It is a good turnout for a freezing winter’s day. Maybe 20 women. I am guessing at the number because I am male and banished from getting too close. The only rule of bookclub is “no men allowed”. So I spent the first half hour freezing my butt off pretending to be a ‘guy’ and doing guy-stuff in my workshop. That charade didn’t last long.
I begged to come in.
Well, that is NOT entirely true. Had I begged, the answer would have been ‘No!’. So, I snuck in instead. Headed straight to my room.
But Sal caught me! Her eyes tracked me sneaking slightly hunched over so as to keep a low profile in the all-female crowd as I headed to my room. “Sweetie, she hissed, what are you doing here? Cold? Poor baby. Maybe you should go visit somebody and get warm. Someone far away.”
“Can’t. Too cold. I’ll disappear into my room. No worries. ” And I quickly slipped behind our bedroom door. I could feel a slight glare burning behind me. I closed the door. I could still feel it.
The bulk of the house is now a ‘party’, ostensibly about a book and having some lunch with ‘neighbours’. The broken sentences, the gaggle, the odd phrase above the general but loud crowd-murmur is the ambient background noise. The odd dish or glass breaks. A few forks hit the floor. But the moderate din, the party-like shrieks and quiets reinforcing their presence continues unabated until…..until….
“Bookclub will now come to order!” And then they all talk seriously about the book for about an hour as I recall. But then, separate side conversations start to break out and the chair, sensing the mood of the crowd, calls for adjournment. And the bookclub is over and the party is back on.
As readers know, bookclub is a monthly affair out here but the meeting venue changes with whoever volunteers to be the hostess. Sal has been the December hostess for some time. Maybe ten or more years. The secret of her longevity? She makes a virtual TUB of incredibly rich eggnog (cream, rum, eggs, etc) and, well, it is always depleted. The tub is empty after a few hours and bookclub finishes after four (basically scheduled from 11:00 to 3:00) so it’s natural timing….the party basically ends when eggnog is gone.
I hate to admit it because I am so much NOT a chit-chat kinda guy who likes standing amongst a dozen conversations none of which I can hear very well. Especially since I am NOT supposed to even be there! I am literally a persona non grata presence then with a weak, disarming smile.
But I have never let not-being-wanted stop me.
After four hours, I step out from inside the closet, start doing the bazillion dishes piled up in the kitchen and that movement plus the lack of eggnog seems to act as a bit of a general prompt. People begin to re-garb and put on their multiple layers of heavy clothing for the return home. They take their dishes. They manage to get it all ‘going on’ relatively fuss-free and, amazingly, rarely is anything left behind. To be fair, it is not so much my presence that drives the women away this time. It’s the time of day. By 3:00 we are a half an hour from deep-dusk…verging on nightfall…and no one wants to go home in the dark.
Bookclub happens EVERY month and has done so for over 35 years.