The table is long. Made from worn, dented wood, its scars whispering tales of the countless meals it has served and conversations it has witnessed.
The table is heaving with plates of cheese and meat. A pyramid of bread sits precariously in the centre, threatening to tumble down upon the candles and flowers. Terracotta dishes swim with milky black olives shimmering in olive oil. Bottles of wine litter the table, in easy reach. This table sings of generosity and decadence.
Candles flicker and dance on the breeze that sneaks in as the doors are opened.
The guests are arriving.
Invitations have gone far and wide, welcoming many to this meal.
I sit at the centre and smile as my guests walk in. Some confidant and sure, others shy and surprised to find themselves at this table. Some are noticeably and dismayingly absent.
Conversations bubble and wine is poured. Laughter flutters and flits up and down the table.
Down one end of the table there comes a consensus. I put my wine glass down and consider their suggestion. ‘No thank you.’ I whisper. ‘I like my words just the way they are, tumbling, heartfelt and mine. I choose my words, not yours’. Their stares carry disappointment and disbelief to my heart. I bow my head and thank them for coming.
To my left someone clears their throat and moves to the edge of their seat.
‘This is what you should do’. Confidant, certain, sure. ‘Let me give you a list…’ He pulls out a pen.
‘No thank you’.
‘But I’m a professional. I could really help you.’
‘No thank you’.
The chair scrapes the floor as it is pushed back in incredulity.
I hear my phone trill from under the table. I surreptitiously look down.
From one of my dearest.
‘There is a little hope. More test to be done. Please pray.’
Conversations swim around me, the air is thick with words and laughter. I search for a reassuring smile or word among those at the table.
My phone trills again.
From another of my nearest.
‘We have driven all day. To say goodbye. Grief is our companion’.
Deep sadness descends, like mist into a valley. I am lost in a cloud of sadness and disappointment. It dulls the voices and faces of my guests and leaves me breathless. I reach out for a hand that is not there.
For a long time I sit and let the noise of my guests swirl around me.
I can’t see my hands in my lap, spread out, offering my wordless prayers to the mist.
There is sudden movement in the air, slight but perceptible. Like someone has opened the door and slid into the room unannounced and undetected.
There is the lightest pressure on my shoulder and breath on my cheek.
‘You invited the wrong people to your table’.
The hand I have waited for reaches down and takes mine, pulling me out of my seat.
‘Next time you will send fewer invitations. Next time there will be dancing. Next time I will sit next to you and hold your hand’.