Monday, October 12, 2009

The French Mother-in-Law

My cousin has the type of driven personality that makes the rest of us look bad: only in his late 20s but with two advanced college degrees, on his fourth job and well up the corporate ladder, bi-lingual, enviously successful. Fortunately for the sake of my self esteem, there is a Mr. Hyde lurking just behind this Dr. Jekyll. By night, he is a dedicated drinker, with a biting sense of humor, and entirely unapologetic, the combination of which usually ends poorly for any less-adept partiers that he may come into contact with. He has also been dating the same girl for the past 6 years. She is a terrific match for him: smart, fashionable, witty, and French. Dr. Jekyll and Frenchgirl are the ideal couple. Mr. Hyde creates some tension.

On one particular Friday night a few weeks ago, Mr. Hyde appeared in full force, and this time the shit hit the fan. In the early evening we all unchained ourselves from our respective desks, crawled out into the fading daylight, and made our ways directly to a favorite watering hole. As soon as we met up, I could tell that my cousin would be providing the entertainment for that night: just as the full moon precedes the appearance of the werewolf, Blue Moon on a Friday night draws out Mr. Hyde.

Frenchgirl usually joins us for these Friday sessions, and tonight she brought along a special guest: her mother. Unlike 99 percent of the French population, the French Mother-in-Law does not drink (weird, I know). Yet, out of some misplaced sense of politeness she decided to join us at the bar and watch us all get wrecked. Per the usual, we put on a show. About an hour after arriving she leaned over to Frenchgirl and mentioned something about being thirsty. Mr. Hyde was sitting opposite her and upon hearing this, said simply, "I've got this." As he got up from the table, Frenchgirl shot him a look that said "If you pull anything I'll castrate you." Well-lubricated at this point, heavy on courage and low on judgment, he ignored it.

He returned a few minutes later with an iced drink in a pint glass. He set it down nonchalantly in front of her and seamlessly re-joined the conversation. When she finished it, he got her another one. And another. And another. The Mother-in-Law drank each one successively faster. She seemed to like them very much and at one point asked in French what she was drinking. "Iced tea," he replied with an almost imperceptible twinkle.

As we got up to move on, the Mother-in-Law mentioned not feeling well and asked Frenchgirl to take her home. Walking out of the bar and across the sidewalk to the taxi, Mom looked like a newborn giraffe. Thirty minutes later, sans Mom and Frenchgirl, we had arrived at the next bar and were nearly finished with our first round when the first of a flood of texts vibrated my cousin's phone. It was soon followed by a half dozen more. My cousin let out a laugh and related the following: the French Mother-in-Law almost immediately upon entering the cab had become violently ill and had vomited everywhere, much to the displeasure of the agitated Somali driver. She had been sick again in the elevator of the apartment building, and again once inside the apartment. She was now prostrate in front of the toilet.

"I suppose I should let her know those were Long Island Iced Teas, haha." Me: "Wait, you fed a bunch of Long Islands to your Mother-in-Law who doesn't drink?" Him: "Haha, yeah, I told her they were special because they grew the tea leaves on Long Island!"

Grinning broadly, he sent a short text message to Frenchgirl, relating these details. The return telephone call was almost instantaneous. What followed was the definition of a conniption. I took a few French classes in high school and college so I could understand most of the staccato stream of obscenities and threats coming through the line. It was the kind of diatribe that would make a sailor blush.

By this point, my cousin's smile had faded to a dark frown. He held his hand over the receiver and whispered to me, "Fuck, she's a lot more pissed than I thought she would be. What should I say?"

"Try this one on for size: 'sorry for partying.'" Guess who slept on my couch that night?

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