Saturday started normal enough. Fruitcake for breakfast. It’s a favorite.
I’d finished the novel about meus avós the night before, so I sent it off to a prospective publisher.
Went for a quick dip.
And then, the day got weird.
Pai called to invite me to a club outing. I’ve been an honorary member of Partihaus since I was a kid, but I’d never actually been to any of the gatherings.
“I don’t want you going while you’re a kid,” Mãe told me, on one of the few occasions when she lay down the law. And then when I was in high school, I was so busy with Paint! and working out and composing that I never seemed to have time for extra activities.
When Pai called on Saturday morning, I really didn’t have a reason to stay home. It felt like a rite of passage to meet Pai at his club.
“It is the club of me,” Pai said. “You are the son of me. Come! I will show you how the Rocca men have the good time! I have arranged for the special DJ to attend. She is like the sparkle on the ocean sea!”
I was surprised to see Mãe there when I arrived at the Narwhal Arms.
“I didn’t know you rejoined the club” I said.
“I didn’t,” she replied. “I just came here for the music. I hear this DJ is really something.”
I had so much to tell Mãe. She was really interested in the discoveries about the mushroom compounds, and she seemed so pleased to hear about the award.
“Of course you deserve it,” she told me. “The thing about awards is that they recognize qualities within a person. You don’t see it, Charlie, but you’ve got some pretty remarkable gifts and talents. Plus, you’ve got a good heart.”
While Mãe was talking, things suddenly got really awkward for me. On the other side of the dance floor, Pai and Eva were flirting–it wasn’t even subtle. It was right out there in front of everybody. I felt weird on about five accounts. First, Mãe was right there. Second, what was Pai doing? Third, Eva is my boss! Fourth, Mãe was right there! Fifth, everybody could see, including me!
Mãe noticed what was going on.
“Relax, spud,” she said. “This is Partihaus. I’m not oblivious. I knew the score when I joined the club twenty-one years ago, and I never asked your dad to change or to quit. I did tell you how you were conceived, didn’t I?”
It was too much. I thought about the novel I’d just sent to the publisher’s that morning, a sweet and traditional love story. Then I thought about where I came from. Which one was the lie? I was standing smack in the middle of cognitive dissonance.
I always knew that Pai‘s roommates–all three of them–were more than roommates to him. But I also knew that he and minha mãe were loving with each other, and he and I were best friends. We’d always been family, when he stopped by our house. I’d never seen this side of him before.
I didn’t even have the presence of mind to talk with the DJ when she finished her set.
I felt relieved when Yuki called to give me an excuse to bail.
“Hey, Chaz!” she said. “I heard you got a promo! Let’s go have dinner! Meet me at that new Llama place!”
Her voice sounded like she was laughing, so I figured she was teasing. My promotion wasn’t much, after all. I stopped back home to change, and I decided I’d wear something that showed I didn’t take myself too seriously.
“Charlie?” Yuki said when she saw me. “What’s with the glasses?”
She sounded a little sad, maybe a little disappointed–was she hurt?–when she said that.
I headed inside to get us a table.
When Yuki joined me, she’d changed into a little black dress. Oh, boy. I’d blown it, hadn’t I?
“You look really nice!” I told her. “I’ve never seen you dressed like a girl before.”
She started feeling like my good-friend Yuki while we were eating. I told her all about the mushroom discoveries I was making.
“They seriously devour virus cells?” she asked.
The food was interesting. Yuki didn’t eat her little chocolate tofu cubes. But she drank her wine. I ate whatever it was I ordered. It tasted unusual–not that great, actually, but I enjoyed the inventiveness of the dish.
I stopped by the kitchen on the way out to thank the chef for having prepared it.
“Interesting dish!” I said. “Thanks! I think I learned something new about food!”
“Seriously?” she replied. “No one’s ever thanked me for my creations before! And you seriously learned something? That’s exactly what we hope to achieve! Dining’s about so much more than just, you know, taste.”