You arrive home from work one Friday afternoon to discover a surprise party has been thrown in your honour. Dozens of people emerge from the living room into the hallway, holding signs, laughing, greeting you. A woman plays an accordion. It’s the wrong time of year for your birthday, so the party really is a surprise.
As the initial shock subsides, you realise the guests are all people from your past that you’ve lost touch with. Your best friends from primary and secondary school. An English teacher you were fond of. Flatmates from university. The man who owned the pub where you worked. The professor who mentored you. Various colleagues from various jobs. Every woman you dated before your ex-wife.
As they come to chat to you, you struggle to remember names. Everyone has aged. You wonder who arranged this and how they got in touch with all these people when you don’t even have their contact details. But you don’t have time to think about that because people are bringing platters of food from the kitchen, opening bottles of beer, offering you glasses of prosecco.
You might have expected resentment, anger. After all, it was you who dropped many of these people. You who didn’t return a call, didn’t respond to an email, didn’t get in touch when you visited your home town. There were neglected wedding invitations, unattended birthday parties, missed school reunions. But everyone is pleased to see you. They apologise for not being in touch, as if it’s their fault. They sing your praises to other guests, trade anecdotes casting you in a positive light. People embrace you, slap you on the back. Old girlfriends flirt with you.
It’s a great party, but then everyone starts leaving at once, as if they’d pre-arranged an end time. There are more hugs, jokes and stories as people make their farewells. Everyone wants to give you their contact details. Your thumbs get tired from tapping email addresses and telephone numbers into your phone.
The crowd thins out until there are just a handful of people left, then two, then one. Eventually you have said your last goodbye, hugged the last friend. You close the front door, open a final beer, sit down on the sofa and take stock. So many memories, so many emotions. So much affection and, yes, even love.
You take out your phone and scroll through your contact list, which has doubled in size. Then you go through the list again and delete each new entry.
Daniel Addercouth is a Scottish writer and translator based in Berlin. This is his first published story. Follow him on Twitter (@ruralunease).