The party was Michael’s idea.
He said we needed an event, a shindig, something…
…to celebrate how far we’d come with our dream house renovation.
I had my doubts. Frankly the idea of throwing a party seemed like just another project.
But after a few days the idea took root…
Soon I began to imagine what the evening would be like, who we’d invite, what we’d serve.
The guest list was the easiest part. We’d just invite everyone we felt like inviting. That simple.
In our other life, back in D.C, this kind of straightforward approach wouldn’t have worked. There were old allegiances and old antagonisms to be honored.
Certain people couldn’t be invited if others were coming.
But Vieques was a different story. We were relative newbies here. If we screwed up and invited people who couldn’t stand each other, no one could blame us.
After all, what did we know?
The whole thing reminded me of when I had first lived on Nantucket, a place absolutely bristling with social alliances and fissures.
Although I’d caught fleeting glimpses of the complex social underpinnings of the island, I hadn’t paid much attention, and when I decided to throw a cocktail party at the end of my first season on the island I took the easy way out by inviting everyone I liked and hoping for the best.
The resulting get-together, which had made perfect sense at the guest list stage, seemed a tad off-kilter as the party lurched into action.
The first to arrive were the so-called “trade people”—my colleagues from the hotel where I worked as a concierge, the owner of the art gallery on Straight Wharf where I hung around on my afternoons off, the proprietor of the island’s single Chinese restaurant. These were the people to whom being punctual was a serious matter.
The second, noticeably later, wave of arrivals consisted of people who considered themselves, and each other, beyond such considerations. These were the realtors, the attorneys, the physicians I’d gotten to know during my half year on the island.
It wasn’t exactly that time wasn’t a consideration for this group, it was just that they were used to deciding when time was important and when it wasn’t. The lawyers, for instance, who billed by the quarter hour for their own time…
After all, who was going to complain?
Not me. Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less.
And yet I must admit that the high point of a memorably fun evening was the look of undisguised horror on the faces of my snooty doctor from Union Street (first name Septimus, I kid you not) and his wife when they sauntered in at nine o’clock, sweaters draped oh-so-strategically over their shoulders…
…and encountered the butcher from the local supermarket flirting with their pudgy, seemingly-virginal niece Flora.
They seemed to unbend ever-so-slightly when I handed them a martini, and by the time they’d made their way across the crowded room to say hi to Flora they appeared almost human.
But then they noticed that Flora was flirting back.
Determined not to miss anything, I followed close on their heels, and as they gazed with deep dismay at the spectacle of their niece consorting with the Working Classes, I leaned over and remarked, “Never underestimate a man who can carve up a crown roast, even if he has only nine fingers.”
Their smiles would have frozen hell itself.