His face will be familiar to you when you meet him, but in that vague and far-off way, as if you were once at school together, or he might have delivered a parcel to your home a few weeks ago. Both of these possibilities may be true. He’ll claim not to know you, but with an annoying half-smile that you can’t decide is meant charmingly or knowingly. He’s the sort of man who gets drinks thrown over him.
Amanda: I don’t know how you did it.
Laura: I didn’t have any choice. What else could I have done?
Amanda: Yeah, I suppose. But the funeral would have freaked me out.
Laura: It was freaky. But it was only a funeral.
Amanda: Only? I don’t know how you did it.
So, it’s that kind of party. You’ve turned up early, to get the lie of the land, and been introduced to everyone as they arrive. The food’s bland, the guests dull, and there isn’t a quiet space where you could settle and play observation games. You spend the time looking at the time. You could do that anywhere, but with better food.
Amanda: He couldn’t have said that.
Laura: He did.
Amanda: No. Did you mishear him?
Laura: I don’t think so. I’m sure.
Amanda: Christ. These people…
Someone has already asked you if you model. You lie. He gives you his card. You smile. You decide not to make excuses. You talk to him, on the close side of flirting. You know he thinks he could fuck you. You say something inane, to see if he laughs. He does, and you lean in and place a hand on his arm. It’s all there. You can do whatever you want from now on.
Amanda: See him, over there? Don’t look!
Amanda: Four o’clock, with the tinted glasses.
Laura: Oh, yeah.
Amanda: I’m sure I know him.
Laura: Where from?
Amanda: Don’t know.
Laura: He has that sort of face.
Statistically, someone here is a rapist, and at least two of the men are in the closet. Most of the older women are on secret pills or having rather meaningless affairs. They have days like the blank pages you sometimes find at the ends of books; the story has finished and these plain white pages are simply there to make up the page count. There’s nothing there.
Laura: I’m going for the piano player.
Amanda: You are joking?
Amanda: You fucking are.
Laura: Wish me luck.
You’ve looked at the bookcase, like everyone does, but it doesn’t really help. The fridge, however, is a revelation. Poking through a person’s refrigerator is like going through their soul. This is how they live, how they plan their days – what’s in them. Fridges should have locks on them. You pull out the salad drawer.
Laura: We need to go.
Laura: Right now.
Amanda: But I’ve only just-
Amanda: Fuck sake…
You don’t like people who own fish. You once knew a man named Gareth. You dye your hair a plain colour so no one will ever know. You’re allergic to wool. You spend hours in the bath doing wordsearches. You lie to strangers, especially those who ask for directions. These are things nobody will know unless you tell them. You won’t tell these things. Your name isn’t Laura or Amanda, and none of this ever happened.