Note: contains references to certain drugs and alcohol
What in the hell just happened? I thought.
I look around the dining table. No one is moving from their seat.
Geez, what is going on?
No one has even looked up from their plates. Time seems to have taken pause. I can only hear the deafening sounds of everyone’s utensils clinking, scraping against their plates. Other than that, nothing, silence.
My fork lifted halfway to my mouth now standing open between bites. My eyes wide open with surprise darting back and forth from person to person. Nothing, just nothing!
I think about shouting. What in God’s name is happening here?
Silence and then clink, clink goes a fork against another plate.
I must be imagining all of this!
Stunned, I’m turning my head back and forth in slow motion looking at each person seated at the table. I stop as my gaze falls upon the empty chair directly across from me.
Nah, I’m imagining things.
All the while wanting to violently shake my head to clear an apparent brain fog that is clouding my vision and obviously everyone else’s brain is clouded with the same fog! I fight the urge to shake my head and refocus on the empty chair across from me. I know damn good and well there was a woman sitting in that chair across from me when we started eating!
Where in the hell did she go..?
Just an hour ago, I had arrived at my girlfriend’s house. I parked my car in their driveway. And began making my way to their home’s front door.
Why am I nervous?
You’ve been here before.
This is not the first time you’ve met her family.
What is wrong with me?
Stop talking to yourself.
The butterflies tickling my insides, I knocked on their front door. A pause, I knock again.
“Come in.” sounds from inside.
I reach down and start to turn the doorknob. I notice my hand is warm and sweaty against the cool, metal of the doorknob.
Geez! Calm down!
The wooden door swings free from the jam and glides easily open on its hinges. The warm air from inside the house rushing over the coolness of the skin on my face as I step through the doorway. I look up briefly at my girlfriend’s family gathered inside before quickly turning away from them to close the door. I pause, gather my thoughts and turn around.
“Hello everyone.” was all I could manage to get out.
Why are they staring at me?
Oh God, surely I don’t have a booger peeking out?
Their not staring at you. Quit being silly. And you don’t have a booger, you checked in the car. Remember..?
Get it together, you’ve met them all before.
It’s just dinner.
Dang man, stop it!
Pull yourself together!
Move. That’s right, move your feet.
I walk toward my girlfriend’s family gathered in and around the bar of the kitchen that separates it from the dining room area. It seemed as though it was taking forever to walk from the front door through the spacious living room with vaulted ceilings to the dining room area tucked just beneath the balcony that overlooked the living room.
“Thank you for inviting me.” I said, to know one in particular; but looking at her Mom.
“You’re very welcome,” her Mom said, “we are glad you could join us this afternoon.”
“The food smells delicious,” I compliment.
“Oh, he’s just trying to brown-nose since he’s new around here,” my girlfriend’s Dad says.
“Really Dad,” my girlfriend spouts back, “you be nice,” as she appears from the hallway beside the kitchen and walks up to greet me beside the dining room table.
“Whatever,” he retorts. As he walks away from the kitchen bar toward the couch in the living room.
“Oh, don’t pay him any attention,” says my girlfriend. “He is just pouting because Mom wouldn’t fix his favorite chicken wings for dinner today, right Mom?”
“He’ll get over it,” her Mom replies, “or he better;” as she tries a little stare down with him from the kitchen to the living room.
My girlfriend and I take a seat at the dining room table, settings already arranged for dinner. Her Mom is finishing up with her food preparation in the kitchen. Her Dad is on the couch taking in the football game playing on the television in the far corner of the living room. And her Aunt up to this point has just been enjoying her glass of red wine at the bar, passively flipping through a magazine seemingly disinterested in the back and forth banter.
At the dining table, my girlfriend and I talk about some high school drama making its way around our social circle rumor mill that happened to some of our friends earlier in the week. I notice that her Aunt still hasn’t really moved or spoken to anyone. Just then, her Aunt flips the magazine closed on the bar and starts to slide from her perch on the bar stool.
“Sis, you have any more wine?” she asks.
My girlfriend’s Mom, taking something from the oven says, “Not for you.”
“What does that mean? Not for you,” her Aunt attempts jokingly as she slightly steadies herself with her hand against the bar.
“It means, not for you. How many glasses of wine have you had already?” I hear from the kitchen.
“I’ve only had two small glasses, the bottle you gave me earlier was already half empty Sis.”
“Oh boy, here we go,” whispers my girlfriend to me, “this should be interesting.”
Sitting at the table, listening to their conversation and holding on to what I wasn’t sure was a secret or not. I had met my girlfriend’s Aunt a few times before this and in different settings. The “what” that I didn’t know for certain was a secret or not; was that she liked to occasionally indulge in one of mother nature’s finer herbs, m-a-r-i-j-u-a-n-a. Yep; weed, pot, grass, reefer, chronic; well, you get the point. So as I just heard her claim that she had only two glasses of wine. She may be be telling the truth about the wine, but maybe not so much about what she may have partaken of during her drive over today. The combination of wine and finer herb may better explain her being steadied against the bar, but it was just my thought.
“Sis, come on. It’s not like I’m drunk or something. I just wanted a little more wine.”
From the kitchen I hear, “I just picked up a nice red wine to go with the roast beef for dinner. You can have a glass of it with our dinner. But first, come over and help me start bringing the meal to the table."
“Cool Sis! I’ll be glad to help. I’m starving and thirsty.”
I looked at my girlfriend to see if what her Aunt said had registered with her, but she was watching the game on the television. Either she had not heard her Aunt or she chose not to acknowledge it.
Starving and thirsty; I bet you are! As I kind of chuckled to myself, my girlfriend looking over at me.
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh, nothing. Just got a kick out of your Mom and Aunt.” I said.
“She always loves to see if she can get my Mom going.”
“So all in good fun?” I asked.
“Most of the time.” she answered.
I figured what might or might not be her Aunt’s secret, wouldn’t hurt any of them if they didn’t know.
“Thank you again for inviting me to dinner,” I said as everyone got seated at the table.
“There he goes trying to brown-nose again,” said her Dad.
“Hush,” her mom said to him, “be nice!”
“I thought I was being nice,” he shot back at her while looking at me with his toothy grin.
She leaned over closer to him, “Be nice!”
“Okay, okay. Everyone be nice. We heard ya. I’m starved and thirsty; oh yeah, where’s that wine?” asked her Aunt.
I glanced over at her Aunt that was sitting directly across from me at the table. She was too busy pouring her glass of wine to notice my inquisitive look. Plus I was thinking, how did I end up sitting in the middle, between my girlfriend and her Mom? Just chill and eat.
My plate full of medium-rare roast beef; mashed potatoes with gravy, seasoned green beans and a buttered roll looked absolutely delicious! I get so excited about good food!
Stay calm, elbows off the table, napkin in your lap...Act like you have some raising, you don’t want to embarrass your Mama or yourself.
“Dig in,” prompts my girlfriend.
That was the last words I heard before it happened.
Her Aunt, sitting across from me, had poured that glass of wine and was sipping slowly on the long-stemmed glass; when I looked over at her. She hadn’t said one word since her declaration to her sister that she had heard her about everyone being nice and asking for the wine. With curiosity, I watched her set her almost empty wine glass on the table, her fingers gently loosening their grip on the stem of the glass. Then, her hand free of the glass; I watched as her hand slid silently off the edge of the dining table into her lap. Her eyelids droop slightly, her shoulders go slack and her head leans back against the high back of her chair. Suddenly, her hand comes from below the table, grabs her fork and leans up over her plate to take a bite of mashed potatoes. The sudden movement startled me and I was afraid she may have caught me staring, so I quickly averted my eyes back to my plate.
Did y’all not see that? I ask myself laughingly.
When I look back up, she’s gone!
What the hell? Where did she go?
Laughter pierces the silence that had been holding the audience at the table. I must have averted my eyes back to my plate longer than I thought after my girlfriend’s Aunt had taken her last bite. Because much to my surprise, in that brief moment; she had gone as limp as a dish rag and slid right out of her chair to the cozy confines of the floor under the dining room table. The victim of a self-induced nap.