Marisa is about to jam the phone right back into the pocket it came from, but she stops with her hand poised right above the purse. Maybe, if she finds a place at the end of an empty row in the balcony or in the back of the church, she can manage to go. If she gets there early, people might shuffle in and sit by her, and if she gets in late, people will stare at her and judge her—but if she gets there right on time, right when the lights are beginning to go out, then she can choose a place that’s far away from everyone, without running the risk of getting sat by.

A nerve-fluttering thought ensues, unbidden. Marisa can imagine herself sitting down in an empty pew, right on the outside, when all of a sudden, a stranger walks in and picks the seat beside her. “How are you?” the stranger would probably ask—and what is an socially anxious introvert supposed to say to such a question? Fine? The stranger would probably judge that!

Or—and this is even worse—the stranger might ask Marisa who she is there to watch. And the only proper response, after saying “Jenn,” would be to ask the stranger who he or she was there for. That kind of exchange—that kind of question-and-response between two or more people—is called a conversation. Marisa is terrified of those.

She can stand at the back of the balcony, instead. Jenn will be grateful that Marisa is even there. She shouldn’t be picky about where Marisa is. Satisfied with this compromise, Marisa heaves out a sigh and packs her inhaler into her purse, along with her wallet, in case she’ll need some kind of personal identification.

Her purse and her shoes are right by the door, and she’s wearing fairly dressy clothes. She did that because she’s known, all along, that there’s a possibility she’ll go to the recital.

Marisa finds a hairband in her purse and hastily collects her hair into a braid. She isn’t pleased with the looseness of the braid, because that means it might fall out, but she can’t allow herself to be picky. She’ll fix it, once she’s standing in the balcony. Within moments, she’s slipped on her shoes and turned out the lights. She checks the small oven, too, even though she technically hasn’t baked anything in the past few days. She locks the door, walks out, and begins the trek down the hallway. She takes a few moments to run back to the door to double- and triple-check that it’s locked, and once she’s satisfied that nobody can break into her apartment, she rushes down to the elevator, purposely acting preoccupied with her phone so that nobody stops to talk to her.

Once she’s outside, Marisa tries to ignore the snow that’s seeping through the soles of her shoes. It’s almost impossible; she can’t stand any kind of discomfort in her feet, including the squishing of water with every step she takes. The snowflakes blow into her face and bite her eyelashes, and she stuffs her hands into her coat pockets so that they don’t get frostbitten. Squinting her eyes, she keeps her gaze on the sidewalk. An unexpected groove in the sidewalk makes her stumble and hurriedly catch her balance, causing her to look up to see if anyone has witness this terribly humiliating mistake, but there’s no one out on the sidewalks. Thankful for the introversion-encouraging circumstances, she picks up her pace and finishes off the first block in no time.

The End

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