At the idea of company, my father would curl his lip. That was just the start. Once he knew that Mom really meant that company was coming over, his lip would relax and he would tilt back in his chair, his arms crossed behind his head, his eyes rolled to the top of his forehead. I would usually watch this from underneath my fairy napkin.
When company did come, my mom was always happy from the start, but it would take my dad longer to warm up. He had probably been chasing teenagers around all day, and I had probably toddled in on him going to the bathroom again.
Stuck in the family room with my older siblings, I was a pinball in a pinball machine. My brother would pretend that if he fell off the couch without my kissing his big toe, he would die. I always kissed his toe, sometimes frantically. My sisters would send me into the kitchen for more chips and dip. I’d come back with that and some mints in my pocket.
The results of my parents’ having company over varied. When I was younger and just learning to spell, it meant that they would sleep in and I would pour my own bowl of K-I-X without falling off the countertop or spilling milk. I would take it upon myself—the only awake person in the house—to compromise the rules and eat my cereal away from the breakfast table, eight inches from the television screen, me and Scooby-Doo.
Ten years later, backyard parties meant that the back of my guitar got scratched when my dad said to let the company have it, but I didn’t really mind. It was the least of my worries.
Now with me and my parents in elderly states—having kind of grown up as the most troubled triplets in the world—we are the same as we were forty years ago: my mother still looking forward to the doorbell ringing, my dad and I still drugging ourselves, or hoping at least for drugs later. My mom was a convert long-coming into the tripleness of us, but now she likes to take the phone off the hook as much as we do.
As might be imagined, my father was not a fan of my beaus, though my mother always went wild for them. High school times were very hard for us as a unit. Variously throughout the years such as in South Africa and the Iraq and everywhere like such as, especially when perhaps a stash of unsmoked cigarettes, unused condoms, and an unopened package of No Doz had been discovered in my bedroom’s attic, my dad would look at me, his identical, and put the pained look of You’re such an idiot across his face. He and I would look at each other that way while Mom glanced back and forth.
Everything always had something to do with a boy.
“Under no circumstances,” my father would level me, “will that young man be welcomed back into this house before I get a chance to speak to him.”
I would bite my lips; my dad always won. He was the bouncer of our house.
One Friday night I had been let off being grounded for two weeks and had firmly reaffixed my fairy wings. I was expecting the wrestler who had gotten me grounded in the first place—we were all expecting him—when my dad reminded me: “I’ll have a talk with him on the deck before you go.” My mom heard this too, and when the wrestler arrived, my mom and I were suddenly mosquitoes listening at the screen. We big-brown-eyed one another and telepathically exchanged, Is he really saying that?
“You don’t take my daughter out and get her drunk,” my dad said.
“Yes sir,” the wrestler said.
“If I ever get a notion of anything like this happening again, you won’t see her again.”
“Yes sir,” the wrestler said.
My mom and I listened in the kitchen with the lights turned off so we wouldn’t be seen ourselves.
The three of us are still prone to speak like Yoda:
Quiet and peaceful it’s been around here.
Cold and windy it’s been all week.
We want even less company than we ever did.