Dinner Parties

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Dear Dr. Menchen,

November 23, 1999

At dinner parties, there’s always that one conversationalist I enjoy too much. On one occasion, I met a man who has yet to fade from my memory. He had an interesting tendency to speak grandiosely when matters of little importance arose. He would also wave his hands as if he were constructing a boisterous symphony. He was quite the character. Another time, this woman at a formal dinner party was my greatest fascination of the evening. When she wasn’t picking at her food, she would hiss with laughter. I liked her because she would laugh at someone else’s “under the breath” joke, that no one else wished to hear.
Unfortunately, I come across only one or two interesting people at every dinner party. I attend many parties, two to three in a single week, and so this ratio startles me. No more truly interesting people in our social strata? Of course, I mean this simply as a joke. The individuals at these functions are probably fascinating, but masquerade their strengths with the superficial things, like boats and houses and expensive clothes. I’m not entirely sure on the reasoning behind this, though. Maybe that’s simply my interpretation. Sometimes I leave with a poor understanding of the evening. I don’t mean anything by that, really. I don’t specifically mean your party, or anyone else’s in our social strata. Goodness, I now just seem to be rambling.
Anyway, the first time in my forty-seven years of dinner parties and gossip circles, I sat disinterested in seeking out that one particular individual. Maybe I was tired or maybe I was cranky. I tried to observe the tendencies of others, but to be candid; I couldn’t find a single one that really caught my eye. As you said in your letter, dinner parties are all about meeting people and hearing their stories. Sure, I’m interested in that. Yet, Mr. Alpert’s journey to the Himalayas cannot possibly rival the way he picks at the congealed wax on the table as he speaks. Or, when Rupert’s recently acquired large inheritance ignited gossip frenzy at the dinner table, I felt ashamed. Why did no one discuss the fact that his parents are no longer here? Maybe that should hold more weight than money. Again, I haven’t meant to target your dinner party, but rather, the popular event.
I’m sorry, Dr., because my intention of this apology wasn’t to go off on a tangent. I just feel that if you understand me better by what I’ve said above, maybe you’ll understand why I left. But, I’m guessing you’re just upset that I showed up in the first place. I can assure you my reason for attending wasn’t to hurt or embarrass you. What’s happened in the past should remain in the past. You must know that deep down, under this mask of mine, I shake uncontrollably with fear. Maybe this is difficult to see because I’m the John Willington, the renowned master of witty remarks and a lucrative income.
But beyond those superficial things, I’m a skeleton so bare that I can’t even stomach my façade much longer. I’m the lion who has not only lost his roar, but also his dignity. Maybe all this change prompted something deep within that forced too strong of a reaction for a dinner party like this. But don’t we all need an awakening at some point?
In your letter, you asked me not why I left, but where I had gone to. From what I can recall, the moment unraveled something like this at your party: my chair violently thrust into the wall, a jolt upward, a swift motion to the doorway, all the while in a state of mumbles and grumbles (either my stomach or the partygoers’ reaction.) Nevertheless, I ran into the outside, and more specifically into the rain. A pair of headlights called out to me, like how a mother calls to her child after a play date. I can remember sticking my hand out towards the yellow rectangles and the fast windshield wipers. I knew that I would regret not getting into the car, so that is the exact reason I did. What I needed was to get away from it all. Drive as far away as possible, or at least out of Clandury.
Beyond that, there’s not much more I can tell you. I would’ve written you a shorter letter, and a more succinct letter, and yet alas, I haven’t had enough time. I think Samuel Clemens said something along those lines. I’ll have to tell you about him some time, and the way he slurps his green tea. Another thing, Dr., please stop parading how you know so much about death just because of the title you hold. I can refer you to many people who will surely give enlightenment and perspective to your theories. I haven’t meant to alarm or offend you by anything I’ve said, and so I will now apologize if my intentions have been misinterpreted.
I will see you shortly, in the millennium.

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