Thursday, May 31, 2007
I've never really been able to get a handle on how well-off Kate and her family are. She doesn't dress or live ostentatiously, but she also doesn't bargain-hunt or seem to pause to consider how things fit in her budget when we're out doing something. She's mentioned going to boarding school, and her parents live out on the Cape, at least during the summer. Her sister Lisette has a roommate in her apartment, which none of the rich kids did when I was in college.
I mention this not because it's important in and of itself, but because it illustrates just how little I knew about Kate's life outside of how it has intersected mine despite the fact that even before we were lovers, she's been my best friend almost since the day I was "born". It's not that she's particularly mysterious or was hiding anything; it's just that this sort of thing never really came up. What that means, though, is that I really had no idea what I was getting into.
And I had plenty of time to fret over it; when I got home from work on Friday, I threw a few changes of clothes into a suitcase while Amy made things awkward by second-guessing everything I was choosing. I asked her if she would be doing this if she was just a "regular" amnesiac. Well, she says, if she were then she probably wouldn't be here. I concede that that was probably true and slam the case shut just as I hear Kate knock on the door. We left Amy by herself and got on the road.
We'd left at about quarter of seven, and it took us almost two hours to get to her folks' place in Dennis, during which time she admitted that she'd only told her folks about me in the most general terms, but that it wouldn't be a big deal, since they were pretty liberal, open-minded people. Uh-huh, I say. You're the most outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is person that I know, and yet somehow you clam up about me to them and lead me to believe you haven't...
She blushes, and says she wants to change the subject, then doesn't say anything for twenty minutes, and then starts up again like she hadn't been interrupted: "It's just that one of Mom's friends' kids just had a kid, so now she's on a grandchild kick. This... well, we put a crimp in that."
That doesn't help.
We arrive at eight-thirty or so, and it's dark when we drive in. My first impression is that it's a pretty nice house on the beach, and Kate says it's been in the family for a while, and jokes that they probably wouldn't be able to buy it now. There's still a light on in the window, and by the time we're out of the car we see Kate's mother framed in the door.
She's a nice-enough looking woman, in her mid fifties. She's a bit taller than Kate, but that might just be the shoes. I get a very polite "so you must be Martina", and answer in the affirmative. Any questions about just how much she knows (or at least approves of) are answered when she says she'll show me to the spare room. I stop there just long enough to drop my things off and then walk back downstairs, where Kate's hugging her father. He's an affable looking sort, with a prosperous waistline, a fringe of hair around his head, and laugh lines at the corners of his eyes. He correctly ascertains that we must be starving and offers to throw something on the grill. I say I don't want to make trouble but Lisette says it's no trouble at all - he just got a new one.
We follow him out to the back porch, where he flips a switch on a massive hunk of steel. "So that's where Manny Ramirez's grill went!"
"Ha! No, that got too rich for my blood. This is the next model after that. It's pretty nice, though. Any particular sauce you'd like?" He opened a cabinet next to the unit to display a whole bunch of bottles.
"Dad collects barbecue sauces," Kate explained. "Everywhere he goes, he finds restaurants that sell their sauce, or other local varieties. Then he's got to have the proper equipment to cook with them. He's got charcoal and gas grills, a fire pit, a smoker..."
Kate's dad shrugged. "A man's got to have a hobby."
"Hey, I know the feeling. I'm like that with movies, and I whimper a little every time I'm in Best Buy, because I want to start buying stuff in HD, but that would mean picking up a new TV, maybe two new DVD players because of the competing formats, a stereo, speakers..."
Mr. Jensen and I happily talked about electronics while he cooked, while Kate and Lisette spent some time getting caught up. We ate our (delicious!) burgers in the living room while watching the game (and making me want to upgrade my TV even more. NESN looks awful nice in HD), and then crashed afterward.
Kate broke the news about me-slash-us on Saturday. They took Kate having a girlfriend with apparent equanimity, although they displayed the usual and understandable skepticism when they heard my story. How, they asked, does this not make the news, especially after almost four years? I shrugged at that. "It's unbelievable, and it hasn't happened to anybody really high-profile, or at least not that we know about. When it does, I'm sure it will be all over the news and my life will become no fun at all."
They figured it maybe wouldn't, but still didn't really believe it. Kate and Lisette pointed them to some academic sites talking about the research that has gone on, although even that's a little difficult to come by.
Awkwardness aside, it was a beautiful weekend to be on the beach. I felt a little weird sitting in a lounge chair next to Kate in my bikini at first, just because we were at her folks' place, and it's always weird to be overtly sexual that way in front of a lover's parents, but it was cool - suspiciously cool. They treated me like an old friend, at least until Sunday night, when Kate was in the shower and I was working on the Globe's Sunday crossword. That's when Mrs. Jensen decided to talk.
"So, what are you to my daughter?"
"I... She's my best friend, and has been for years; it's only recently that we've started to become... more. I know it's probably strange for you to hear--"
"It's not. Not really. You're hardly the first."
"It doesn't happen every time Kate ends a relationship, but often enough - she'll show up here with some girl, not wanting to talk about men... Granted, you're the first she specifically describes as a lover, and maybe that's because of your unusual past, but things get back to normal soon enough."
"So what are you saying?"
"Don't expect too much out of this. And don't try to use our daughter to get back something you feel you've lost."
"It's not like that."
"Maybe not. We'll see."
Then Kate came out of the shower and Mrs. Jensen put on a big smile. Neither she nor her husband would speak of this again, that night or the next day, which was taken up by a cookout filled with more of Kate's relatives than I could count.
We didn't talk about it until after the game (which was exciting). I asked her about it in the car as she gave me a lift back home; she grimaced and admitted, yeah, she did tend to get tight with her girlfriends after a breakup, but that I was the first girlfriend-girlfriend, and that was different, wasn't it?
I thought it was, and I certainly hoped it was.
Good, she said. Because this was the happiest she'd been in a wihle.