At a party where I knew virtually no one, I walked around in a fog and touched other people’s hands when they wanted to touch mine. “I’m so-and-so,” someone would say, and their name would burn up in the atmosphere on its way into my brain—instantly forgotten. There was dancing. I watched people dance. A big guy with glasses and a soft voice gently pulled me forward until I was in the middle of the whole writhing mass of bodies. I felt OK as I studied the human vibrations, thinking, “It’s all a smeared flash of neon and perfume, anyway. What’s the difference between 5-second pass at life or 90 years of it. . . . ?” If my life had been nothing but that sliver of space and time, smack dab in the middle of those wonderful people in the year 2013, then I could safely say my life had been a good one and spent wisely.

But the night ended with a friendly police officer reminiscing on my front lawn about his “wilder days.” His little thoughtful gaze at the moon, the organ between his ears washed in distant memories that were sparking someplace dark. . . .

“I would love her if she let me,” is all I could think about. We were both standing there now, cold as glaciers.

I would love her if she let me.

What happened next was a “Thank you and good-night”—and then a rapid heartbeat and a search for comfort. Inside I drank a half gallon of water and shuffled over to unplug the skeletal reindeer out front. From the black hole of my living room I saw a girl smoking on the porch next door and for a moment I considered talking to her. I knew her face and her name. She’d seen the reindeer go dead. Maybe that upset her. The night is over, the night is over. . . .

“God damn hell of a party, if you ask me,” is probably all I could have mustered. The little glow at the end of her cigarette was dying and I could tell that she was barely alive anyway. Better leave her to it. Nothing new to offer this poor girl.

I went into my room and closed the door behind me. Peeled my clothes off a pale wiry frame and sat down on the bed. The blackness shifted and swirled into terrible imaginary storms. The sun would soon come up and I didn’t want to be around to see it. I flattened myself out and lay there still. Eyes open, mind empty. Dante appeared from the gloom and curled up next to me, resting his little cat head on my thigh. We were both gone by the time the new day awakened.