On a hot summer night, I went to an art gallery.
It was an opening for an artist I had no idea about. There would be many people I had no connection with. The only thing I had was a passing acquaintance with the brown-eyed gallery owner.
But I went to the opening. I was curious. And hopeful. Hopeful I’d bump into someone. We’d get to talking subway delays, summer heat. And we’d discover we both went to camp in the same Vermont town.
But that didn’t happen.
I walked around the gallery. I tried to catch the brown-eyed owner’s eyes. I walked around the gallery again, more slowly. I tried to catch the brown-eyed owner’s eyes again, more quickly.
And when I did, I reminded him: “I’m Caitie. We met- ”
“I know. I need to…” He cut past me. Disappeared behind a closed door.
And then I, who had little to begin with, had nothing. I came with a weak connection to ward off being alone. And that connection disappeared behind a closed door.
I walked out into the hot summer night. Leave now, I thought. Why go back in and pathetically grab for connection? Preserve your dignity.
I thought about the long ride home. I thought about walking into my apartment alone. I thought about how sorry I felt for myself.
And then I thought, Is this who you want to be right now, Whelan? Is this the best plot you can write for today? That you let humiliation and loneliness close you down? Get out of your sob story and go back in and find a better one.
I dragged myself back into the opening. A lot of people had gathered around a small painting. I walked over to the edge of the crowd.
“I feel voyeuristic,” a woman next to me whispered, as we both reached and stretched ourselves to see the painting.
“I hear you.” I moved to the left. “Try here,” I pointed next to me. She moved over.
“Elizabeth, by the way,” she stuck out an open hand.
“Caitie.” I grabbed her hand.
And there we stood on a hot summer night. Two people together at the edge of the crowd. Reaching and stretching. Finding our own opening.