Have you ever had that feeling, you know the one, you've got a moderately priced (not cheap, but not gaga) bottle of wine clutched in your fist, your dress shirt is cutting off the circulation to your neck, and you're standing outside the door to a party. You have rung the bell, or knocked. You can hear people inside talking, then you can hear them react to the sound of your ring and/or knock. Inside your head you can see your host, probably your host but depending on how well everyone knows each other it could be just another guest like you, sweeping towards the other side of the door - more than seeing them inside your head you can feel their presence, like a phantom, drawing near. You can feel their hand grasp onto the knob, there's a click, and quickly manifest your best, biggest, brightest smile. This is it.
Light - whatever kind will set the mood for the night; if it's too bright you'll be uncomfortable, but it's not, this time it's warm and rich and inviting - comes around the side of the door before your host does. But then there they, there he or she is, and your smile works - they smile in return. You both say something, something like "Hey" probably, usually capped with an exclamation point.
Space begins to constrict, to fold into itself, like the throat of an accordion - time, too. It's like that moment at the top of the big hill of a roller-coaster or a log flume - build build build and crash, down, you're off. In a couple of hours you'll look back at the blur and try to remember what you said or what you did; lives will crash together and change course maybe, or pie will be eaten. Something.
But first, that greeting. The greeting is still happening. We're in slow motion now. What do we do? We lean forward. Closer, closer still. Something touches. Hands? Does the bottle of not-cheap wine get shoved awkwardly across the threshold first, a lightly aggressive rebuttal of closeness?
They, the other person, are leaning in. They have met us halfway. Their mouth has pinched together, lips tight, puckered. They're so close now you can smell them, their perfume or shampoo, the fish they've been handling as appetizers. Their cheek is turned. They lean still. Your body isn't under your own control in this moment. You are doing what the other person is doing, a subconscious dance. Your eyes turn away from each other, towards other things - you can see beyond them, into the space, the other people, some furtively staring, others also looking away; this moment is too much for us.
The Invitation is a horror movie about people hugging you at parties. People you know, people you don't, either sort with equal but expansive horror. Manners and niceties weaponized. The things we can't say in polite circumstances, over an expensive bottle of booze or twelve, fennel or beet salad, a corkscrew spinning and spinning beside a stone mantel-place. Why are we here? Why is anyone here? We're here because they always save the dessert for the ending, and sweetness is its own reward. Just don't choke.