I sit down at the round, cloth-covered table and Harrison removes the silver lid from my warm plate.
“Your mother phoned today,” he mentions, moving to stand just behind me. “Your cousin Mildred is hosting her daughter’s first birthday celebration this Saturday, at the Potomac estate. Mrs. Mason’s exact words were: ‘I insist he attend, and I will personally come to retrieve him if he does not.’ ”
That’s my mother for you—Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy on the outside, Dirty Harry on the inside. When a direct order comes down, you really don’t want to disobey—unless you’re feeling lucky, punk. And punks are never lucky.
Before I dig in, I look over my shoulder, “Would you like to join me, Harrison?”
It’s not the first time I’ve asked recently, but his answer is always the same.
“The invitation is greatly appreciated, but if I accept, my father may disown me. And I’m rather fond of my father.”
I nod. “Go enjoy your own dinner, then. I won’t be needing anything further.”
With the slightest bow, he goes inside.
After a few minutes and a few bites, the quiet settles in—not even the crickets are out tonight. I don’t like silence any more than I like sitting still.
The four of us used to go out a lot after work. Dinner, drinks, sometimes dancing. But these days there are cribs to put together, kids to drive around, and wedding plans to make. There are other people I could hang out with—acquaintances, old school buddies, women who’d be thrilled to get my call. But those options just don’t seem worth the effort.
The silence feels stifling—itchy—like a heavy wool blanket.
So I stand up, grab my plate, and head inside. Because as awesome as my backyard is—dinner in front of the TV seems even better.
On Saturday, I have Harrison drop me at my parents’ estate about an hour after the party starts. He has some errands to run, so I tell him to go—with strict instructions to pick me up in exactly three hours.
It’s not that I don’t like my family, they’re great. But only in small doses. If I spend too much time with them . . . well, you’ll see.
My steps echo through the immense marble foyer. I pass the music room, the front parlor, the conservatory, the library where a portrait hangs of me at five years old, dressed in blue overalls and a cap—looking like the pansy-ass kid in the Dutch Boy paint advertisements but with dark hair. I’ve offered my mother the firstborn child I’ll probably never have to take it down—but she won’t budge. If Stanton, Jake, or Sofia ever lay eyes on it, I’m screwed.
At the back of the house there’s a bustling energy coming from the kitchen that you can feel more than hear—servants shuffling, refilling trays of champagne and caviar and carrying buckets of ice to keep the lobster and oyster table fresh.
Outside, there are tents and tables, a band, and a fully stocked bar with two bartenders. What there isn’t are streamers or shiny balloons, no clowns or magicians—even though this is supposed to be a kids’ party. Because in reality, this kind of party is for the two hundred adults milling about, chatting, shaking hands, kissing cheeks, and stabbing backs.
Yes, I said two hundred—just friends and family.
See, my father is the youngest of eight. My mother, the youngest of twelve. And both sides are in excellent health—they all live for fucking ever. Which means there’s nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, great nieces and nephews, and cousins galore—and the gang’s all here.
Besides good health, there’s another trait that’s strong in my family. One might say they’re . . . eccentric. Crazier than shit-house rats works too.
Let’s take my Aunt Bette, for example. She’s the woman in the tan dress, looking up into the branches of that maple tree—talking to the birds like a homeless woman in a park. She has four kids and she doesn’t speak to any of them—not for years. She prefers the company of her racing pigeons. I think she’s won awards.
It’s important to have a purpose in life. Boredom has killed more in my social class than cancer and heart disease combined. Because most people work for things like food, a house, and clothes, and working for those necessities instills drive and ambition. It gives you a reason to drag yourself out of bed in the morning.
But when your necessities are covered—when you literally don’t have to wipe your own ass if you don’t want to—what the hell do you do with yourself?
If you’re stupid, you do drugs, drink, or gamble to occupy your time. Boredom is a disease. Either you cure it doing something you love—or you die trying.
Then there’s my cousin Louis, a smarmy, short guy with a bad comb-over. Wealth turns some men into assholes, but even if he didn’t have two pennies to rub together, he’d still be an asshole. He was just born that way.
“Louis.” I shake his hand.
Notice, I don’t ask him how he’s doing—’cause he’s gonna tell me anyway.
“I’m doing great, man. I just closed this sweet real-estate deal. Prime location. I’m gonna tear the building down and turn it into a parking lot. My guy is serving an eviction notice to the old tenants—nuns and orphans or something.” He guffaws like an evil villain. “But that’s business, amiright?”
He doesn’t hear me—the roar of his narcissism drowns out everything but the sound of his own voice.
I notice his gaze settle on the ass of a brunette to my right. “Wow, Cynthia Beardsley grew up nice.” Then he glances at me. “Aunt Kitty get you married, yet?”