Dinner with girlfriends family
Kinda like what happened (my names not really joe)
I’ve for some reason agreed to go to dinner with Hannah and her parents; finding myself sitting at a table in Charmin’s, which is a nice restaurant, staring across at Mr. and Mrs. Tepes, who insist on me calling them Rob and Jen. Hannah’s dad works as a publisher or something, I’m not sure but I know from his house and the quality of his suits that he makes a lot of money. I’m sitting here defending, it feels like, my right to exist, my abilities as a man and so on, etc, etc, etc. I’m dressed nice wearing a tie and a white shirt and not my everyday Teva sandals, but instead some expensive leather shoes I bought at Red Wings a few years ago (for a wedding I think) and though I am full, I’m scarfing down my Veal chop so Rob doesn’t feel like his money’s being wasted.
The waiter comes over to our table to ask if everything is fine and for a moment I’m tempted to shout “No!” and spit my chop on his shoes, but I don’t for obvious reasons, instead I smile and nod and ask for another Sprite. My stomache is aching because of the amount of meat I’m cramming in, putting away so to speak, and I’m sweating profusely and grinding my teeth into an enamel sand, trying to breathe deeply and evenly but my windpipe feels like it’s been sealed shut with wax. I’m trying to think of a way to calm down, to relieve the tension, but every thing that’s supposed to help in this department does not help and I realize that there is simply no way. This feeling that I’m wrong in every way, that no matter how much I may want to be calm and cool headed, good under pressure, is moot. The sentiment of being an entertaining presence for these people is impossible, and that there is just no way out, no graceful way out, of any situation.
“This steak is delicious.” Jen says meekly. “Very tender.”
“It’s not steak, it’s …” Rob pauses. “Its… well it’s not steak.”
A pause in which Jen stops chewing and gives her husband a sideways glance, I think the hidden meaning being “hey fuck you too” before replying, “I… think it is.”
I’m almost enjoying the obvious distaste that these two people have for each other. I want to shout at her “that’s because you’re a fucking moron.” To take Rob’s side, for no reason other than that’s how the mood strikes me. I want to laugh at them both to spit in their faces, to rub their unhappiness, their complete bullshit right in their tight, surgical, expressionless faces, to chew up all their food and spit it up in a cascading ark like a fountain. Maybe get naked and run around.
There’s more light conversation, essentially civil, in which Rob ask Hannah what she wants for her birthday and for a second I panic thinking I’ve forgotten about it, that it was in July. I’m about to throw up until Hannah says, “It’s …only March dad.” And relief sweeps over me like an electric blanket from heaven.
“Yes… your point? Do you have a point here?” Rob asks.
“Yes. My point is that it’s March.”
“Your father and I are fully aware of what month it is. Do you have some other point? We know the month dear, we have a calendar.” Jen says, surprisingly coming to Rob’s aid.
I’m looking away from the scene here avoiding eye contact.
“My…birthday isn’t until July.” Hannah sighs.
“No reason not to get a head start.” Rob replies without missing a beat, refusing to be cornered, not willing to be made a fool in front of… planet earth.
“Just take me shopping. Take me somewhere nice.”
The waiter comes over and Rob orders another “Corona.”, Spacing out the syllables like a foreign word.
“What do you think Joe?” He says.
The question catches me off guard, I’d forgotten that I was party to this affair, I’m outside the circle of bitching, an observer, and the main problem being that my mind is essentially a slick surface. Nothing can stick, everything slides off onto the ground, and that I’m just not thinking about anything.
“I think… that we should have good jobs… at good wages.” I say.
“What are your politics?”
“…What…are yours?” I’m swallowing hard, trying not to crack against his cold vibes.
“I’m for the common man.” He says.
“I’m for… the common man.” I repeat, parroting it back to him mechanically, trying to make it my own.
He asks me if I vote, and though I’ve never even read a ballot let alone filled one out, I say that I do, that I’m very conscientious about it, how I never miss a opportunity to serve my country. I think about asking him if he knows where I could sign up for the young Republicans club, but I’m not sure if he even is a republican, so instead I ask if he knows of any good city ordinances.
“I…” He actually pauses looking confused and pained at my question that apparently doesn’t make sense, (I thought it might not) genuinely upset that his daughter had brought such a complete dufus to dine with them, and I smile inwardly at the thought of the numerous times I'd seen his daughter snort adderall off a kitchen counter.
“I don’t know any off the top of my head…”
“You can’t…smoke in …hospitals.” Jen adds in.
“Wow mother…” Hannah says under her breath and I actually have to suppress a smile.
Later I’m standing outside Charmin’s with Hannah leaning against me in a sloppy kind of half hug, and she say’s “I’m sorry,” and I say that it’s all right. We don’t say anything for a minute but I’m acutely aware of her chin against my chest, of her being there. To me this is not a sweet quiet moment where we blend together, I am me and “we” are not “we”, and no matter how long we stand there I’ll never forget that she’s holding on to me, never fade into the moment, it’s just not a possibility.
I wonder if she loves me? If she does…I don’t feel any responsibility for it, I don’t love her back, not really, and even though the occasion has not presented itself yet, I do think that I could love somebody, it’s just not her; not tonight, not in ten years, not ever. While I can accept her affection and even to a degree simulate it back, while I can say the right things when I have to and I’m willing to walk next to her and lie beside her in a bed and share my time with her, I can’t appreciate any of it. I wonder if that’s enough. Sometimes I think its fine. I’m counting the seconds until we can go back to her house and drop acid in her room. Her parents take Ambien and wouldn’t wake up if you let a freshly castrated bull loose in their bedroom.
That would make a good movie. The Heavy Sleepers. With Michael Keaton and Bea Arthur.