(Originally published on September 11, 2002.)
The wind had picked up with the volume of the chatter; lips loose, tongues lax. The aroma of whiskey and wine rode the breeze, then dissapated leaving the musk undertones of tobacco, maybe a pipe. Voices familiar reorganize--rise and recede--punctuated by laughter and pauses.
Cake is served and no one eats, returning to their cocktails and conversations. Cameras emerge and we stand next to whoever's nearest for a quick snapshot of the attendees. Tall ones crouch and women try to find a genuine smile, yet fail, baring nothing but glossy teeth and spit. Cigarettes are stashed behind backs and I breathe in sharply, straightening my shoulders--hold the breath and stand dead still.
A hand from behind and to my left slips beneath my shirt--bare skin on unsuspecting bare skin. I arrived at this party alone.
White light overtakes my field of vision and I freeze, grinning, startled and wonder too calmly who might belong to the hand now resting on my stomach, just above the waistline of my pants.
I didn't entertain the notion I was being accosted, the fluid movement was gentle and easy. I didn't reel around to strike the perv who found my waist to be the best resting spot for his paw. But briefly, the tender carress that signified ownership--or kindredship--was so light and natural that I thought it just might have been intended for me. The next instant I knew, the flash no longer bleaching my sight, that, of course, that touch was meant for someone else.
He, too, knew and promptly jerked back his hand, taking hers in his--never meeting my gaze, though mine was aimed squarely at my shoes. I caught her face in my peripheral vision as he wrapped a strong arm around her rounded shoulder and pressed his mouth to her cheek.
She wrinkled her nose as if to suggest she'd rather he hadn't and turned, oblivious, to retrieve a lipstick from her purse.
He shrunk away and I covered my expression and guilt with a goblet of burgundy wine.