foreign movie, or downtown Algiers. He listened to Evanbabble with a bright, feral, uncomprehending grin. Somenpeople were already unsteady on their feet and the edges ofnEva’s hors d’oeuvres had begun to curi. Jessie and Kirknpicked up drinks quickly, with the sense that once again thenparty had left without them: Wait up! Then they fell into andance, bodies matching perfectly, whirling in the illusion ofnescape.nHere was Lester after all; when he cut in Jessie turnedndutifully but reluctandy, readjusting her steps as he waltzednher away with fevered grace.n”You know,” he said, when he finally said anything, “I’mndonating my organs to Harvard.”n”Oh Lester, it’s much too early to think about that.” Itnwas not. She outweighed Lester now.n”That is, if they’ll take them.” His hold was so light thatnhis bones must have been hollow, like a bird’s. “I’d benhonored if you’d witness this.”n”Of course,” she said, “but that won’t be for years.”nHe’d let her go and was fumbling in his pocket. “I’venbrought along the instrument.”nSo she sat soberly in a little knot with Fred and Kirk and anwoman she didn’t know while Lester filled in the appropriatenblanks and signed, and made them sign.nWhen Lester stashed the document and Fred pulled hernup to dance, Jessie was relieved: good old Fred. She had tonkeep moving. Larry and Cindy were fighting in one cornernwhile the vet’s wife cried all by herself in another, and in thenalcove the less aggressive halves of two couples were clingingnfor dear life. Barbara Shortell, who was getting fat, hunchednover the buffet, shoving fruitcake into her mouth. All this,nand it wasn’t even ten o’clock. In the library where Fred tooknher when the piece ended, people clumped around thenfireplace, gathering around the flames as if to ward offnwolves, or whatever it was that waited outside, stalking in thendark.nFred startled her, finishing a sentence she hadn’t evennheard. “Pubic hair.”n”What?”n”All the way up to her navel. Amazing. How far up isnyours?”n”I was wondering why Lester brought that to the party,”nshe said too quickly, disturbed. “A living will.”nBob Shortell slid into the circle on her other side. “You’renmuch too young to understand.”n”Oh Lester’s just on the rag,” Fred said. “All he has leftnto think about. You know he isn’t getting any.”n”But it’s cancer!”n”His wife thinks it’s AIDS. So much for sex.”nIn the shadows somebody said, sotto voce, “He’s not thenonly one.”n”Poor Howard, when he gets out he’ll have to keep hisnprick in a sling, you know how heart patients are.”n”Not me,” Bob said, weaving a spell to keep away darknpowers.n”Not me,” Fred said.nFrom the darkness, somebody else completed the charm,nsaying bluffly, “Not me.”nJessie would not wait to find out who it was that asked, asnshe wheeled and fled them, “What about you? I bet you’ren28/CHRONICLESnnngetting enough,” nor would she know who said disgustedly,n”Kids. Kids always get enough.”nShe wanted not to cry. I’m not a kid.nShe went looking for Kirk with a sense of panic, beatingnher way through the thicket of dancers and locking on tonhim like a heat-seeking missile. His arm went up to encirclenher and when she quit shaking they began to dance, whichnthey did until Spink, she thought it was, tried to cut in andnshe dragged Kirk out onto one of the porches, hoarse withndesperation, whispering, “What’s the matter with everybody,nwhat’s the matter with everybody?”n”It’s just their way of communicating,” Kirk said withoutnhaving to ask.n”It’s so sad.” It was. She’d always envied these peoplentheir assurance and maturity, their style, the fact that theyncould accept or exclude at will, but at what price? Somethingnhad happened to these people between the time whennthey moved to this place as kids themselves and now, andnshe could not for the life of her figure out what. All shencould see was the way they looked at the end of these parties,nall these dressed-up people with their drawn faces andnsmirched mouths and their evening spoiled by emotionalnexhaustion and too much drink. How high were their hopesnwhen they set out tonight and what’s happened to themnbetween then and now? What terrible misfortune hasnbefallen them? “I wish they could just be happy and have angood time.”nKirk said, “That’s what they’re trying to do.”n”Well it isn’t working,” she said mournfully.n”Don’t you think they want it to work?” He crunched hernflowers, hugging her. “Oh honey, Howard is very bad. Bethnjust called.” He pulled her back to the dance floor. “PoornBeth.”n”Oh, poor everybody,” she cried, but she could not getnover the way so many people could aim for one mark and hitnanother, or how sad it was. Bereft, she clung to Kirk andnwhirled in the beginning understanding that they had beennset down at the beginning of the first mile of a long road, onna journey she could not bear to contemplate. “Please don’tnlet us end up like that.”nBlindly, Kirk promised. “We’ll never end up like that.”nShe was gulping air. “I have to get out of here.”nWhich was how they happened upon Archie and Eva,nhalf-dressed and tangled in Eva’s mop corner next to thenback door, the two of them clinging in spite of Fred and thenpresence of Archie’s beau in his white suit, marooned on thenliving room sofa while Archie tried to recapture somethingnhere; he looked at them over Eva’s head with a ruefulntwinkle as they gasped and tried to back out.n”I tried to tell you,” Archie said.n”W-we were just wondering about poor Howard.”nThen Eva — her friend! turned and lashed out at her.n”You! Fools! What do you care? You’re young.”nAs they fled they could hear her spitting, driving themnout with a fervor that sped them into the darkness, chokingnon nervous laughter. They heard Eva railing: “You. Younthink you are so holy, just like all the saints and popes!”nAnd the mitigating, or were they spiteful words of Archie,nfollowing: “Hush, sweetness. Don’t worry. They won’t benyoung for long.”n<^n