A Dark and Stormy Night
It’s a dark and stormy night ‘cause I drank four of them.
(Singing): Avoidance is best when escaping yourself -- [a beat] -- Shoprite.
I follow the path of an airplane’s white jetline across a sky slowly turning deep periwinkle with the approaching storm. How would I feel piloting a $80 million plane 35,000 feet up at 500 miles per hour for the first time? Would I feel poised? It’s possible. Bold? Perhaps, though I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure because there's no way I would ever complete pilot school. Not a chance. I don't do well with commitments. We can’t even commit to staying faithful to our girlfriend.
Shut up, Leona.
I committed to wasting my Saturday night babysitting in Morris Plains, did I not? That's responsible of me. I'd rather be in a cute bikini hammocking contentedly between palm trees hanging over a lapping ocean surf watching the sun set low over the darkening horizon. Baaaack and forth. Baaaack … and forth, a wicker sunhat keeps the sun from warming my cocktail. Not a dark and stormy, but a summer cocktail like a sex on the beach or mai tai. I wouldn't really care which as long as the drink is sweet and strong and should be ignored. Alcohol brings out Leona the Ravenous, and she can’t be trusted with protecting the Cave of Creation anymore in the Caribbean than she can be trusted to babysit three children in Morris Plains without getting shitfaced.
Breaaaath in, breath out. Breaaaath in … breath out. A bit better. I climb slowly out of the hot tub, dry off, put my white denim short and tank-top back on, wave to the stunned old man who happened to look out of his window at the wrong time, enter the house, and slide the back door closed.
The Carlyle house is an early-century Tudor. It has three floors above ground, one and a half below. A three-car garage, parapeted gables, rounded driveway out front. There's a steam room in the basement, ivy climbing doggedly up the masoned walls towards the parapeted gables and massive dual-chimneys. Like most early-century Tudors, this one is also alarmingly dishonest.
Out of all the American styles we study in my architecture grad program, Tudor is the revival I hate the most. The honorable mentions -- Romantic, French-Eclectic, Victorian -- fail to claim the title because they aren’t house posing as castles. They don't pretend to be faithful then sleep with a random dancer at a --
SHUT THE FUCK UP! IT’S NOT MY FAULT!
I burst into the dining room and snatch the rum off the reclaimed wooden table -- “We’re so environmentally conscious that we used salvaged wood for our dining room table but not to build the house around it” -- and take a … shit. Of course. It’s fucking finished. The bottle is --
We finished it. WE. It’s not a reflexive fucking … the bottle didn’t finish itself, Leona! Take some fucking responsibility for a change! Your boss from the --
You mean "our."
Our boss from the firm asked for help.
You're right. We finished his 1952 Rhum Clement worth $1,200 a bottle. We're fucked, and we'll fix this. Agreed?
Swaying slightly, we throw up a bit in our mouth.
Now I remember what happened! I peer sideways into the living room -- the three Carlyle kids are still fast asleep on the floor in front of the T.V., their tiny little bodies curled up in a row like sausages in a frying pan. I found them passed out like that. There’s still time to place the bottle under Jeremy’s teeny-tiny arm before --
Before their parents --
“Coming! I’m in the restroom taking a --”
No, that wouldn’t work.
How long can a nineteen-year-old girl spend in the bathroom before it becomes suspicious? A boy of my age can spend entire days locked behind a door and no one would suspect anything nefarious. Not being born a boy, however, I’ll need a different excuse. A story that … I need a story that appeals to their intellectualism! That’s it.
“Be right there!”
“Are you in the bathroom?”
“Dining room. I’m finishing up a letter to our Congressman. I’ve grown weary that he" … she? "That it continues to defund the PBS and … and …" does Congress even control the PBS or its funding? That would go against the 'public' part of the name, wouldn’t it?
Don’t change the --
“Be right there! I’m baking a cake for desert!”
Don't serve them lies.
“How lovely. I didn’t realize we had any Dunkin Hines.”
“You don't. I make all of my desserts from scratch.”
“Do you, now! Not many girls your age find such a skill valuable enough to learn.”
“I believe strongly that the past must be protected.” And then we’re in. They can blab about Mozart’s genius, I can pretend to care, and we can discover the children passed out together. No blaming. Agreed?
Sure. We're agreed. Stand up and go frame a six-year-old.
I stand and my head spins like a -- fuck! I can’t believe I got shithoused while babysitting my boss’ children! I’m such a loser!
We're not a loser, Leona. We need help. It’s time to grow up.
My restless energy evaporates. The lump in my throat rises and breaks into a sob. I try to remain standing but a silent shiver works down my spine erecting goosebumps to greet the pulsating pressure. I grab hold of a nearby chair, the richly decorated room swims before me. The paintings blur, the light runs, the soft grey palate swirls and becomes the soft grey eyes of kind, gentle, trusting Jordan. What if she doesn't love me anymore? What if she hates me for the rest of my life and I never find someone as kind or gentle or trusting?
That's past our control. All we can do is be vulnerable and be honest.
Fighter pilots succeed because they learned how to face their fears over and over until flying becomes as easy for them as lying in a hammock. Tonight, we take the first step towards our version of flying, and we do it together.
Our shoulders now set, we rise and slowly transport the dozing children to their beds. Once back, I fall into the couch in the now empty livingroom. I look around the room. The architecture doesn't seem so deceitful anymore. It's not my style, and it's not perfect, but not every house can be a Frank Lloyd Wright.
I take a deep breath, and take out my phone. A flash of light from outside and a delayed rumble tells me the storm has arrived.