The last guest leaves trailing laughter, kisses, thank yous and good nights. Maybe we have walked them down the driveway, waving until the car pulled away, and stood for a minute in the cool night to look at the stars. After the door clicks shut we turn to face the mountains of dishes piled in the sink, turn up the music and slide into another gear.
If it was a particularly enlivening evening the stories and jokes course through our brains as we wash and clear and sweep. But never dry. I am staunchly not A Person Who Dries Their Dishes. I prefer to spread out a runway of towels and pile bowl on top of platter over serving spoon to let time do the work for me. Yes I want the kitchen cleaned before we go off to bed. But I do not want it to look like nothing ever happened, wiped clear of any trace of a gathering. Because something did happen. I cooked up a storm, enough for double the amount of guests; we became closer to our friends; surprising stories were shared; bottles of wine were poured; baguette crumbs were scattered across the table; a baby was nursed; a toast was made; a silence was shared over the first bites of food.
I take great pleasure in watching people have their first taste of a dish. We keep the conversation flowing but there is an imperceptible pause between chews, a rush of saliva and hoot of sensations all signaling to the mind: Pleasure! Pleasure! It is said that after that first taste the senses are dulled. But I say, if the flavors are balanced, if the salt is right and the acidity cuts through, the pleasure only grows.
The last dish has been washed and stacked atop the impossibly high pile to dry. We run a broom then wander upstairs, bellies full and a sweetness on our tongue that lingers long into the night.