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“Are you coming to the party?”  The voice on the other end of the phone said.

“Are you coming to the party?” The voice repeated as if it was a distant echo.

*’Yes, sure, I am coming. Yes, don’t worry, I will be there in a few minutes.” Angie heard herself saying.

Between us, Angie didn’t want to attend that party. She didn’t want to endure any other minute in the presence of her former employers. She didn’t want to make herself walk to that office or to that gathering room. She didn’t want to see familiar (or maybe unfamiliar) faces, or fakes smiles. She didn’t want to attend another “play” knowing that she could either choose to be a player or an observer. She didn’t want to listen to some stories or answer any questions or even smile to some unknown unclear jokes. She simply wanted to skip the whole thing. It wasn’t that she hated her former employers but on the contrary she will always consider them as very respectful smart people. She always felt that the yearly gathering was another “ritual” that her former employers liked to perform. Mainly a habit, nothing more.

She has been convincing herself since last week that everything will be alright, that no one will bite her or eat her, that she can leave whenever she feels like, that she can stay as much or as little as she wants. But none of these excuses were valuable enough for her. She simply didn’t want to attend that party. Was it because she had to attend it every single year for 5 straight years? Was it because she knew almost all the attendants almost pretty well? Was it because she knew that the gathering wasn’t going to bring together friends but only a bunch of people who will attend mainly to eat, drink and probably chat? Was it because she knew that most of these people can’t stand each other? Was it because she was quite familiar with their jealousy and with their competition? Or was it because she was dreading that place since she left it a few months ago?

After she hanged up, she gathered all her courage, brought together all her strength, made sure she had the bottle of wine that she intended to offer her former employers, and then walked slowly but firmly to the elevator. She didn’t know what to say or what to do. Her brain was elsewhere, her mind was still in the office among books and pencils. She waited patiently for the elevator, then she went in, and instead of going to her former office she went out to the sun, to the light, to the garden of the beautiful university of Heaven that haven’t been so beautiful lately because Angie didn’t get the chance to enjoy its beauty. She then sat in the sun for a few minutes, looked at students passing by, talking, laughing, eating, drinking and smiling… Some were in groups, others were alone. Some were sitting on benches, other were standing or walking. The campus looked so peaceful. The voices in Angie’s head were arguing: One of them was urging her to go to the party, the other was telling her to sit down and enjoy the view. Suddenly, out of the blue, she remembered a question she read on a bathroom door: “What is your biggest fear?” and she also remembered somes answers that people had written for this question: “to die alone” “to lose a loved one” “to die as a virgin”… She also remembered a question on that same wall as a comment to the previous question: ” Is a bathroom wall the right place to start a blog?” And Angie wanted to pursue that thought and to answer the first question (as if she had nothing else to worry about). She tried to put her mind into that question. She tried to concentrate enough in order to locate her biggest fear, but she couldn’t. She kept limiting her fears to circumstances, and she remembered that once she had left her bag in that same toilet and when she was about to leave the place, she couldn’t go back in again or find anyone to help her get her bag. So she deduced that in that toilet her biggest fear would be to leave her bag without a way to get it.  In other circumstances, she would fear to lock herself out of her office without any mean of getting back in, especially during evenings when she had some unfinished issues she had to deal with. In this party’s case, her bigger fear would be to stand alone in a corner without being able to say something, or smile or talk. She dreaded being left in the back. She dreaded seeing her former big boss, Dr. Machintosh, and she feared that for some unknown, unfounded reason she would end up reprimanded for mistakes she didn’t make.

When Angie finally found the reason behind that fear, she felt as if a big loaded had left her back. She smiled. She knew that things were going to be ok. She looked at the sky, the trees, the buildings, and she smiled to them again. She then walked to the building, waited for the elevator and in a few minutes, she found herself smiling and shacking hands of her former employers. The place was crowded. She stayed for a few minutes and then ran away.

Thank you.

By Zeina  Gabriel