b Papa Dog's Blog: 7. Saturnalia

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Saturday, December 31, 2005

7. Saturnalia

The Director was the first to rise, and when he stepped out into the living room, he was met with a trail of unmistakable evidence. The kitchen's sliding doors were shut, except for a crack just large enough for a body to pass through on the south door. The preparation island was cleared off, but the serving trays and supplies from the previous night were scattered willy-nilly on every other counter. Our phones were left by the bottles, and her shoes landed next to the freezer. He told me later that he looked at the shut guest room door and let out a canary eating grin. "Way to go!" he thought.

Deb and I were still awake, indulging in each other. The rain fell gently outside the window and I told her that if this place were mine, I'd lead her out into it as we were. My hands loved exploring her tiny body, loved the way we fit together. With her soft back pressed against me, I couldn't care about anything else. There are Christmas mornings, and there is this, a perfect gift from the world. We pulled the blanket over us, and drifted into innocent sleep.

When we rose much later it was dark outside. She looked for the time and found it was five. She thought it was morning, but that was impossible. Alas, she'd missed her appointment for tea, and I was selfishly glad. Neither of us wanted to get out of bed. I could have stayed for hours, letting her fingers run through my hair. We held each other for a long time, affectionate kisses punctuating the mood. The lights were on outside our door, and I said we probably ought to go face the kids. It was an effort that took most of our willpower.

I mentioned that we would look like we emerged from a bordello, both of us with that goofy grin of carnal satisfaction, amplified by a touch of infatuation. She shrugged it off and said we had to own it. To emerge triumphant and declare "Damn, that was the best sex I've had in years." I chuckled and countered, "Or, those Team America puppets have got nothing on us."

I was the first to stand on wobbly legs and pull on a pair of pants. I looked at her sitting up in bed and considered how lucky I was to bask in her beauty. When we finally emerged there was no one around. Ravenously, I stepped into the kitchen and tore into the leftover brie.

Haley came out a bit later, not looking much different than Deb or I. We were all blissful on that morning afternoon. The Director was out on a walk in the rain steeling himself for the unpleasant task of the Christmas calls to relatives. No matter how a man divorces himself from conventional bonds, there are still the days when duty must be performed. I left Haley and Deb to chat in the living room and excused myself to the office. There was a post-it on the computer, noting, "Charles -- look at this!" It was that wonderful Hitchens article. I roared with laughter at each perfectly placed word. What a way to start a Christmas.

Halfway through Hitch's indictment, I heard the gals burst into their own laughter as the elevator doors burst open. The Director looked drowned and cranky, but would have a hard time maintaining that mood with two graces meeting him at the door. He heard me laughing to the brink of tears at Hitchens and knew I'd found his note. How strange we all were, all foils to each other, two of Apollo, and two of Dionysus, two pairs of friends with parallel relationships to each other, intersecting uniquely in a drama none of us would be smart enough to plot if it didn't really happen.

The day moved on easy and lazy, all of us in a mood that was better than we deserved, considering the day. The Director's face was unabashedly happy, and I don't think I'd ever seen him look that way before. Even when he closed his door to speak to the clan, I thought it was amusing that they thought he was drowning in sorrow, when in fact, joy was in the other room.

Past nightfall we started on beer. Deb and I were in the kitchen. I washed the dishes while she prepared dinner -- chicken satay and pork tenderloin. I deeply enjoyed this domestic feeling. Being close to this gal and making this home comfortable for our friends. We moved around each other, each on our task. Occasionally one of us would stand behind the other and we'd share a sweet kiss. If you weren't there, I'm sure it all sounds pretty disgusting.

Deb and I sat in the living room waiting for the food to be finished and smoked a couple cigarettes. I noted that this was such a departure for both the Director and I. I could see that he was enjoying having people in his home. When before it took an act of Congress to bring a friend over for a nightcap, here he had these three close friends drunk on companionship. It used to be so dark in there, with windows shut and a shroud of tense silence hanging over everything. This week, for all its trauma, was filled with levity and light. Abruptly, as I noted all this, the Director swung open the doors of his bedroom. I was startled, because, you see, I thought they were decorative. I didn't know they opened. The entire place was now one large, continuous space, both open and bright. No longer a cave, it was now a place of happy congregation.

The food was done and we put it out for everyone to come and take as they pleased. She prepared a plate for the two in the back, and when she took it to them, I prepared our plates as well. "Not to be too Lady and the Tramp," I said when she returned, "but I made you a plate so you got some of everything." We sat in the kitchen and had our meal, while the kids in the back called after us to watch Bad Santa.

Deb and I cleaned up the kitchen and finally joined them in the bedroom. The Director and the two ladies sat on the bed, I on a chair beside Deb, my hand resting gently on her leg. The movie started and we fell into hysteria. I was convulsively laughing for the first five minutes, watching Billy Bob Thornton rape Christmas with his impeccable performance as a drunk, irredeemable Santa. We were each into the movie, into each other, into the companionship we'd created from whole cloth. We didn't need gifts, and we didn't need ornaments, and we didn't need obligations to experience overwhelming fellowship. What we needed was each other and the experiences we'd shared, both the trauma and the joy. Laughing with the movie was transcendent catharsis.

Afterwards, we wandered into the kitchen where Haley popped open a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. The ladies went back into the bedroom to put on another movie, and the Director and I stood at the counter, unmistakably happy. "God, look at us," the Director said, "happy like this on Christmas. How'd that happen?"

"Yeah, I know," I said, "it's certainly the best one I ever had." The ladies were laughing in the back, and calling us to join them. We smiled, and popped another couple of beers. Taking a pull, the Director said, "Shit, look at this. This isn't Christmas. This is Saturnalia. We drank, we ate, we smoked, we screwed. We've got these two great women in there. This is how it should be."

I raised my glass to toast the sentiment, and sarcastically said, "To Christmas."

The Director gave a crooked glance and said, "Only this once, and only with you, I'll toast that. Fucker. To Christmas."

Once more, the ladies called us in to join them, and we recognized that there were better things to do than stand in the kitchen watching each other drink.


Anonymous Mama Dog Duvalier said...

What a great story, Brownstein! So good, in fact, that I had the Doctor print it out (several installments at a time) so that I could savor it in a place more comfortable than in front of the computer screen.

Happy new year and visit soon!

9:17 AM  

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