We throw a party in White Apartment. The guests are tanned, tough bodies with light-colored streaks in their hair, products of our surroundings. They enter through the front door then are nudged toward the living room. The living room is carpeted, a prim and short white, while the kitchen is a cool green tile. The kitchen is next to the living room, and there I am, white shirt unbuttoned and electric blue bathing shorts on.
I remind guests to take some punch from the scalloped bowl, please. They gasp over the star anise, the clementine rinds floating tender circles. Laughing, I tell them to be careful now, that two bottles of gin died for this punch.
Conversation breaks so someone can pluck something crunchy from its silver tray. The guests are tasting that tiny smear of something spicy, sweet, or salty on top. Gently, I am stirring the punch, poking the ice cubes with the ladle, realizing, for the first time, that they’re moon-shaped.
At parties I agree with a lot of things. I agree to hating people’s bosses, to the latest guilty pleasure, to how hard it is to exercise but how worth it, oh so worth it, exercising is. I agree to runner’s high. I agree to being single. I agree to settling down, to the rhythms of a relationship, to comfort french-kissing discomfort, to the treat of high thread-count. I agree until I need to refresh my glass. Gently stir the punch, poke the ice cubes with the ladle, see how they’re moon-shaped, cheesy, maybe, but satisfying next to the star anise.
It’s my apartment but not my party. Four people came over to help with the punch.
Outside, a lovely metal pail waits for me near the sliding glass door. I take it by the handle. A cloud of guests pushes by. The pail swings into my calf, and I smile at them. Oh hello. Oh my sweetest things.
I fill the pail with pebbles. The pool is lined with beds of pebbles that might be grass in other climates. No one notices. I go about gathering pebbles like picking up garbage. There’s a piece. There’s another. There, there, and there.
The bucket clings and clangs on the way inside, up the rock-studded concrete stairs, over the carpet and into the guest bathroom. The light is on, the door left open. The white hand towel is crumpled on the counter.
The sound the pebbles make when they hit the bathtub is one of declaration! But the bottom is only scantily lined. The white porcelain marred only a little by specks of dirt, by a scattered gray.
I pass a pair of guests on the way out and grin, swinging my pail. I’m not a liar and I’ve never known one.
Three of the four helpers hover over the buffet table. The party is in the living room, the kitchen too, since it’s one large space. The helpers ask me but I just nod, sure, and empty trays go into the sink. New ones come from the fridge. I made a list, earlier in the week, of food supplies. I researched the recipes on the internet. I printed them out at work. Each recipe came with a blurry little graphic of what the dish should look like.
I fill the second pail with more pebbles than the first.
In the party, someone spills a drink. Star anise shoots across the carpet. Squeals and squeals. A thick, knowing hand pats the carpet. The dark spot is prettier than the lighter ivory. Voices rise from outside and a couple stomps up the stairs. They seem like they’re trying to out-pout each other. A small white dog scuttles across the floor. His barks are long and low for such a tiny thing. Its trembling hair makes its fur look frizzy. I see it even from the doorway of the guest bathroom, where the pail swings at my side, empty once more.