I somehow found myself at a Christmas formal for the MassGen hospital’s cardiac unit, surrounded by shiny-haired couples wearing red ties and black velvet. Nat King Cole crooned from behind sparkling trees, and somewhere, someone made an inside joke involving prosthetic limbs.
“How do I wind up in these fancy things,” I thought to myself, poking at the salmon. I’d worn a dress that had been a big hit at the latest public radio party I’d gone to, but which seemed strangely out of place in my current location. I felt kind of like a twelve-year-old spy.
Meanwhile, my former roommate was fending off questions about her sexuality. “That’s what you get!” her boss laughed, “for bringing her as a date!”
“So!” I said suddenly to the couple on my left. “You guys from Boston?”
They shook their heads eagerly, two twin puppies. “No, no,” one of them said. “We just moved here, three months ago. We’re from Canada. Ontario. You?”
“My roommate and I are from Minnesota.”
“No kidding!” the guy beamed. “You know, we always say, Minnesotans are like honorary Canadians.”
“Of course! Any place where the winters get colder than where we are, I say, you’re one of us!”
“Sweet,” I said then jovially, taking another sip of wine. “So, does that mean I get access to your country’s healthcare?”
They tilted their heads in unison, clearly perplexed. There was an awkward silence.
“No,” the guy finally said slowly, as if explaining something to a child, or the elderly. “No, it does not mean that.”
” . . . Right.” I stared at my plate. “Well! I’m going to get some cake! Anyone else game? Cake? Cake?”