Party time / by Vanessa Fiola

**The next 26 days I'll be posting 500 words a day here as part of a creative writing challenge. Join the FB group.  Often I phone it in.**    

Oh jchrist, it's only the fourth day and I'm already hitting a slump. In previous years (!), it's taken me at least two weeks to wonder if Dad, are we there yet. I am at the point where I have open in another tab until I finish. I'm not very good at relationships. 

Tonight we went to a surprise party for my friend, Pia. Her and her husband, Tino, recently built a home in the hills of Echo Park, with views overlooking the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory. Its crowning glory, however, is the way in which the inside and outside flow seamlessly together, like being wrapped in a cashmere sweater at the beach on a cool spring night. 

Pia is a really talented artist and Tino is the head of creative at an experiential marketing firm. They are both trained architects and their friends range from more architects to creative directors at fashion houses. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I was surrounded by a party of super interesting people where I should be able to find common interest. I mean, there was that time in Austin where I felt certain I was going to grad school in architecture, so I set up a meeting with the dean of the graduate school of architecture. I sat in his office for over an hour talking about politics and art. He asked me to send him a portfolio, which I began and then quit. And then there was the time that I started an ill-fated women's undergarments company called Boys Can Tell. (Cute, right?) So you would think I'd be comfortable.

Unfortunately, more than being a closeted artist, I am a hopeless introvert*. Normally I can't even with myself at a party. I'm that person making awkward jokes where the person I'm talking with sort of half-cocks their head to the side and squints their eyes like, "Wait is that funny?" On queue, I laugh nervously as if pleading, "Yes."

But tonight I neither skulked nor forced myself to talk. I got to a point where I was moving in and out of conversations, yet I still began to feel that familiar retreating. I realized that I needed to just be by myself. More, I needed to be okay with the appearance of sitting by myself. I found a spot near the outdoor fire where I felt warm. I sat down, legs folded underneath me, with watered-down white wine in hand, and stared ahead, looking at nothing in particular. I didn't sit free of panic. At first I worried that I looked un-talkable to. And I worried that if I sat by myself long enough I would hit that point that it would be weird for anyone else to talk to me. And yet, I didn't want to fix it. Eventually I started to feel okay, which is a testament to either quantum personal growth or the three giant slurps of wine. Either way, I ended up finding myself at a party that I didn't want to run from, which is just about the time that someone came over to talk.

*In Myers-Briggs parlance, I'm more accurately an extroverted introvert. I process information quickly and through talking, but I can spot the corners in a crowd like a goddamned ninja.