A glass of crazy, p.38
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.38

           Tina Laningham
 
Saturday afternoon, Mom and I struggled to get two cumbersome leaves inserted in the dining room table so everyone who was coming could have a sit down dinner prepared by Mom and her new prot?g?, Rafael. "One leaf is big enough for eight people," I said to Mom, after counting the guests in my head. "We're setting a table for ten," she said. I started to ask who else was coming when a visual image of the pregnant Kat creature sitting at our dining room table appeared in my brain. Let's add raging hormones to the witch on wheels I met at Thanksgiving and this whole birthday extravaganza was more than my committee could handle, so I fired them again and turned everything over to my higher power, whom I'd chosen to call, Ohmygod.

  That worked for about ten minutes. To keep my mind occupied, I counted the people who were coming again: Mom, Dad, the Kat, Rafa, Me, Daniel, Megan, her date du jour, and that was eight. Rafa didn't know who the other two were and when I asked Mom, she said, "I'm doing twenty things at once-I can't think about it now."

  Finally, Rafa finished ironing all the table linens and I helped him spread the ivory table cloth over the longest table ever. That's when it hit me. "Do you have a boyfriend?" I asked.

  Rafa smiled. "I wish."

  I was truly the worst best friend in the world since it took me this long to ask. With peach colored napkins, we pitched ten tiny tents along the table's edge and I wanted to crawl into one of those little tents and stay there until the party was over. Since that was impossible, I went to my room to get ready, while Mom and Rafa rustled around in the kitchen creating some magnificent meal that smelled a lot like rosemary.

  Little jasmine bubbles blossomed in the bathtub as I slipped into the warm water and closed my eyes. My plan was to store up a massive amount of serenity ahead of time, if that was even possible, and hope it could last through the evening so everyone would come out of tonight's situation alive. But thinking about absolutely nothing was harder than I thought. It would be a lot easier if I had some vodka. My eyes flashed open.

  Okay, letting my mind wander was obviously a bad idea. It had walked straight over to the bar and ordered a drink. Was AA a way to reprogram your brain so it would stop wandering over to the bar? If it was serenity I wanted, then supposedly I just needed to say the Serenity Prayer. I closed my eyes. "Ohmygod, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, like the fact that the Kat creature is on her way over, the courage to change the things I can, like keeping my mouth shut, and the wisdom to know the difference." I kept my eyes closed to make sure it really sank in. Since my mind didn't wander back over to the bar, I assumed it had worked and I opened my eyes. For the first time in a long time, I felt present in my body and focused on the moment, which only included me taking a bath and nothing else. That was amazing.

  I pulled myself up and out of the tub with new strength, wrapped myself in a terrycloth robe, and stepped into the closet. When I moved my hand to slide clothes over, they slid so easily, as if I had more muscle, but it wasn't really muscle, it was the way I felt inside. Out of respect for all the hard work Mom and Rafa were doing to make the night special, I chose something semi-elegant to wear-a trim-fitting, blue dress. When I finished getting ready, I caught myself smiling in the mirror.

  Out in the dining room, Rafa arranged peach colored roses in a vase at the center of the table. His lips curled into a cute smile. "Beautiful," he said and yes, he was talking about me, not the roses. That's when the doorbell rang. Rafa went back into the kitchen, which left only me to open the door. I grabbed the handle, sucked up a deep breath, and pulled open the door. It was Daniel, looking all hot in a silk shirt and jeans, holding a gift. I must have been staring because he finally asked, "May I come in?"

  "Of course!" I pulled him in the house and took the present over to a table in the living room.

  "Wow!" he said, looking me up and down, and then he kissed me on the cheek. I think I actually blushed and that led to a heart melting kiss on the lips that came to an end when the doorbell rang again. This time it was Megan with a boy I didn't know.

  "Remember, Clyde," she was telling him, "it's not a real date, so just relax." She handed me a gift and rolled her eyes. "It was the only way I could get a ride over here without my mother suspecting anything. Hi, Daniel."

  "Clive," he said, "not Clyde, and why would your mother care if you came over here?"

  Megan turned on her high heels and wrapped her arms around me. "We have a forbidden friendship," she said to Clive, who looked stunned.

  "You're a lezzie?"

  "Yes, Clyde, tonight I'm a lezzie." Megan sat on the sofa and crossed her legs. "Remember that."

  Daniel nearly choked trying not to laugh. "You're only making it worse."

  With a big smile on his face, Rafa set a tray of lemonade on the coffee table and the doorbell rang again. Who was left besides Dad and the Kat? Before I finished counting how many people were already here, Rafa had opened the door and in stepped Mr. Oliver. He handed me a brown bag with a book inside and said, "Cheers," and then stood awkwardly and nodded at everyone else in the room. "Is your mum around?"

  "In the kitchen," I said slowly.

  Mr. Oliver hurried off while we each grabbed a glass of lemonade and I sat on the sofa next to Megan. "It's weird having Mr. Oliver here," I whispered to her.

  "I know, right?" Clive came toward Megan and she pointed to a chair across the room where she wanted him to sit. "You get to tell people we had a date," she said to him. "That's it."

  I patted the sofa for Daniel to sit with us. When he put his arm around me, I got goose bumps. I acted like it wasn't a big deal, but Megan smiled because she knew it was. Even though Mom was all the way in the kitchen, we heard her burst out laughing and the louder Mr. Oliver talked, the more she laughed.

  Megan raised her perfectly trimmed eyebrows and said, "Mr. Oliver's trying to get in your mom's pants."

  "Shut up! He's just been helping me a lot this summer."

  "Uh-huh." Megan took a long sip of lemonade. "By Christmas you'll be calling him Dadsy or whatever they say in England."

  Fortunately, the doorbell rang and I didn't have time to obsess about Megan's madness. Rafa opened the door and with a big smile, shouted, "Mr. Alexander!"

  Dad's voice boomed, "Hey, Rafa! How's my favorite son?" He'd always said that when we were kids. Dad stepped in and hugged Rafa, and waddling in behind him with a snarl on her face, entered the Kat. Holding her bulging belly, she scanned the room and said to Dad, "I told you we should've had it at the San Luis."

  Megan made a hissing sound and swiped her claw through the air. Poor Daniel cleared his throat, as if trying to make sense of Kat's rudeness. Rafa smiled nervously and motioned for them to come in. "Please," he said, "have a seat." Within five seconds, the witch had insulted my home and made all of my friends uncomfortable. No.

  I was about to open my mouth and insist someone drive her back to the hotel, when Mom walked in with Mr. Oliver and said, "Welcome, I'm so glad you're here."

  Seriously?

  Megan put her hand on my leg to calm me down and Clive smiled at Megan, nodding like he had it all figured out. I took a big swallow of lemonade and wondered if I still had a bottle of vodka somewhere in the house.

  Dad helped the Kat creature to a chair, where she plopped down and went into her own little Kat world, as if we had all disappeared, and in the corner of my eye someone else had come in the door.

  "Gabby!" I leapt from the sofa and threw my arms around her. "I'm glad you came!"

  Gabby grinned and handed me a gift. "I have been looking forward to it," she said. "Happy Birthday."

  Fortunately, Rafa introduced himself to Gabby because I was getting teary, but in a good way. Rafa said, "I feel like I already know you."

  "And you, too," Gabby replied. "Abby spoke of you in Mexico."

  I tried introducing Gabby to Megan, but Megan was distracted by the scene developing across the room-Mom had introduced Dad to Mr. Oliver, and while they were carrying on a conversation, Mom straightened M
r. Oliver's bowtie. Dad stuttered for a moment and then kept on talking. I smiled at Mom because she was nobody's fool.

  The Kat creature stirred and pointed to the glasses of lemonade Rafa had placed on the coffee table. I would have handed her one if she had asked nicely, but Gabby obviously didn't have any feelings about it one way or the other because she picked up a glass and handed it to her. I definitely needed to lighten up, which was why I needed some vodka in my lemonade to make me feel like everyone else. How could I sneak out to get some? When I realized what my committee was saying, I panicked and rushed to the bathroom, locked the door and slid down to the floor.

  If I drink, I could die-I'd already established that. I imagined hovering over my dead body, shackled to a hospital bed, only this time I couldn't get back, so why was I craving vodka? It made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Out of desperation, I closed my eyes and asked Ohmygod to please remove my obsession with alcohol, like they told me to do in the AA meetings. I waited and waited, but nothing happened. If someone handed me a bottle of vodka, I'd still have swallowed it.

  I needed to try this for real. I closed my eyes again and pleaded desperately. "Dear Whomever, please, remove my obsession with alcohol." This time, I meant it. I'd never felt so desperate in my life. I waited. Slowly, my eyelids opened, and while they were opening, a tingling sensation began in my feet and moved up my legs, through my body and out of my head. Afterwards, I was at peace. The kind of peace I felt when I was at the ceiling looking down at my body-a centered kind of peace-only this time I was still in my body and the last thing I needed was a glass of crazy. "This stuff really works." I stood up, brushed myself off, and went back to my birthday party.

  Dad was talking to Megan when I pulled him aside and explained what had happened in the bathroom. His face lit up and he squeezed me tight for a long time. "You're gonna be just fine, little girl." He gripped my arms and looked me in the eye. "Now listen to me," his voice deepened, "alcoholism is a sneaky disease. It doesn't go away. But when it comes back, you know what to do."

  I didn't care how or why that praying thing worked; I was just glad it did. A little bell rang in the dining room, which was Mom signaling everyone to come in and sit at the table. Dad winked and said, "Guess we better do what she says."

  I went to find Daniel while Dad helped pull the Kat creature to her feet. Daniel squeezed my hand and as we walked into the dining room, Dad was asking Mom why there weren't any name place cards. "Oh, I don't do that anymore," she said, sitting down at one end of the table. "Sit wherever you'd like." Dad grinned and took a seat at the other end of the table with the Kat beside him. Since I was the guest of honor, I sat in the middle with Daniel.

  Everyone else was busy finding a seat, except Rafa, who brought a huge bowl of salad to the table. "Sit here," I said, patting the chair on my other side. Megan had taken a seat next to the Kat and I could see the wheels turning in her head.

  "Pass the salad around." Mom raised her hands in a welcoming manner. "We're eating family style tonight." With his long, skinny finger, Mr. Oliver slid his glasses up his nose and smiled for the first time ever, which instantly made him look ten years younger.

  Rafa leaned into me and said, "This is what you wished for. Remember?"

  It took a moment to figure out what he was talking about-yes, right after Hurricane Ike. Rafa had said, no matter what happens, you still sit down and eat with your family. I'd said in my family, that would never happen. I squeezed his hand. "Thank you."

  Rafa blushed and said, "You're welcome."

  While the salad bowl made its way around the table, Dad stood up and raised a glass of tea. "I'd like to make a toast to my daughter." After everyone else's glasses were raised, I was the one blushing. "I'm so proud of her-." Dad got all choked up. "Today she turns fifteen, and I've had the privilege-no, the honor-to watch her grow into a young lady with inner strength and wisdom beyond her years." That's when the Kat creature screamed. Not a little scream, but a big, huge scream, like someone was killing her.

  Megan looked under the table. "Yuk. Her water broke, or whatever."

  Dad's eyes got big. He dropped the glass he was toasting with to dig around in his pocket and pulled out keys. Daniel stood up and held out his hand. "I'll drive," he said, looking Dad square in the eye. Dad put the keys in Daniel's hand, scooped up the Kat creature, and headed for the door. Rafa and I must have been in shock because Megan had to practically push us out the door to go with them.

  At the street, Daniel opened the door to the back seat of Dad's rental car. Dad put the screaming Kat creature inside and shut the door. After we all got in, Daniel sped toward the hospital and the Kat screamed the whole way there. Whatever tiny morsel of serenity I'd found on the bathroom floor was pretty much gone.

  Daniel called nine-one-one on the way to the hospital and they had a wheelchair waiting by the curb for the Kat creature when we pulled up. They probably heard the screams in the background and knew it was for real. When the medical people whisked her way, Dad followed them and disappeared. Someone in scrubs told us to go to the waiting room on the fourth floor, which we did.

  The nearly empty waiting room had comfortable chairs and we plopped ourselves down in the corner.

  "We were this close to eating," Rafa said, pressing his finger and thumb together.

  Daniel rubbed his stomach. "I know, and I was hungry."

  I looked at Rafa. "You worked hard on that dinner. I'm sorry this happened."

  "No, I did not mean it like that," he said. "This is more important."

  Of course Rafa would make that correction. "You always see the big picture," I said. "Wish I could do that. I still think the world revolves around me."

  Daniel winked. It was cool that we both had the same flaws to overcome and that we understood each other. Over the summer, we'd decided if we had to do all this AA stuff, we'd have to be the most badass recovering alcoholics ever. If anything good came out of the trouble I'd gotten myself into, it was Daniel. I was busy gazing at my badass boyfriend when Megan's voice said, "Here they are." She stood across the waiting room with Gabby.

  Rafa bounced up. "Please forgive us, we ran out so fast-," and finished whatever he was saying to Gabby in Spanish.

  The five of us sat in the corner and waited. "Where's your date?" I asked Megan.

  "When he dropped us off, I gave him a kiss on the cheek and told him our date was over."

  "You're so getting grounded."

  "I don't care. I want to be here."

  After a long silence, I let out a heavy sigh. "You know, when we first got here, I was furious at the Kat creature for ruining my birthday party."

  Daniel twisted his face. "I'm not trying to defend her or anything, but you can't control when you go into labor."

  "Oh, believe me," Megan snapped, "that witch would have found another way."

  "That's true," said Daniel.

  "Anyway," I continued, "whatever the Kat creature does, she does." Daniel squeezed my hand. "I'm not letting her get to me anymore."

  Megan rummaged through her purse and shook her head. "If I were you, I would have already slapped her."

  Gabby let out a yelp and clamped her hand over her mouth.

  For some bizarre reason, an image of the curandera's wrinkly face popped in my brain. I smiled. My heart was fine now.

  Slowly, I scanned my friends' faces. "Look, I always have two choices. And the way I see it, I'm getting a brother and a sister for my birthday. That's pretty amazing."

  "Yes." Rafa's eyes sparkled. "It is a gift."

 

 

  About the Author

  Born on the border of Mexico to a U.S. Army family, Tina Laningham lived in Europe before settling in Northern California and later in Texas. After a few eye-opening years as a political journalist, followed by an outrageously fun time as a political speech writer, Laningham fell in love with the art of writing fiction.

 
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