The town we live near is tight-knit. Living here is like living in high school. This was painfully obvious last weekend, when we went to a party at the house of John's hockey coach.
We were feeling good because John had gotten his first two goals of the season AND, in another game, played goalie and WON. He had retaped his stick before the games, and out of necessity switched from white tape to black tape. So on top of two goals and anchoring a win, he has a new superstition, too.
The kids had a great time at the party. Everyone put on their outside clothes and had a massive snowball fight, complete with girl-vs-boy tension and the annoyances of younger siblings.
It was a little different for us. I'm not always excited about parties anyway -- even with people I know and like -- but it was a good chance to get to know people in town, without having to pull sweaty hockey socks off our kids at the same time. The thing is, everyone already knows each other, because everyone either went to school with each other all 12 years, or dated each other at one time, or works together (women at the clinic or the school or the county; the men at the fire hall or for the city). If they weren't talking about someone at work, they were talking about something that happened twenty years ago. Or something that happened in grade school, which they all remembered. The few people who hadn't gone to school here or who didn't work with anyone were married to someone who had, and had been around long enough to learn the backstories and the language.
The flirting had years of pleasant tension (or in some cases, bitterness) behind it. Ex-spouses carefully circulated at opposite ends of the rooms. At one point, an ex-husband and the new husband met accidentally at the snacks table. Everyone looked at the ground as the two men loaded up their plates with chips and pretzels and salsa, then began talking again as the two walked away in different directions. It was like (I imagine) being at a very complicated high court ball, where anything anyone said had the weight of history behind it, and was judged accordingly.
I couldn't drink, because I was on vertigo meds, and Matt was drinking cheap beer and getting nowhere with anyone himself. After a couple hours, he came by and leaned in close.
"You know what our problem is?" he whispered. "Our problem is that we are the only ones in this room who haven't slept with anyone else in this room but each other."