Find Part One here.
The first stop was not the restaurant, oh no. Hanna and I followed Sir’s SUV just down the road to a development that quickly made my eyes pop. There was no question on the wealth of this area, its brick facades shinning softly from carefully arranged street lamps. Perfectly sculpted gardens braved the cold, clear night as we pulled up the massive driveway and scrambled slowly out of the car.
No, the first stop was Sir’s home, and we were given a tour of this palatial estate while his wife (another black belt) prepared to join us and complained about how dirty the immaculate house was. There was a kitchen my mother would kill for, granite counter tops and industrial strength stove; an entire large closet with glass doors devoted to racks and racks of wine bottles; and how could the entertainment area be complete without an air hockey table…The party was just getting started.
And when we finally left, it picked up two more guests: Lebanese neighbors, happy to drive with us all the way to Chesterfield, despite the fact that we were in three separate cars, with only one person with any clue of the location we were supposed to be meeting at. At this point, however, I was fairly sober, and not in the mood to scurry hither and yon. In fact, I was actually becoming quite angry. K had assumed I’d done something I had it, got into a snit, and now I had to miss class and get dragged around to be her best buddy. In fact, with the liquor fog cleared, I thought even less of her than I had before – because I suspected she was just shallow enough to think a night of intense drinking would make us buddies, and she’d no longer pick on me. Of all the stupid reasons….
Even in the dead of night, I knew exactly where we were, having traveled this road in a flurry of haste to get to my awful job at CS many times. Which meant I knew what kind of world we were stepping into – a wealthy. Sure enough, the Wild Ginger was not something Hanna and I could afford in our wildest dreams. Posh professionals were stuffed into every booth and table, or at the bar that glowed neon orange from the light panel beneath it. Wealthy, successful people, with a surprising mix of ethnicities were packed into every nook and cranny available. So while Sir hobnobbed with everyone, and seemed to know everyone there, the rest of the Studio staff stood against a wall with a distinctly foreign, nervous air.
“Hey, can I get four drinks for this ladies over here?”
“Sir, I’m not drinking anymore-”
“They’re all over twenty-one, right?”
“Please just get me water…”
Hanna was just as stalwart: “Sir, I don’t drink.”
“Hanna doule, you had shots with me at Christmas!”
“Sir, you keep saying that, and I really didn’t.”
Well, it didn’t matter. He’d disappeared into the crowd – or perhaps into the conspicuous glass room near the center of the restaurant, again lined with bottles of wine – and we stood there chatting while his wife found yet more people she knew. Er, rather, we chatted in our little cliques. K with the coworker she’d become bosom buddies with (but originally hated the way she hated me, and believe me, I’d kind of rather she stay that way than suddenly become my best friend), and I with a very uncomfortable Hanna. He hates sudden loud, crowded social situations, and I was out of my element as well. Even so, I nudged his elbow.
“Hanna! Hanna, look! Look at that guy, he is so cute.” He was not having any of it. He had turned his head briefly, lest I be pointing out some sort of danger, but was back to intensely focusing on the wall in order to have some control of his surroundings. “Hanna!”
“Oh my God, shut up.”
“Oh, he’s kissing another girl…nevermind…” Stupid restaurant….
At great length, all ten of us were seated, with yet more faces familiar to Sir and his wife popping up everywhere. Hanna quite literally buried his face in his menu, holding it tight against him like his shield against the noise of the restaurant. Me, I made small talk, spoke French with the Lebanese neighbor, and watched the drinks come in…K and the coworker were happy to drink. Oh Lord were they happy. Blueberry belinis, glasses of expensive red wine. Sir kept ordering, and they kept taking.
“Emily, what are you drinking?”
“[Wife], go hook Emily up with a little somethin’ somethin’.”
“A what? What do you want?” She went to the bar anyway – but as she wasn’t drinking either, she had no problems with me passing it right back down to K and our coworker – and there were no protests about drinking it, either. Hanna and I have different views on drinking. I like it, in moderation, and he hates it, but I had new appreciation for his feelings as I watched them descend into giggling, alcoholic madness. Hanna hates being around people who act stupid – and oh God, were they acting stupid. I watched, a little amazed, and felt all my respect drain down into the floor…it could be it’s no fun to be around drinkers when you aren’t drinking – but they were being hyena-like morons. Thank God I’d stopped drinking….And on Monday morning, what was going to happen? Was K going to give me some sort of giant hug and talk about how wasted we got? Were we supposed to be “friends” now? Based on booze?
“Hanna…it’s almost ten o’clock, let’s get out of here…” He agreed, stood, regretfully told Sir we needed to go home….And I watched him walk back and sit right back down with no attempt and leaving. “Aren’t we going?”
He had a look of sheer defeat. “No…”
“Don’t go!” Sir was insisting. “We haven’t even had dinner yet!”
Luckily for us, dinner was on its way…plates after expensive plate Sir had ordered for the whole table. Pad Thai, sea bass, scallops and lobster wantons. Oysters, sashimi shrimp, salmon, tuna…plate after plate was passed round – and poor Hanna hates fish.
In fact, I was quite impressed with what a trooper he was through the whole thing: in the kind of situation he hated most, and actually eating fish, though he would buck when K or our coworker would try to pressure him too much. And myself? A large, round scallop, larger than a fifty scent coin sat atop a piece of pita in front of me. I couldn’t recall ever having scallops before, and maneuvered it awkwardly with my chopsticks into my mouth.
It was…squishy. I had expected the firm texture of a nice piece of white fish. This was more like…fish jello. I forced down half of it before giving up. “Have mine, Hanna…” At least there was one thing he liked and could eat at the table, his favorite, scallops…
Actually, the whole thing was making me unhappy. I’d been talking about my family back in Sir’s office, and the plethora of seafood was triggering my sense that I would somehow kill my dad eating this. He was all the way across the country in Seattle, and yet I still had a brief panic, and had to pray with my hands folded under the table that he was well and safe.
The dinner wore on…nearly eleven, I wanted to go home. “Hanna, let’s go.”
“We can’t, bro. Go ask him.”
Well, fine. I wasn’t scared of Sir, I could do that. I got up, wormed my way politely over, and insisted that there were dogs waiting for us at home and that we had to go.
“Emily, you’re being so rude! Here. If you drink this glass of wine, you can go.”
I raised an eyebrow. What, he thought I couldn’t do it? I may be a cheap date, but a Nelson girl knows how to drink wine. I put my hand out and began to sip it; I couldn’t really down it…I guess a Nelson girl also knows you don’t pound expensive wines.
I was standing behind K and my coworker, trying to finish the glass to hand back to sir. “Emily!” my coworker insisted, red-faced and completely out of control. “Drink your wine and sit your ass down!”
“I am drinking my wine!”
“But you forgot to sit your ass down!”
K was giggling. “You’re mean when you’re drinking!”
“Heeeeheheee! Yeah, I get pretty crazy.”
Ugh. I didn’t want all this. I would be happier at home with tea and a video game, not surrounded by this. But I drank the wine, nothing was stopping me…but Hanna is savvier about these things – no, better to score points with the boss and still not leave. The girls kept drinking, the guests insisting we stay till the bitter end. The sushi bar closed without my even noticing, its hardworking chefs gone home. They did not know how lucky they were. I watched tired waitresses closing up various parts of the restaurant, still serving the not-yet-empty bar, and this table of gluttony.
Eleven o’clock. At last, we were released – with an hour to get home. “We’re not going to be home before midnight…” I sighed, forlorn and exhausted.
“You wanna bet?” Hanna replied, and we were off.
Very briefly, we talked about the evening, and the office, and the drinks. About K crying, about the idiocy of the whole thing. And I just became more and more angry. I was angry I had been treated to dinner at an expensive restaurant? Haha, I suppose…No, I was angry that K could pitch a fit and decide that I was the cause of all her problems…and there was nothing I could do to stop her.
“Ma’am and Sir know K causes problems,” Hanna briefly assured me, more occupied consoling his stressed mind with imagining his car was a space ship. “Nothing you can do about that.” Talking about reality for the evening was over, as he went back to making soft vroom sounds and at least getting some pleasure out of the evening. And well…I’d rather be the ship’s ensign than continue thinking about K and her truly hysterical, mad behavior.
The GPS advised we turn left, we passed a county cop and were lucky to be going the speed limit for once in that harried drive. “Hey…” I replied, starting to smile again. “Maybe the cop’s can be an enemy race, like the Borg.”
“No way, the Borg are way too scary.”
“So what are we doing, reporting back to the home planet?”
“Yeah, base has to know about this!”
It wasn’t a total wash.