If, despite my complete lack of technical adeptitude (what? it's a word; just not a real one) (and yes, I do work in technology, thanks for asking) (shhhh…don't tell my clients that I'm not technically adept; they'll make me a manager), I could have made it happen, this post's title would have been, "In Which I
Am Forced To Meet My Sister's Stupid Boyfriend," in her honor. I just want you to know: it was a lack of intelligence, not will, that compelled compromise. Also, this piece is a little long, so you might want to only read the parts where my sister has sex with her boyfriend. You know, as always.
My sister called the other day, and as she, along with my kids, comprises pretty much the entire complement of high-functioning members of my family, I made the mistake of taking the call. (And yes, her name comes up on caller ID as "O'Really," which for all I know it might actually be these days; the woman's been married a lot.) "Hey, Bro, how's my favorite relative?"
"How would I know? I haven't talked to Ralph in years." Cousin Ralph is not actually my sister's favorite, probably largely because of those personal dietary Issues that resulted in the door of his house having to be cut away by paramedics.
"Fine. How's my favorite relative I'm talking to on this call whose ass I can kick clear across the Midwest?"
"Well, that does narrow it down. I'm fine. What's up, Sis?"
"You. Boyfriend. Meeting. This weekend."
"Why are you talking like Ugg the Caveman?"
"I want you to understand what I'm saying."
"Oh." And I did. Understand. Her words. (Great, now I'm doing it.) My sister was coming with her soulmate to stay in my guest room and fuck and drink my liquor. Note that she thought to append a question mark to none of these unilateral declarations.
"What if I have plans?" I asked, trying for the kind of stern indignation that would create in her the shame she so abundantly lacks, but actually achieving only the whiny irritability that is in fact my ground state.
"Drinking and masturbation?"
"Those are plans."
"Pick us up at the airport. Friday, 7:45."
The nerve! I thought. The effrontery! The gall! The…hell with it. "Fine."
"Don't wear the clown nose."
More gall! (Apparently people have a special bladder just for that. Sweet. I was wondering where to put mine.) "I was not fucking going to wear the clown nose."
"Yeah, you were."
"True." I can't bullshit my sister. That's why I try to avoid her.
The blizzard in which I had placed so much hope disappointed me by ending Thursday, and Friday was bright and clear, if cold. I had to face facts: my sister and her boyfriend were coming, and there was no way I could sell my condo and move to Montana under an assumed name before they did. (Not in this market; in 2005, sure.) So I manned up and after Friday's daily ass-kicking and soul-killing at work (they did surprise us with doughnuts, though), I got in my car and fought the Friday rush-hour traffic on the Kennedy out to O'Hare.
Sis called on landing to give me explicit instructions about where they'd be waiting, so it only took me three painfully slow revolutions around the car-crammed pickup area before I saw her, shivering at one of the vestibules, a word I used to confuse with "suppository" until life taught me better--the hard way, as usual. "How did you miss us, dickhead?" she whispered through chattering teeth as I hugged her. (Drama queen. She was only slightly blue. In that kind of weather, it'd take at least 45 minutes to die of hypothermia.) Then she turned to introduce Mr. Wonderful. I looked at him. Then up at him. Then up some more. A little more and…yeah, there was his face. Square jaw. Handsome, but not pretty--kind of a Daniel Craig thing going on. Balding, though sadly not in a bad combover way, more like Lou Grant. Manly. And it worked for him. Astonishingly well-dressed. Excellent! I thought. He's stupid.
Also, he was like 95. Fine, maybe only 70 or so. Okay, 60. What am I, the guess-your-age geek at the carnival? Well, once, yeah, but that was a while ago.
My sister and her boyfriend settled in the car, I inched my way out of the arrivals area and began my experimental procedure to confirm my hypothesis that he was stupid; I am all about the scientific method. (Yeah, I know that's not the scientific method. Do I sound like a scientist to you? Of any kind other than Christian?) (Which, by the way, I'm not, though I do think it's cool that the Christian Scientist crucifixes depict him dressed in a white lab coat and carrying an Erlenmeyer flask.) There had to be a reason my sister had kept me in the dark about him. Well, other than my complete disinterest stemming from my complete self-absorption. "So, Mr. Wonderful, what kind of work do you do?" The betting in my head was running heavily to "Depends model" or perhaps, "unemployed Depends model."
"Horses," he said.
I blinked and glanced over at him, then back at the traffic, just before a Hummer cut me off. "Betting on them?" I asked, after cursing at the Hummer's oblivious driver, opening the sunroof and shooting him the bird. I heard a rustling in the back seat, then felt a sharp pain in my earlobe. My sister had flicked me! Astonishing! After I'd come to pick her and her stupid boyfriend up from the airport. The ingratitude!
"Raising them. Ever since I retired." Hmm. Raising horses. That sounded like it cost so much money that I wouldn't even have any idea how much money it cost. Oh, I got it: he'd inherited money. Like that moron in college who used to say "What's he into?" in that stoned-out way about everyone, then after college bought most of Portland's waterfront property.
"From the family business?"
"No, I started working my way through college in a steel company, and I stayed with the firm, moved up, made a few good investments and wound up buying it."
Are you fucking kidding me? I asked inside my head. This guy bought a fucking steel company? I could barely afford to buy my stainless steel cookware. (Luckily, I know a lot of the local loan-sharks.) I settled into a brooding silence. I could feel the force of my sister's smile. Well played, my sister's not-stupid stupid boyfriend. Well played.
When we got home, they set up in the guest room, then we sat around a bit, drinks in hand, and indulged in a few rounds of the Family Game.
"Aunt Edna?" asked Sis.
"Cousin Wilkes Booth?" (Nobody was actually sure of this guy's real name; he just shows up at family gatherings, wearing a 19th century frock coat and a John Wilkes Booth-looking mustache. We just figured he was a cousin, because of our family.)
"The Little Girls Elliot?"
"Still gay. Well maybe not Number One Daughter."
Ten minutes of this, combined with a week of soul-killing work, had its desired effect: I felt my eyelids growing heavy, and I bade my sister and her stupid not-stupid boyfriend good night. Only to come wide awake to the sound of thuds and screeching from down my hallway. I opened the door of the bedroom and stared at the closed guest room door, from which the sounds were emanating. "You have got to be fucking kidding me," I said aloud. And loudly.
The sounds stopped. "Go to sleep, Bro!" I heard from inside the guest room.
I opened my mouth to tell her how much I'd like nothing better, and how impossible that seemed right at that moment, but then threw up my hands (I'd been eating them earlier) and went back to bed. The noises resumed. Again. Some more. My sister's defilement continued unabated for seven or eight hours, by which time I'd fashioned a crude noose from the bedclothes and hanged myself from the ceiling fan. Note to self: ceiling fans are not made to support the weight of a full-grown man, even one of a becoming shortness like myself. Good to know.
Number Two Daughter once in preschool told her mom and me that she'd spent the day "out in the com-yoo-dity." Saturday, emulating her, we:
- Visited the Art Institute and the Shedd Aquarium (my friend M, who works there, let us back to pet the beluga) (I just now stopped writing for a moment to sing along with Raffi in my head, "Baby beluga, oh, baby beluga...");
- Hit my favorite bookstores (57th Street Books, I am thy bitch, and Women and Children First, I would happily put you first, except maybe in an emergency, when it's every man, woman and child for him- or herself);
- Dined on the best high-end pork and beer anywhere in the world at Publican (oh, Publican porchetta, if only you were a woman, I would marry you, and then happily nibble on you till death did us part) (also, I'd never suspected a $50 bottle of beer existed until I went to Publican) (I have to--reluctantly--give Mr. Wonderful props for knowing about Publican and suggesting it) (I'm ashamed to admit I wrestled Mr. Wonderful for the check) (well, I'm ashamed to admit I lost; I mean, the guy is old);
- Watched the Neo-Futurists hilariously rip through 30 plays in an hour at Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.
As the day passed, I noticed that it was my sister and I who did most of the talking (okay, arguing), while Mr. Wonderful just watched us, an odd little smile playing about his lips. I thought of the old Mark Twain quote (sadly, there are no new Mark Twain quotes, unless I make some up), "Better to be silent and be thought a fool than speak up and remove all doubt." Of course, if Mr. Wonderful knew that, then he was no fool. I began to suspect that instead he was a robot super-assassin sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor.
(Yay! The Terminator movies finally came up on my Netflix queue.)
With Saturday night came ten or twelve more hours of screaming and banging (you should excuse the expression) from the guest room. Dogs up and down the street howled. As I write this, Sunday afternoon, I am now down about twenty hours of sleep. Luckily, I can make it up at my desk at work this week, having mastered the art of sleeping while staring at the computer screen and moving my fingers randomly on the keyboard. (It's how I write my posts too.) Well, and of course, at meetings.
This morning we sat down to the standard Elliot family I-celebrate-your-presence-in-my-house-now-get-the-fuck-out brunch: lox and cream cheese and bagels, with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. As we sat at the table, my sister was giving me dating advice that I already knew, and I was telling her that I already knew what she was telling me, which of course slowed her down not even a little. We were about halfway into the first cup of coffee and the first bagel, and there was a lull in the conversation, because of how it's really hard to talk when your mouth is full of boiled bread and salty goodness (shut up), and Mr. Wonderful said, "Thank you."
I shrugged. "Sure. For what?"
"For everything. For letting me in your home, and the food, but mostly for the way you love your sister. You're very protective."
I blinked and thought back. Before diving into the depths of my bagel and lox's intimate bits, I'd been giving Sis shit about her twelve or fourteen marriages. I gave Mr. Wonderful the fish-eye. "That's...stupid."
Sis grinned. "No, it's not. You luuuurrrrrvvve me." She paused. "Just not in that way. 'Cause that'd be creepy." She turned to Mr. Wonderful, smirking. "Despite the fact that he was flirting with me in my comments when I first started posting, before he knew who I was."
I nodded. "And thanks for reminding me of that, Sis. I'll just schedule another carbolic acid shower for this afternoon, shall I? And how was I supposed to know who you were, since you didn't tell me you were going to be blogging?"
"Dumbass, you took that avatar picture!"
"When I was five!" Mr. Wonderful sat back again, that little smile back on his face. Oh, he was totally a robot super-assassin from the future. How else could he have had that much sex at his advanced age?
So now here I am, thankful that my home is again devoid of relatives of any kind, or their robot assassin boyfriends. (Will she change her blogging name to Mrs. Wonderful when she marries him?) (Oh, and she will marry him; I mean, she married a waiter in lieu of a tip once.) (In her defense, the service was excellent.) I'm a little sleep-deprived and craving some peace and quiet and my own company, but I must admit, I miss my sister sometimes, and it's good to see her--like once or twice a year.
Man, I hope she's too busy getting sexed up to read this. Unfortunately for me, she was always good at multitasking.