We were thinking about the war, standing in the foyer of a mansion large enough to devour many middle class houses, beneath a blazing chandelier. A baby grand player piano digitally churned out Christmas tunes. Our coats hung up, we were free to wander. The place was on display. Every house-sized room reminded me of a museum piece, or else a section of an upscale department store. Marilyn Monroe's and Elton John's jewelry hung in glass cases on the wall. We filled our plates from the buffet, where each dish was titled with a calligraphied placard, then took our eats downstairs to the Africa floor.
The party was put on by friends of friends, for our mutual friends’ son, who scored a two-week Christmas leave from Iraq on account of his new baby, born a few days after he deployed. We all brought presents for the soldier and his new wife, but before the gifts were opened our hostess brought out a deployment candle for the newlywed couple to light, something about appreciation of the fine work they’re doing over there, protecting the American dream. A woman in a red sequined blouse started to drop a tear. The soldier shuffled his feet in his combat boots. I wondered a bit if I would ever see him again or if this would be the last time, standing there lighting a candle in front of the bar and Elton John's earrings on the Africa floor. Later, lying in bed, Gene said we really should send those friends of our friends a thank you card.