“Have you met each other before?”
“No, I don’t think we have,” I lie, seeing the lack of recognition in the other person’s eyes. Why risk embarrassing them by telling the truth?
This happens twice in one evening. It’s a relief, really, to find myself so forgettable.
But when I try to breeze past the chancellor, assuming more of the same, she interrupts her conversation to hail me.
And of course I find that a bit unsettling.
Another awkward moment comes when I am introduced for the second time to someone I have nothing to say to. That’s my fault, not hers: she is given no information about me other than my name, whereas I know one small thing about her, so clearly the onus is on me to initiate a conversation with some pleasant inquiry about her work. Nothing but sheer indolence prevents me from doing so.
But don’t get the wrong impression: I had a lovely evening. Really. The food at the reception was good, the speech beforehand was a tour de force, and it was pleasant to stand around on the periphery of one or more conversations, munching on sweets and basking in the second-hand glow of camaraderie and wit. Earlier in the day, I had been feeling sad for some reason, but the speech was so good and so funny, it put me in a completely different frame of mind.
I noticed one other person not saying much, but she looked awkward about it and left as soon as she could. Which is a pity, really — I could have gone over and talked to her. We’ve known each other for at least two decades. No introduction would have been necessary.