I want to fit in. This is one of the few times of my life when I desperately want to fit in. I am not much of a drinker. More of a junior apprentice drinker-on-special occasions than a professional drinker who knows how to hold his liquor. But everyone else at the table is drinking, and I so badly want to be like everyone else. This is my first meal out with my new girlfriend’s family. So I order a giant fishbowl sized glass of margarita, which is the highly touted drink special of the day. Why not?
My girlfriend Robyn and her parents and her sister Sesilee think this is hilarious. “I’ll definitely have what he’s having,” Sesilee smirks. “Great,” I say to her. “It’ll be a contest to see who can finish theirs first.” Sesilee giggles. It’s on,” she says. “So on.”
Robyn cautions me. “Sesilee has had some practice at this. Are you sure you really want to race her?” I can’t back down now. No way. No how. “Oh it’s on,” I say. Everyone thinks this is hilarious.
When the giant fishbowl-sized glass of margarita arrives, I have to admit it is intimidating. No actual fish are swimming inside this glass. But they could be. More than one goldfish would fit in the glass. A small school of goldfish might be able to fit inside, and they wouldn’t even bump into each other as they circled endlessly. It’s blue, I notice. “Are margaritas supposed to be blue?” I ask everyone at the table. “This is going to be fun,” Sesilee says in response.
“You don’t have to do this,” Robyn says. But I do. Of course I do. This is happening. “OK go,” I say. Sesilee and I start drinking. I am off to a good start. I like the taste of the margarita. The blue throws me off a bit. It looks as if I’m drinking water from a toilet filled with Tidy Bowl, but this is just an effect done with harmless food coloring. Sesilee is doing her part at her end of the table.
I am about halfway through the giant fishbowl glass. “I’m frankly impressed,” Robyn’s father says. These are words I’ve longed to hear. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” I say in response. I renew my gulping. I’m ahead of Sesilee now. A professional drinker, ha! Sesilee is a mere lightweight. A sissy drinker. Maybe I will turn pro tomorrow. Take the title. Me, best drinker in the world. I gulp the rest of it down with a grin. Sesilee laughs giddily. “You win,” she says, congratulating me. She’s got a third of her blue Tidy Bowl drink still left.
It’s nice to win. Everyone cheers for me. I have only a few moments to savor my victory before I have to run to the bathroom and throw up. I can hear them all laughing their butts off back at the table. This was the most thoroughly predictable of outcomes. I see that now. I will suffer tomorrow. I will suffer tonight.
“You Ok?” Robyn asks. “You sort of sprinted toward the bathroom.” I nod. “Oh yeah. Never better. I’d have another, but I am trying to cut back.” Sesilee nods. “You look a little blue.” I sigh. “No. That’s just the glow of victory,” I say.
We all pile into the car. Robyn’s dad takes every turn at the fastest speed possible. Music is blaring into the back seat. Robyn has a concerned look on her face. I am sure that I have a concerned look on mine, too. “Are you really OK,” Robyn asks. “Sure,” I tell her. “Why wouldn’t I be. I win.” Robyn’s dad thoughtfully pushes a button to roll down the back seat window next to me “No puking in the car,” he warns sternly before taking another breakneck turn.
As the breeze from the night air rushes into my face I wonder if this is how all of Robyn’s boyfriends get hazed by the family. Lured to a cheap Mexican restaurant in Hickory, North Carolina with a giant blue fishbowl of margarita lying in wait. Given the momentary thrill of victory before the crushing blow of defeat comes in the form of a great gastric upheaval. My stomach is still churning a little, making weird sounds I’ve never heard before. Robyn is holding my hand. That’s really all that matters. She squeezes it in support.
Later that night, she kisses my cheek. I like her kisses, but right now I don’t want to be touched. I want everything around me to be very still. Nothing should move. Everything feels like it’s moving. Spinning around. Why would a bed spin? It’s a weird not-good feeling. It’s going to be a long night.
“You win,” she says, teasing. I hate her a little, but love her all the more. We are going to be OK. This is the beginning. It begins in a giant blue bowl of margarita and only gets better. Her family becomes my family after we’re married. Our two families live together for two years in a giant beach house in Carolina Beach and manage not to kill each other. I have pictures to prove it.
When we move to New York City, Robyn’s parents come up. Robyn’s dad helps build all the furniture in the living room. Build is not the right word. Assembles is the word, though it feels like building since there are so many parts to put together. Helps is also not the right word. I am the one helping. I read directions. Once in a while, Robb allows me to screw something in under careful supervision.
Our cups run over with love. Many blessings. Much love between us. Laughter spilling over. All good things.