"When the world hates you, remember it hated me first."
Last night at dinner, after the second cosmo she said, "I was in Cheyenne for my brother. We drank a lot of Maker's Mark and talked about life," which in of itself was the smallest part of nothing. She was in one of those moods where something serious has to happen. Fell upon her like too many years at once. It showed in her eyes. Fatigue. She fought it. I didn't want her to.
"We're here..." I start, but she stops me.
In my head, we're on this earth, where people fight starvation and disease every day, where wars are waged against the innocent to gain the attention of the powerful, and we sit in darkened restaurants worrying about the quality of the vintage in the glass, chewing on hardly cooked fish that was swimming in the Pacific a day ago, dragged to shore by fisherman who live on the horizon between water and the sky--what of this life? What could you say that would not be worth my time? What would make me love you any less?
How to say it to her, escapes me.
Instead we watch the wave flow by like a ridge of falling dominoes, first this then that then what if instead of what we did that night, we'd have kept going?
Then where would we be?
"My nephew. He's fifteen. He's just getting out of the hospital from trying to commit suicide the second time."
She stops and drinks some water. Swallowing keeps the eyes clear. Helps the focus. Says, "The second time."
I think to say, "Go ahead. It's ok," but maybe it never stops then. Maybe the wave flows and we get to the inevitable end of things. All that's wrong with the world. Global warming. Unbridled hatred. Do any of us really understand happiness? If we did, maybe we wouldn't be looking for it all the time.
I don't say anything.
"What does a fifteen-year old have to worry about that's so bad he wants to kill himself?"
I meet the gray in her eyes. Everything sparkling there. So strange that sad looks like love on her face. The tear that pools in the space next to her nose that makes me want to touch her.
"He's just a kid," she says.
"He doesn't know that. He thinks this is all there is."
"He doesn't know we love him."
She picks up her thick white napkin and dabs at the drop on her cheek. She apologizes.
"For what?" I say.
She clears her throat. Drinks some wine. Tries to smile.
"We're supposed to be having a good time."
"You're the writer. Define good," I say. "I'm going through my head, now, and everything I think about chokes me up. Maybe this is what we should be talking about."
"Maybe it's a sign," she says, now staring at her hands.
Dominos click, idea after idea falling in our minds, this leading to that to this. It takes me a while to say something and I don't notice the silence growing heavier until she breaks it.
"Have you ever been to Cheyenne?"
I tell her I haven't. Seems like a cowboy town. Merle Haggard. Turquoise jewelry and buckskin jackets.
A kid whose life hurts him so much he wants it to end.
"All you can do is keep them talking," I say.
Too late. She buries her face in her napkin. Looks up, eyes bloodshot and wet.
"I'm sorry. We were supposed to be having a good time."
She takes her purse. Opens it. Moves the contents around and then frustrated, snaps it closed and gets up. Leaves with a hand against her face.
"I was," I say, quietly so she doesn't hear me.
Last night at dinner I told them: "I have a book in my head. I think I'm going to do it for Frank. Rewrite the Antarctica book. It's going to be about a boy who gets stolen as a child, and then after eight years they get found out, and he's taken away from the only mother he knows and put back with his real parents."
"Been done," my wife said.
"I think it was, 'My name is....' Blah. Can't remember but I know I've read it," Nancy said.
Maybe I'll do it anyway.
"I have some of these scenes already mapped out," I tell them. "This guy, all his relationships fall apart. He has these memories that don't fit with the rest of his life. Like he's remembering from before he was abducted, and it becomes a whole life that didn't really exist, and so his whole childhood becomes a fabrication, so as an adult he winds up reinventing himself over and over."
"I read that one, too," my wife said.
"Me too," Nancy said. Alan smirked. He hadn't.
"Ok, I won't write those," I said. Alan and I paid the bill.
"Wanna go back to our place for French martinis?" my wife said.
Everyone said yes.
I stopped wasting people's time with books in my head.