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The working day had been long. All I really wanted to do was go home, get into bed as quickly as possible, put the covers over my head and forget everything. Above all, I wanted to forget about the pain, which stretched from my lumbar vertebrae down to my right ankle and gave my gait a certain lurch.

But as promised, I met my friend because he was eager to introduce me to his circle of friends. This evening would offer the best opportunity, there would be a celebratory little birthday party for the landlord's fiancee.

The fiancee - willowy, leggy, gray pantsuit, fashionable, very expensive - looked down at me. "But you're quite a bit older than him, aren't you?" she finally observed. Our conversation exhausted, the mistress of the apartment turned back to the table, which had settled on alcoholic beverages. I asked for orange juice. We toasted the birthday girl, who passed around a small plate of cookies. "Homemade," she fluted. Everyone present seemed to be stuffed already, or watching their line, as they broke the unsightly brown pastries apart and, like birds, pecked only a few pieces from the plate at a time.

I was tired and hungry and miserable. Conversation flowed past me, no one paid any attention to me, even my friend was talking animatedly, just not to me. So I put a whole cookie in my mouth and instantly regretted it. My God, how awful! It had actually smelled funny. But everyone had acted so delighted, so I had expected something very special. Disappointed, I topped it off with orange juice.

The animated conversations around the table had died down and I found myself exposed to curious stares. I wanted to say something in my defense, but giggled instead. That was odd.

The voices resumed and the host picked up his guitar and tried his hand at being Carlos Santana. Music drives away the pain. I felt like I was being wrapped in a soft blanket. I laughed. "Are you okay?" my friend asked. His face hovered over me like a giant balloon. "Yes, quite wonderful, I'm not in pain at all anymore."

But hungry I was. Another cookie was swallowed, even if it tasted quite forbidden. "You didn't eat another cookie!" snapped my friend.

Now I had enough. He would not even let me have a cookie. I wanted to leave. But the path to the apartment door suddenly led through nested corridors that brought me back to the living room. Giggling, I set off several times until I finally made it to the hallway with the help of my boyfriend. I sent my friend back to his friends and, laughing and shuffling, made my way on foot across a sleeping Vienna to the southern train station.

Some twenty years later, the reason for my uncharacteristic cheerfulness dawned on me.

© Sine 2022-04-09


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