Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.
From far and near we travel home,
Blessed that we are able.
Grateful for this sheltered place
With light in every window,
Saying “welcome, welcome, share this feast
Come in away from sorrow.”
~ Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter
It’s the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and I’m meeting Alcide at our favorite bar. I’ve been in a funk for the last few weeks. He thinks it’s because Dawn and I split up; but in truth, it’s been since I ran into Sookie Merlotte…Stackhouse and her son, Hunter. I thought I had finally pushed them from my mind, but seeing them brought everything rushing back to the front of my mind. She was even more beautiful than I had remembered. And while she wasn’t over the death of her husband, it certainly seemed as if she was moving forward with her life. What truly amazed me was her attitude towards me. I thought she would have hated me….wanted to avoid me….but she THANKED me. She was appreciative. I was truly at a loss for words. And I let her get away….I let her get away before I could say I wanted to be friends….before I could tell her that I worried about her…before I could get her phone number. If it were possible, I would kick my own ass for being so stupid!
Seeing Sookie and her son in the park made me realize that I was wasting my time with Dawn. Dawn’s a nice girl; beautiful, intelligent, funny, and a wildcat in bed. But she isn’t the girl for me. I wasn’t being fair to her; stringing her along with the hopes of taking our relationship to the next level. I was dreaming of someone else; hell, there were a few times during sex when I had almost called out Sookie’s name.
My break-up with Dawn was not amicable at all. She yelled, threw things and slapped me. I left her apartment quickly after that, but that didn’t stop her. She continued to yell at me from her balcony as I got in my car and drove away. The next day, my voice mail was full of messages from her begging me to take her back. I ignored them; to call her back would have given her false hope. I may be a dick, but I wasn’t going to be THAT guy.
I’m finishing up my first beer as Alcide shows up. He slaps me on the back as he sits down next to me. When the bartender comes over, I order a fresh beer and Al orders a whiskey.
“Alright, dick, what’s up with you?” Al says after the bartender returns with our drinks. I shrug my shoulders. How do I even begin to explain to him what I’m feeling? More importantly, how do I explain it without coming off as a psycho stalker?
“Is this about Dawn?” He asks after finishing off his drink. He signals to the bartender to bring him another.
“No. Being with Dawn was fun, but it wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t see myself settling down with her,” I say before taking a long swallow of my beer.
Alcide looks at me in shock. “Since when is the Viking thinking about settling down? I’ve known you for a long time; I’ve seen you with countless women. Not once did you ever seem like you wanted to settle down. I thought you were going to be a bachelor until the end of time,” he says with a smirk.
He’s right; I’ve always been a ladies’ man. I have always enjoyed the company of beautiful women and I like variety. I would never let a woman get too close. I would use the Army as an excuse, telling women that it wasn’t fair to them to be in a relationship with me because I never knew where I was going to be sent. But it’s all been an excuse. I didn’t want anyone to get close to me. I didn’t want to have someone waiting back home. I didn’t want a wife to have a notifying officer come to the door saying that I wasn’t coming back home.
I gulp some of my beer before I answered him. “I thought I liked being single. I didn’t want to settle down, at least until I was out of the Army. But things have changed, Al,” I say quietly.
Alcide stares at me. He doesn’t blink. Hell, I’m not sure he’s even breathing. He blurts out suddenly, “Are you having a midlife crisis?”
“Fuck you!” I growl at him. I can’t have a midlife crisis; I’m not even 35 yet. Turning the tables, I ask, “Do you want to be single the rest of your life?”
“Hell no, but I’ve never been against the idea of marriage like you have,” he says. Before I can protest Alcide continues, “I know your reasons, Eric. I understand them, I do. But you can’t spend your life worrying about things that may never happen. Shit, a meteor can fall from the sky tomorrow and we’re all fucked! I can’t wait for the day that I can come home to my wife and kids,” he finishes with a dreamy look on his face.
I snort into my beer, “You have to find a wife first, Wolf.” Alcide doesn’t say anything, but I see a dull red color spread across his cheeks. He downs his drink and signals for the bartender to bring us another round. I stare at him intently and he avoids looking at me. “Mother fucker! You’re seeing someone, and you didn’t tell me!” I am incredulous that this gossipy bitch has managed to keep the fact he is dating someone a secret from me. “Who is it?”
The bartender sets our drinks down and Al swipes his up. He puts the glass to his lips and mumbles, “Maria”.
“Bullshit! Seriously, who are you seeing?”
Alcide slams his drink on the bar, and some of the liquid runs over the sides. “Maria,” he says forcefully.
The only Maria we both know is…my eyes widen in understanding. “You’re seeing the bartender from the Mexican restaurant. Get the fuck outta here!” I know he’s been trying for over a year to get her to go out with him. “How did you manage to get her to finally say yes?”
Alcide smirks at me, “My handsome looks and awesome personality finally wore her down. No woman can resist this for long,” he says while gesturing to himself. We both laugh and he continues, “One night I was at the restaurant and some asshole was harassing her. I stayed until her shift was over, and made sure she got to her car safely. She invited me out for coffee and we spent the night talking. That was a few weeks ago and we’ve been seeing each other every chance we get since then,” he finishes with a blush on his cheeks.
I grab my beer and clink glasses with him, “I’m happy for you man! Why didn’t you say anything?”
“You were going through that rough patch with Dawn, and then you guys broke up. I didn’t want to say anything while you were down. That would have been a dick move.”
I snort, “When has that stopped you before?” Al smacks me in the back of the head and I laugh.
“She’s invited me to Thanksgiving with her tomorrow. She wants me to meet her friends. You should come,” Alcide says.
I shake my head, “No, man, I’m not going to intrude on your holiday. That’s a big step meeting her friends.”
Alcide gets quiet. He swirls the amber liquid around in his glass, and frowns down at the drink. “I really like this girl, Eric. I don’t want to screw it up.”
I slap him on the back. “You’re not gonna screw this up. You’ve worked too hard and too long to be with Maria. You’ll go tomorrow, meet her friends, and just be yourself. Well, be 75 % yourself and 25 % a normal person. Better yet, 50/50,” I tease him. He shoves my shoulder and calls me an asshole.
“Please come with us tomorrow,” Alcide pleads. “Maria said her friends have an open house and that people are in and out all day. She said it’s kind of like the Island of Misfit Toys, because everyone is far from home and doesn’t really have any place else to go. I’ll call her to make sure if it is ok.” Before I can protest, Al is texting Maria to ask about tomorrow. She answers back with, the more the merrier.
“We’ll pick you up tomorrow around 3:00 pm. Maria says that everyone watches football and eats all day off of the buffet that is set up, .”
“I can drive myself,” I offer.
Al shakes his head at me. “If I let you drive, you won’t show up.”
True to his word, Alcide and Maria pick me up at 3:00 pm Thanksgiving day. He said it was casual, so I am wearing jeans and a light blue v-neck sweater. I bring along a few bottles of wine with me; I don’t know these people and I feel like an ass showing up at their house uninvited on a holiday.
Maria Starr Cooper, Alcide’s new girlfriend, is filling us in on her friends whose house we are invading. She said Lafayette and Jesus have been together for several years. Lafayette was in the Army, but discharged under “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. He now works as a cook in a restaurant. Jesus works as a nurse at a rehabilitation center. Maria cautions us that Lafayette is a bit over-the-top, but completely harmless. Al and I share a look in the rearview mirror, but we both just shrug our shoulders.
We park on the street because the garage and driveway are overflowing with vehicles. The sounds of laughter are heard coming through the windows. Shrieking children are in the background. Maria grabs Alcide’s hand and leads him through the garage and opens the door that leads to the house. I hear her introduce Alcide to everyone. I take a deep breath and move inside. I find myself in a kitchen surrounded by people.
“Mmm, mmm, honey! Whats we got here?” Is said by someone with a very thick Louisiana accent, while said person is leaning against the kitchen island staring me up and down. I assume this is Lafayette; because he is definitely over-the-top. He is a muscular black man with closely cropped hair, which backs up Maria’s claim that he is former Army. However, he is wearing baggy bedazzled black jeans. His all gold belt buckle says “BITCH”,. He’s wearing a black and gold sleeveless muscle shirt and has several gold chains around his neck. He is wearing red lipstick, fake eyelashes with eye shadow. He has diamond studs in both ears and a black do-rag on his head.
“Lafayette, this is Alcide’s friend Eric,” Maria says pointing to me. Lafayette looks me up and down again and licks his lips.
“That boy is sex on a stick,” he says to Maria while he winks at me.
Keeping Maria’s words firmly in mind that he’s harmless, I move forward. I place the bottles of wine on the island next to him. I say with a smirk, “Well, my stick is off-limits, but I brought other gifts to make up for it.”
Lafayette throws his head back and laughs. He sticks his hand out to me and we shake. “We be gettin’ along just fine, White Boy. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.”
“It’s nice to meet you Eric. I’m Jesus.” I shake hands with a Latino man of medium height. He dresses conservatively; jeans, polo shirt. He is the complete opposite of his partner.
Jesus introduces me to a few other people who are in the kitchen. Lafayette asks if he can get me a drink; I tell him I’ll take a beer if they have it. In the room off the kitchen there is a huge table set up with various appetizers. I grab a plate and dig in. The food is amazing! Maria tells me that Lafayette prepares everything from scratch. I proceed to compliment him on his cooking; it’s really fucking good. I can’t wait to eat dinner if the smells coming from the ovens and stove are any sign of how good the meal will be. He thanks me, but says this year he had some help. Maria offers to help Lafayette, but he brushes her out of the kitchen. He says it’s his domain and he doesn’t need any help now. His sous chef is down in the basement and will be up to help him soon.
I hear voices drifting up from the basement. It seems there are more people down there and they are watching the football game; it’s the Cowboys vs. the Saints. Lafayette tells us to take our drinks and food downstairs.
“Yous bitches needs to be steppin’ up outta my kitchen. I have art to create!” Lafayette says with a flourish of his hand. I can’t help but laugh; I really do like him.
Maria leads the way down the basement, followed by Alcide then me. I reach the bottom of the stairs and stop.
AN: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the United States military’s policy on homosexuality from February 1994 to September 2011. This policy prevented openly gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual people from being in the military due to the “unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order, and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability”. This policy, thankfully, is no longer in effect; however, those who are transgendered are still not permitted to serve. It is viewed as a medical disqualification. All information is courtesy of Wikipedia.