wanting to look squarely at everyone

p. 20:

Among the broken fragments of the last five minutes at table I remember the candles being lit again, pointlessly, and I was conscious of wanting to look squarely at everyone and yet to avoid all eyes.

A pleasant social dinner dissipates in the tension between a man and woman silently waging war over the uninvited guest who isn’t there. When you’re sitting at the table as a peaceful noncombatant, you want to meet everyone’s gaze with a fair and level look in return, but it’s too painful to look anyone in the eyes because that’s what they want too, and everyone’s faking it. Have you been there?

Quite a few small phrases on this page stick in my head: Daisy’s “tense gayety” on returning to the dinner table from a clenched discussion with Tom, the “shrill metallic urgency” of the phone that wouldn’t stop ringing, the way Tom and Jordan stroll back to the house with “several feet of twilight between them.”

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