Have you met the man who’s lost his memory yet?” said a tall stranger, breathing at me. He wore brown tweeds. His hand held his mahogany-colored high ball unsteadily. His presence was offensive.
“No,” I said, turning aside.
“You must see him!” said the stranger. “You must see the guest of honor!” He swung his free hand toward my arm. Forestalling its grip, I nodded assent and followed him.
I hadn’t wanted to attend the party. I was sick of 5:30-7:30 cocktail parties that began at 6:15 and extended, for some of the few interesting people, till either 9:45 or 3 a.m., depending on who ate when, where, with whom, and who got to a liquor store for replenishment before 11:00 closing. I had definitely decided not to go. I sat sipping a highball in my room, congratulating myself on saying no for once to the alcoholics—I refer to an activity, like fireworks or acrobatics, not to people—of Cambridge in May. But my sips gradually became swallows, I reflected that this was my last spring in academic lotos-land, and at 6:01, spurred by the bells of St.Paul’s campanile, I began dressing.
Now I was following an unknown fool toward a destination known only as some promised, glorified amnesiac. My host had casually told me, had evidently also told my bourboned guide, that an unusual and wise person, to whom he would like to introduce me, would he there-there in a disguise of reticence. This sage had requested that no special notice he paid him until the crowd had denied until he was ready for it. I suspected that my guide had forgotten or chosen to disregard this request, or hadn’t been told of it; or, less likely, that the great amnesiac himself, in a kingly whim, had commanded my presence.