Thursday, December 16, 2004

Why Am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways

Eleven: Do You Ever Wish You Were An Orphan?

Becky was a beauty from South Alabama
Her Daddy had a heart like a nine pound hammer
Think He even did a little time in the slammer
What was I thinking?
She snuck out one night and met me by the front gate
Her daddy came out waving that twelve gauge
We tore out the drive, he peppered my tailgate
What was I thinking?

Oh I knew there'd be Hell to pay,
But that crossed my mind a little too late!

Cuz' I was thinking 'bout a little white tank top sitting right there in the middle by me
I was thinking about a long kiss, man just gotta get goin' where the night might lead
Well I know what I was feeling But What was I thinking?
But What was I thinking?

What was I thinking?

By the county line the cops were nipping on our heels
Pulled off the road kicked it to 4 wheel
Shut off the lights, tore through a corn field
What was I thinking?
Out the other side she was hollerin' "Faster!"
Took the third road had the radio blastin'
Hit the Honky Tonk for a little close dancin'
What was I thinking?

Oh I knew there'd be Hell to pay,
But that crossed my mind a little too late!

Cuz' I was thinking 'bout a little white tank top sitting right there in the middle by me
I was thinking about a long kiss, man just gotta get goin' where the night might lead
Well I know what I was feeling But What was I thinking?
But What was I thinking?

What was I thinking?

When a mountain of a man with a "Born to Kill" tattoo
tried to cut in I knocked out his front tooth
Ran outside hood sliding like Bo Duke
What was I thinking?
I finally got her home at half past too late
Her daddy's in a lawn chair sittin' in the driveway
Put it in park as he started my way,
What was I thinking?

Oh What was I thinking?
Oh What was I thinking?

And she gave a come and get me grin,
And like a bullet we were gone again!

Cuz' I was thinking 'bout a little white tank top sitting right there in the middle by me
I was thinking about a long kiss, man just gotta get goin' where the night might lead
Well I know what I was feeling But What was I thinking?
But What was I thinking?

What was I thinking?

What was I thinking?
-Dierks Bentley

Do you ever wish you were an orphan? I mean seriously contemplated it? Not only do your parents pass down their traits, both good and bad, shape your personality and generally mess you up before you even enter into your own “life”, but they can be the bane of your existence, the thorn in your side and a general embarrassment at some moments. There are those times when you wish that the floor would just open up and swallow you, or, better yet, swallow them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents (I have to say that, right?), but those things that you might just roll your eyes at when you are a teenager can come back and haunt you in your adult life.

And, it’s not just about your parents. The parents of the person that you think you want to spend the rest of your life with can have a very chilling effect on your relationship. You know, no matter what and who you are, you are seeking approval from them. You want to impress. That first impression is very important. It is a lasting impression and can be the thing that haunts you forever. And ever and ever and ever. Think “eternity”.

I recall meeting Ms. C. The day she was to arrive I was deathly sick. I was only on the second day of having the flu. The house was a mess. We had no furniture. My bed was still a mattress on the floor because Carlos, Jason (yeah, he wasn’t always an asshole) and Craig had sanded and painted the head and footboard for me and they were still “curing”. I had insisted on Ms. C coming to stay at Lisa and my apartment because she was going to stay at Carlos’ with the three other guys that lived there and, having been there, I thought that was the worst idea possible. Let’s just say that I swore to never go back there unless they scrubbed that black moldy crap out of the tub, toilet and sink. We’re not just talking a little mold we’re talking “how the hell do you guys take a shower in that thing?” Besides, I was trying to impress.

I know…what the hell was I thinking?

So, there I was, sick as a dog, the house in need of a general sweeping and vacuuming, in desperate need of furniture, which we were supposed to buy that day and barely able to remain conscious for more than an hour. Carlos came over at around 9 AM and brought me orange juice and cold medicine since I was out. He came into the bedroom, knelt down beside the bed and, very solicitous, helped me take the two gel capsules and the glass of orange juice. Lisa came in and told me not to worry about anything she and Carlos would clean up the house and then go to the store to pick up the furniture. I remember lying back and going to sleep.

About three hours later, I woke to the sound of laughter in the living room, stumbled out and quickly found a seat on the cooler sitting by the wall so I could lean against it. My head was kind of muzzy and everything seemed extremely funny. I remember not being able to sit straight up. I kept rocking back and forth. Everyone was laughing about that, too. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so good. Lisa helped me weave my way back to the bedroom and lay down on the mattress. Carlos came in with two more gel capsules and some orange juice. I drank them down dutifully and fell back on the mattress.

“Oh, God…His mom’s going to be here and I am so damned sick.” I moaned, feeling sweaty, icky and just down right rotten.

“Don’t worry, Kansas. Carlos, Craig, Jason and I have it under control. We’ve got the sweeping and mopping done, the bathroom is clean and all the dirty dishes are in the dishwasher. It’ll be fine.” She was always in such a good mood. Sometimes it was so freaking annoying.

“Kat, you want anything from the store when we go?” Carlos was still being the nice solicitous boyfriend.

I wanted to answer, “yeah, a new head”, but I don’t think it was that funny even then. “Yeah, I need new sheets for the bed. These sheets are old and needing a wash. Can you guys get some? Something white or black or whatever. I don’t care.” I really didn’t, because I could feel myself drifting off to sleep again.

“Okay, Kansas. Craig is going to stay here and get some sleep while we go to the store. Just yell if you need something.” Lisa said as she walked out of the room.

“Ish okay.” That’s the last I remember for about two hours.

I woke up, sweating profusely, my hair matted to my head and my heart pounding. Something was very wrong and I couldn’t figure it out. I could feel my heart beating in my toes and my fingers and it was in quadruple time. I heard the phone ringing which is what must have woke me up. I tried to call for Craig, but all I heard was snoring. I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t get up off my knees, so I got on my hands and knees and crawled into the hallway outside of the kitchen, still calling for Craig who only answered with snores. I answered the phone, “Hello?”

To this day, I have no idea who was on the phone or what I was agreeing to. I just remember “uh-huh. Uh-huh. No. Okay.” I hung the phone up and sat back on my ankles for a few moments trying to collect myself. I tried to use the wall to get up, but I couldn’t even pull myself up. I crawled over to where Craig was still snoring, “Craig,” I croaked, “Craig, wake up. I need help.” I tried to shake him awake, but he just kept snoring. I think the house could have burned down and he’d still be asleep. So much for being a help. Must be all those nights sleeping with the noisy ship as a background. They learn to sleep through everything.

I was starting to believe that I was having an allergic reaction to the medicine and I didn’t even know what kind I had taken, so I crawled into the kitchen, reached up on the counter and grabbed the box. It was red. I tried to read the small print on the back, allergic reactions: dizziness, heart palpitations, rash. Well, I had two out of three, so I crawled over to the waste basket and tossed it into the trash, then I crawled back to the bedroom and collapsed on the mattress. My heart was still pounding and, as I lay there, I felt like I was levitating off the bed.

I have to tell you, for several moments I was very afraid. I thought I was going to die actually. I could feel tears streaming down my face and the pitiful feeling of dying while somebody slept on in oblivion in the living room and the rest of them were out having a good time shopping. I don’t know how long I was like that, but finally I heard the front door open and Lisa, Jason and Carlos came in, laughing. I started crying some more in relief. Somebody was there and I wouldn’t die alone.

Carlos came into the room with a big grin on his face carrying a bag with the new sheets in it and froze in the doorway just as I heard Lisa say, “Who threw the medicine in the trash?”

Carlos dropped the bag and came over to me, “Kat? What’s wrong?” How often was this poor bastard going to have to ask me that in this relationship anyway? I couldn’t answer because I was crying so much. “Lisa, something’s wrong with Kat,” he yelled to her.

Lisa came into the bedroom and started asking me what was wrong. She was carrying the box and I pointed to it and gasped out, “Medicine. Something’s wrong. Allergic. Something.” I couldn’t hardly formulate any words my mind was so confused and muzzy.

Lisa started reading the box and Carlos brought me a wet washcloth to wash my face. “Carlos, how many of these were you giving Kansas?”

He looked confused for a moment, “Well, I gave her two at 9 AM and two at about 1. Why?” He stood up and walked over to her to look at the box, too.

Lisa slugged him hard, “You bonehead. You just overdosed her. It says you’re to only take one every 24 hours. Kansas, are you okay? Do you want to go to the hospital?”

Carlos threw his hands up, “I just gave her what I take.” He was looking very embarrassed and very worried.

“Well, doh, you’re only about a foot taller and 90lbs heavier, you bonehead. Kansas, what do you want to do? You want to go to the hospital” She came over and knelt down beside the bed, helping me wipe the tears off my face because my fingers were all fumbly.

Honestly, I think I was coming down off the cold medicine induced high by that point. The pounding heart and acute feeling of levitating had started to dissipate. Besides, his mom was due in anytime and I did not want her first impression to be me in a hospital gown with my ass sticking out the back. Of course, later I realized that it probably would have at least gotten me the sympathy vote. “No. Just sleep. Come wake me up in an hour.” I couldn’t really put together anything more than a few words. “Phone rang. I don’t know who. Tried to get Craig. He kept sleeping.” I could feel the desperate need for sleep coming over me.

“Okay. Just close your eyes and we’ll come in and check on you.” Lisa was going out of the room as she spoke.

“Lis…Lisa!” I was trying to yell, but it came out like a whisper. She turned back and I said, “Throw crap away,” lifting my hand the two inches it would come off the bed and pointing to the box.

“Okay.” I heard her walk into the other room and yell at Craig something about supposed to be looking out for me and him moaning about the lack of sleep from his recent night shift.

Carlos was still kneeling by the bed looking very worried and contrite, “I’m sorry, Kat. I didn’t know. But look, I bought the sheets you told me to get.” He took them out of the bag, but I don’t think they really registered with me. All I kept thinking as I drifted off too sleep was what a fucking mess this was. I was supposed to meet his mom for the first time and he fucking over doses me. Now I couldn’t even formulate a freaking sentence. What the hell kind of screwed up Murphy’s Law of first impressions was this? I was going to be nervous enough without being a mess. He was going to owe me big time.

They let me sleep for two hours while they brought in the furniture and set it up. Finally, Lisa woke me and asked what I wanted to do. I kept running through the list of things that had to be done in my nearly monosyllable sentences and she kept assuring me everything was fine. Carlos was going to leave in an hour to get his mom. I told her I wanted to get a shower and she and Carlos helped me into the bathroom, got me into the shower where I promptly set down in the tub and let the water run over me. Strangely, I was not embarrassed to be naked in front of both of them. Frankly, I was so messed up I probably could have been naked in front of the pope and not given a hoot.

While I was in the shower, Carlos and Jason put the bed together and made it, including military corners on the blankets and sheets. Carlos came back and helped me get dressed. Thank God I had selected and ironed everything the day before when I was still human. He went to get his mom and I stumbled into the living room where I sat like a dope on our new furniture kind of staring into nothingness. I decided I had to eat something since it had been almost 24 hours and I thought that a sugar boost would help me get it together. I shuffled like an alzhiemer’s patient to the fridge, grabbed one of those little containers of pudding out of the door and ate it with some relish.

I shuffled back into the kitchen and was throwing the container away when the apartment door opened and Carlos came in with his mom. Everyone went into the little foyer and was shaking hands and getting introduced. I shuffled forward to do the same, but, honestly, my main thought was, “don’t fall down.”

“Mom, this is Kat, the one I told you about.” He had his arm around his mom and put his arm out to put around my shoulders, which was a good thing because I might have fallen down. “She’s been a little sick.” Yeah, he conveniently leaves out the part where he almost killed me.

“Hi,” was about all I managed to do. No hand shake, no nothing. I realized, even in my doped up state, that his mom was sizing me up and I was pretty sure I was coming out waaaaay below par. Of course, that could have been the drugs speaking. Probably not.

Then, everyone got busy helping her put her luggage in my newly cleaned bedroom with the newly painted bed and brand new sheets. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and shuffled down the hallway, refusing assistance. When I was done and standing at the sink, I looked up in the mirror and I remember having the worst shock of my life. My skin was pasty, my hair was still damp, my eyes were glassy and, worst of all I had chocolate pudding on both sides of my mouth turning it up at either end in a bizarre chocolate smile.

Two thoughts went through my mind: “Please God, can the floor open up and swallow me right now” and “I can’t believe none of those assholes told me I needed to wipe my face.”

Yep. Just about the worst possible introduction to my boyfriend, possible soul mate’s mother I could have imagined. I was looking like a druggy and sounding like one, too. The only good thing about it was that the angst gave me a little more pep towards recovery, but even that wasn’t much. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my shit together that night. The drugs had kicked my ass. I just vaguely recall sitting there at the dinner table picking at my food and barely responding to questions.

Lord, please, what had I done to deserve this?

Later, through the truth and honesty part of my relationship with my friend Lisa, she had to tell me that Ms. C asked them what was really wrong with me and made some indication like maybe I was not right in the head. Carlos apparently did not want to fess up to his part in making me a dope for the evening, but Lisa, my friend and good hearted person that she was, explained that I was recovering from the flu and that Carlos had overdosed me. I don’t think she believed her until the second day when I recovered enough to be halfway intelligent and form more than two word sentences. Until then, I’m sure she was wondering what sort of mentally challenged woman her son had hooked up with.

What a lovely first impression.

Well, you know, it only gets better. Remember me talking about wishing to be an orphan? On more than one occasion? Yeah, he was going to suffer the trials and tribulations of parental meetings as well, I just didn’t realize that I would have to get a few more lumps of embarrassment myself.

Maybe, that’s not necessarily true. I did have a forewarning of what was to come, but, like all invincible youth, I thought that it wouldn’t happen. The angst and embarrassment that I was imagining. My parents would want to be happy for me, right? Nobody is going to do something to embarrass me, right?

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive: ourselves that is.

Did I mention that my dad was a police officer? That we was semi-retired at that point, but he still had some serious issues left over from his police days. For instance, an intense and deeply abiding dislike for “Mexicans” as he called them amongst a few other colorful and derogatory words. Yep. My dad was a bigot. It didn’t matter how many generations somebody’s family had been in the US, if they had an Hispanic name, they were very low on his list of people that he wanted his daughter to meet, much less date or marry.

That’s where we were. Carlos and I had been going out for about six months when he started talking about getting married. That was another one of those, “Oh, shit” moments. I had just gotten used to being a “couple”. The permanent thing had scared the crap out of me, but I sucked it up. I didn’t cry that time. I was so happy. My only thoughts were that he needed to meet my family and that I wanted to wait to get married until we knew where he was going to be stationed. He had gotten a promotion to an E6, Petty Officer First Class and his enlistment would be up in a few months. He was considering his options of re-enlisting, which seemed to be what he was going to do and we talked about what duty stations he might have and what we would need to do.

There was no official “declaration” or “asking”. Just a subtle change in referencing our situation and comments like, “when we’re married”.

Well, I really hadn’t told my family that I was seeing anyone that seriously. I was 1200 miles away and felt that I did not have to tell them anything. I was an adult and they’d know when I felt like it. Riiiggght.

Carlos and I planned on going to meet my parents. My parents were divorced as you recall. My dad had left the sheriff’s department and moved to Mena, Arkansas to open a small restaurant there. Now, you’d have to know that Mena was about population 540 when the cows came back from winter pasture. It was also the first town I ever visited whose population was completely white. No minorities what so ever. None.

My mom was living in Kansas City and we talked about how she could come down to Arkansas and stay in the motel there, not far from the restaurant. It had been nearly five years since the divorce and my parents were able to speak to each other without threatening to do each other harm, so I thought we would be safe. Carlos was going to go down to Texas for two weeks to visit his mom and grandma then he would drive up to Arkansas to meet my parents.

I called my mom first to tell her the news. She was a little taken aback when I said I was bringing somebody home for her to meet since I hadn’t mentioned dating anyone, but, in general, she seemed really happy for me and ready to meet him. She only paused a moment when I said his name was “Carlos”. Of all the names my parents would have thought any future mate for their daughter would have had, I think “Carlos” was pretty far down the line. I think “John” or “Michael” or “Steve” or something would have been preferable. Actually, I don’t think, I know.

I called my dad and the conversation was a fore teller of the future.

“Dad, I was just calling to let you know that I’ll be coming down there in about three weeks.” Pause, “Uh-huh. I’ll be there for a four days.” Pause, “Yeah, Lisa and I are going to drive down. First we’re going to spend a few days in Illinois with her family, then we’re going to stop in KC to see mom for a day or two and then we’re going to drive down to see you all before we come back to Philly.” Pause, “Yeah, it’ll be great.” Pause, “Of course I’ll bring my guitar. It’ll be great.” Pause, “Ummm…one thing I wanted to let you know, somebody is going to come down and meet me there, somebody I want you to meet.” I was starting to feel nervous, then.

“Oh, there is, huh?” I could picture him going into “super cop dad” mode right then, squinting his eyes and smoking his cigarette.

“Yes. I’ve been seeing him for sometime and we thought it was time for each of us to meet our families.” Get the hint?

“So, what’s he do for a living?” No “what’s his name”, “how did you meet”, etc. Straight for the important stuff. Is he going to be able to support me in the manner that my father thinks I should become accustomed to.

“He’s in the navy. He’s a First Class Petty Officer.” I was pretty proud of the guy. Several of his friends were still floating around Second Class.

“Where’s he from?” This was interrogation time, for sure.

“Texas.” I was starting to act like a criminal and only give the least amount of information to the questions.

“What part of Texas?” Did it matter? I told him the city, he was quiet for a second and then he said, “Is he a Mexican?” in a tone somewhere between surprise and disgust.

“What?” Honestly, I had forgotten all about my dad’s feelings about certain minorities in my happy nervousness to be telling him that I had met someone.

“ I asked if he was a Mexican. He’s a g*d damned spic, isn’t he?” He was yelling into the phone and I was starting to get angry.


He cut me off, “He’s a spic. What’s his name?”

“His name is Carlos,” I practically yelled into the phone, “And he’s not a “spic” nor a “Mexican”. He’s an American and his family has been in this country long before ours was.” Now I was mad as hell. All those stupid little things my dad used to say about the people he arrested and the little derogatory names he’d used, although sparingly in our presence as children, started coming back to me. My dad was a bigot. He might have Hispanic or black friends, but anyone outside of his sphere was “no good” and subject to those names.

“He’s Mexican, no matter how you say it. Mexican’s aren’t good for anything, but getting drunk and beating their wives. I don’t know one of them that ever held down a steady job.” Of course he didn’t. He was a cop for god’s sake and that’s whom he knew, the criminal element of our society and that’s how he judged people. Don’t get me wrong, he had a name or two for white criminals as well, but there he was, yelling into the phone and making me miserable. Making me wish that I were an orphan.

“For the last time, he’s not a “Mexican”. He’s Hispanic, but he was born and raised in Texas. He also has a job, doesn’t get drunk and has never raised his hand to me. If this is how you’re going to be, then you can forget it. I won’t be coming down there. I’ll just go to Kansas City and we’ll visit with mom.” I was so angry I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I couldn’t believe my dad was going to be like that.

“Now wait just a minute, …” he was trying to get control of the situation again.

“NO! You wait a minute. I am not going to bring him down there if this is how you’re going to act. You are not going to embarrass me. You are not.” Oh, how little do we understand our parents, “You don’t know anything about him. He’s a nice guy. I mean seriously, you think I just went down to the local barrio and picked up some guy off the corner?” Philly had its version of the “barrio”, but it was Puerto Ricans mostly.

He was quiet for a moment and then he said, “Alright. Alright. If you say he’s a nice guy, he’s a nice guy. I want to meet him, but I don’t have to like it.” Now he was turning back into the “dad that will not like any guy that I bring home because I am his daughter” that I had originally expected to have to over come.

Still, I was cautious. “I don’t know dad. I’ll talk to him and see if he still wants to come down, but I’m not guaranteeing that we will.” Stick that in your cigarette and smoke it.

Another quiet moment and then he said, “What did you say he did for a living?”

“He’s a Petty Officer, First Class in the Navy.”

“Well, I wished the bastard had been washed overboard.”

I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to say for a minute, “You know what? This conversation is over.” And I hung up the phone.

I was so damned angry. I couldn’t believe that this was the same man who had taught us to be respectful and help people. I guess that only applied if they were white and I just didn’t know it. Honestly, the fact that Carlos was Hispanic had never crossed my mind as something I had to classify him as. He was Carlos. He was in the Navy. He was the guy I was in love with. That about summed up my list of classifications. Having that conversation with my dad really made me miserable, because, I knew that I had to say something to Carlos about changing our plans and he’d want to know why and, I was never that good at lying.

I finally relayed the problem to Carlos and told him we would change our plans. His response was, “No, we’re not.”

“What?” I was busy going on about where we could stay in Kansas City and had nearly missed that comment.

“I said, we’re not going to change our plans. I’m going to meet your dad.” Not that he had never displayed any stubbornness before, but that pretty much shocked me.

“You don’t have to do that. If he’s going to be that way, then it’s just too bad for him.” I could be stubborn, too.

“No, we’re going to go down there. He just wants to make sure that his daughter is going to be taken care of and I’m going to make sure that he knows it.” Now he was standing with his hands on his hips while I paced around.

“Carlos, I am not going to let him embarrass me or insult you. I’m not going to put up with that.” Now I was standing with my arms crossed and we were staring at each other, trying to get the other to back down.

“Look, I’ve been called worse things before. I’m not going to cut and run because your dad thinks the worst. If I don’t meet him, he’ll just think it even more. I want you to call your dad and tell him that we’re coming, okay?” He walked over and put his arms around me crossed arms and all, and rested his chin on the top of my head.

I was torn between extreme pride and extreme angst. I mean, we’re talking about the two men that I loved, even if the one man, namely my father, had suddenly turned into a stranger and had made me angry, I still loved him. He was my dad, warts and all. For a minute or two, I thought it could be okay. If there was one thing my dad admired, from whomever, it was guts. Maybe he’d be happy just to see Carlos’ “guts” in theory and not literally.

I arranged to make the trip. My dad tried to remain civil, but his last comment was, “There will be no “co-habiting” under my roof. You and Lisa can stay here, but he’s got to stay some place else.”

Fine. I made my brother find the info to the local motel down there. I didn’t know what it was like, but I figured if he was staying there, I could go over there, too.

About a week before the trip, he started talking about bringing his mom and grandma up with him. His parents had never married and he really didn’t know his own dad, so there was no issue there, but I had this dread awful picture in my mind of the first meeting and I did not want to have that happen in front of his family. Even if I felt that his mom disapproved of me, she never expressed it publically. I was not sure we were going to get that sort of respect from my dad.

We argued about that for several days before he left for Texas. I was adamant that he not bring his mom and he was adamant that they had to meet sometime. I insisted that it should be AFTER my dad met him and was convinced that he was a nice guy (and hopefully would over come this bigot thing; at least in this case). When he was leaving, I made him promise to call me in Kansas City, where I would be with my mom, before he left from Texas. I figured I would know better then what he was doing with his mom and possibly head it off.

I was stupid. He was waaaaay more stubborn than I thought.

Lisa and I went on to Illinois to visit her father. We drove across country, straight through, no stops except for gas, food and bathroom. She took a very unappealing picture of me sleeping, my head against the glass, my mouth open, definitely snoring and quite possibly drooling. What are friends for?

The only down side was that Lisa had given her apartment keys to her boyfriend, John. I can’t really lie, John I barely tolerated. Mostly because he was a bum and a mooch. He never had any money and Lisa was always paying for their beers. He was in the Navy and lived on the ship, but he never had any money. I admit, when I first met him, I thought he was a nice enough guy, but you know what they say about being close to someone, they either grow on you or you get a total disgust. I was quickly getting to “total disgust”. He was under orders to not invite all the ship over for parties while we were gone. His friends were not as respectful as most of ours about our things.

We spent four days in Illinois and then went on to Kansas City where we spent three days with my mom. We even went to a local club there called Guitars and Cadillacs. Today the club is called “The Beaumont Club”. It is still a country and western place, but it caters to the urban and very young set. Finally, we drove down to Arkansas. My mom was coming with us and she was planning to stay in the motel as well. Just one big happy family.

Carlos had called me before we left. We argued again about bringing his mom to visit. This part of the trip was feeling less and less like a vacation and more and more like I was on my way to an execution. Mine.

We rolled into town that day and went directly to the restaurant that my dad was operating. It was just a little place on the highway that got a nice business from the locals and some truck drivers. My whole family was there. My uncle and aunt, my grandmother, my youngest brother and his wife (first wife; another long story), my step sister and several of my cousins lived in the area. They had boosted the local population by fifteen when they moved there. A veritable population explosion.

When I got to the restaurant, I noticed the van with the Texas plates on it sitting outside of the motel. My heart sank because I knew that this was Ms. C’s van and that they had driven up anyway. I went over to the hotel first to talk to Carlos. I wanted to know if they had tried to introduce themselves or not before I got there. Carlos came out of the little gray motel and met me in the parking lot. He came over like he was going to kiss me and hug me, but I went into “crossed arm” mode, complete with compressed lips. I was pissed. This was going to be so hard as it was.

He was standing about two feet from me, “Kat, it’s going to be alright. I already told my mom there might be a little problem until they got to know me.”

“What? You told your mom?” Looking back, it was probably the most adult thing to do, but I was now really embarrassed.

“Yes. They wanted to come and I wanted to be honest with them like you were with me.”

Oh my God, this was going to be such a freaking fiasco. I started thinking very quickly, “How long have you been here?”

“We got in yesterday.” He said, taking my hand we starting walking down towards the back of the motel where there was a little creek and some woods.

“Yesterday? Oh my God, did you guys eat at the restaurant?” I don’t know why I asked such a stupid question. It was the only place to eat within ten miles of the little motel.

“Yes. It’s a nice place.” I hadn’t even been there yet since my dad had only opened it the year before and this was my first time back since then.

“Did anyone say anything to you?” I was preparing myself to be in a big snit if any of my family so much as uttered a bad word to them.

“No. Actually, we just ate. We didn’t introduce ourselves.” He sat down on a rock by the creek and pulled me in between his legs, holding both of my arms with his hands.

“Nobody said anything to you?” He shook his head, “Nobody? Not even “hi”?” Now I was still embarrassed. I knew for a fact from my youngest brother that there were no minorities in this town that meant that, when they went into the restaurant, somebody had to have known who they were, but nobody there had the courtesy to introduce themselves. These were the people that had brought me up to be polite. They were quickly pissing me off to the point where I considered leaving and spending the rest of my vacation some place else; like Alaska.

“It’ll be alright.” He kept trying to re-assure me. For about the hundredth time in our relationship I felt myself on the verge of tears. You really have to understand how self contained I am to know how crying made me crazy. In our relationship, it was so intense, that everything was a really beautiful high feeling punctuated by some occasional intense lows.

Of course, the best was yet to come. I decided right then to try and cut the problem off before Carlos’ mom and grandma came back from their little shopping trip into town. We were going to march in there and corner my dad and he was going to find out that Carlos was a nice guy before he met his mom. I grabbed his hand and started dragging him back towards the restaurant. When we got inside, I stood there for a moment, blinking at the change in light from the bright intensity of the summer sun to a nice warm light of the interior of the restaurant.

The restaurant was semi-busy and I didn’t see my dad right away. I did see my grandma sitting in the back along with my uncle and aunt. My mom was sitting there, too with Lisa. I pulled him over and figured that a bit of an end run would be good. My grandma would meet him, see he was nice and then she would beat my dad over the head with her matriarchal power of “disappointment in your behavior” stick if he were rude to him. There were handshakes all around while I kissed my grandma on the cheek and then Carlos kissed her on the cheek, too. He was very careful to call everyone “sir” and “ma’am” which scored him at least ten support points.

“Well, young man,” my grandmother said, “why don’t you two have a seat? Let’s talk.” We sat and chatted for a bit. My gramms grilled him ever so politely about where he was from, what he did, how we met and what his intentions were.

Finally, I saw my dad come out of the back and stand by the buffet area, talking to my youngest brother who was managing the kitchen for him. I grabbed Carlos’ hand, “Let’s get this over with.” I know, I sounded like I was going to my doom. At least the rest of the family had recovered their senses and acted with some sort of courtesy. I started pulling him towards where my dad was standing. When we got about fifteen feet away, I saw him turn and walk towards the front of the restaurant. I was not going to be deterred. I changed course and started walking towards the front of the restaurant.

Again, as we got about fifteen feet away, my dad went out the front doors of the restaurant. At which point, I was thinking, “What the hell?” The embarrassment factor was starting to over turn my bravado. But not yet. I was still determined so I followed him out the door, Carlos in tow.

There I found my dad in conversation with my mom. They were talking about my youngest brother who was down there with his first wife who was pregnant and what they were trying to do to help them. My brother was nineteen and had no insurance and was working for my dad for about $6/hour. Not exactly slave labor at the time, but not rolling in the dough. I stood by politely for a few moments a few steps away, waiting for a break in conversation. It seemed that it went on and on and on. I noticed that my dad kept looking at us out of the corner of his eyes and I started thinking he was being deliberately rude and continuing the conversation with my mom past it’s necessary point just to avoid the inevitable.

I was getting exasperated and I finally just stepped into about a two second breach. “Dad. Hi,” lord I was getting really nervous. He had his “super cop dad” mode on instantly, looking very squinty eyed down at Carlos and my joined hands then back again. “Er…I wanted to introduce you to my…um..friend,” I didn’t know what to call him because we hadn’t officially done the “engagement” thing. As I noted previously, we had just went into some strange automatic referencing to our eventual marriage. “This is Carlos C… Carlos, this is my dad, Larry H…”

Carlos put his hand out to shake my dad’s, “How do you do, Mr. H…It’s nice to meet you, sir.” Very polite.

My dad just stood there looked down at his hand, then back up at Carlos, smoking his cigarette and flicking the ashes off the porch, “Uh-huh. Let’s get something straight, boy. You ever a lay a hand on my daughter, I’ll follow you to hell if I have to and kill you. You got that?” He was referring to his opinion that “Mexicans” drink and beat their wives, of course.

Oh. My. God! I felt the heat run up my face in about a nano second. I think my jaw must have dropped. I know I was thinking, “Please God, can the floor open up and swallow me? Right now? This is a dream. No, a nightmare and I’ll wake up any second.” I mean, I expected my dad to exhibit some rudeness, but I had not expected him to just come right out and go for the jugular. Why couldn’t I have been an orphan?

Carlos remained composed. At least, I think he did. I was too busy with my own embarrassment for a moment to think about what the hell that must have sounded like to him, “Yes, sir. Perfectly clear.” He put his hand down.

My dad hadn’t really relaxed any. He was still sizing Carlos up. He had his “challenge” stance going with his legs slightly apart, his right arm by his side and his left hand holding his cigarette which he brought up to smoke while squinting his eyes in that “Do you feel lucky, punk” look. “So, are you scared, boy?” Now, I might remind you that Carlos was six foot two and 220lbs and my dad was about five nine and 190, a fair difference in size and youth. It would have been ludicrous except for the part where I was thinking that they were going to duke it out right on the front porch of my dad’s restaurant. Of course, I would have never spoken to him again, but I was not really thinking beyond the “oh my God” moment. “No, sir.”

My dad got this bewildered look on his face, “You’re not?”

“No, sir. Actually, I’m more afraid of her than I am of you.” He was talking about me of course, but I was still trying to recover from the embarrassment and couldn’t quite comprehend where he was going, “She already told me I had better have a passport ready to leave the country if I wanted to live afterwards.”

Yeah, now I was even more embarrassed. I mean we had had a bit of a conversation early on in the relationship about “domestic violence”. Not that he had ever done anything even remotely resembling raising his hand to me, but I had been sort of “setting out the rules” (yeah, like that really works) and told him that he was almost 100lbs heavier than I was and if he ever hit me he’d better knock me out cold or kill me because I was coming back up off the floor with the first heavy object I could pick up and cracking him one upside the head. I’d seen one too many cases of domestic violence in our little blue-collar town over in Jersey and I was not going to be one of those women. I guess he had actually listened to me even though that was a one-time conversation that had ended in a bit of a…um…wrestling match.

My dad was still looking confused. “Oh, really?”

“And, sir, I wouldn’t ever do anything to hurt her,” not physically anyway, “I just want to take care of her.”

“Oh,” Dad was still trying to get his footing. I guess he had it in his mind that he was dealing with some teenagers that he could easily intimidate instead of adults in their twenties. “Well, then…er…what did you say your name was?” And he stuck out his hand.

“Carlos C…” and he stuck out his hand to shake my dad’s.

“Larry H…” now they were “man” bonding or something. You know, where one guy realizes that the other guy is not intimidated and vis-a-versa and that they might have SOMETHING in common they can agree on?

The rest of the day they sat around and talked. By the end of the day, my dad was saying things like, “You’re all right.” When they were talking. I wanted to say, “See, I’m not a complete idiot and I CAN pick out a decent guy.” But I didn’t. Carlos brought his mom and grandma over and they met everyone. Everyone was very polite. My dad insisted on feeding them at no charge. Ms. C insisted on paying for it. That was about the only tense moment, if you could call it that.

The rest of the stay would have been really uneventful if my dad and mom hadn’t gotten into an argument about my brother Bill and his first wife (I keep referring to her as that for a reason. She was, quite frankly, a basket case. Thank God, his new wife is relatively normal. But that’s another story). Then my mom had to pour out the whole fiasco about their screwed up marriage and the nasty divorce they went through at the last to Ms. C and the elder Mrs. C in their hotel room. All while I was with Carlos and my cousins playing video games and generally having a good time. When I found out the next day, I was mortified all over again.

Lord, how come I couldn’t be an orphan?

In many respects, it was a freaking relief to have Carlos and his family, finally drive off to Texas and save me from any further embarrassment.

Ms. C didn’t actually hate me, you know. I think that, at least in the beginning, she just thought that I was not “right” for her boy. Or, maybe it was just be being paranoid. I know, for instance, because he told me of course, that she was concerned that I was not Catholic and what would we do about getting married? Well, I’m not a practicing anything anymore, besides a Christian in general, so choice of church was not a concern. I was pretty much ready to do whatever classes were necessary. Carlos, although Catholic, was not exactly overtly religious either, so the concern was all on his Mom and Grandma who were devout Catholics.

Her other concern, believe it or not, was that I was not Hispanic. If we married and, with my very pale skin tone, if we had children, they would very likely turn out to be lighter than her expectations. No little brown ninos or ninas. She thought anyway.

Then of course, there was her stay at my place. You recall my discussion earlier about meeting her? Well, there were a few other instances. First of which, I was doing our laundry and had brought it back from the laundry center down the hall. Carlos was watching TV and I told him to get over and help me fold it before it got all wrinkled. It was his clothes, too. Before he could do it, Ms. C came over and started folding the laundry. I was mortified, “No, no, Ms. C, Carlos and I will take care of it. You’re on vacation now.” Her reply was something like, “Oh, I don’t mind. I don’t get very many chances to take care of my baby anymore.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I looked up at Carlos with wide eyes and he just sat there grinning like an ass until I gave him the “get your ass over here and don’t make your mom fold your laundry” look. It finally worked, but he had to wrestle the clothes away from her. I was NOT going to be with some mama’s boy that I had to duke it out with his mom all the time. That whole “jealous mother” thing was going to be nipped in the bud, dammit.

Then we were having dinner, sitting at the table, everything all nice and yummy looking when he looks up at his mom and says, “Mom, can I have a glass of milk,” asking her to get him one, in my house, at my table, while his mom was visiting. I just about clobbered him right there. “Excuse me?” I said, giving him the evil eye. His mom started to rise, “No, no, Ms. C. His legs and arms are not broken and he can get it himself. Can’t you?” More evil eye and he finally got the message. Later I gave him an earful and told him at the most he should have asked ME for the glass of milk. What the hell was wrong with him asking his mom to do something for him while she was on vacation? To which he replied, “She likes to do things and it makes her feel useful.” Ooooh…I could have clobbered him.

I know, I know. Part of it is the “establishing” territory thing. I mean, we were trying to be adults growing a relationship there and we were figuring out where the boundaries were and it just seemed to me that, in a relationship, there are places that belong to the people in it and places that are outside for the people they know or are related to. Not to mention that it just gave that bad impression that I was somehow lacking in some way of taking care of him or that we needed somebody involved in that level of our lives. I always felt that, once you invited your family in to certain areas, they felt compelled to meddle and stay there.

Hell, maybe they just feel compelled to do it anyway? I probably would have figured it out sooner or later. It just felt like we were having a tiny bit of a struggle to establish our new places in his life.

One morning, during her visit, at about 6 AM, we were lying on the hide-a-bed talking and kissing. It was the first night he actually stayed over while his mom was there at my place. I had relegated him to his apartment in an attempt to impress her and avoid embarrassment since I was taking up the living room as a place to sleep. What can I say? I was still young and not particularly stoic about these things. Prudish even.

Just as we were..uh..becoming a bit more passionate, I heard the bedroom door open. Holy shit! We were both scrambling to get our clothes back in order when his mom comes shuffling into the area. We were actually giggling a little, but I was urging him to be a little quicker. “What are you two up to?”

We both froze, “Uh…we were…uh…watching cartoons.” Yeah, that’s right, the TV was on and cartoons were playing.

“You were? How can you hear it with the sound turned down like that?” I’m pretty sure she knew just what we were doing and I wanted to pull the covers over my head.

“We were trying not to wake you.” Carlos was quicker off the mark than I was. “What are you doing up so early?”

“Well, I decided to get up and make you some eggs and chorizo for breakfast.” She went on to the kitchen as she was talking and Carlos finished fixing his clothes.

Okay…I was debating on the details, but, since it was quite hysterical from my point of view, I’ll tell it, even if it is sort of embarrassing. In reality, his shorts were on the floor on my side of the bed. While his mom continued on to the kitchen, I was desperately trying to reach his shorts with the toes on my right foot, keeping the covers pulled up and covering us both. It took me about five times, including the several moments I had to lie back and pretend I was doing nothing when his Mom turned around and asked through the little cut outs in the kitchen wall if we wanted coffee.

I was finally able to snag them with my big toe and pull them up far enough to gingerly reach out with my right hand and pull them under the covers. I handed them to him and then he acted like he was going to throw them away. I slugged him, his mom turned around, he pulled them under the covers, my face got red; why do guys think some things are funny like that?

I nearly forgot to add the end of my little vacation. Lisa and I stopped for two days in Tennessee where we met Craig’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. M were some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. They had even butchered one of their cows and fed us fresh farm grown beef for the occasion. They were very grateful that two nice girls (yeah, don’t even go there) had befriended and adopted their son. We were Midwesterners so, you know, we weren’t like those corrupt party girls up there in Philly. (Yeah…uh-huh, we could put on the schtick when we needed to).

When we got home, our apartment was a bit of a mess. Fortunately, we had given a spare key to Tally and Jason to come over and check on things while we were gone. As much as Jason had been a pain in my ass in the beginning, Tally had seemed to have some sort of decent effect on him and I felt they were much more reliable than Lisa’s boyfriend, John.

Tally and Jason met us at the apartment and informed us that John had had a party there while we were gone. They had come over and cleaned up afterwards as good as they could. We got our phone bill and there were about a hundred calls to places all over the United States. The bill was almost two hundred dollars, mostly long distance from these calls. We then learned that John had used Lisa’s bedroom for his own… um…entertainment, from a squid that had been at the party and that he was two-timing Lisa with the little blond chick. You recall the one that had confronted me in the bar the first night I met Carlos? Yeah, that one. The world is a very small place.

I felt very bad for Lisa. I didn’t really like the guy and thought he was a bit of a loser, but I’d tried to keep my mouth shut. Okay, I couldn’t do it, really, but I had tried to be as kind about it as I could. Why is it that super nice people always seem to end up with dirt bags?

To top it off, when we confronted him about it, not only did he lie about the girl (which we confirmed with two other people), but he also lied like hell about the phone calls. Since Lisa and I did not know anyone in Jackson’s Hole, Wyoming or Hell Hole, Texas nor Seattle, Washington and the dates were the dates of his practically living at our place while we were on vacation, we had him dead to rights. Lisa broke up with him. He refused to pay the phone bill or get money from any of the guys that had been there. He then demanded that we return his sea bag to him. He was getting ready to be discharged from the Navy and if he didn’t have a full sea bag on inspection, he would be charged a large amount of money for replacing it. The sea bag had three white dress uniforms, three blue dress uniforms, a large amount of underwear and his navy pea coat in it.

We were in the club about two weeks after when he asked for it. I was standing there next to Lisa and just about spit my soda out. The guy had some balls telling Lisa about how much money it would cost him to replace it when we still had a $200 phone bill from his little escapade. I jumped in when Lisa seemed to be wavering, “No way. You pay us you can have your stuff back. Until then, the sea bag stays.” Fortunately, Lisa had gotten her key back when they officially broke up. I can’t tell you how pissed I was that this guy not only scarfed on my best friend, but was trying to skip out on paying what he owed her.

He got in my face, “Is this any of your business? This is between Lisa and me.”

The guy was only about as tall as me and about as skinny, too. I felt I could take him if I had to. Of course, there was that added benefit of being practically engaged to the biggest guy on the ship as well as being surrounded by a number of very good male friends from just such a relationship, “As a matter of fact, it is my business, asshole. The phone bill is in my name. So, technically, you owe me. I’ve just been nice about it because the relationship was between her and you. Now, you want your shit back pay up. Otherwise, we’ll be having a two for one sale with the contents of your bag. I happen to know a few guys about your size that could use some new uniforms.”

“She never said that.” Now he was looking all pouty, as well as looking over my shoulder. Carlos wasn’t back from Texas yet, but several of his friends were with us and they all seemed to be less interested in their beer and more interested in our conversation as it went on.

“As I said, I was leaving it up to her since it was about you two. But since you’re a cheating bastard that brought his hussy up in our place and tried to screw Lisa over, again, I’m feeling a whole hell of a lot less charitable as the time goes on. So pay or lose. That’s your options.” Yeah, I was feeling my cheerios and they had “I know big men that will kick your scrawny ass” written all over it.

“I’ll see what I can do. Some of those guys aren’t around anymore. They were leaving and that’s what the party was for.” Now he was whining.

“I don’t really give a crap. Not my problem where you get the money. Just get it. Now, be gone, you’re bringing down our party.” I took Lisa by the arm and led her back to the place where all the guys were. Better to be safe than sorry.

He never did pay up. Lisa and I paid the bill. We had to or have our phone shut off. Then we took out the contents of the bag. I wore a very nice, real Navy pea coat for four winters after that. The uniforms were actually distributed for free amongst the few that we knew. The underwear went into the trash and, too this day, I have a sea bag that I use to carry my camping gear in down in my basement. Just a little reminder about how some people can be assholes and they get what they deserve.

Replacing the contents of his sea bag cost him around $475 per the last report I had on the subject. Would I be bad if I said it still gives me a little thrill to know that the cheating, lying asshole got some of what he deserved?

Whose bed have your boots been under
And whose heart did you steal I wonder
This time did it feel like thunder baby
Whose bed have your boots been under

Don't look so lonely
Don't act so blue
I know I'm not the only
Girl you run to
I know about Lolita
Your little Spanish flame
I've seen your around with Rita
The redhead down the lane

Whose bed have your boots been under
And whose heart did you steal I wonder
This time did it feel like thunder baby
And who did you run to
And whose lips have you been kissin
And whose ear did you make a wish in
Is she the one that you've been missin' baby
Well whose bed have your boots been under

I heard you've been sneakin'
Around with Jill
And what about that weekend
With Beverly Hill
And I've seen you walkin'
With long legs Louise
And you weren't just talkin'
Last night with Denise


Come on boots......

So next time you're lonely
Don't call on me
Try the operator
Maybe she'll be free
-Shania Twain

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