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To say he wasn’t having fun would be imprecise. It was pleasant, what they were doing: drinking wine, making mean jokes about popular podcasts, listening to songs from artists that had once seemed essential but now seemed absurd. If he could spend a vacation doing anything, these are the activities he would choose. But tonight he was only pretending to be happy, and he feared the others could tell he wasn’t listening to the conversation, even when he himself was talking. There were other things on his mind. He didn’t need friends right now. He got up from the rocking chair and disappeared through the screen door that led to the beach. He could hear his wife asking why he was going out into the rain, but he didn’t look back and behaved as if he’d heard nothing at all.

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