I was being reprimanded for not having the correct dress code for the cocktail party. White with a touch of gold the invitation read. But there I was in my black trousers, bowtie, and white shirt. An outlier, I would have said. A problem it now seemed. “By God Jack, what is this monkey business, you look like one of the waiters,” Lorna said. “Hold the glass by the stem, not the bowl, Jesus, do you know anything?” she added.
“Give a million monkeys, a million typewriters and they will eventually type the complete works of William Shakespeare,” I wanted to tell her but she wobbled towards someone she thought was more esteemed, pretending to have never seen me.
I took a sip of my wine and scanned the room. “Don’t you just hate cocktail parties? One big orgy, everyone putting out. So shallow, so obvious,” Kate had joined me. She had been on my interview panel and she had been crucial in the getting of my newly minted job.
“Your brilliance got you this job,” she always reminded me when I thanked her. She was now putting her empty glass of wine on a tray and picking up a fresh one from a waiter who was nearby.
“Don’t let her get under your skin. I know a dozen people like her,” she said pointing at Lorna with a long manicured nail. “You know those people who are always sucking up to rich people; At their every beck and call doing everything they can to get their favor but it never works, they just end up being used even more.”
“I can handle her,” I said.
“That’s why I love you, Jack. You love and accept yourself so much, you interact with people for who they are, not what they have,” she said while leaning on my chest and fiddling with a button on my shirt. “Pick another glass of wine for me, this one is done,” she slurred.
“A glass of water for the lady please,” I said to a waiter who was now looking at me peculiarly, probably wondering why one of them was making demands; as an elegant gentleman joined us.
“Hi Ryan isn’t the music nice,” Kate said while doing a jig to the background classical tunes.
“Who is your friend?” Ryan whose name I had just learned and I was now just realizing I had seen him on the Top 40 Under 40 of some magazine asked with an edge to his tone.
“This is my colleague, Jack. Jack meet my fiancé, Ryan.”
“Nice to meet you,” Ryan said while extending his hand and shaking mine with a strong grip that seemed to suggest that he would crash me at a moment’s notice if I ever crossed the line.
I had been standing behind guys like Ryan my whole life. Guys who looked and talked the part. Guys whose life looked like a postcard. I was lucky I was smart, otherwise, I would have never gotten to feel the sun’s warmth because of their shadows.
“Your glass is almost empty,” Lorna had joined us and her sing-song voice filled our space. “Let me refresh it for you,” she said while snatching Ryan’s glass from his hand and coming back with a new one. The energy had grown thick with discomfort and we dispersed to the next man and woman dressed in white with a touch of gold.
“Look at her barking up the wrong tree,” Kate had found me again and she had a full glass of wine in her hand. “She doesn’t know that I am the bread and butter behind whatever it is she thinks Ryan has.” At that moment I looked at Lorna and felt a terrible sadness grip me. Here I was sticking out like a sore thumb in my waiter’s garb and there she was blending in to the point she could not recognize herself.
The party wore on and people began to leave. I could not find Ryan or Lorna so I called Kate an Uber.
We got back to the office the following week. The days wore on. Kate married Ryan in a spectacular garden wedding but they divorced before the year ended. There was rumor that Ryan was now staying with Lorna who was quickly getting tired of being the breadwinner of the house because as it turned out, Ryan had signed a prenuptial agreement and he had left the marriage without a cent.
I worked for the company for another year before a promotion in another company came knocking and I left. I did learn to get the right dress code for cocktail parties. I avoided wine glasses altogether for whiskey glasses but something stuck with me that Kate had said on that white and gold night which I thought she embodied better than me. You have got to love and accept yourself enough to interact with people for who they are, not what they have.
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