Don’t be like the man who lost his camel, still looking for the rope, I tell P while we are headed to monthly bunco. Both of us are hermits by nature, but we’ve also learned to force ourselves into social settings. To confront our fears, we go to bunco, play dice games and catch up on the news. We know: there is a gentle (nerdy) word for people like us. We tend to want to stay home, read good books and if we go out–it’s for foreign movies at the library.
But what does a camel and a rope have to do with that? It’s sweet, to be in a car driven by a friend you’ve known since knee-high socks and braces. We don’t have to make congruent dialogue. Somewhere on the internet I read a stranger’s advice: to accept means to embrace something as if it were your choice.
I grin to myself, loving her reply to my camel statement. We only see each other on bunco night and now it is her turn to drive. She takes the Sixth Avenue Bypass as if driving on black ice. Sixth Avenue quickly pours into five lanes and even though it’s a straight shot for five miles until her next turn, she immediately—but slowly, as the other cars surge by—works her way from the fifth lane to the first. Just like I would do (but maybe a bit faster.) Just like our adult children don’t. Why not stay in the fast lane, they always ask us. Why not get in your lane as soon as you can, we reply.
Proper lane established, P turns the music up. And now, I smile out loud in the dark. No doubt, and of course! She’s somehow found an old Chicago CD. And I know, before we reach the bunco house, she’ll switch to A Horse With No Name, by America—the music she listened to when we were college roommates and she owned the only turntable on our dorm floor. There was never a chance I’d get to listen to my Ravi Shankar album, East Meets West, on her stereo.
Later, after we leave bunco, we’ll talk nonstop about politics and history, music theory, psychology and mixed media. She’ll pull into my driveway, headlights still on, and we’ll talk for thirty minutes more. But for now, we prepare for our bunco evening and what it takes for hermits to acclimate with the other women whose company we both fear and yet find warm and embracing: who’s had surgery, who is on which diet; which one of us has lost a job. We’ll roll the dice, talk about who likes sweet snacks, who prefers salt. The snatches of disconnected conversation all the while making it surreal:
eggplant can be . . . he’s been catching . . . Sunday games . . . the wrong fish! . . . a little bomb . . . I wanted to trade . . . homemade cake . . .rivers with him . . . I just wrote her ‘hope’ . . .