QWF Awards Gala [insert year here]
We were told to get to the Gala early: “For the champagne,” said one advisor; “And the tickets,” said another.
The Lion d’Or. Art deco, 1930’s restored. Empty, when we arrived. Black tables with red cloths. L’embarras du choix.
I wanted to be able to see (the audience and the stage). My friend the poetess wanted to be able to hide. We took a table beside the pillar, out of the light. The champagne did not materialize, but there were canapés: asperge en filo, little vol-aux-vents.
“There’s Melissa,” said my friend. “And Jon. You’ll know people.”
I did see one guy I recognized. From yoga. And the café. And the cinema. I hoped that nobody would ask me what I did for a living. If I was smarter, I would lie. “I’m with McDermid,” “I’m here from New York.”
My friend said hello to the table behind us: Jeff, poetry, and Harold, prose. I spinal twisted towards them, maintaining our claim on our table with my sequined clutch. There were latecomers, lots of them, circling. “Is that taken?” they would ask in a not entirely friendly manner.
I picked Angela’s purse off the floor and put it beside mine. Reinforcement. For a while, it worked, but when Angela got up to mingle, a white-haired woman and her companion, a man with wobbly legs, moved right in.
What could I do? I helped them.
I didn’t see them for what they were: strategists of the highest order, clearing the path for younger, more able-bodied Greek soldiers who would soon force their way past me in my new seat at Jeff and Harold’s lesser table.
When the ceremony finally began, I was in the aisle. My only consolation was that the waiter was always close. First dibs on the chicken with gravy. I didn’t have to wave my arms. I didn’t even have to stretch.
At one point, Jeff cleared the canapé tray so that there would be nothing left for the Greeks. Being petty alone is sad, but being petty together is uplifting, all the more so when you are at an event sponsored by a brewery, which, in any case, is a lot like going back in time to whatever year you were last in high school. Flattering, no, but not altogether unpleasant.
When one of the Greeks--the one I thought of as the brains behind the brawn--turned out to be a guest of honour, I had to laugh. Who cared about the pillar, the light, the audience, the stage? A silent feud with oblivious strangers was definitely worth ten dollars and a metro ticket--if done right.
At the end of the evening, Angela approached our honoured friend with shy and sincere congratulations. The Greek responded by pulling out a cell phone, and dialing.
“So you see,” said Harold in a confessional mood, “how someone my age might still essentially be a child.”
“Don’t worry,” I thought. “You’re not alone. Far from it.”
Angela suggested that we walk home through the park. I said yes, because I was feeling young and foolish and saw no reason to change. We said goodnight to Jeff and Harold. It was the next day before I realized that I had both of them at home--in anthology. Funny how sometimes you know more than you let on, even to yourself.