The first thing my dad said to Cowboy was, “You look thinner in real life.”
It wasn’t like Cowboy had lost 30 pounds or my dad had seen a picture of him. No. Despite my mom wrapping her arms around my ankles and promising to send peanut butter balls every week until I can no longer fit in the shower, I'd refused sending images of any kind. I know what you’re going to do with them, I said to her, you’re going to send them to all your lunch lady friends and frankly, I don’t appreciate you showing them pictures of HIM before you show them pictures of ME.
So when my dad mentioned a photo of Cowboy, he was referring to this:
I won’t divulge the driver’s identity or how genuinely sweet he is except to say the ride was work-related. And no, that's not Cowboy and no, you don't get pictures. Come visit me. You can see the real thing in person. Boo-ya.
Anyways, once the parents arrived I called my insurance company. I didn’t have a claim, aside from insanity, but I had to increase my renter’s insurance coverage. The value of my apartment’s contents doubled once the cardboard boxes filled with homemade salsa, Fijian jewelry and four 12-packs of bottled beer arrived. I’m not sure how the three of them made it up here suffice it to say they drove one car and two Russian space stations.
I’d told Cowboy to bring the photo album I’d made of the flood. (Did I mention he’s homeless?) I knew my mom would want to see it. If nothing else, the album gives us five people something to talk about besides embarrassing stories like when I got my third speeding ticket or the day I puked on the dinner table and my brother announced to the restaurant “Katie’s barfing!”
Soon, my dad made jokes like "So when your house was under water, did you wear your swimming trunks"; my mom was telling Cowboy how lucky he was to flood (cuz that’s how he met me, wink, wink) and my brother was searching through my kitchen cabinets searching for... crackers? mice? cocaine? But, I keep that in the bathroom, silly brother, next to the Cuban cigars and nuclear missiles.
DINNER TIME! I said, happy to get them out of the apartment though unsure about sharing their company in public.
So I took them to the nicest place in town where they could order sautéed shrimp, 32 ounce prime rib or stew made with buffalo. This restaurant wasn’t a Mickey D’s Play Place or something... it’s the kind of establishment where chocolate mints follow every meal and hand towels come in baskets instead of dispensers. Surely, they’ll behave themselves here, I thought.
Mom flashed her camera faster than a drunk girl flashed for Mardi Gras beads. Smile Kate, she said.
Come on, just one.
Just do it, Cowboy said.
But he didn’t understand. He doesn’t realize that with the sound of the click, that photo was shipped to Dubuque, Iowa and back. I have no proof, but I’m positive every living relative and half of the dead ones were e-mailed that picture by now.
But that wasn’t enough. Soon, the waitress was taking our perfect family photo too.
What’s the occasion? she said.
Funny you should ask, I answered. My parents and brother are in town for weekend... no, not for a wedding. Nope, not for the Fourth of July. They're here to meet this boy I’ve been dating... because they’ve never met or even heard of such a boy before. (Did I mention I turn 25 this year?) This is an occasion so rare the mayor should commemorate a day in its honor. I should write a newspaper article ABOUT MYSELF. SO YES, YES PLEASE we need photos.
Uhh... say cheese... she said, the camera catching air as she returned it. And I'm pretty sure I saw her fingers bleed as she scoured them before greeting her next table.
To be continued.