When the party’s over. When the glasses are all cleared.
When there are dishes to be done.
When hearts have been emptied into words whispered from lips to ears.
There’s a sort of let down that follows a brilliant celebration—there’s also a sort of relief.
There’s a sense of fullness that lifts a previously tired spirit, along with a kind of shallow emptiness that settles into calm as life returns to normal.
But normal can shift back into lonesomeness as the half-nibbled plates are taken care of; as those whispered words settle back inside the heart.
My always too-talkative self usually feels a sense of embarrassment at the things that I’ve said, as well as not said.
I wait for weeks and days to see special faces, and when they’re here, I retreat into myself—too tender to reveal what a get-together means and too sore in my crippled woundedness of fragile life to know even how to go about telling someone else what they mean to me, when not there.
I look over at a spent napkin, sitting forgotten on the nicked antique table.
I remember the way her face fell as I accidentally said the wrong thing (that I didn’t even really mean). And then I remember, too, the way she lit up when we laughed or how she smiled at the baby, quietly contented in her visiting lap.
I never have much to do after the party’s over. They’re all so generally helpful and good at cleaning up after themselves.
Sometimes I wonder, though, what they’ll say about me on the drive home, or how they’ll recall a funny incident. (I swear I’ll be 59 and hear ringing in my ears that someone else is talking about me.)
So when the party’s over and I’ve returned to me—to my home in my natural state—I’ll always wish, again and again, that we’ve only just begun.
That mascara will go on freshly curled lashes.
That excited chests will be clothed in favorite sweaters.
That anticipation, curiosity and (almost a sense of) fear will reside within my full breast, ready and needing hugs and conversation.
I listen to the quiet that fills the room, along with my house’s familiar voices and rhythms, and I’m grateful to be sitting where I am, nursing a baby with a half glass of wine, listening to my heart fill up for its next chance to spill open.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Jennifer White
Editor: Catherine Monkman