–– 002 ––
Seven years alone since his wife had passed away, and still he wondered if it was really worth the trouble. He felt spent, aloof and unimpressive following an afternoon of tepid writing, his only successful work now decades gone. Yes, it was decided. He wouldn’t bother going to the opening. He would simply send a text explaining that his project had conspired to consume his weekend and he couldn’t bear to betray the unexpected momentum. The message would have a chance at least of impressing her, while his actual presence would have none. He lifted the phone to find that she had already written. Others had begun to arrive an hour before. Was he still coming? She hoped so. A reminder of free drinks and vegan hor d‘oeuvres. A hint of dinner after things quieted down.
His heart stumbled forward a few knocks as he looked away from the phone, glanced absently towards the window and then –– pushing back against every last atom of anxiety in his gut –– showered, shaved, stepped into his unpressed summer suit and walnut oxfords, threw back a previously abandoned glass of tap water, turned out the kitchen light, exited to the adjacent garage, unlocked the Volvo and fell in quickly, so as not to allow the vicious blender of his mind to intervene.
Twenty minutes later, he was there but uncommitted. He could, after all, simply continue walking past the gallery –– up the short hill, left, then two blocks to the main drag –– and find a simple dinner on his own. Immense relief at even the thought of escape. As he crossed the lot towards the entrance of the gallery, scanning mailbox digits across the road to ensure a fit with the address on the invitation, he turned briefly to commit his parking place to memory, then spotted a garage door cut towards the rear of the building only twenty steps or so from his car. How had he missed that while parking? He assumed it was a loading area, except that the garage was half open with golden streamers strung across the doorway. Curious and transfixed, he walked towards the golden garage, ignoring his phone as it buzzed in his breast pocket. Just as the phone went silent, he reached forward, pulled open the streamers, and stepped through.