Saturday, February 02, 2008
By Laurel Brodzinsky
Pale white orchids with blushes of pink sat delicately on the table. Small vine flowers crept up the outdoor walls and in arches across the garden walkways. Murmurs of pleasure and excitement rose off the herds of friends and family standing on the open lawn by the rows of chairs. The last remains of morning dew still sparkled in the rays of sun.
I, honestly, was quite bored. In my family there are not very many cousins my age, and none I knew were coming here. Samantha and David’s wedding was wonderful for them, and I was happy for them, but I wanted to crawl back into bed and enjoy my weekend.
“Laurel! Is that you? You’ve gotten so big,” A smiling, gray haired grand-aunt exclaimed. I sighed as I went to do my duty of greeting and socializing with older relatives.
While talking to Milt, whose relation to me I’ve forgotten, I spotted a gang of teens wandering around, talking and laughing. They must be from David’s family, I thought. I smiled at their bad posture hidden inside torn baggy jeans and old sweatshirts. The couple of girls wore skimpy shorts, flip flops and bright halter tops that barely seemed to cover any skin. Well, I thought, isn’t this a lovely addition to the family? Still, it might be worthwhile to have some people to hang out with.
After the matrimonial service my family and I wandered into an adjacent garden along with the rest of the guests. The theme of this one was an oriental-Zen feel, and it featured rock formations, waterfalls and bonsai plants.
“Mom- Mom, can I go over and hang out with those kids?” I asked.
“Sure, find us after dinner. And don’t get into too much trouble. Do you have your cell phone?”
“Yes,” I sighed in the exasperated teenager voice.
“Okay, have fun” she said as I scampered away.
I introduced myself and promptly forgot all the other’s names except one, who seemed shier than the rest, Jake. They looked awkward in the middle of a wedding being dressed the way they were, whereas I stood out from them because I actually fit in with the wedding. My periwinkle flower dress and low cream heels contrasted the sluttiness of the two girls. Not that I didn’t know the look, I had seen it at school: flat decorated shoes and no-show socks, shorts so short some people should never wear, maybe six inches long total or shorter, the bright “look-at-me” top showing of cleavage, the glossy lipstick, too much eye shadow, large gold hoop earrings. It didn’t bother me too much though; it didn’t mean they were mean or disgusting.
I proved right about Jake. He was dressed like the boys, but didn’t act like them. When they horsed around and talked loudly, he stood quieter and just went along, watching. As we all talked, I could barely believe what I was hearing. It’s no wonder they have a hard time expressing themselves when it’s a rule that you have to cuss every other word. If that wasn’t enough to shock me, then we all sat down on the planters near some elderly, proper, relatives. The leader of the group began telling crude and dirty anecdotes about David. I hoped David never found out- these were not the kind of stories you would want anyone to hear.
“Ummm… so, enough about that, why don’t we-” I started to say uncomfortably.
“What? Com’on man, it’s hella funny!” the leader sneered. I decided to nickname him Fake Obnoxious Gangster.
I didn’t want any conflict, so I stopped talking and day dreamed for a bit. Jake looked over at me and seeing my frown over
F.O.G. gave a half smile that seemed to say: Yeah, it sucks, but what can we do?
Aloud, he announced, “Why don’t we all go into the party now?”
I looked around and realized adults were disappearing to go back onto the lawn for dinner, dancing and cake. I felt this was good, because it would probably be a safer environment for me.
I slunk behind the rest as they sauntered through the garden onto the canopy covered lawn. Small light were strung from the canopy, shining gallantly against the dimming sky of the late afternoon.
“Ooh! They have an open bar! I bet we could pay off the bartender to serve us!” Slut Number One exclaimed. I rolled my eyes. This would not be good.
As I pulled away to go find someone who would take care of them, I felt a sharp tug on my shoulder.
“They’re just fooling around,” Jake whispered. “They’re always like this. Trust me, nothing bad will happen. Just go along with it.”
He shuddered a little under my repulsed gaze, then grabbed my arm and led me back to the bar. When I protested about not getting fed dinner, we all went over to the buffet line to get food. I tried slip away, but was unsuccessful. Most guests had already sat down and were eating. My mom saw me with them and smiled, but I couldn’t go over and talk to her.
We went back to the bar and while I ate the girls paid off the bartender and started drinking. Adults would come over, but the bartender was fast on his feet to ask if we wanted more orange juice, or soda. He didn’t care. Slut Number Two started laughing in a voice so high it was more like a hiccup. Or was she hiccupping? She abruptly sat up, sloshing alcohol all over her pants.
“Oopsie- doopsies” she giggled.
“Man, the little mother- is drunk already? Can’t hold her – alcohol,” F.O.G. slurred.
They gulped up alcohol like soda, but neither Jake nor I drank. I suppose Jake felt responsible for his cousins, like watching a litter of naughty kittens destroy a house. He would also probably bear the bruises if the group got into trouble for what they did. I was allowed to get dessert, and enjoyed the rich and dense chocolate walnut torte. For a while after that, I watched people on the dance floor.
The stars I could see on the edges of the canopy grew more defined, the light a little brighter, the gang a little more drunk, the music slower, softer, more relaxed. People began to drift away from the dance floor and after making their excuses, float away like the dew that had held on into the early afternoon from that morning.
Jake still played watchdog, though his cousins had long crawled behind the bar and collapsed. If my nose was right, at least one had vomited.
“Why do you let them control you like this?” I spontaneously asked Jake. He looked astonished, then pondered.
“I guess because I’ve never had anyone else, but they’ll always be there. You’re supposed to be loyal to friends and family, aren’t you?” He pleaded.
“Not when they act like hooligans and degrade people and get drunk!”
“ I don’t- I just don’t want them to get in trouble is all” he whined.
“They’ll be getting in trouble the rest of their lives, making the same mistakes, if no one stops them now” I snapped.
“Why can’t you just let it be, you know? Go with the flow?”
I paused a moment to take it all in: Jake, conforming and pretending to be something for the sake of being able to have a group to be with, the pile of bodies behind the bar in ratty clothes, the stench of putrid vomit, myself, now standing, in my blue flowing dress looking prim, Jake looking at me with pleading eyes.
“’Cause that’s not my style.”
I stomped off before he could react and found some of David’s family at a near by table. I mentioned the kids might need a little help getting up, found my parents, and went home after saying our goodbyes. It almost made me vomit that I had stayed with the gang as long as I did. “Not my style”- I hadn’t told their relative much, but I’m sure he could guess at most of it. I could have let it be, and they would have done the same thing over and over again, probably becoming drunk, broke, sleazy junkies on the street. But I didn’t, because I cared.
Even if they were scumbags, I cared. That’s my style.