Friday, December 7, 2012

reverb | feast

Reverb Prompt for December 7: Feast. Hopefully you’ve had more than one spectacular meal in 2012, but what is the first one that comes to mind? Were you surrounded by family at the dining room table? Sitting on a bench by the lake? Bring us there.
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The sun set fiery over the toll road as I drove west, windows down, scream-singing along to anything.

I kept looking down at my phone to make sure I was going the right way, knowing how easily I get lost in this, my home state of how many years now. I hated how close I was going to the apartment of the guy who'd held me in bed all morning but when challenged by this tear-stained girl couldn't bring himself to explain whether we were on again or off again; I dreaded seeing him for a planned final explanation.

When I finally realized that I was in the wrong lane, I put on my blinker and glanced over my shoulder, hoping to make eye contact with some nice driver who would let me move over to turn left into the shopping center. My brain, slowed by sadness, didn't comprehend at first that the shiny blue car that looks just like Dad's was, in fact, Dad's, and of course he would let me in and then let me go the wrong direction but keep following me until we got to where we needed to be.

He had to go to the bank so we walked over casually discussing astronomy as I glanced at the harvest moon, thinking at once of Neil Young and Zac Brown Band. This isn't right; this isn't what I'm supposed to be doing tonight.

When I talked to Mom at zero-dark-thirty, she'd asked me to make sure the dinner still happened. "Don't come up yet," she'd said, tired, into her old Blackberry. "We don't have anything planned yet. Talk to Beth and make sure it still happens, okay?" I relayed the message to Dad, comfortable in knowing the 5AM text message wouldn't be a bother because we had spoken only twenty minutes earlier, when I answered groggily and he said "Lauren, I'm sorry to tell you this over the phone, but..."

I messaged Beth on Facebook, thinking it was the least likely to jar her awake and she'd get it when she was good and ready. I asked Dad if he'd talked to Tommy; yes, Beth was there with him. Okay. He told me to go wake up my roommates, but I couldn't, not at that hour, so instead I scrawled on pieces of paper that sadly I'd be missing our plans for the day and if you hear a male voice it's from my room and it's not a boogie-man, and here's why I'd be in bed with my door locked all day. I left the notes on the bathroom counters, and I got notes in return when I woke up at intervals and attempted to water-splash my face back to life.

Later, my brain couldn't comprehend my closet and I thought it would take forever to get dressed and I'd be late and ruin the entire surprise dinner. I should have known, no, no matter Beth's influence, my brother would always be later than I was for anything, so there was no need to worry. Dad and I walked into the restaurant, checked in, and sat down at the bar to wait for the rest of the group. "Mai Tais, okay? That's what she drank whenever we came here." Dad nodded, "Two Mai Tais, please."

Tommy's friends trickled in, first the newly-married couple, then the boy who I thought was still underage, then friends from college, then friends from high school. Some knew the news and some didn't; they conveyed this carefully in how tight they hugged me and in whether they shook Dad's hand with one or two hands. We explained the Mai Tais and everyone ordered them, took them to the table, and talked and laughed while we waited for Tommy and Beth to walk in.

We all hid under the lip of the table when they walked in, and jumped up to exclaim his birthday wishes as they turned the corner. We shuffled seats, drinks, and sushi, explained how to order and how much and what was good. We talked and laughed and enjoyed a long, delicious meal together.

For a few moments there with the heat of the grill in front of me, surrounded by Tommy and Beth on one side, Chris and Dad on the other, Kyle down the table and Liz on the other side, more of Tommy's good-natured friends around us, I relaxed.

I took a deep breath and raised my glass, remembering toasting Mai Tais with Grandma and how happy she was when she was with us.


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