you enter the scene and nobody gives a shit. you don’t make a big show, but you do make a little one—clear your throat as you walk in, raise your eyebrows and your hands, try to say, “Hey, what’s up? I’m here!” but the first word barely comes out, and when it does your voice cracks so it’s mostly a whisper that sounds like, “heAYyywha…”
the door’s open to everybody, but you brought an invite anyway. you grab it from your pocket and pull the host aside to show them. they barely even look at it but they’re like, “Dude, where did you even get an invite anyway? Door’s open to everybody,” so then you say something fucking stupid like, “yeah, i know, i just thought it would be funny to make one because i’m fucking stupid,” and that’s a pretty big buzz kill even though you said it like it was a joke—because it was—but your sense of humor is all Big Sad and Big Weird and everyone else’s is Just Normal, so the host pats you on the shoulder and mutters something about mingling before leaving you standing alone in the middle of the room like a weirdo.
you shove the stupid paper back into your pocket and tap your foot to the ground a few times, checking its structural integrity, and decide that right here is probably as good a spot as any to pop a squat. sitting criss-cross applesauce on the bare wood floor hurts your ass, but it’s fine because life is basically always a little uncomfortable.
some guy who’s into weird chicks spots you. you can tell he’s into weird chicks because he’s got several buttons pinned to his denim jacket and facial hair that looks the way a piece of velcro does when you accidentally drop it on the floor and then pick it up and go, “eww there’s hair on it,” and anyway, you just heard him say to the person next to him that he’s into weird chicks before immediately turning his attention on you.
he stands stupid close with his knees near your eyeballs, hands you a drink, then looks down at you and says, “We’re sitting indian style, huh?” so you take the drink and look back up at him and say, “no, we’re not,” because we are not doing anything and you are very clearly sitting criss-cross applesauce, so then the two of you just look at each other for too long. way too long. so long that you have time to wonder if he thinks you’re as a strange as everyone else does or if bitchy women get him off; then you’re imagining that he’s imagining falling in love with you, and you’re getting grossed out by the way you’re imagining him imagining your life, and your marriage, and your old wrinkled hand cupping his sagging balls 40 years from now, and now so much time has passed since you first started this staring contest that you think you should probably just get up and leave but your ass has fallen asleep, and anyway, you were here first, so you decide to commit to the power move and not move. the situation diffuses when he spots some other weird chick doing weird chick shit and goes to see if maybe she’ll let him smell her armpits.
you pull the handmade invite from your pocket and try not to look at your name scrawled across the front like it even has any business being there in the first place. you fold it into a little origami canoe because that’s the only origami you ever learned how to make, then you flip it upside down and wear it like a hat. the host catches your eye from across the room, probably wondering why you’re sitting on the floor in the middle of the party wearing a paper hat, so you tip it gingerly in their direction before moving your eyes to literally anything else. sipping from your solo cup, you think: in another life, that boat could have been folded up itsy-bitsy-teeny-tiny into an even smaller version of itself and been placed right inside that cup; it could float on that liquid and ride your next sip into the cavern of your mouth, crashing against the great and gnarled rocks of your teeth before dropping down the waterfall of your esophagus and into the vat of toxic acid at the bottom to be digested and dissolved. but today, it’s a hat.
Sara Watkins (she/her) is an editor, author, UCTD-haver, and editor-in-chief of Spoonie Press (www.spooniepress.com), which is devoted to publishing work by chronically ill, disabled, and neurodivergent creators. She is the winner of the 2022 MASKS Literary Magazine Story Award. Recent publications include work in Wordgathering, Unlikely Stories Mark V, and Bitchin’ Kitsch. Contact: www.sarawatkins.net or @saranadebooks on Twitter and Instagram.
Header photograph and artwork by Jordan Keller-Wilson