The cookout yesterday was interesting. (“Interesting” is the catch-all adjective favored by Midwesterners not wanting to admit when an event was enormously uncomfortable and exceedingly odd. In Upper Dharamsala, do you have adjectives that serve social purposes, or are you monks consistently frank?)
Jenna’s entire family seems to have survived the Apocalypse, and what’s more, they were all there for her little social gathering. Her two healthy, youthful-looking parents; her three sons, the oldest of which is twelve; her two sisters and their families; and even her ex-husband, with whom she gets along well, and his girlfriend, who is pretty but not in a way that competes with the extremely good-looking Jenna. She had invited me and seven other people who live within a mile of her. This included Dr. Cohen, whom she seemed to know quite well, and who acted almost like a genial co-host of the party, grilling burgers and passing around Sparklers, a special Fourth of July cocktail Jenna concocted for the occasion.
Talking to Dr. Cohen at the party proved almost impossible as he was completely swept up by her family and their horrid normality. So I found myself talking to the ex-husband’s girlfriend off in the corner. She gave me some appealing—if relatively tame—dirt on our hostess.
It’s possible I Sparkled a little too much. I weaved my way home alone through dark suburban streets. The path home was made darker still by the arc of tree branches blocking the light of the full moon. Only two years go, there would have been firecrackers and cheap bottle rockets shooting off from people’s backyards, and fancy municipally funded fireworks exploding scenically over Lake Michigan. Eve and Mason and Levi and Dingo and I would have been together on a night like this, laughing at our old jokes rather than frantically and pathetically trying to create funnier new ones with strangers.
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.