At nine o'clock, I lingered in a hallway and did the inventory of my evening, counting off my achievements on my fingers. Got my hair curled. Drank wine. Savoured nibblies. Socialised with many people, most of whom I had never met before. Spoke decent French. Posed for silly pictures ("Why is my mouth open in every shot?"). Laughed at truly funny but nonetheless crude jokes ("grossier" - another French word I love). Teased The Alter Ego for being drunk on lust. Hmm...
"Can I leave now, Palanca? My feet are hurting and my teeth feel hairy after the stinky cheese and I need to wash the kohl out of my eyes (stinging, ow!)..."
I looked around. I leave most parties either lamenting the fact that I'm going too early (and thus missing the real fun), or deploring the fact that I'm leaving too late (and have too many embarrassing stories to relate). But tonight, like Goldilocks, I found the moment that was juuuust right.
The early departers were long gone, called away by babies or traffic or previous engagements. The diehards were just grinding in their heels, eyeing the waiters for a refill. The cheese platter was whittled down to the rinds and a smear of brie. A few collars were now loosened. Some ladies had already lazily slipped off a shoe, balancing on one foot as they massaged the toes of the other against the floor. And some co-workers could even be seen lazily leaning against one another for extra support.
If I had waited another 15 minutes, the crowd would have lost that drowsy charm as everyone headed en masse towards the door. But at that moment, everything and everyone was golden. So I quickly slipped on my coat and made my goodbyes, glad to leave with the memory of all these people sharing a warm space imbued with the glow of laughter and good food.
And knowing - of course - that should anything embarrassing happen after I was gone, I left enough colleagues behind to witness every succulent moment and replay it all back for me tomorrow.