At around 6 p.m. is when the breath kicked in. That hot soup breath that spills over your teeth and throat and tonsils to announce its arrival. It came without warning while I was handling the Jell-O shots, placing a tray of them in the fridge or in the freezer or wherever Jell-O shots go to finishing school, I don’t remember anymore. I ignored it, the chills and shakes and heat waves. It was New Year’s Eve and I planned to drink the sickness away; it seemed to work most times. The guests arrived, parking in the cul-de-sac and doing their cheek kisses at the door and I was there to greet them, to warm them with the flush of my cheeks.
By 10 p.m. my legs were wind and my body was fire, a tanning bed of flu. My first real boyfriend took me upstairs and made up the guestroom bed while I shrunk and shook in the corner, just waiting on someone else like always. I asked if he would come back upstairs to kiss me at midnight and he said yes. I asked if he would sleep next to me and he said no. Pathetic: not because I asked, but because some small part of me will always know rejection like it just happened yesterday.