Let’s say you’re going about your day, footloose and fancy-free. Let’s say a friend e-mails you. “I’m so sorry,” she writes. “I’m really not feeling well. Can we reschedule?”
It comes back to you in a rush: the long-ago volley of e-mails; the consensus on a date that, at the time, seemed impossibly far away; the failure to note said date on the calendar. Maybe you have even made other plans for the same time. But you write back with magnanimity: “No problem. Just concentrate on feeling better!”
This is one of the few moments in life where you are truly getting away with something. Not because you deserve to. Not because you’ve earned it. This is luck, pure and simple. Instead of standing someone up, you get to look like the wronged party—and be gracious about it.
Ideally, you should take the lesson to heart, approaching life with a renewed sense of responsibility and purpose. But that’s not what dancing with the devil is about; what you take away is the heady rush of success. You have known a world without consequences.
If there is a catch, it is this: that something this sad qualifies as eventful. That your life is so small that a meaningless social interaction such as this one takes on the importance of a Robert Durst trial. That this one incident will be canceled out by others, and others, and others, and that this is the sum of a life.
But that’s not much of a catch, really.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.