My girlfriend gave me a look that made it hard for me to say no.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll go.”
She looked happy.
“Yeah! I promise we’ll have fun. And please wear your suit, it’s going to be kinda fancy.”
It was some kind of charity event that my girlfriend’s Mother had to go to. And her Mother didn’t want to go alone so she invited my girlfriend. Who then invited me. The word “event” made me feel anxious (I was not a person invited to events) but I wanted to make her happy. There was also the promise of a three-course meal, very lavish, very free, so it was settled. We were going to the event.
Walking in, the first thing I saw was a small woman dressed like a gymnast in the middle of the event. She was twirling high in the air, supported only by a big long piece of fabric. She would wrap her legs around the fabric and dangle and twirl. Mesmerizing. I thought, this is what it means to be an event person.
When we sat down at our assigned table, my girlfriend and I couldn’t stop staring at her.
“I don’t want to watch,” my girlfriend said. “I’m so worried she’s going to fall. But I can’t stop watching.”
“We’ll both watch,” I said. “And if she falls, we can be the first responders.”
The other people at the event were paying no attention to the gymnast. Like they were used to this kind of entertainment. It made me suspicious of them. And they were well dressed and looked like people I should not be allowed in a room with, so, naturally, I had my guard up.
“Or, if it makes you feel better,” I said. “Look away and I’ll watch her.”
“Oooh,” she winced. “But I can’t look away. She better be getting paid a lot.”
My girlfriend was always concerned with this kind of thing. She always tips 30% and cares for the well-being of others more than her own.
“You want to tip her don’t you?”
“Well,” she said, staring. “I would if they gave her a break! Her arms must be exhausted!”
I looked down at the table. There was a menu describing the three-course meal that would be served, and another itinerary listing names of short films and directors I’d never heard of. Each film was scheduled to play at the same time each course was served.
“What’s this?” I said.
My girlfriend looked down at the list momentarily, then fixated back on the gymnast.
She said, “There was a film-fest earlier today– Oh honey, take a break!– and those are the finalists– You think I could slip cash into her leotard?– and they’ll show each of these films throughout dinner and then award the winner.”
“Oh,” I said. “I see.”
Through the crowd, I saw my girlfriend’s Mother striding in. Looking like she owned the place. Boss Momma.
“Hello you two,” she said.
My girlfriend got up and hugged her then sat back down quickly to continue watching over the gymnast.
But Boss Momma remained standing.
“Join us,” I said, not knowing what to say.
“I will. I’m just going to grab a drink before I sit down,” Boss Momma said.
My girlfriend nudged me. She and I had been sober for six months, but I understood. I stood up and walked with her Mom to the bar. Everyone we passed through seemed absorbed in their own world and they didn’t know me or make eye contact so I was feeling alright. My girl’s mother ordered a vodka soda with lime and we waited as the bartender fixed it up nicely. I was usually completely useless at making small talk, but my girlfriend’s mother made it easy. She wasn’t an event person either. She was one of the smartest people I’d ever met. She liked baseball and dirty jokes and she was a single mom that had worked two, sometimes three jobs her whole life. Until she found the job that required her to go to this event.
“You hear Goldy might be traded?” she said.
“It’s a shame,” I said. “Puig might be traded too though. At least we won’t have to see him as much.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Fuck that guy.”
Big Boss Momma. She grabbed her drink from the bartender and took a sip. Everyone at the event knew it, I thought, she was in charge. We started to make our way through the crowd, back to our table, when a couple that was also in line for the bar noticed her. They looked excited and immediately walked over to her to pay tribute, kiss the ring.
“Incoming,” I said.
My girlfriend’s Mom turned to greet them. They were work friends of some kind, I wasn’t sure, and they seemed like they’d been drinking all day. The man wore a skin-tight suit, had that haircut that every other skin-tight-suit-wearing guy had, and the woman had a short sparkly dress and high heels that looked very uncomfortable.
“I’m s’glad you came!” the woman in heels said, hugging Boss Momma, then looking around at the other people at the event. “The festival was soooo boring without you,” she whispered.
They went on talking for a minute before I realized I hadn’t said anything or made any facial expression other than ice-cold indifference. Boss Momma realized it too.
“Sorry,” she said, “This is Ty, my daughter’s boyfriend.”
“Nice to meet you man,” the guy in the suit said.
We shook hands. Then silence. I was embarrassing Boss Momma. Letting her down. But still, she kept her cool.
“What’s new?” she said to the woman. “Haven’t seen you in awhile.”
“Oh!” the woman said, “Have I shown you my baby yet?”
The woman pulled out her phone and started showing off pictures of her “baby”. A shaggy little puppy who had big eyes and long goofy ears. So beautiful. The woman began to explain how she got the little puppy. But she was stumbling over her words and talking really fast.
“Needadahome. So w’gavem a home! S’fuckin’ cute right? Right!?”
My girlfriend’s Mom and I nodded. Picture after picture. Mostly of the puppy just laying around. We used every variation of “cute,” telling her how great it was, adopting instead of buying, until the conversation died of natural causes.
“Nice to meet you,” I said.
“We’ll see you in a bit,” Boss Momma said.
There were new additions when we got back to the table. Three woman all staring at their phones, looking bored. They didn’t notice us. And my girlfriend looked relieved when we sat back down.
“Hey,” she kissed my cheek. “Who were you guys talking to over there?”
“I forgot the woman’s name, but her husband is the head of my department,” Boss Momma said.
Undeniably, the Boss. I felt like putting my fist up to my mouth and saying, “Burn.” But my girlfriend nudged me again and pointed toward the gymnast woman. She was standing on the ground for the first time, walking towards the bathroom.
“She’s going to the bathroom,” I said. “But you know you’ll regret not talking to her.”
My girlfriend smiled and quickly followed after her, leaving Momma and I with the three strangers who were now scowling at the menu. They were talking about the vegan options. And how they were worried about the quality of it.
“In my experience,” the one wearing a kimono said, “if a chef doesn’t specialize in vegan food, it’s usually sub-par.”
The first course arrived. I was starving, would’ve eaten anything, but it looked like something I needed to put in me at once. Some kind of deep-fried pork thing. I thought, “get in me.” Then Boss Momma and I dug in while the strangers watched us.
“Well,” one of them said. “I’m glad some of the meat dishes will get eaten at this table.”
Another said, “I was told there was a vegan option for each dish. Guess that’s not happening!”
The third one picked up a plate of the pork-thing and placed it in front of me aggressively. “I just can NOT have that in front of me,” she said, faking a laugh.
I looked at her. Then the plate. Then back to her, not blinking. Then I grabbed the plate and started in on it too. The women watched as I ate from both plates, with both hands, a slightly sexual vibe in the way I was gazing at the food and sliding it in my mouth. The only way to feast, undoubtedly, when at an event such as this.
When my girlfriend returned, both plates in front of me were empty.
“The food good?” she asked.
The three vegan women looked horrified.
“How did it go with the acrobat woman?” I asked.
My girlfriend smiled and handed me a business card.
“We’re best friends now,” she said. “And she’s getting paid a shit-ton! I’m going to go to her studio and take a few classes next week.”
“Of course,” I said. “When you followed her into the bathroom, that’s exactly how I pictured it going.”
The second course arrived. Another meat stuffed appetizer. And the first film was displayed on large screen at the front and center of the event. The three women, and my girlfriend, all turned their attention to it, as Boss Momma and I continued to eat. From what I heard, the film was about a retired schoolteacher who receives a letter from a former student. Somehow, in the end, it turned out that the schoolteacher was a serial killer. The crowd applauded. And the three women at the table “ooh’ed” and “ah’ed” as the untouched food in front of them went cold. It was the third course they were looking forward to. They had been promised that the vegan option would be served to them right away. My girlfriend, her mother and I were looking forward to the third course as well– the real third course. It was a big plate of noodles with bulgogi slapped brilliantly on top.
Boss Momma said, “We’ll eat the bulgogi, skip the award ceremony, then get out of here.”
Out of nowhere, the puppy-loving drunk woman in heels squatted down next to her.
“Hey guysss!” she said. “Was wonderin’ if ya got a light?” She held up an unlit cigarette. “Idiot husband losdah lighter.”
One of the vegan women dug around in her purse and handed over a lighter and the woman in heels stumbled off toward the door. Then it started. The moment we’d been waiting for.
We saw the waiters and waitresses start to disperse around the event with the third course in hand. As I watched them serve the tables nearest the kitchen, the final film was put on the projector.
“You might like it,” my girlfriend said, turning my head away from the food and toward the screen. “Maybe it’ll be good.”
The film started out with a family sitting near a fireplace. A grandmother, grandfather, their daughter, and their grandchildren. It was then revealed that the grandmother had Alzheimer’s and the grandfather was getting no help from his daughter or other family members. The film then shows the many problems the grandfather goes through taking care of his sick wife. I was hooked. The food was served, the vegan version being placed in front of the three women (who picked at it and complained) and the bulgogi was set down in front of us. But I was busy watching the film. At the end, it got wild. Turned out, the whole time, it was the grandfather with Alzheimer’s. Twist of all twists. The crowd applauded and I started in on the bulgogi, which was also mind-blowing.
And I thought, I like events.
“Did you like it,” my girlfriend said.
“Yes,” I smiled. “You were right.”
After we were finished eating we said goodbye to the vegans and walked toward the exit. Boss Momma breezing past the groups that wanted to smooch her royal hand as my girl and I followed closely behind. When we went out the doors, we saw the drunk woman in heels again.
She was smoking a cigarette and talking with a tall gray-haired man. He looked terrified, stone-faced, as the woman in heels spoke very loudly and demonstratively, waving her hands and swaying slightly. The more she moved, the more her dress crept up.
“I’m so glad we’re not doing that anymore,” my girl said.
“Yeah. She’s going to feel awful tomorrow.”
Before we separated, I hugged Boss Momma and thanked her for inviting me and she nodded and walked towards her car.
“Bye Mom!” my girlfriend said, waving.
“Thanks for coming,” Boss Momma said. “Drive safe you two.”
She drove off into the sunset. Like a Boss. A Queen. Then I turned to my girlfriend and squeezed her ass.
“Sorry,” I said. “I couldn’t help picturing you in one of those gymnast leotards, after you said you’d take a class.”
“It’s okay,” she said, squeezing my ass.
“You will be great big-long-fabric-acrobat woman,” I said. “I have no doubt in my mind.”
Yeah. She would. She could do anything. She was next in line for the throne.
T.J. Larkey lives in the desert and works as a process server.