Anne Friedman ’25
Alistair liked most evenings, especially in the winter. Darkness would descend, the earlier the better, leaving him alone to his thoughts and able to wander aimlessly without the prodding questions and inquiries from anyone else. Even the chilly nights of winter never seemed to bother him, or at least he’d rather take the solace of the cold night over the meddling tactics of others.
However, tonight Alistair sulked through the halls of the manor. Tonight, when evening and darkness descended, he would not get his peace and quiet like the rest of the city would. No, tonight he’d get the opposite: guests whose pleasure was chit chat, gossip, and no sense of personal space or boundaries. The family was throwing a party, their annual winter ball, and Alistair was expected not only to attend but to interact and be present, neither of which he was keen on doing.
He thought he could try and pretend to come down with a cold or sickness of some sort, but that just infuriated his parents. How could he come down with something tonight of all nights?
His mother was frantic: “What would others think of our family if you don’t attend?”
His father was annoyed: “You walk all evening in the cold. You must have gotten it from that. How would you be so foolish?”
No excuse worked as Alistair’s tactics just pissed off his parents. They cared about appearances and social functions, which Alistair found stupid and a waste of time. However, they forced him to go, no matter how he felt, dragging him down the stairs and handing him off to his nosy aunt to babysit him like he was a toddler again.
Being with his aunt was almost worse than his parents. His aunt consistently pestered him; she had no sense of boundaries. He was forced to endure his aunt’s countless questions about any possible girlfriends (there must be at least one girl he likes!), his late walks (he wasn’t getting up to trouble or partaking in any illicit activities, right?), and his school friends (you have friends, right?), among other topics. Alistair did his best to talk as little as possible. His aunt had no right to know anything about him. However, he needed to satisfy her curiosity a bit with some truths. Last time, he had tried to have fun and just make lavish claims, but she was furious when she learned of their falsehoods. Yet, now, his lack of engagement and somewhat vague answers only irritated her too.
“How could you throw your life away? After all your parents have done for you?” His aunt scolded him.
There was no winning with his aunt or even his parents for that matter.
Finally, he took a chance and fled to the kitchen, deciding he could “help out” there (more like hide) and could argue that he would still be present for the party. But, he would no longer have to deal with nosy, aggravating party members who questioned every decision he made. His parents already judged him. He didn’t need everyone else doing so as well. And the kitchen had all the food.
Alistair soon became bored. There was little to do in the kitchen (besides eat) and there was no way he was stepping a foot outside of the room because if he did, he would surely be confronted by some family member or stranger who’d rope him into a conversation he definitely did not want to have.
Why did people care to know about his life? Why couldn’t he just be left alone?
Soon his parents made their way into the kitchen for their own reasons and were very unhappy to find their son evading the party and lurking in the kitchen. They dragged him out to the party, babysitting him themselves. As his parents socialized with guests, they forced Alistair to participate as well.
He faked enthusiasm as he chatted with guests about discussions he did not want to have. He learned about so and so’s interest in politics and how the current government was a disaster. He learned that another guest detested her husband, but he had all the money, so what could one do?
He found it all so foolish and pointless: what everyone valued was so stupid.
Finally, his parents became preoccupied with other tasks, allowing Alistair to slip away. He climbed the stairs up to the top floor, sneaking out a window onto the roof. As he lay on the roof surrounded by darkness and the stars, Alistair was finally able to breath and relax, alone with only his thoughts.
Eventually, the quiet lulled Alistair into a peaceful sleep only to be woken up the next day as the rays of sun burst through his window. He got up and went about his morning as usual, finally sitting down on his windowsill with a book to read. He only got through a couple pages before his parents burst in, nagging him about the ball they were hosting that evening: their annual winter ball.
Image Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy