In the middle of the party, while the whole room was laughing at something he’d said, Mason threw himself face-down on the vinyl couch and began crying. At first, people thought it was more of his shenanigans. They laughed for a moment or two.
“Who’s sorry now?” he heard Tom say. There was uproarious laughter, but Mason kept crying.
“Hey, Mason. Mason,” someone said. It was a man’s voice, but he couldn’t tell whose.
A hand came to rest on his shoulder, and Margaret’s voice appeared in his ear. “Mason, dear, what’s the matter?” she said.
He tried to respond, but he could not open his mouth except to cry.
He sobbed violently for more than thirty minutes. The sounds of the party faded slowly in his ears, disappearing as his body gave itself over to weeping.
When he finally did stop crying, his head ached like it had been split with an ax. His wet face was raw from chafing against the couch. He lifted his head. A band of snot clung at one end to his nose, at the other end to the vinyl upholstery. He wiped at the snot with the back of his hand and turned to face the room.
The entire party had moved out of the house and into the backyard. A pale bluish glow of patio lanterns filtered into the room. The air had a crispness in it that came from the open vents below the window. Faint laughter mixed with the sound of music playing low. He filled his lungs with fresh, cool air.
It is not far off, he realized. The fall.