Teaser 288: A Latin Aristocratic Condescension
If there was a beginning, its emergence was Saturday after Thanksgiving. First, Serena's mother arrived and, of course, it had to be large and dramatic. I had never met Serena's mother before this day. Every time she had talked about it, planned it, something always came up and she couldn't make it, “but you understand, don't you, my child, my first born, the love of my life?” She had said it to Serena several times and always when I was expected to be there, once in New York, twice in Los Angeles, even in Miami. She couldn't make it, you see, because something more important had popped up. “These things happen, you know what I mean?” I knew what she meant. I always knew what she meant. I let her have her gigantic, dramatic entrance and was quite the wallflower, out of her way, deprecating, conciliatory. If I could have kissed her rump and have it make a difference I probably would have done it. I joked with Serena, after her majesty's appearance, her mother was never going to tell Serena that I was so provincial. “It would be too mild a statement from your mother.”
Hours later Paolo and his brood arrived and the drama soon picked up. Esperanza and I, at one time, retreated to our bedroom for the peace. Paolo doesn't necessarily create drama in Serena's family. He's a decent sort of fellow, but if you're an entertainer and somebody worthy of Serena's entertainment radar, Paolo will soon and invariably introduce the idea that you have not been sitting in a supremely ergonomic chair, because only the chairs Paolo designs and manufactures are supremely ergonomic. Nothing else comes close, and they shouldn't for the thousands of dollars he charges. I don't even want to get into it. I can't tell you how many times I have told Paolo, in no uncertain terms mind you, once he buys dozens of every one of my entertainment offerings besides the DVD of The True Cross, which he does own but only because it includes his own sister, then I will consider one of his chairs, but not until then. Paolo never seems able to recall any of these conversations. “When did you tell me that, Al, or is it Gregory? What will it be next week?” There are days, having spent them with Paolo's conspicuous presence, when I wish I had one of his chairs so I could ergonomically crash it atop his cranium, which I'm certain is also of supreme ergonomic manufacture.
Having survived these two arrivals by Saturday night, I had opportunity, while everyone was gathered in the Great Room, to exchange comments with Luisa in the kitchen. “It's a good thing we had the big dinner Thursday before the Latin aristocracy arrived.”
I thought it would make her laugh. Luisa merely frowned severely. “Wait until tomorrow, Senor Al.” She turned away from me shaking her head demonstrably and got busy with something on the counter. Tomorrow Senor Kolek was scheduled to arrive. By Luisa's reaction she was not looking forward to it.
Esperanza and I were considered a less than desirable married couple by the family of my bride to be, which was, as you would imagine, the general cause of their disdain. It was neither overt nor blatant but more of a persistent permeation, like endless rain water will inevitably soak through a canvas cover. Contrast that with their gushing acceptance of our charming German guest. Paolo in particular engaged Rebekka in frequent discussions, often conducting them in what little German he could command and Rebekka was a constant beaming source of smiles and light with the attention. I would have found this evening to be a perfect time to put a good drunk on, but since I hardly ever drank alcohol I instead rose frequently for “a breath of fresh air.”
“In Los Angeles?” scoffed Senora Dominguez, as she demanded to be addressed. “Where do you find these...people, my daughter?”
Serena, for her part, wore a near permanent wincing expression the entire evening. She did, at times, admonish her family members, but most often she sat in a chair by herself with her mother in another chair to her left and Paolo's brood scattered on the sofa to her right. Rebekka sat in a chair facing Serena's family while Esperanza and I sat anywhere else, generally moving to another seat further away as the time passed. We conducted conversation only between the two of us, unless one or both of us were inquired upon. As congenially as possible, and as quickly as possible, we would engage their invitation and find as rapid and polite an exit as expedient. I remarked to Esperanza it has assuredly proven to be excellent planning that her family had left the night before. “I think our little meeting here would become tense and cantankerous in short order, and I'm sure the Spanish epithets would be flying eventually. You know, it's exceedingly difficult for a gringo to dodge Spanish epithets once they start flying in the room.” Esperanza laughed heartily and the other family in the room demanded to know what it was about.
“Why won't you share it, Gregory?” Paolo tried to tease. “Oh, I'm sorry, Al.”
As sheepishly as possible I replied, “It's personal and embarrassing.”
“Yes,” declared Senora Dominguez. “I would imagine it would be personal and embarrassing.”
The last event of any interest to me was when Serena rose to fetch another bottle of wine for the guests who were drinking wine, which would be all those in her corner of the room. I rose offering to help and Serena stated she could easily do it herself. Thank you. The look on my face convinced her not to push me on it and I followed her to the kitchen.
“My imagination has provided me a glimpse of my future, Serena, should it include a lengthy stay with your family.”
“I can see lots of blinking lights all around the house as I'm escorted to jail, having strangled every last one of them.”
“Please, Al!” Serena exclaimed, disappointed. “I don't think like that with your family.”
“No, because you haven't met my brother, who has, wisely as I have concluded, decided to remain in Illinois and skip the entire affair, since I'm certain he would be pushed to strangle them before I could.”
The Latin aristocratic condescension was complete Sunday once Senor Kolek descended into the mix. What a prince of a man! To be fair, Senor Kolek was not of Latin origin, his being from the Middle East in the general area of the world where even long-time neighbors shoot at each other on an increasingly frequent basis, and his accent when he spoke gave most of it away, but being from this general area of the world may have predisposed him to be aggravating, rejecting and hostile, though this is more a rough determination on my part. He was, in all honesty, nondiscriminatory. He treated everyone like crap. When he eventually started on Serena, I interrupted. I had enough. Thus, I became his newest target. I knew I shouldn't engage in an all-out verbal war with the father of my bride to be, but Senor Kolek seemed the perfect foil at the time. I didn't feel comfortable waging war with the Senora, a woman—and I'm being generous in that assessment—and I had already adopted the demeanor of treating Paolo and his wife and his children as though they were all children, which means I tended to ignore all of them completely. Senor Kolek, however, was fair game and we went at it. I actually enjoyed glancing about the room noting the shock and horror on many faces, even Esperanza. You may have guessed, since Senor and Senora arrived separately, they were no longer a married couple. You would be right! They did occasionally meet due to their moving about in many of the same circles. However, it was obvious to the newcomers of this family drama neither was the favorite of the other. I used that fact for one of the few moments of laughter, though it came only from Senor and me.
“Senor Kolek, there is one thing I'm certain we share in common,” I proclaimed.
“There could not possibly be anything we share in common,” Senor Kolek huffily announced.
“Oh no?! You are not looking forward to your removal from Senora Dominguez?”
Senor Kolek erupted in laughter. When he could he mockingly scoffed, “I would never look forward to it, Al-Barrak. We get along so well.” Only Senor Kolek and I laughed.
“I find you increasingly intolerable!” Senora Dominguez shouted at me.
“As your future son-in-law, intolerable would be one of the mildest descriptions I would apply in your case, Senora. I won't waste my time enumerating the many accomplishments I have achieved in the very entertainment arena of your daughter which have eclipsed her own achievements and she had a thirty-year head start. Her own Oscar which sits in her display case in the opposite room would be nothing but vapor if it hadn't been for my screenplay and Serena, herself, agreed. Your one and only accomplishment, Senora, of any note is you gave birth to Serena, to my bride to be. That you also gave birth to a son can be overlooked since no one can predict the future, whether it be of import or insignificance, as it is in this case. Whatever the case, you will learn to tolerate me, or you will never set foot in my house, and my new wife will have nothing to say about it, and I can assure you I shall never set foot in your house, ever! I consider it an unworthy domicile as it shall always be should it be your home. And should you fail to tolerate me, Senora, I will eventually mash you into the ground like the grains of wheat I grind so easily. I wouldn't even have to think about it.” I turned to Serena who was readying herself to enter into the fray. “And you will say nothing about what I have just said, Woman, or you shall appear at the Catholic cathedral in Palos Verdes Friday alone. Do you understand me?”
To her enormous credit Serena sat stolidly in her chair, her lips pursed tightly and remained silent. Paolo jumped in—as I noted Senor Kolek sat comfortably wearing a smug smile—to defend his mother, while I smiled congenially as he railed at and insulted me. I let him finish.
“If I extended to you a modicum of respect, Paolo, I would lend credence to whatever you say, but unfortunately for you, I don't, so I ignore everything you say. You are a nothing to me. Nada!” As I glanced at everyone present in the room, with the awkward silence hanging palpably, only Esperanza was attempting to hide a smile, which she did so successfully. “As members of Serena's family you have been asked to attend our wedding through Serena's desire, so you will be expected to attend. How you treat each other is of no consequence to me. I don't care. With all others in attendance, since they are equally my friends, acquaintances and supporters, you will conduct yourselves civilly and congenially. There will be not one disruption, disturbance or act of hostility during the ceremony or reception, or I will have you removed, placed in the fastest limousine to the airport and you will fly away from me, never to be in my presence ever again. I have given you all ample opportunity to show me who you are and what you are and I have reached my unfailing judgment. You are merely guests at our wedding and you shall abide by the host's terms, for my bride to be will defer to me on our wedding day, or she will find herself at the altar as an abandoned bride and you shall all suffer the humiliation. Do I make myself clear?”
Occasionally, during this time of crisis of confidence, of conscience, I had some fairly spectacular moments. This happened to be one of them.
- Just Desserts, Segment Thirty-Six “Unquenchable Desire” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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