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Elizabeth Comes Home

February 7, 2013

Elizabeth is back in town and she threw a party so everyone would know she had come home.

I know you don’t know who Elizabeth is so I will tell you. Elizabeth is a friend from college. She was in one of my classes and Chelsea and I ended up working with her on a rather big project. She is a rare find amidst the teeming masses of humanity. She inspires everyone, one way or the other. Either you love her and swear your undying fealty or you hate her with almost unreasonable hatred. How, you may ask, is she able to bring people to such extremes of emotion? Perhaps that is best answered by relaying some key moments of the party.

Chelsea and I attended together. Chelsea drove. Chelsea was on edge because Jeff was expected to attend. Jeff is her ex-boyfriend and they had not seen each other since they broke up. But such is the allure of Elizabeth that both Chelsea and Jeff were willing to endure the extremes of awkwardness in order that they might show their loyalty to her. I tried to reassure Chelsea that it would be okay.

After passing the house in the dark twice, we finally found it. We mounted the steps and knocked on the door. The party was hosted by a couple, friends of Elizabeth we had never met. (She has more friends than people I have ever met.) They were kind and welcomed us, taking the proffered bottle of wine and our coats. We had arrived on time (an unfashionable habit I picked up from my Grandpa). The invited guests had not arrived yet; there was only a handful of squares who had honored the official start of the party. Elizabeth was there, red-faced with joy. She gave us hugs.

“Can I make you a drink?” she asked Chelsea.

“Sure.”

We followed her down the hall to the kitchen. She got out a glass. Chelsea and I were talking to the hostess. Elizabeth disappeared as is normal for her, flitting like a hummingbird from one thought to another and following whims like a child in a fairy tale. Me and Chelsea and Tawny, the woman whose house it was, had a good laugh about her sudden disappearance. Classic Elizabeth. While it was amusing, her flighty nature is something that has always annoyed me about Elizabeth. When she reappeared I reminded her that she had been making a drink for Chelsea.

“Oh, right,” she laughed.

She quickly made a martini and left the room. Chelsea took a sip.

“Ugh,” she said.

“What?” I wondered.

“Taste this.” I took a sip. It was unpalatable. Elizabeth had made a martini that was mainly olive juice. If there was any alcohol in it, it was undetectable.

A man nearby heard us.

“Let me try it,” he said. He sounded like a man annoyed by stupidity. He took a sip. “That is disgusting. I’m an alcoholic and I wouldn’t drink that.”

I was annoyed, but I kept it to myself. Chelsea was still chewing her nails over Jeff. She got a glass of wine and we went into the living room.

The partiers who had arrived were perched around the room facing Elizabeth. She was telling stories of Washington D.C. This is where she becomes herself. She must have done thirty solid minutes of material. We were all crying with laughter while our friend relayed all the stories she had been saving up to tell us when she came home. My face and stomach hurt from laughing so much. More invitees arrived and the intimate nature of an audience with Elizabeth dissipated. She flitted from one group of noisy revelers to the next like a politician at a fundraising event.

I don’t enjoy parties the way I should. I like meeting new people and I like the concept of social gatherings. But in the heat of a throbbing mass of drunken armchair philosophers, I recoil. I usually spend most parties watching the festivities from one corner of the room, happy to absorb as many nearby conversations as I can. And this party was no different.

Jeff arrived, but Chelsea needn’t have worried. When she was in the kitchen, he was in the living room. When she went outside for a cigarette (she’s a social smoker), he came in for a drink. Whether by design or not, they did not spend more than a few second in a room together.

What I really would have liked was to have a conversation with Elizabeth, away from the madness of a party. Maybe have an intimate conversation over a good meal. That is the Elizabeth I loved and pledged my fealty to, the one-on-one Elizabeth, not the one who is looking around the room for a more exciting conversation to have while you are telling her about the novel you have been working on for months. But the one-on-one Elizabeth wasn’t there. The brilliant, insightful, and funny Elizabeth was replaced by this drunken, fun, and superficial Elizabeth.

As the evening wore on and I realized that the Elizabeth I wanted to see would not be attending, I grew more annoyed. I waited impatiently for Chelsea. I realized that I would probably never again meet the Elizabeth I had known during college. She only comes home a couple of times a year and most of that time she is with her family. The chances of her spending time with me when her time is at such a premium are pretty rare. By the time Chelsea was ready to go, I was angry and sad.

I know it’s selfish. I know I shouldn’t be angry with her but I am. She is one of the best people I know with the capacity to bring out the best in others. But her inability to focus, her aversion to tedium, the kind that is necessary to live and accomplish anything, and the indulgence of her every whim make it nearly impossible to be her friend, her true friend. I wonder if she has any. There are dozens, maybe hundreds who would like to count themselves as her true friend, but I feel like such a status is unattainable. It makes me sad.

Again, I look for a lesson to be learned, but there is none. I had a friend in college who was amazing and beautiful and insanely funny. That person is gone. It seems like we all just harden into unbendable versions of our younger selves. Where once we were pliable and spontaneous, as the years pass the mold dries and hardens and becomes more difficult to change. I don’t want to be a hardened individual. I want to live and grow and learn and change. But I’m afraid time will not allow it.

Anyway, I miss Elizabeth.

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