coolers all over town and brought a sixer of Spaten. Brewed in Munich, it is to Oktoberfest as brats are to good eats (there was even bacon in the potato salad – who can argue with bacon?)
Social situations intrigue me. I’m a listener until I get warmed up. I meander through differing conversations and don’t add much. Unless asked. Then I tell stories; I regurgitate all the strangeness that seems to follow in my wake.
A friend told me some sad news, but she is doing well in the face of it. I know exactly how she feels, and tell her that I’m there for her.
Another friend tells me I’m hot, that I’m looking good and asks, “How’s single life treating you?”
(Yes, it is a woman.)
“Everyone who has asked that has been a woman,” I said. “Why is that?”
She explained that women like to know feelings and emotions.
“It’s a lot more than, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’” she said.
The women ask if I'm dating, or ready to date - they all have friends - and I said I'm...open. Just kind of taking things easy, seeing how life shakes out and being open to new friends. They laugh and wink and tease.
There’s guy talk, too, more rough, unrefined. Surfacy stuff that produces nods and laughs.
The fire proves to be the greatest draw on a chilly Saturday night. Everyone moved toward its warmth, crowed into a circle where the din of the competing conversations melt together into big hum.
And as much as I don’t want to leave – the warmth of friends is even more potent that the logs that glow orange in the pit – I know I have to pull myself to leave. The time isn’t that late, but I have preparations to make. Things to pack. Sleep.
I say my goodbyes and give and receive hugs and kisses. The screen door closes with a click and even in the street, you can hear the party continue. Laughter.
And I smile.
My preparations are for a two-day paddling trip to circumnavigate the entire shoreline of Whiskeytown Lake Sunday and Monday. The Tension will be dark on Monday, until I get off the water.
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