Anniversary on the Rocks
I am trying to be nice. We are all sitting together in a Greek restaurant. I look at my sister. She is speaking loudly. Drunks always speak loudly. She is going on about our upcoming anniversaries, Mike and me for twenty-five years and she and Al for fifty years. There are just the four of us at the table.
“You know what we should do? We should go together on a trip, some luxury trip celebrating our anniversaries.” Dorothy says.
Just what I don’t need: to spend more time with my alcoholic sister and husband. Immediately, the guilt starts low in my stomach for thinking such cruel things about my sister, even if it is true. The strong vinegar smell coming from the salad starts to make me nauseous. I desperately turn to my husband for help. Silence. He has that far away look he always gets after about a half an hour with our in-laws. I can tell he is somewhere else, not sitting in this dank restaurant. It is up to me to get us out of this.
“That sounds exciting but Mike and I are trying to save money. You can understand.”
“Ridiculous. You two have more money than Al and I ever made. Come on, it will be wonderful. We can even go to Greece!”
I let her talk. What else is there to do? She’s drunk and there is no stopping her. She usually forgets her grand schemes the next morning. I grind my teeth at the idea of letting her get her way with it another time. The manipulation has to stop.
“Times are tough for everyone. Neither Mike nor I are making the commissions we were. Mike can’t take the time off of work right now. Business conflicts you, understand. Sorry, Dorothy, but we can’t go.”
That sounds pretty good and final. She can’t argue with that one. We all are struggling.
She loves that word, ridiculous. For some reason even when she is too drunk to speak without slurring she can still fling that one out there perfectly. That is probably why she uses it so much. Ridiculous is spending a whole vacation with two alcoholics. I look again at my husband. He is still gone. I hate it when he does that but he hates going out with Dorothy and Al. I guess it’s fair play.
“No it is not ridiculous it’s a fact, Dorothy. Maybe next year.”
“But it won’t be Al’s and my big anniversary. I don’t think I could take another fifty years with you Al.” Ha, ha. Then she punches him in the arm.
Al smiles serenely. He always sits back and lets my sister do the battles. She loves it and he just wants to be left alone in his alcohol haze. In some ways, he reminds me of my husband. They are both gone, just differently. But there is a big difference. If I really want to bring Mike into this argument I can. Al seldom leaves his haze.
“Well, that’s life,” I say sternly.
I pick up my fork again then I put it down, no longer hungry. They picked this restaurant. Said it is very authentic. I wouldn’t know. I guess if I went on that cruise I would. I shuddered at the thought.
“You’ll regret it for the rest of your lives. We won’t be around forever to make sure you get out and have fun every once in awhile.”
There she was using guilt on me. I’m sick of it. “Dorothy, I don’t want to discuss it anymore. Right, Mike?”
“Of course you’re right, honey.” Mike said. He is quickly trying to figure out what he has agreed to. He looks to me in vain. I’m not going to help him.
Dorothy purses her lips. She is use to getting her way. I move on to my main course. We aren’t going anywhere with them. I will do whatever I have to do to get out of this trip. I may resort to telling her the truth! I try one more attempt to avoid a scene by distracting my sister.
“How are your kids?”
Dorothy is a bit confused for a moment at the change of subject but then she rallies and starts in about the trails of her children. She is speaking loudly that her son just got a DUI. I am trying to hide my head. Mike is staring at his plate in disgust. People around us are looking at her. Just when I think I’m safe she stops and looks at Al.
“We should bring the kids on the trip with us, Al!”
Al chirps in, “Yeah.”
I have had it. There is no trip. I look over at Dorothy and try in vain to catch her eye. I finally just give up and tell Al, “Al we don’t have the money, we don’t have the time, and I don’t want to go on a trip with my sister, the cantankerous old bat.”
I did it. I stood up for myself.
She looks at me and says, aiming right for my face, “Ridiculous.”
I get up from the table and look at Mike who is catching on. “Mike, time to go. Leave some money. Dorothy, if all you want to talk about is a trip that isn’t going to happen then we’re leaving.”
Tears start to streak down her cheeks, making her massive amounts of mascara run.
“All you had to do was say no,” Dorothy slurs.
I sigh, grab Mike and leave for the door. She’ll forget the whole episode in the morning. Of course she will also phone me in a few days asking us to go on a trip! But I will say no just like I did tonight. I am not the little sister anymore but a person who has the right to say they don’t want to do something.