I went to a dinner party at my parents’ house tonight.
I wasn’t invited.
Only big deal art collectors and a big deal artist were invited.
My parents live one minute away from my rude yet adequate dwelling–my father’s former studio, just a pole building really.
The way I found out about the dinner party was that my mother was whining on the phone about having to cook again, after having had a dinner party last night, to which I also was not invited. The guests were the same art collectors. They bought a lot of stuff, you know.
She was having ribs tonight. I don’t eat pork. Maybe that’s why she didn’t invite me.
I decided to make an appearance anyway. I didn’t dress up: I wasn’t an invited guest. Jeans and a clean shirt, good enough for a “just dropped in.”
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence when I walked through the door. They were just sitting down. The big deal art collectors offered to make me a place at the table. No thank you, I smiled, I’ve just come by to say hi. The female art collector hugged me. So did her husband. The big deal local artist who can’t stand me and makes no bones about it, didn’t want to hug me but I hugged her just to piss her off. Don’t ask me why she can’t stand me. I don’t know and I don’t care.
My mother flew at me to try to hug me for the benefit of her invited guests: pretending to be glad to see me, as if I had just blown in from far away instead of down the dirt path. I sidestepped her.
My dad, of course, was ecstatic to see me, and showed it. That’s all I wanted. That’s all I came for. That, and to let Boo Radley make a public appearance.
And–I admit it–to make a small, silent statement: there is a daughter. She lives one minute down the path, but we don’t invite her…or speak about her. She’s disabled…..but we can’t say how, so we just don’t mention her. And we certainly don’t invite her.
I stayed three-quarters of an hour, enough to be polite. For table talk, my mother announced she had booked a massage with the new massage therapist in town. Big deal artist said she’d already been (of course). I asked her the details, what it cost. A dollar a minute. Maybe I could trade her, I said. Lots of massage therapists are happy to trade with me.
My mother snorted audibly(cringe). “What have you got to trade?” Acid dripping on the floor. Sssssssssss………
“Acupuncture,” I answered.
“What?” As if she hadn’t heard me the first time.
“Acupuncture, or a custom perfume.” My voice sounded hollow in my ears. The noises of the dinner party pounded. The woman rich art collector looked up sharply. She had heard. How could she not have? My mother’s voice is famous for its booming quality. She does not need a microphone.
I sat silent in my chair, which I had pulled up outside the inner circle of diners. Images flashed: little girl circulating the loud and laughing room with trays of hors d’oeuvre, smiling politely, speaking when spoken to and shutting up at the hard glance across the room. Back to the kitchen to reload the tray, careful to make an artful arrangement for the guests to dismantle one by one, or maybe by twos and threes if it was caviar on cream cheese.
Then help serve the meal, and sit quietly (“children are to be seen and not heard”) unless there happened to be one of my special adult friends present, in which case I was allowed to sit next to them and talk for a little while, as long as I was not “monopolizing” them. It’s important that children learn how to conduct themselves at dinner parties, especially when there are honored guests, so that they don’t embarrass their parents.
After clearing the table (“Thank you, dear”) I was expected to disappear to my room, which is where I wanted to be, while the adults repaired to the living room to get drunk.
I stood, carefully replaced my chair where I had found it, and put on my wraps. It’s still a bit chilly here, nights.
“Oh, are you leaving us?” cries the big deal art collector woman.
“You’re leaving?” says dad, tearing up. I can’t kiss the top of his bald head because my mother is swinging at me, trying for a fake hug, and he’s stuck on the other side of her. Leave it for tomorrow.
I smile and say goodbye, hope to see you again soon, making eye contact with the big deal art collectors. Fuck the big deal artist, she can’t stand me anyway. And she’s parked her gently ostentatious new car in an impossible place in the driveway. I have to make a 5-point turn to get around her.
Back in my pole barn, I feel like having a drink or two or three or four, but I know it will only give me a bigger headache. What about organizing some of this unbelievable clutter instead? Do something constructive, shake it off.
Leave it for tomorrow.
Pass the hors d’oeuvres, please.