Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Home on Leave

So apparently exclaiming to your little sister’s date, “Holy SHIT you’re hot!  If she doesn’t have sex with you tonight, I definitely will!” the moment you meet him is in poor taste.

It’s funny how you no matter how old you get, you just keep on learning things, no?  Here I am, 38 years old, and I just learned a new lesson in couth.

My husband was sitting at the crowded table right next to me when the exchange occurred.  Witnesses later said that he started laughing, shook his head, and said, “Do you guys see what I have to put up with?”

“Please,” I responded, taking another sip of my rum and coke as I gave him a sidelong glance.  “You have nothing to worry about. Everybody knows that hottie won’t make out with me.”

“Oh, but if he would…” my husband challenged.

If he would…you’d better watch out,” I responded, turning in my chair so that I could fully and defiantly meet my husband’s eye.  “Broken family, here we come,” I managed to sputter just before we both burst into giggles.

The hottie in question stood off to the side of the table, watching us curiously. “I’m right here,” he said.

“And you’re going home,” my little sister said, ushering him out of the bar.  (I think she might have been afraid of what I would say next?)  Later, my sister-in-law asked my younger sister how long the new date had lasted at the bar.

“Um, I don’t know…like an hour?” my little sister said.

“Enough time to have been exposed,” my sister-in-law replied with certainty.

“Been exposed to what?”

“Drunk Shay.  If he can handle her, he can handle any crazy shit your family throws at him. She was the straw that almost broke the camel’s back with me…but then your brother broke up with me first.”

Too bad, too. Because regardless of how much she teases me, she actually handled drunk me really well—and not only that, but she rivaled me in my drunken stupidity, and I loved her for it.  Still do.

My sister’s date did, in fact, call her the next morning, so I guess that means he passed the test or she passed the test or whatever (I personally think it means he wants to take me up on my offer, but admittedly that could be wishful thinking), because they’re seeing each other again soon.  I told my little sister that there was no need for her to thank me or praise me for my services; she’s welc.

The next morning, the true culprit of my behavior was revealed (because it’s never my own fault, right?) when my husband took our bar tab out of his wallet.  “Forty-five dollars,” he reported with a sad little shake of his head.  He looked at me.  “You had 5 rum and cokes.”

“Is that all?” I asked, trying to rub the headache out of the back of my head before it spread down my neck.  “My head feels like it was a lot more than that.”

I wanted to point out that they served them in really small cups—like goddamned Dixie bathroom rinser cups that, full of ice, could be sucked down in two sips with one of those teensy mixing straws, which you can be sure I had complained to the server about the night before (“Light ice.  I said LIGHT ICE!”)—but I didn’t want to talk anymore in case the action made my headache, which had begun to recede with the help of 4 Advil, come back.

As with most things, I also blame my younger brother.

He was home on leave for two weeks from Germany, where he’s been stationed with the Army for the past several years.  And really, I love my brother and all, but he’s a total douchebag and some days I think I love him just because my dad makes me.  I always make the trip home to see him, but mostly it’s for the excuse to kick back with my siblings for an evening while Grandma and Grandpa watch all of our kids.

My brother and I always agree that it’s best to keep our visits with one another to no more than one full day.  “We get into huge fights if we’re together for more than 24 consecutive hours,” he said this past weekend.

He’s right.  We’ve even gotten into fights on other continents.  It’s hard to limit your visit to one day if you’ve traveled all that way, you see, so there wasn’t a whole lot we could’ve done about that knockdown-drag out in Australia that one year.  Oops.

“Because you’re an asshole,” I reasoned.

“You’re probably right,” he replied, nodding his head.  “In any case, let’s keep it to Saturday night.  Are you planning to head home Sunday?”

“Sure,” I agreed amicably. 

So that’s what we did.

We had a blast, and afterwards and everyone came back to my dad’s house, stumbled out of cabs, and fell onto various air mattresses that had been aired up before we left.  The kids were all safe, snuggled into bedrooms with Grandma and Grandpa.

The only person who didn’t have a place to sleep was my little brother’s best friend, who lives a couple of hours away and whom we hadn’t counted on coming. Last we heard, he had to put in a few extra hours for work Saturday afternoon and wouldn’t be able to make it out to meet us.  When he arrived at the bar, it was a completely unexpected but happy surprise.

I heard him rambling around Dad’s house Sunday morning before the rest of us were roused from our fitful, hungover sleep.  My dad was already up brewing coffee, frying bacon, and catching up on his reading before hitting Sunday Mass.  My brother’s best friend, Jack, surprised him when he came up the stairs from the basement.

“Oh, hey, Jack,” Dad said pleasantly.  “Have a seat at the table. I didn’t realize you’d stayed here last night.  Do you want some bacon?  Coffee?  Where’d you sleep, by the way?”

I heard Dad rustling around the kitchen, grabbing a plate and other items so that Jack could make a plate.  When Jack replied, “Oh, on that old futon downstairs,” I heard an almost indiscernible pause in the gathering of silverware by my dad.

Holy shit, I thought.

“Oh, yeah?” my dad asked, doing a really great job of disguising the horror in his voice.  If I hadn’t known the story, I wouldn’t have detected it myself.  “Was it comfortable?  Did you get a good night’s sleep?”

“As good as any after the amount of beers we had last night, I guess!” Jack chuckled.

Dad joined him in his chuckling, but I could tell it was dry, forced.  “Ha. Ha. Ha.  Well, good then.  Good.  Here you go, son, eat up.”

I opened one eye from the couch and caught my Dad’s uneasy glance at me.  I grimaced to show that I understood, then I closed my eye again. 

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

My dad was holding the futon for my niece, a 23-year-old nomad who was currently on her way to L.A. to make a go at the music industry.

“I don’t have room for this futon in my car, Grandpa,” she’d told him a few weeks prior, “but I can’t stand to throw it out.  My ex-boyfriend—you know the one who committed suicide?  He used to love this futon.  He would fall asleep and drool on it all the time, and some of his dried spittle is still on it.  See?” she’d said, pointing earnestly at a white spot on the couch.

My dad was horrified, but what, he asked me later, could he do? 

“Sure, sweetie,” he said hesitantly, not sure how the hell a person was supposed to react to such a request. With enthusiasm, to show he was excited to help his sweet grandchild no matter what she needed?  With his eyes cast down to the side to show that he was sorry for her loss? He tried a mixture of both when he responded. “Of course I’ll keep it for you.”

“Thanks,” she’d responded gratefully.  “And don’t worry about the fleas.  I had several infestations in my apartment due to my love of taking in strays…but this baby was there every single one of the 17 times I had my apartment flea-bombed.” She plopped herself right into the middle of it.  “So I’m sure it’s totally clean!”  Here, she smacked at her thigh.  “Well, maybe not totally…”

When my dad told me the story later, I swore I was not going to come and visit his house until that thing was gone.  He told me he felt too guilty to get rid of it, so I suggested setting the entire house on fire and just starting over. He refused, so I compromised and told him that until it’s gone, my kids and the other grandkids were not allowed to play in the basement—formerly the playroom—at his house.

It sometimes makes for boring visits to Grandpa’s, but until he grows a pair and tells my niece to get the futon the fuck out of there, it’s just the way it’s going to have to be.

I left an anonymous note in Jack’s coat pocket before he left:  Flea drops are sold at Wal-Mart for less than $5. Get yourself some and apply generously to the back of your neck. And then burn this note…and the outfit you had on when you slept on that futon.

And then, per my agreement with my brother, I got the fuck out of dodge.

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful visit.

Not for Jack, though. Because I’m not actually sure if flea drops work on humans.  

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