One of the reasons why I enjoy going to Hostess's parties is because the Asians she mingles with love to party. It's a different kind of party, though, but it's fun. And most of these get togethers usually means a karaoke machine and games and food...lots and lots of food. And when I walked into the living room, I saw that the guests were all ready setting up the karaoke machine, picking the line up and the songs they were going to sing.
I find it funny sometimes when I hear them sing. Not because they sound terrible, but for the very fact that some of them sound very good. It's strange how some people can sing flawlessly, drawing out certain notes just right, that make you think, wow, what an awesome voice. Then when they stop singing and start talking, it's like they have this heavy accent and you notice grammar errors that make you realize that English is not their native tongue. Like Celine Dion for example.
I said hello to some of the other guests that I hadn't seen earlier and walked over to the sitting room on the other side of the house. It's actually a second living room, and I've wondered why the houses in this neighborhood have two separate living rooms. The minute I walked in, I ran into one of Hostess neighbor...one that I didn't particularly care for.
I had been told she was 40 something, but the she looked like she was 60 something. She didn't just have crows feet; the entire bird kingdom had stampeded on her face. It didn't help that she smoked either. The stench of cigarettes was pungent. And the toxic fumes of the used urinal cake scent she wore made me want to vomit. She also had a grating voice, low, growly, like an elephant seal during mating season. The woman was also an alcoholic; rarely have I seen her without a beer can in her hand. I called her Sour Milk, and it wasn't just because she was passed her expiration date; I had a terrible taste in my mouth after the first time I met her. And that's a stench and foul taste you never forget!
When I first met Sour Milk over a year ago, she drilled me with questions about my personal life. For some reason, when she found out that I was single, she decided that my life was sorry until I married someone. I told her that I was fine being single, but she launched into this speech about how being married was so much better. The more she talked, the more irritated I got. She then went on to tell a drunken story about how she got married late, and all her friends had children in middle school by the time she had hers. And that if I wait too long to settle down, I might miss out on having kids; blah, blah, blah...The funny thing was, the more crap she spewed, the more I got the feeling she was really trying to convince herself, not me, about how being married was somehow so much better than being single. Finally, her husband stepped in and told her to back off; he told her if I wasn't interested in getting married, then that's my decision. The husband I called Saint, because I thought one needed the patience of a saint to put up with Sour Milk.
And here was Sour Milk, again, with a beer can in hand, having apparently alienated the other guests, she moved on to me to strike up a conversation. Blah. But I had my fake smile on my face and I was all ready planning my escape. As soon as she saw me, she started asking me about being single again. Then she said, "I know it's tough being single. It can be so lonely."
I looked at her red, blood vessel popped eye and said, "Being single doesn't mean I'm lonely. Being married doesn't take that away. Loneliness is a feeling, and I don't feel lonely at all. Besides, I like being single. I can do what I want, whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it, and it's a fantastic, happy feeling."
She just looked at me, unsure of what to say, and I seized upon the moment to make my exit, "Oh, I have to go set up some of the games. Excuse me."
It was a lie, of course, but I saw Hostess going into the hallway closet where she kept some games. I grabbed a small card table, set it up in the sitting room and got the Mah Jong tiles ready. Then I grabbed another small table and set up some cards on it and laid some board games on the coffee table. Soon, a small crowd had formed and gravitated towards the card table. A poker game started, and I found myself talking to a group of people who were more of Hostess's acquaintances than mine.
Two of them, a married couple actually, I had met before a few months ago at another party. The fella was of average height, thin, some slight graying at the temples of his blond hair, and he wore glasses. I learned he was very smart. Like geek/nerd smart. He was a computer programmer; had his own consulting business. He was very laid back, and seemed nice enough. I called him Mac. His wife I called Apple. Apple was one of Jade Dragon's girls. Apple had light brown skin and long black hair. And like Mac, she was thin and smart. Like most Asians, she was short; but both she and Mac look very good for a couple in their 40s. I've heard they were very active people who enjoyed jogging, hiking, camping, kayaking and a whole a lot more. I'd've taken them to be in their late 30s. The other people in the group were either work buddies or church members.
We had started a conversation on hobbies and recreation. Mac and Apple talked about their latest hiking experience. Another fella spoke about his recent trip to Las Vegas, where he not only hiked but also saw some shows. When the subject of entertainers came up, Sour Milk entered the group and started to brag about her kids, and how talented they were, just like world famous entertainers.
Did I mention how much Sour Milk irritates me? She often brags about how her kids (and by extension, she) were so much better than everybody. She had 3 daughters, and she entered each one in the Lil Ms Tx pageants before they were even out of diapers. Those are the creepy pageants where little toddlers are dressed up like street prostitutes--complete with wigs, heels, and enough make up to mistake them for midget whores in a low budget porn. Her oldest is in her last year of high school, a cheerleading team captain. "She is the first to be squad captain as a junior and senior at the high school!", Sour Milk bragged, "Their squad is good enough to compete on a national level."
'Um, no they're not,' I thought, 'I've seen national level cheer squads, and her daughter's cheer squad was going to need a whole lot of talent and skills to even rank at the local level.'
Sour Milk then bragged about her second daughter, who took dance classes. "She's going to be a ballet dancer."
The rest of the group didn't know what to say; some nodded; a few said, "Oh," and "that's nice."
Sour Milk then said about her youngest, "She was the second runner up in the Jr Ms Pageant. She should've won but those judges have their favorites." She didn't mention, however, that Runner Up dropped her baton three times during the talent portion of the pageant.
I wondered just how clueless Sour Milk was when it came to her daughters. Cheerleader was a party animal. Hostess and I were eating out one night when she got a call from Cheerleader. Cheerleader was Hostess's dog sitter. And she often looked at Hostess as someone she could trust outside her family. When Hostess and I went to pick Cheerleader up from a party, I found out just how much Cheerleader trusted Hostess. Cheerleader and her friends had a few drinks at the party. Earlier, she had told her mother that she was going to a sleepover at a friend's home. During the drive, I noticed in the rearview mirror the two cheerleaders making out. When we dropped them off, they left my car holding hands. I looked at Hostess with an eyebrow raised and Hostess confirmed my suspicion, "Yeah, that's her girlfriend."
I think I saw this as a plot in a porn once or twice. I queried, "Her lesbian girlfriend?", to which Hostess said,"Yes. She hasn't come out to her parents." Okay; none of my business whose business Cheerleader gets her nose in.
As for second daughter, Dancer, well, I noticed she often wore long sleeves; even during the summer. Once I saw her roll up her sleeves and noticed a number of thin, line scars running horizontal above her left elbow. I recognized the cutting scars, made by a razor blade. I've detected the scent of cannabis on her, too. I saw a blunt in her opened purse when she forgot it in the bathroom once.
As Sour Milk bragged on about her daughters, I couldn't help but imagine her nuclear meltdown if she ever knew the truth. Her eldest was a lesbian and her second was a pot head with cutting scars. As for youngest daughter, I cringed at how Sour Milk pushed her into the limelight. And when the karaoke singing started, Sour Milk left the group (thank goodness) to look for Runner Up to sing.
The rest of the group scattered. Some to the games; others, karaoke. I decided to go out in front of the house for a little bit. When I got to the front, I found Oaf talking to Saint and two other guys. One of them I recognized as the spouse of one of the guests. The other worked for the Sheriff's Dept; him, I called Deputy; Deputy was also a martial arts instructor. With the recent popularity of cage matches and Ultimate Fighting Championship, a lot of idiots were signing up for martial arts courses. Oaf was one of those idiots. He was even wearing his Tap Out t shirt. He idolized Deputy as his instructor.
I walked up, nodded hello to them, and took in the current discussion. They were talking about gas prices and cars and the up coming action pack movies. Typical guy stuff. When the conversation stalled, everybody just stood there and looked at their feet. I jump started on a new topic. I asked Deputy, "So how're your students coming along? Taking any of them to tournaments?"
Deputy replied, "I've got some really great ones. In fact we just came back from a tournament last month." He went on to explain how well his team did and how much more they had to train to be stronger for the next match up.
Oaf jumped in and said, "Oh, man, you should see the video they took. Deputy kicked some fag's ass in under a minute! He knows a lot of ways to take down a man!"
Another reason why Oaf gets on my nerves is his blatant use of the word fag. Though he's said in some circles that he didn't have a problem with gay people, when he's drunk or around just a few guys, he starts making homophobic comments. Truth is, I think he is homophobic. But gay people have nothing to worry about; as much as Oaf brags about working out or taking martial arts classes, he tends to run away from confrontation.
I told the group that I was going inside to get something to eat. I also said if they hadn't eaten, they should come in with me. They told me they'd grab something later. So I returned back inside to find Mac and Apple by the stairwell.
Mac left to go to the bathroom, and Apple started to tell me about their recent home renovations. She talked about updated kitchen cabinets and new tiles. Then she talked about an addition.
"We've had a hot tub put in," she said.
"Oh, that's nice." I like hot tubs,"They're very relaxing."
"You should come by and try it out," she said.
"Sounds good; I just might." I thought she was being polite. Then she reached out and put her hand on my shoulder. It lingered there for a few seconds; then she slowly let her fingers slide down from my shoulder, pausing at my chest for a few seconds, before continuing their downward slide down the rest of my shirt. Her voice had dropped to a whisper,"You can come by and we can enjoy relaxing in that hot tub...have a little fun."
I was stunned. I think she just made a pass at me! "You're telling him about the hot tub, hon?" Holy crap! That was Mac speaking! How long had he been standing there! My heart was beating fast.
I played it cool, kept a calm face, "Oh, yeah, sounds like you guys've done some pretty cool things with your house."
Mac smiled at me and said, "Well, we'd love to have you over to check it out."
I thanked them for the invite and then excused myself to get something to eat. I needed to exit quickly. I saw that the aunts had finished dining and were now in the sitting room. The three dragons would hold court at the Mah Jong table. The open fourth player position would be for people with requests or seeking their counsel. I saw Hostess's little sister, Debbie, as the current fourth player. A few others were waiting their turn with the dragons, perhaps for chance at fortune, forgiveness, or a favorable hand in fate.
I grabbed something to eat and headed into the dining room; a few people were there. We talked as we ate. Then I headed out to the yard, where I sat and talked with some other guests. Afterwards, I headed into the sitting room and played some dominoes and a few rounds of poker. When I went to use the restroom, I found the ones downstairs occupied, so I went to use the ones upstairs. Though it was all ready passed 8 pm, the sun had just started setting. I looked out the window at the twilight after washing my hands. Then I scanned the whole neighborhood, marveling at how it seemed to look beautiful in the dimming sunlight.
A movement in the side yard caught my eye. I looked down and saw two figures by the privacy wood fence. They were hidden on each side by some tall bushes. One of those faces was blocked off by a tree branch; the other face I recognized as Deputy. I was going to leave when Deputy leaned towards the other person and kissed them. I didn't think much of it; then I saw Deputy do something that shocked the hell out of me. He got down and unzipped the other person's jeans, and took out a penis!
Holy crap! Deputy was getting busy with some dude! I thought about Oaf, and what would happen if he ever found out his idol Deputy was a peter eater. And boy did he eat it like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day! I wondered, was this one of the ways Deputy took down a man in cage matches? Because I don't believe I've ever seen this move in the Ultimate Fighting Championships. And just when I thought I couldn't be more shocked, the dude pulled Deputy up and pushed him against the fence. When the dude got down on his knees, his face became visible. It was Saint!
Son of a gun! Sour Milk's husband was going down on Deputy's night stick like it was a lollipop! The man was obviously a pro at this; and this Saint was definitely a sinner. Well, at least now I know which side of the family Cheerleader takes after. I knew it was wrong to spy on people in private moments (especially when it involves their very privates!), but I couldn't look away. It was like driving by an accident. You know you should drive on, but you can't help but slow down and assess the carnage! Summoning my will power, I closed the curtains and returned downstairs. I saw Sour Milk talking to one of the neighbors and I got this smug feeling. Well, I really should pity her; the woman had no clue about her family. But it sure was hilarious to find out that her perfect family wasn't so perfect after all. Then I saw Oaf and had the same smug feeling. It was too ironic; the man he looked up to belonged to a group that he looked down on. Oaf came up to me and pulled me off to the side wanting to talk.
We went back upstairs and into one of the guest rooms. He asked, "Dude, can you believe that they're saying I was rude today?"
I played stupid, "Who said you were rude today?"
"My sister in law told me that I was rude to her family," he said.
I raised an eyebrow, feigning ignorance. He continued, "She said that her cousins didn't feel welcomed and that I acted like they shouldn't even be here."
I wasn't sure if he was playing the fool or really didn't understand his faux pas. So I asked him, "Well, what exactly did you do to piss 'em off?"
"She said that when they first got here, I pointed them out and acted like I didn't want them here. But I didn't do that at all!," he said. "All I said to Hostess was I didn't know they were coming. This is stupid! What do you think I should do?"
I carefully considered my response. I asked, "Have you talked to the cousins?"
"No," he replied, "They won't even look at me!"
"Well,"I said,"try talking to them again. Explain that you never said anything about them not being welcomed; apologize for the misunderstanding."
"Apologize!?!," he burst out,"I've done nothing wrong! I'm not apologizing to them!"
Clearly, he wasn't getting the point. So I explained, "I'm not saying you did anything wrong," Well, he kind of did, "but all I'm saying is tell them what happened. And you're only sorry that they misunderstood the situation."
"Why should I apologize? I don't think it's my fault they think I offended them! It's not my fault they can't understand English!", he ranted. This was another reason why Oaf got on my nerves. He makes fun of people with heavy accents. I'm impressed by people who speak English as a second (or third, etc) language. But to Oaf, these people were beneath him; what made it worse was that he often put down Hostess's family for speaking with accents and making grammar errors. How convenient that he forgets that it was these people, his sister in law actually, who helped him get his current job.
"All I'm saying is to make sure the air gets cleared tonight with the cousins. Just let them know that you never said they weren't welcomed," I said.
Oaf replied, "Why should I have to clear the air? They're the ones with the problem!"
Clearly, I was getting no where. Oaf was being stubborn and stupid and I sure as hell am tired of trying to help him out. I should've just sold him out to the aunts. Let the dragons annihilate his pathetic ass! He's been with Hostess long enough to understand the right way to deal with in laws and a new community. Furthermore, he should've picked up by now what it meant to be a good host, especially in the South! I told him to do whatever he wanted, because really, I didn't know what else to say. Well, actually, I wanted to cuss him out and punch his lights out. But that would upset Hostess, so I just left to rejoin the party the downstairs. I found myself joining a guest for a karaoke duet, then playing a couple of hands of UNO and gin rummy and some dominoes. I also had one game of Mah Jong with the dragons.
No interrogation this time. But Snow Dragon made an observation, "So, you've been friends with Hostess since grade school."
"Yes. We go way back," I replied.
"Such loyalty," said Moon Dragon, "Such strong friendship. Nothing more?"
I knew what she was asking. How come I've never hooked up with Hostess, "Just really good friends," I paused, "She's my family. The one I got to pick. She's one of my best friends."
Jade Dragon said, "She's a lucky girl to have such a good friend."
I laughed, "No, I'm the lucky one to have such a great friend. She's a great person."
Jade Dragon then said, "She is a truly wonderful girl. She really cares about people. So strong and smart. So much potential."
I felt that there was something deeper in what Jade Dragon had said. I had thought about what would happen if the Dragons pass on to the next life. Who would take their place? Who would protect and keep order in the community? Whoever was going to ascend in their place was going to need great will and wisdom. They would also need the incredible strength forged from surviving unbelievable sorrow and tragedy. Then an incredible thought came into my mind, 'Did the dragons think Hostess had what it took to become a dragon?' Sure, Hostess was clever; strong; and she knew many secrets. But when it comes down to it, I wasn't sure if she had it her to destroy people with the severity and totality the dragons used in meting out judgments. Would she be able to make the tough choice when it mattered the most?
A few hours later, the party was over. The guests had left. I was helping Hostess and Oaf clean up most of the mess. Oaf then said he had taken my advice and approached the cousins to clear the air. He said that it was little awkward, but for now, he did make a sincere effort. Well, I thought to myself, maybe there was hope for him after all. Oaf then said he was tired and went to bed; this left Hostess and I to put up the food in the kitchen.
Afterwards, we sat outside on the deck and looked at the stars. I started our conversation, "I think Apple hit on me tonight."
She laughed, "You, too?"
"Why, she's done this before?", I asked.
Hostess explained, "She and Mac are swingers. They have people over when their kids are at camp or sleepovers."
I was speechless! "Did they ask you guys to join them?"
"Yes," said Hostess.
"What did Oaf say?," I asked her.
"Well, nothing," said Hostess. She looked at me and in a low voice said, "They only asked for me; I haven't told Oaf anything."
Holy crap! Mac and Apple were some kinky freaks! Too bad I don't do couples...anymore. It can get pretty complicated and messy, no matter how much fun it was at the beginning. I started laughing at the absurdity of what I had just learned. Hostess joined me in laughter. It's always the quiet ones!
When the laughter finally stopped, Hostess was quiet and she had a look on her face, as if she was pondering a hard choice. I thought about telling her what I saw with Deputy and Saint, but then decided not to say anything. Some secrets should never be shared. After sitting there in silence for a while, Hostess finally said, "I'm late."
"For what?," I asked.
She looked at me in the eyes and I saw her face full of worry; she said, "No, I mean I'm late. It's been almost a month now." She could see that I was still not grasping her meaning, so she continued, "I've haven't had my period for almost a month now."
Ewww, I thought. "Oh," I said. Then it dawned on me, "OH!", my eyes got a little wider.
She had a sad, weary smile on her face, "Oh, indeed."
I had so many questions. So many thoughts running through my mind. Was she or wasn't she? "Have you seen a doctor?"
"I've got an appt on Monday," she said. There was a heaviness in her voice. I could tell she had been under great stress dealing with this.
But in my head, some thoughts were starting to make some noise to get my attention. I pushed them aside and just sat there, enjoying the silence of the night and the beauty of the starry skies. Still, some of those thoughts could not be suppressed for they were urgent and alarming; I wondered if Hostess had told Oaf. Then I another terrible thought came unbidden, whose is it? I wanted to ask Hostess these questions and so much more; but I chose not to do it. She was all ready under a lot of strain. She would tell me what she wanted to tell me, and I would not press her for more. I was her friend, and she needed my support. And that's what I decided to do. No questions, no pressure; just be there for her. So, I told her, "Well, whatever you want to do, I'm here for you."
She looked me in the eyes again, and she squeezed my hand quickly, "Thanks." Then we sat there in silence and continued looking at the stars. The night was mostly quiet; a soft breeze was blowing in the yard. Most of the houses had turn their lights off. For now, the suburban jungle was quiet. The predators have had their fill for the evening. The hunters have retired to rest, to contemplate, to dream. The feast was over.