“Get off! Get off! Getoffgetoffgetoff, you cretin!” It’s morning. Sure, the mornings are pretty hectic around here, but I’ve yet to hear someone screeching in the living room. Are they doing an imitation of Portia? If so, it’s dead on. I rush to put on my clothes and get downstairs. What the hell is going on down there?
By the time I get into the living room, I see Portia swinging her purse at Keith. “These raw silk cushions were imported from Paris,” she continues to screech at him. “They are not impervious to your drool!” She swings again.
Keith groans and covers his face with his arms. His words are slurred. “Unnnngh... stophiddingme... crazyfurginlady.”
A tall Latino man is standing next to her, dressed in impeccably-distressed jeans and a clingy black T-shirt. The sleeves can barely contain is sculpted biceps, and the sunglasses atop his head hold back sleek black waves of hair. Holy crap. Antonio Diego is in my house. He is glancing around my home, and I am immediately self-conscious. Somebody has left a glass and a plate with a pizza crust on the coffee table. Normally, I would rush to stash it in the kitchen sink, but I am frozen in the doorway as Portia slams Keith repeatedly with her purse, shrieking at him.
“What the hell is going on down here?” I ask Toni. But, like me, she is transfixed by the scene playing out in the living room. Portia swings her purse again and makes contact. Keith tries to sit upright but is knocked over from the weight of her blows.
“That is a Louis XIV divan,” Portia spouts, gesturing to the overly-fancy couch she bought Tim and me for a wedding gift. “Not some beanbag in a flop house, you imbecile. Stand up from there immediately!” The divan is a white raw silk Louis XIV-style chaise. Even I won’t sit on it, because I’m too afraid to mess it up. I always put down a throw blanket first.
Keith wobbles on his feet and rubs his eyes. I wonder if he even woke up from having passed out yesterday afternoon. Portia examines the side of her bag. There is a gouge in it from where it hit the studs on Keith’s jacket.
She glares at me. “Brenda, I don’t know why you didn’t tell me that you are having house guests,” she says. I can tell that she’s trying to come off polite, but the tone of her voice is clipped. She’s clearly pissed. Before I get the chance to say anything, she starts in again. “Get off of there! You are filthy!” She swings again. Keith groans and rubs at the stubble on his face, clearly trying to make sense of the situation. “Off!” Portia screams. “Immediately!”
“Ow! Fuck off, you crazy bitch!” he yells back at her. He moans then holds his head. “Quieter, please...” he grumbles. “...head is pounding.”
I know I should just tell her right now that guests in my house are none of her business. But she barrels right over me before I can even speak. “I expect that your houseguest will replace my Birkin.” Oh, shit. That’s Portia’s obnoxiously expensive handbag—the one that cost her tens of thousands of dollars. She was on the waiting list for five years for that thing. There’s no way Erik will buy her a new handbag. Antonio’s mouth falls open, but he has yet to say a word.
I examine the bag with her, while she continues to rant. “They’ll be hearing from my lawyer. My Birkin now has a scratch in it, and I demand that it be replaced.” I am about to tell her to calm down when I hear the front door open. It’s Keith. Leaving. Where is he going? Is he still drunk?
Portia continues to bluster. “I have never seen such behavior in my entire life,” she says, pointing her finger at me. Clearly, Keith’s passing out on her divan was my fault and is the sort of behavior that perfectly illustrates just how far beneath her station I really am.
I ignore her for the moment and watch Keith out the window, willing him not to do anything stupid. The fans have all stopped what they were doing and are watching Keith stumble down the front walk. I watch as Trisha approaches him and then stops a few paces away. She is talking to him, but I can’t hear what she’s saying.
Portia continues, oblivious: “Well, as you know,” she says, “Antonio is reupholstering the sofas to match the divan.” Really? That’s news to me. I’ve been thinking of putting those awful couches on Craigslist and buying something that better suits Tim and me—you know, like something we won’t be afraid to sit on. What use is a divan? It has no back; we can’t even flop onto it while we watch TV. “So, I thought I’d drop off the swatches for you and Timothy. I put paperclips on the ones that I want you to pick from. As you can imagine, Antonio Diego is a very busy man, darling. And then I saw your drunken friend sprawled upon the divan. Oh, I do hope he hasn’t sullied the fabric.” She bends over to inspect the surface of the divan. “Antonio, darling, what do you think?”
“I think it’s fine, Portia,” he says, running his fingers over the drool spot. “This’ll come out with some goat’s milk upholstery cleaner.” He glances around, and then wipes his hands on his jeans.
“Oh, Keith,” I mutter under my breath. “No. Nonononono.” I knock on the window, but he doesn’t look back. Trisha has retreated, a look of horror on her face. Keith staggers to Portia’s BMW. She had it specially shipped from Germany—the model is not available in the U.S. She is insanely protective of it. I once touched it, and she immediately pulled a special microfiber cloth from her purse and meticulously rubbed at where I’d laid my hand.
“Keith! Shit! No!” I run out the front door. Portia, confused, looks up from the divan and follows me out the door. “Keith!” I yell again. “Stop!”
It’s too late. He is bracing himself against the roof of her car. His frayed jeans are around his ankles, and he’s letting out a loud, exaggerated sigh of relief. He looks over his shoulder at Portia and sneers. I see the stream of urine splash against the driver’s-side door of her car. The crowd points, gasps, titters, laughs. For good measure, he thrusts his hips and traces a loopy pattern of pee down the length of her car. Antonio’s jaw drops further. Yeah, let’s see you clean that with goat’s milk.
That has to be the longest pee I have ever witnessed. The sheer mortification of the moment probably made it feel twice as long. Portia gasps in horror and disgust. For the first time since we met, we agree on something.
Without a word, Keith pulls up his pants and zips his fly. He strides up the front walk and pushes past us on his way back into the house. He turns and faces Portia. “Hit me with that bag one more time,” he hisses at her. “I dare you.” I am at a loss for words. Portia’s face grows redder by the second; I know she’s going to blow her top. I need to say something. I need to do something.
“I’m just going to go and get the measurements,” Antonio says and bolts through the door, closing it behind him. Great. She’s certainly not going to hold anything back, now that her fancy interior-decorator monkey isn’t present.
I frantically grab the hose behind the azalea bush near the front door and turn the water on full blast. “Portia. My God, I am so sorry,” I sputter. I spray down the side of her car. Then I get another idea and start a jog toward the garage. I can probably wash her car really quick and still have time to get changed and get to work.
“TIMOTHY,” Portia screams at the top of her lungs. “TIMOTHY, COME DOWN HERE THIS INSTANT!” Of course, Tim left early this morning: a breakfast meeting with Aria about the script for his radio ads.
I drop the hose and sprint back to her side. “He’s not here, Portia,” I tell her, trying to muster up as soothing a tone as possible.
“Do not speak to me as if I am a doddering old woman. I have never before witnessed such animal-like behavior. Who are these friends of yours, Brenda?”
“Portia, I am completely horrified at Keith’s behavior. Please accept my apology.” It’s inadequate, but there really isn’t anything else I can say at this point.
“Your friend will hear from my attorney,” she sputters. “My Birkin will be replaced, and my car will be professionally detailed.” She heads toward the house then turns to me. “You and your friend have humiliated me in front of Antonio Diego. I am disgusted with how you live.”
I have had it with this woman; I can’t hold back anymore. I am trying, but it’s not working. I muster up the politest tone I can again, though I am furious. Who does she think she is? “Portia, this is my home. If you don’t like how I live, then maybe you should call before you come over.”
Her face turns roughly six shades redder. “Before you came along, Timothy didn’t mind if I came over.”
“That may be true, but I do mind. I would never dream of showing up at your place unannounced. It’s rude. And despite what you may think, I have manners.” I turn on my heel and head into the house in front of her, leaving her on the front walk. A leak in the hose lightly sprays the back of her skirt, but I don’t bother to tell her about it. As I enter the house, Antonio is exiting. I can tell he’s heard the whole exchange, and he flashes me a slight sympathetic smile.
“Let’s go, Antonio,” she mutters. She scurries to her car and pulls the microfiber cloth from her purse. She holds it over her side of the car, trying to decide how to wipe away the filth. Instead, she covers her hand with it before opening her car door. I watch from my doorway as she locks the car door and pulls her gigantic designer sunglasses onto her gaunt face. She backs out of the driveway, and I hear her rev the engine as she pulls out and speeds away.
I should head her off at the pass and call Tim before he gets back to the shop, but I am sure she’s already begun calling him, repeatedly, until he answers his phone. I don’t think I’d even get through. Once it’s safe to go back outside, I coil up the hose and hang it back onto the wrought iron hanger behind the bush. When I walk back into the house, I see Toni is standing there with her mouth hanging open. Obviously, she has no idea what to say, either.
I shrug and walk past her, up the stairs so I can get changed and head to work. This is definitely one of those situations where I am glad that my mother-in-law prefers to talk only to my husband and not to me. Maybe I’m a coward, but I’ll let him deal with his mother’s wrath. But boy, did it feel good to tell her what I think for a change.
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