The Visit. Or Staind, in A Flat.

Christine’s sister is coming to town. In the two years we’ve been dating, there have been multiple scheduled visits and threatened re-locations to our side of the country but none that actually bore any fruit. A few times a year, I’ll hear the second hand news that she’s talking of visiting again and C will be stressed for a little while before dismissing it entirely as just something we say like, “How are you?” It’s idle chatter with no intention of ever following through. I, for my part, try to be reassuring (but in retrospect have been possibly dismissive) with my “She can’t be that bad.”. Until last week, that is, when during the late morning coffee and news, the ominous text arrives. C’s face drops and all she says is “Shit.”

I have cleaned the house for two days, taking particular note of things that would otherwise be passed over: base boards, sink handles, the top of the vent hood. I even washed the mat under the trash can. I have rearranged the pantry. I have spent $125 on groceries and planned specific meals to show culinary aptitude and entice the senses. She’s scheduled to arrive at 7:30 p.m. and this is the first time we’re meeting. I really want this to go well and after three days of prepping I think I’m comfortable and ready. So, we wait….

Around 6:30, we begin to prep dinner. The wind has started to blow and the rain is threatening. There’s a storm coming from the west. Around 8:30 we eat, having put it off as long as we can. The weather alerts start; flash flooding, severe storms but it’s just sprinkling outside. The storm is not here yet. Close to 11pm, she arrives, dogs in tow. We greet each other and set about the task of unloading a month’s worth of clothing and supplies that have been crammed into a sedan for a four day visit. All of which immediately explode over an uncharacteristically very organized one bedroom apartment. The smaller dog immediately pees on the mat under the trash can.

Between frequent bouts of boorishly standing in the middle of the room staring into her smartphone and commenting mostly to herself (but in the attention-seeking visceral-reaction-feigning way of a fifteen year old), food and drink options are discussed. Dinner long being put away, it’s decided that a midnight tour of downtown is in order against C’s objections. It’s Monday night and most of downtown is closed but we find a patio that is at least serving drinks. The sister has wine, C has water and I, a coke. Halfway through the second glass of wine, the first challenge occurs:
“Do I make you nervous?”
– Okay, we’re opening lines here. Be it an asinine way to begin, we’re cutting to the quick. Now is the chance to plead my case.-
I quickly explain that, of course, I want to make a good impression and that I care about what C’s family thinks of me. (Any sensible man should know you don’t come between a woman and her family. It never really works out well.)
A brief speech ensues about how I will be judged scrupulously and harshly.
-Fair enough.-
*She tries to figure out how to Snapchat herself on the now dark patio.*

Day two:

The apartment has essentially been divided in two. The bedroom with our cat and living area for the dogs, bursting suitcases, ice chest, violin?, Etc. As we are making the morning coffee, the sister awakens to check her Facebook/Snapchat/whatever. She then proceeds to let loose a flurry of curse words over some perceived slight on social media just begging us to ask, “Oh, what’s wrong?” We do not oblige. Nevertheless, we are treated to a twenty minute explanation. The rain has also arrived.

We return to the restaurant from the previous night, as we have promised the calamari is the best in town. During the ride, we are treated to a dialogue turned soliloquy that sounded to me something like:
“Based on ‘The Bell Curve’those of US with higher intelligence just think differently. WE are a little bit crazy… Me. Me. Me. Something elitist. Me. Me. Me.”
– Man, I’m glad I’m riding in the back. Any one else get the impression I’m not a part of this “WE”. Wait, aren’t you a waitress?-
I would never, of course, say that out loud.

During and after our meal, I continue to try to bond:
“I, too, worked in food service as a younger man.”
*She orders wine.*
and break the ice:
“I read a report that says that the American intelligence quotient has dropped an average of 15 points because of social media.”
*She checks Facebook.*

At some point in the morning the conversation of substance use had come up and C put her foot down saying, “I don’t want you to get drunk while you’re here. No liquor and no marijuana in North Carolina.” I was impressed. She was calm but firm about her expectations. So, when C and I returned from the store with yet more ingredients for tonight’s dinner, she turned to me.
C: “What’s that smell?”
Me: “It’s marijuana.”
C: “What?”
Me: “Weed.”

Day Three:

It’s raining. It is pissing down. but the beast sleeps. Something we were able to ascertain during the ubiquitous ramblings about herself that she does not do. We decide to be quiet and let her sleep. She must need it.
-11:00 am…
12:00 pm…
1:30. 1:30 fucking pm. I cannot just sit in this room. I am showered. I am caffeinated. Damn the rain! Let’s go. Let’s go anywhere and I will buy you lunch. Just let her sleep and LET’S GO!!!-

The sister’s phone buzzes. A tired claw stretches from it’s blanket lair on the couch to snatch at the foul thing and stares red eyed at the screen... Okay that was unnecessary. She sits up and searches her phone for whatever post has somehow referenced her on whatever site. All available space being taken in the living room, I set up with my laptop at the kitchen bar and prepare myself for the long awakening. It starts again…
“Fuck that! She only knew him for six months!… Me. Me. Me. …based on the bell curve…. Me. Me. Me. Bach in A minor. Me….”
And then it happens. She looks right at me, dead in the eye and says, “Didn’t you say YOU PEOPLE’S IQ has been dropping? It’s just disturbing…”

-Bam. Done. Floored. I have just been slammed by the smartest waitress in the Midwest. Oh, FUCK this!!!! Stop. Breathe. Take out the trash. Just walk the fuck away.-
C must have seen my mouth open or something because she comes over and apologizes.

Later in the day, my resolve has returned. My efforts will be redoubled. She mentioned her car door does not open from the inside. I fix it. We common folk are good at that kind of thing. She mentions her dogs are stressed out and have not eaten. A few kernels of cat food on top of their own and they quickly finish their bowls. She plays violin. I throw out a few bars of Greensleeves on guitar and she takes the bait and plays a bit of it herself. I can do this! It’s happening!

But, alas, it was not to be. During the course of the night, I offered an opinion on a sensitive subject and was quickly and unceremoniously shut down. I went for another walk. In the rain. Being eaten alive by bugs, my clothes sticking and the weather so hot and humid that even under trees away from the rain I was still soaked from my own sweat. I was wrong. My advice was not warranted or wanted and on my return I would say just that. But for the time being, I would just walk in the rain.

Day Four (Independence Day):

The sun is shining! There are fireworks tonight. A matinee is planned for Man of Steel 3d. Today will not suck! A new tactic is devised. Noise is made. Conversations in the living room. Blinds are opened to let that sweet, sweet sunshine in.
10:30 am…
11:00 am…
12:00 pm. The TV goes on to watch the news.
She rises. It starts to rain.

Now I swear this happened:

  1. She takes the first shower of her stay. The sun comes out.
  2. We all go to the store together. It starts to rain.
  3. At the movie, I step out for a smoke and restroom break. The sky is completely clear. Warm, sweet sunshine. I take my time with my smoke.
  4. We all walk out of the theater together to the car. In the rain.
  5. We decide to grill kabobs outside, the rain having stopped. C and I sit outside in the sun while the sister sits inside checking Facebook. As she finally walks out to join us, fresh glass of wine in hand, the sky opens up and pours on our heads.

The rain eventually clears up enough to let us enjoy the fireworks from the top of a parking garage downtown though the lightening was nearly constant in the distance. I seemed to be the only one who noticed. To her credit, the sister actually watched some of the display between playing on her phone, taking “selfies” and playing some music which went nicely with the show. Today, was indeed, not sucking by comparison to the past few!

Back at the apartment, we were settling in for the night. A few crude comments had been made during the day so I was feeling rather safe with a bit of low brow humor when someone said, “..I’d be okay with it if I didn’t have to put anything in my mouth.”

-Okay, now in any other situation this is freaking golden. This is the setup of a lifetime! Everyone will have a chuckle. It will be “Well played, sir!” and I may even get a pat on the back. But I’m smarter than that, right? I know just what to do.-

I raised my hand and danced giddily, waiting to be acknowledged like the only kid in class who actually knows the answer. Once acknowledged, I simply lowered my hand, declined to proceed in deference to company present and grinned like the cat who ate the canary.
– There! Who among you could find fault in that? –

Ah, but no! It was immediately inferred what I may have been eluding to and taken the step further by assuming it was a dastardly act committed on one’s own sibling! I was quickly tied to a tree, flogged mercilessly about the body and fit to be hanged tongue-lashed thoroughly and with much effect.

I walked again. In the drizzling rain. I just kept walking. All the things I wanted to say blasting my brain and propelling me forward and away. I would find a hotel. I would just stay away. I had tried. It had long ago occurred to me that I did not fit in. I am not classically trained in ANYTHING. I have never had my IQ tested. There are no letters after my name. There are even times I’m forced to use Google to stay in the conversation (discreetly, of course). Some clubs just don’t want you to be a member, after all. Among all of these revelations one major thing shone like a beacon out of the anger that clouded my mind: I didn’t bring my ID.

Forced to return, I found everything quiet. No one was upset. This was standard practice, it seemed. Having defeated the foe in battle over the egregious insult, the victor could happily sit on the couch and resume checking her phone and working on the bottle of wine. I, on the other hand, had clearly silently slunk away to lick my wounds. I was dumbfounded. I retreated to the bedroom. Vanquished.

Ultimately, the conversation had to happen. I, of course, being the only one with any real stake in the outcome would have to initiate. And so it was.

Me: You don’t like me and I don’t like you and I hope some day that will change.
Her: I’m an insulting little person and have to have the last word with an extra dig at you.

Well close enough.

This morning the sun shone and she packed her car and drove away while I started typing my latest post.

2 comments on “The Visit. Or Staind, in A Flat.

  1. Karen says:

    This is hilarious! I hate family visits. You captured the pain perfectly.

    I really enjoy your writing style.


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