The Dinner Party / by Vanessa Fiola

** This is the last day in a 30-day writing challenge that has taken me 33 days in total. I posted here with the hashtag 500wordsaday, except when I didn’t, and on those days I posted on the group’s Facebook page directly. The best part of this challenge was becoming comfortable with posting things that felt messy, work in progress or just really uninteresting. I learned that sometimes the longer a piece took to write the more I hated it, and that, at least for this exercise, the old adage is true: perfect is the enemy of good enough. Lastly, I learned that the disappointment of finishing late wasn’t worth the three to four deferred hours from the days I missed. **


I seriously considered canceling dinner two, okay, three times. I am a hopeless introvert with a trigger-happy case of social anxiety who lives in a barely-unpacked new house with furniture that doesn’t feel quite right, and these are just a few of the items on a long list of things that I care about.

Before last night, I had met Kirk in person twice before, the first time at a show where we strained to talk over the shrill of a guitar player who valued antics above all else. The second time we met for dinner in London with his friend Jaime. The three of us ended up on a hapless adventure involving poor directions and searching for someone who never intended to be found. We had the kind of conversations that stay with you and I remember walking back to my hotel feeling happy. Still, life is a game of threesies and you’re never guaranteed a good roll.

I had only known online Alexis. I remembered her from the first 30 Days experiment. She was funny with the type of edge that told me she couldn’t be from California. I liked her writing. In the distance between last summer and last night, I managed to read all of her second-round 30 Days entries and become friends with her on IG and Facebook, but I still only knew her in the most intangible of ways.

And, I definitely hadn’t met Kirk-and-Alexis Kirk and Alexis. All in all, I sort of knew a half of a whole, and waged optimism about the rest. I suggested they come to my house at six, on the condition that they not make out at the dinner table. 

I also invited my friend Scarlett and her boyfriend Kenny over, because I genuinely wanted to see them. They are also great conversationalists who can be counted in the case of awkward silence emergencies.

The night was an unexpected success. I always fear failure in gatherings, but this was legitimately wonderful. I delighted in watching my old and new friends blend with an ease that normally comes with time. We shared kombucha and wine over a pork recipe that I cooked for the very first time. The six and a half of us (including Jonah) sat around talking about how it’s impossible not to like Taylor Swift. We traded yoga cult leader and Lululemon stories. We talked about writing. Eventually, the conversation turned to how Kirk and Alexis got engaged.

Theirs is a captivating tale of fate and love. I wish it were mine to retell because it’s fucking hilarious and enthralling and straight out of the goddamned NotebookIf you have half a beating heart you can’t help but to believe in destiny after listening to their story.

Sometimes there are people you meet who are so disarmingly and unfailingly vulnerable. People who, just by being themselves, invite you to be more you in the simplest of ways. And if you're lucky, you'll invite them all over for dinner on a Monday night in February.