The table itself was not silent.
No, in fact, if you listen carefully enough, you can hear three separate conversations. Your roommate and two others living in the house with you talking about their boyfriends staying overnight and coming down from home and the logistics of this. In another, your fellow vegetarian housemate is in a spirited discussion with your roommate’s boyfriend over veggie burgers versus beef and if it counts as a burger at all. At the end of the table, the rest of your housemates and the one additional adopted one, the one who lived on your floor freshman year, are all talking about something but you cannot make out words except Target and ice cream and morning rowing and a burst of laughter or two.
You sit at the head of the table, not quite sure how you got there.
Of course you were included in the dinner plans. You are never not included. In fact, it’s assumed if you’re not in class or in a meeting, of course you’ll come. These girls have been your best friends for the last three years. The beds you’ve laid on to study chemistry and watch Lifetime movies. The ones who’ve eaten the cookies you made at 1am in a fit of stress related to exams in two days. The ones who all gathered on the couch to watch Obama’s inauguration and the ones too who, on a snow day, all clustered together with you to watch The Miracle of Life at one housemate’s insistence on a snow day and all shared your awe.
Of course you were going to come.
You ordered with the rest of them—a veggie burger and fries, a kiwi lemonade though you can already feel the sugar with the grease sitting in your stomach and wonder if it was a good idea.
And yet—the voices circle around you now. You try and say something—how you don’t mind your roommate’s boyfriend being around since he’s one of your good friends, or how veggie burgers really aren’t all that bad, but the last time you tried to speak, it was drowned out amid the other conversations and one very loud cackle of laughter.
You opt to stay silent this time.
You watch with half a smile on your face as everyone relishes the company and a night without studying and the beers that have already been served. Someone laughs so hard the foam shoots out their nose, making everyone laugh harder. (What was so funny?)
When the food arrives, you eat silently, watching everyone else take bites in between words. The conversations have shifted now. You hear pieces about physics class and physiology lab and the possibility for snow this weekend. Maybe going to a movie. Someone else asks if anyone is planning to go out tonight, since it’s a Saturday after all. You no longer can follow any of the threads.
You finish your meal long before anyone else is even half done. Some are on their second beers. You consider a refill of your kiwi lemonade, but then decide against it.
You wonder if anyone would notice if you slipped a 20 on the table and then walked out the door. The restaurant is across the street from campus. You could go for a walk, though the night is bitingly cold for late November and you’re wearing your cute boots, the ones with heels, and they aren’t the best for walking. Still, the silence of the river in the dark evening would be preferable to the silence at the table right now, the silence that seems to enshroud you but exclude everyone else.
You decide to stay, tuning out the voices until they become like the hum of the music you play while studying. You wonder if anyone will stay in tonight. You wonder if you have any butter, if you could make chocolate chip cookies later.
You do not speak until everyone starts shifting, picking up their purses, readying to leave.