A Friend of the Family
It’s 1975 and you’re three months into the abyss that is fifteen. Every morning you take stock of yourself in the bathroom mirror. On the minus side, sitting atop your nose is a rectangular pair of black plastic glasses. There is also a dearth of makeup, something your parents banned you from applying until your sixteenth birthday. On the plus side, there are your boobs. Those puppies grew magnificently last year, the envy of your gym class. You wear tight-fitting tops to make sure the boys at school don’t miss this development. They don’t.
It’s Friday night and your best friend is grounded. Your second best friend is mad at you and the rest of the gang is siding with her. You are home and restless. In the basement, your parents are entertaining. Just like every Friday night.
The four fossilized couples gather at your house. They have cocktails, lots of them. If someone is able to drive, eventually they head to the Elks for dinner and you whip down to the basement to finish the drinks left behind. If they get too polluted, they call for takeout, and in homage to your freshly acquired learner’s permit, your dad lets you drive him to pick up the chicken, the pizza, or the Chinese food. You like these outings, Dad doesn’t try to be your teacher, he sits fuzzily in the passenger seat, giving you his take on Watergate and Vietnam, and you get to drive.
Roars of laughter and the clinking of ice in cocktail glasses come wafting up the basement stairs. After an aimless inspection of today’s mail and the contents of your parent’s dresser, you plop down in the TV room and flip through the channels. Mobile One, Sanford and Son, Big Eddie – you wait for MASH. Heavy footsteps approach from the basement. This must be your dad, coming to get you to drive him to Big Bear Pizza or Wong’s. You rush to the kitchen, the car keys are on the hook by the refrigerator.
It’s not Dad. It’s Dan, of Dan and Jean. Dan and your Dad work together at the insurance agency. Jean is your Mom’s best friend. Dan looks at you and grins.
“Hey Lisa,” he says.
“Hello Mr. Jacobs.” You busy yourself emptying the dishwasher, something you were told to do hours ago.
“What’re you now? Seventeen?”
“I’m fifteen, Mr. Jacobs.”
“Oh, yeah, sure.” He steps close to you. You step back, there’s nowhere to go except against the kitchen counter.
“You have a boyfriend?”
“Sure you do. A pretty girl like you.” Quick as a cat, he grabs your hands and pins you against the counter. You want to scream, but you can’t sync your thoughts and your mouth.
“What do you and that boyfriend do?” He asks. His breath smells like scotch and cigarettes. He leans towards you and whispers in your ear. “In the car, you know, when you go parking?”
“Parking?” you ask. You try to wriggle from his grasp. He plants a kiss on your lips and grinds his pelvis into yours. You feel something hard pushing up between your legs through his trousers.
A boner, you think. Dan has a boner. You’re terrified, yet you stifle a giggle. Dan takes your suppressed smile as encouragement. He kisses you harder, then he loosens one hand and puts it over your shirt, caressing your left boob. He moans and circles your nipple with his thumb.
“DAN!” The voice comes from behind him. It’s Jean. She must have crept up the stairs. Dan steps quickly away from you.
“Lisa needed help unloading the dishwasher,” he tells her.
“Really?” asks Jean. She turns to you. You’re blushing, embarrassed. You wonder what she saw. You wonder why you feel like you did something wrong.
“Lisa, would you mind going to the other room?” she asks. You scurry away. You pick up the TV Guide and pretend intense concentration.
“What the fuck were you thinking?” Jean hisses from the kitchen.
“Jean,” Dan says. You hear a slap.
“Go downstairs. Tell Mary and George I have a headache.” Dan retreats to the basement.
Jean enters the TV room. “Lisa, you’re fine. Dan had too much to drink. That’s all. We don’t need to tell your parents. Right?”
You nod dumbly.
“All right then.” She leaves and you stare at the blank television screen. She said fuck, you think.
Ten years later, the phone rings. It’s your parents, their Sunday night check in, a tradition since you moved to Seattle.
No doubt, Dad’s in the den. You hear the sound of ice cubes rattling in his scotch glass, 60 Minutes on the Television, the volume low. Mom must be on the cordless, in the bedroom.
“Bad news,” says Dad. “Dan Jacobs died. Massive heart attack, he keeled over at his desk. I gave him mouth-to-mouth but he was gone. Helluva shame.”
“I certainly hope it was painful,” you say.
“Jesus,” says Dad. You hear a click.
Mom sighs, “Lisa, Dan was a year younger than your father. He’s taking it hard.”
“But yes, I believe it was painful.” You swear you hear a smile over the phone.