WHAT: The Pity Party!
WHERE: My living room.
WHO: Anyone… or no one… but definitely my thick, wool socks… and also all the ice cream.
WHY: Because you have nothing better to do and you know it. Or maybe that’s me. I can never tell anymore.
Harriet stared at the small postcard that had appeared as if by magic in her mailbox. There was no postage attached.
She looked down to her left. Rows of small houses stood, too afraid to move, to even shiver, in the heavy afternoon winds. She looked to her right. Two more houses stood, then a road, with a big red sign in front that read STOP like it was begging you not to leave.
The neighborhood had always been anxious, always had that ‘pretend-like-you’re-okay’ tone to it. People mastered the quick wave during walks and turning their heads back down as they passed. They quieted their dogs before disruption should erupt amongst the block. They stared suspiciously whenever a new car drove by.
Everybody always stayed quiet, huddled inside their doors, away from everyone else. So who in the world who send an invitation for a Pity Party of all things? Who?
Harriet studied the houses around her. Mrs. Donnell used to stand on her front lawn every morning, watering her grass, cooing at her yapping dog, waving as her husband left for work. Then one day: SNAP. No more Mr. Donnell, which meant yellow grass, a yapping dog that got no cooing back, and maybe, just maybe, a Pity Party.
But there was always the house next door. Nice older couple. Always in the front lawn with the grandkids. “Come see my grandkids,” they said every day. Harriet smiled and waved, but the truth was that little kids kind of annoyed her. Then one day there was a fight between the older couple and their daughter. And SNAP. No more visits. No more annoying kids. Nobody out in the front lawn. Closed curtains. Possible Pity Party.
Harriet looked at the other house next door and remembered that their son had just gone off to fight in the army. She looked at the house down the street that was getting foreclosed, which according to her mother meant shut down and emptied. There was the couple that always fought, and the other house that had kids rotating in and out, in and out, but never staying.
‘Anyone could have sent this,’ she realized, looking around her.
And then a really tiny voice inside her head said: ‘I could have sent this to myself.’
She hadn’t, of course. Sending things to yourself through the mail was a pretty silly waste of time. But even Harriet had to admit that she needed a Pity Party. Her Spanish test on Monday had been awful. Then her cat got sick. And her mother made her do laundry rounds twice just because she let the cat jump into the laundry basket and puke all over the clothes.
If she really thought about it, everyone kind of deserved a Pity Party.
So Harriet found a pen and wrote YES right at the top of the postcard. She slipped it back into her mailbox and went back inside. Then she put on her warm fuzzy socks, got out some leftover ice cream from last month, and sat down on her couch.
And somewhere, in her lonely and quiet neighborhood, she knew that at least one other person was doing the exact same thing.