Here we are, sweaty palmed, proficient in our mathematics and sciences, trying terribly not to stand out. We’re along a wall, a white wall that’s seven feet six inches high. We admire views. We have become perfectly adept at remarking upon the small pleasures in the places we visit.

“A lovely symmetry to this room.”

“A perfect harmony of blues and greens in the streamers.”

“The party is lush with talent.”

The three of us, myself in the middle, have synchronized our watches in time with the big wall clock on the other side of the party. There was no reason to do this.

Here we are, firmly planted along the wall, complimenting each other’s clothes.

“Hell of a blazer you got there, Franklin.”

“You think so? I just wore it at the Spring Fling.”

“Nice thing about a blazer like that is, you notice it, you like it, but it’s not so damned flashy that you can’t wear it often without people noticing all that much.”

I’m in the middle of this, my head turning back and forth to each person as they address the other.

Franklin says, “What’d you polish those shoes with, Nathan?”

“It’s Meltonian Boot & Shoe Cream. Not only does it polish the shoe, it actually conditions the leather.”

And it comes in an array of colors. His is number 78, Cordovan. We are running out of things to say.

I remark on the shine of the hardwood floors. A drawn out murmur of agreement ensues.

Across the room, some 357 miles away, is Patti Whittaker, resident tease. She is having oodles of fun, hanging on the arm of some local heartthrob a year or two older, someone doubtless named Sky Masters. We watch with rapt attention, our mouths moving in aped speech, engaging us in the conversation too far away to be heard. Patti is telling me she loves me, and I am saying I love her too, and I do. She laughs, covering her bared teeth with her hand. I am charming and witty. Sky Masters is slow and supercilious. Her decision is easy: I am the beau for her. I am masterfully confident and adroit. Sky Masters is unable to say, “Boo” to a goose.

Our paths cross in endless corridors, our eyes do not meet, and we shuffle along to two other parts of the world.