The administrators who help me out are kindly, good-humored and tolerant of my anxious queries; I'm grateful they don't resemble stereotypical bureaucrats, the ones who idly bat you from paw to paw like bored cats.
I tense up in situations like these, stepping into a crowded space where I can't spot a familiar face and everyone seems to be clumped together already with their cups of sangria and their little plates of veggies and cookies. I guess their behavior reassures me to some extent as well, the fact that they're already in bunches and pairs, because it shows that I'm not the only one who feels awkward about being a lone floating atom. At last I find my way to one small group, which broadens slightly to admit me, and we stand in a little sangria-clutching circle, making introductions, searching for things we can all talk about and briefly bond over.
Some of the dancing is dignified, as when we make slow turns, our palms pressed together and our skirts flaring out and then subsiding against our legs. Other times it's happily undignified, like when I'm turning in circles with a young child who is convinced that he can dance without his feet touching the ground at all.
Leaves, gold brown and orange, whip around and batter the window like snowflakes.
She brings me a lovely new skirt the color of honeycombs and evergreens, and along with it a package of snickerdoodle animal crackers.
They're strewn among the tea lights - charred and scarred canoes floundering in a calm flickering sea.
When I have a cold, the world feels like it's coming to me through a layer of cotton balls. My mouth is limp with cherry-flavored cough drop numbness.