A Winter Dinner

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After dinner you pushed your chair back and the floor barked just once, then fell silent to listen. You had something to say and our cups jingled in over the snow of the tablecloth, preparing to hear you prevail. It was always a part of the evening, this hearing you out. Somebody’s fork skated away over the rink of a plate, but the rest of the silver lay back patient and gracious. As you talked on and on, wadding and un-wadding the cloud of your napkin, you, like an icebreaker, steamed through our silence, pushing plates to the side, stacking saucers, clattering into the very long evening. The rest of us there at your table were quietly admiring the wicks of the candles, such exemplars of patience despite having to stand there all evening in puddles of wax. Whatever you said, however important you made it, came and went like a plume of snow blown from the top of a drift. We knew there would always be more, and that we would forever be there to listen, inconspicuously sliding our chairs back away from your fire of opinions, our own spinelessness turned to the night we were eager to enter.