Somehow, even though life back home is still really weird, I don’t seem to mind it so much.
For one thing, I can call my friends from college whenever I need a reality check.
“Yeah, Margaret,” I tell my friend, “I’ve still got the two roommates. It’s pretty crowded, but we manage.”
Margaret suggests that I talk with the roommates about moving out. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea.
I bring it up to Chauncey.
“So, you’ve been getting some promotions, right? And so has Jin? Do you think you might enjoy living in a bigger place, maybe one that’s closer to work, not way out here in the booneys?”
“Nah,” says Chauncey. “I’m used to it out here. I like the quiet.”
I figure I’ll make the best of it.
I drink a lot of tea this winter. I found an antique tea set at a consignment shop, and on afternoons when it’s stormy out, I fix a pot of Darjeeling and imagine I am someplace lovely with elegant, happy people, and chamber music playing in the background.
Jin says, “We should have a real tea party. You know, with real people.”
So the next day, I invite over her daughter, Hetal, our former room-mate, Jack, my new friend Annie Nix and her family, and a few other folks we happen to know.
Chauncey’s old neighbor Dante shows up, looking like he lost the blueberry round of a pie-eating contest.
“What’s with the face?” I ask Chauncey.
“Don’t even ask,” he replies.
I spend most of the party talking about recycling with Annie, so I have a good time, after all.
When I start feeling lost or confused, I put on my graduation robe. That black gown makes me feel grounded and confident.
While I’m painting late one evening, I hear somebody at the door. Jin and Chauncey are already asleep, so I answer it.
The guy doesn’t look human.
While I’m telling him about the delicious pies they serve at the Winter Fest, he says, “Cathy Tea, it is you who I was instructed to survey. How is your DNA?”
“Do I know you?” I ask.
“Most certainly,” he responds. “We met that fateful night.”
And I feel a shiver as I try to remember that night back on campus when I traveled up that strange beam of light. There’s not much else about that night that I remember.
The nonhuman guy stays around for a while, chatting, watching TV, and looking at the dormant plants in the garden. I start to relax when I realize that he won’t be prodding me.
“I’ll see you around,” he says as he gets back into a flying saucer and takes off.
When I head back inside, there’s Jin, doing exercise with the TV.
Jin, even though she’s as unstable as over-proofed bread dough, makes me laugh all the time. She is so full of life, and I never know what she’ll wear next.
Now that we’ve got a little TV set, we manage to enjoy a few moments of domestic happiness. Funny, I never thought old black and white reruns could introduce peace into our living room.
The guest list for our gift-giving party is so long, and everybody shows up, and then some. It’s no wonder we don’t have any room when everybody congregates in the kitchen.
Annie’s there, of course, and once again, I can count on her to share genuine excitement, while everybody else is standing around looking bored.
After we’ve opened all the gifts, and all the guests have left but Dante, Dante calls me outside and gives me a bouquet of white roses.
“Like the purity of our friendship,” he says.
“Happy snowflake day,” I say to Jin, after Dante has left.
“Whatever,” she says. “Did you make this roast chicken? It’s delicious.”
Chauncey joins me while I’m eating breakfast the next morning.
“Did you mean it when you were hinting around about me and Jin getting another place?” he asks.
“Kinda,” I say. “I mean, this place is awfully small. But it’s been nice lately, don’t you think? It seems like we’re not quite as much getting in each other’s way as we used to.”
“Speak for yourself,” he says. “I’m tired of sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor. Another few paychecks, and we’ll have saved enough for first, last, and deposit. I’m thinking maybe we’ll start looking.”
Just then, I don’t know whether to feel happy or sad. I guess either’s ok–maybe even both.
Though I’ll miss Chauncey and Jin, I can get excited about having the whole place to myself.
“Will you come back to visit?” I ask.