There was this thing about names. People had to make themselves into one thing or another. Just out of those at the big house that night, creaking in and out the sticky sliding doors, there were five or six Divinitys, seven or eight Loyaltys.
You, for one, had decided to be Nothing.
You collected the satay at the charcoal fire. You got white ash in your hair just like everyone else from the octopus-armed uncles swinging their jowly limbs back and forth. You sat on the swing and balanced the tray on your lap. Your shoulder grazed a silvery peel of paint.
They had stopped asking you questions, by now.
Occasionally, a voice spiked out of the cacophony. “Where’s Nothing?” Laughter followed.
You let them have their fun. After all, you hadn’t told them the big news yet.
Hours before the party, when the sky was still light grey, you had been packing your bedroom into the boot of your car. Wasn’t it just your bedroom you needed to bring? All the journals, all the devices – phone, laptop, all – that was where you lived your life. You could make do with any house.
This one, in particular, could fade into the thickening night and nothing would change.
One of the Loyaltys plopped down next to you. He had a grin like a hawk, lips like an oily snake sliced down the belly. He slapped you on the shoulder.
“You know,” he said, stage-tilting his head to one side. “-years ago, I never thought we would welcome a Nothing into this household. And yet here you are.”
“Here they are!” a couple of the Divinitys echoed.
Mouth full of warm sauces and spicy meat, it was easy to nod and smile. You looked up at the gibbous moon. Soon.
Soon came a hulking red truck thundering into the driveway. Two Loyaltys stood up, plastic chairs screeching under them, and they greeted the truck driver – a third Loyalty. They all clustered together, with their plaid collared shirts and their one-armed hugs. The third Loyalty had come from downtown. He pinched at something in his passenger’s seat and withdrew a comically small bag of sugar donuts. They all burst into bellowing guffaws.
“So,” one of the Divinitys slid up and put her soft hand on your shoulder. “What are you planning next? Uni?”
This was the Divinity who had gone to the mountains to pray and eat grass and nothing else. She’d made good on her name. It made her glad in retrospect, she said, that she’d changed it. Her smooth skin crinkled slightly when she winked at you. “Eighteen is a very special age.”
You shrugged, maybe – or you cringed. It was hard to describe what your own body did, when it felt like a puppet or marionette. Sometimes it just dangled there from the edge of your mind and you could see down its front. A torso. Two legs. Shoes.
Tomorrow, you’d leave. You smiled, knowing that for certain. Maybe somewhere, in a deep pit of guts, you thought of how you’d known that the day before and the day before and the day –
Yes, the day would come when you’d leave. For now, though, you told the Divinity you didn’t know yet. Then you stood up and trod across wet grass for more satay. You could always do nothing, and you knew that.
Above, the moon pulled its blanket of clouds over both shoulders and slept.