Monday, July 28, 2008

Kiss, or just Tell

"I told my parents you're my girlfriend," he casually announced, mid-conversation, like I shouldn't be surprised.

"What!?"

It was ten years ago. He was a writer/editor for Vice Magazine when it had just gone glossy – back when one of its co-founders still lived behind a curtain at the office, before its headquarters moved to New York, and my friends and I were occasionally recruited for minor publicity stunts as basic as disrupting media interviews and giving the impression that the Vice office was always overrun with girls vying for laps to sit on. I'm sure there's more truth to that now, but back then they lured us in with a pretty-please, free swag and beer.

"Yeah, so we're going to have to share the same bed." He said it as though it was an unavoidable complication, a necessary evil we'd suffer together, all the while avoiding my fuming stink-eye. "Otherwise, they'll catch on," he shrugged. If I'd ever doubted I might be the sort of girl guys could take home to their parents – Nineties-era spiky hair and all – it ended there.

We were on our way from Montreal to Ottawa by bus – my first visit to our nation's mediocre capital – where we'd be staying with his parents. He was smart to bring this up then, with an hour of the ride remaining to justify himself and rally my support. He'd been trying to get into my pants for a while, but it had never quite worked out, and I was still naive enough to think he'd give up trying and just be my friend. Still, he was very funny, sweet, and clever enough to play on my love of the absurd, so I agreed to go along with his act for the weekend, as deceitful as that was. Besides, his family was already expecting me, as his girlfriend, and there'd be light fanfare at the gates. What else could I do?

"You might have to kiss me to make it believable," he said. Add euphemism to cliché and he'd taken the inch I'd given him and was trying to slip me some tongue through it, resulting only in more stink-eye.

Over coffee, bacon, toast and fruit the next morning, I felt a little guilty. It wasn't hard to say nice things about this friend to his parents, but my thoughts were all scrambled from my sudden promotion. Like any new job, it takes a while to get into it. His dad was very sweet and very British and after breakfast, he took us to the garden to show us his flowers, then strategically excused himself, leaving his son alone with me, the stand-in, in the romantic setting.

"I think they're watching from the window," said my friend, nervously glancing back over his shoulder. "Quick. Kiss me." I put my arm around him instead, and we stood there awkwardly, backs to the house. If he didn't mind making his parents think he was dating me, I didn't mind having them think he'd chosen a prude.

His 17-year-old brother was the first to figure us out, but that was weeks later, maybe months, while visiting in Montreal. Eventually, he told his parents that we just didn't work out, or that's what he said he told them. For all I know, he told them I'd gone the way of the gay – he has been known to bend the truth, and he did have an apparent creative flare for it.

We lost touch when he moved to London to become an editor or something for a more respectable magazine, but just recently, as all modern friendships go, we reconnected via Facebook. He looks great, and happy, and hooked-up. His status says he's "In a relationship", and this time, I think I really believe him.

5 comments:

Ella said...

I really like your writing. I'm a bit jealous right now.

pistols at dawn said...

My relationships - even the ones purely in my head - rarely last long enough to make the drive to the folks', let alone an entire visit there.

Wyliekat said...

Conceptually, it'd be fun to play at being someone's girlfriend for entertainment purposes. I'm sure the reality is a bit more awkward. The veiled hints, the suggestions, the family heirlooms (or, dear god, the family photos) paraded in front of you.

And what if you actually, really, like them? Awkward.

Kate Savage said...

Ella - You're lovely.

Pistols - It *was* probably the best relationship I had in that era of dating. You have a point.

Wyliekat - I've done that for discounts at border crossings and such in Belize/Mexico, and my "partner" pulled that on me. Actually, he told the guy I was PREGNANT.

Inside, I was screaming, "It's just beer weight! It's just freakin' vacation beer weight!"

carmen said...

"quick, kiss me"

i'm going to use that line.