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I have some people over on Saturday night, just by chance. I have gone out with Manfriend for sushi, and when he drops me back at my house with a walk to the door and a hug, I could go inside. But as the taillights on Manfriend’s Jeep disappear down the road, my desire for more fellowship rises. I see that my neighbor’s garage door is up, and people are over there. I walk towards that light and those people instinctively.
Nabe—my neighbor—beckons me in and gets up, giving me his warm faux leather chair to sit in. His best friend sits on a folding chair, drinking Pepsi, gorgeous as ever. A girl we know lies on a couch, chatting and gathering her wits so maybe she can drive in a couple hours. Nabe pulls up a high-backed stool and there we all are, listening to music from a car stereo, surrounded by tossed-off furniture that Nabe collects. We take turns craning our necks to see each other around the punching bag that hangs in the middle.
After a few songs, the girl sits up, having collected a couple wits. Because she is sweet and beautiful and fun, and appreciative of nice things, I invite her over to see the potted plants on my patio. The last time I invited her over, I had hung a new picture, and she thought it was so wonderful she almost couldn’t stop hugging me.
“Hey, where are you guys going?” asks Nabe.
“Over to my house to see the plants on the patio,” I say.
“What about us?” he says. “You’re not inviting all of us?”
I smile. I hadn’t even thought of it. “Of course,” I say.
The four of us walk from Nabe’s well-lit garage through the darkness that separates our homes, then into my house, then back to my patio and my newly potted plants. The girl immediately hooks her arm through my arm and bends us over to get a better look. “Aren’t they beautiful!” she says. “Isn’t everything back here gorgeous? Walk with me,” she says, pulling me along into my backyard. “Look at these trees! Look at this space! You could put tables and benches here and there, you could make a walkway to the corner, you could hang some lights!”
She is always more excited than I am about what I have.
We see the boys inside getting drinks. They laugh and kid. None of us belongs to each other or anyone else. We are free for the night.
“Can I move this table?” the girl asks. “We could pull it to the side and make a dance floor! And look, if we move your plants just a little, you’ll have pathways. Watch this, okay?” I’m the world’s worst decorator, so any help is appreciated. I have enclosed the patio with potted plants so there is no natural way out or in. I have done this to discourage the pigeons.
I watch the girl, small-boned and lovely, pull my heavy pots into a new and better arrangement. It’s like having one of my older sisters around to help. We’re still admiring her work when the boys come out. I sit cross-legged on the cement to find a station that comes in on my radio out there. Despite four years of dust, dirt, and wind, this radio still gets almost everything. I dial through the crackling until I find what I want: the 80’s station.
“I love this song!” says the girl, more wits falling into place. She turns to Nabe: “Dance with me!” I’ve never seen Nabe dance, so I sit next to his best friend to watch, his best friend from high school, class of ’95. Between all of us, we cover two decades.
Nabe stands in place and puts his arms up, swaying. This is him, dancing. The girl circles her arms around his slim waist and throws her head back, laughing. She has short hair that bounces. I have long hair that blankets.
Songs change, dance partners switch up: I am dancing with Nabe, I am dancing with the girl, I am dancing with Nabe’s best friend. Some of us are drinking, some of us are not; some of us are smoking. Some of us are living with our parents; some of us are living with our parents’ decisions.
A bell softly rings. The pizzas inside are done.
“Hey, come and help me,” I say to Nabe. He knows my house so well that when we go in, he walks to my pantry and pulls out four paper plates, then takes the pizzas out and slices them up. He turns off the oven. I watch with relief; thank God for Nabe. It’s nice to divide tasks in two, just for once. We carry plates of pizza out to the patio and we all sit and eat. It’s 3 a.m.
“This is SO good!” says the girl, all wits having returned. She is lively by nature, a hard fish to catch.
“I’m a night eater,” I say. “I like to eat at night, not so much during the day.”
“Me too,” says Nabe’s best friend. I stare at him under my eyelashes. I’m sure many women do.
The girl chimes in: “Me too!” She’s enjoying her pizza as much as she did her nap earlier, my lot full of trees, and dancing.
Nabe sits next to me in the dirtiest of my patio chairs because he always takes the worst for himself. He looks up from his plate into the ambience we’ve created by hanging a cowboy hat over the patio lamp. “I like to eat at night,” he says. “It’s just the way I am.”
We pass around seconds of everything we have, the four of us. When people are ready, I walk them out with hugs and kisses, then shut and lock the door. I go to my bed and take off my clothes, pale skin doing the usual stretches before bedtime, pale skin and dark hair curling up in a ball under white sheets.