It's the end of the library conference, and the attendees are loaded down with canvas bags filled with the regular loot: free books, glossy information packets, mouse pads. We're still wearing our conference badges, clipped to our lapels or hanging from lanyards around our necks. We will take these home and tack them up in our offices like small plastic trophies.
Because it's the final day, we have no more words. We've danced and small-talked and asked questions at microphones, and since we understand one another, no one is demanding anything more from us.
Those of us who gave presentations look like we've run a marathon. Thank goodness we grabbed the last of the free granola bars by the exit as we turned in our satisfaction survey.
Our shuttles idle outside to take us to the airport for our flights home. Ten of us file through the cold hotel corridor and wait for the next elevator. We know each other, but we're too tired for chitchat on the ride down. One floor below, the elevator doors open to a tall blonde in leopard print and high heels.
"Hi y'all! 'Scuse me, let me just squeeze on in here. Thanks. I'm Sheila from Mary Kay! You probably noticed all the pink cars parkin' out front. We're just startin' our annual shindig! Y'all must be here for a conference too. What're y'all here for?"
We stare ahead in silence.
One of our sneakers squeaks.
"Well, y'all have a great day anyhow."
We march out to our buses, past the pink cars, relaxed in our band of introverts.