Please try to persuade him to come, for my sake, she said, and I wondered, not for the first time, what sake she meant. It’s a funny phrase, for my sake, that is, and I was always thinking about how funny words were when you really started thinking about it. What exactly is SAKE? She had a funny turn of phrase anyways and a way of giggling when she talked so it was hard to take her seriously most of the time and I tended to tune her out, if I am being truthful.
She was my best friend Jim’s sister and she wanted me to convince my son to come to her birthday party so her daughter, who she thought had a crush on him, would be around him, and everyone was convinced (or at least she was) that if he was around her enough he’d fall madly in love with her and they’d get married and live happily ever after. Her daughter, who tended to roll her eyes whenever talking about her mother, had mentioned to me that her mom was always talking about my son and calling him her future son-in-law. And they weren’t even dating! But that was Clarissa for you, always knowing what was right for everyone around her and pushy about it too. I put up with her because Jim and I had been buddies since high school and we were all a big extended family. And even though she was a meddler she had a kind heart and meant well.
I was on the phone with Clarissa, who had called to request the presence of my son at her party and I was trying to figure out how to decline for him politely.
“Tell him there’s going to be good beer at the party,” she said, giggling. “He’ll be sure to come.”
Inwardly, I sighed. “I can tell him that, but I can’t make any promises. His work keeps him pretty busy these days and he has quite an active social life too.”
“What could be more important than a party for me?” she laughed. “just kidding, just kidding. I know if you try hard, you can convince him…please? pretty pretty please with sugar on top?”
“I will try.”
Her tone grew more strident. “With a cherry on top? For me?”
I didn’t respond immediately. I was counting to ten, inside my head.
“I said I would try, Clarissa.”
“He should feel lucky I want him there,” she said, with anger in her voice. “After all, he’s got that weird thing going on with his neck. It’s not pleasant to look at.”
I sucked in my breath. For all her pushy sweetness I had never believed Clarissa capable of being cruel. I didn’t think she had it in her. I was wrong.
“It’s cancer, Clarissa. It’s not some weird thing. It’s cancer and he had that surgery and he’s really self-conscious about it. So thanks for pointing that out. Maybe it’s best that he doesn’t come to your party. I wouldn’t want all your other guests to freak out.”
“I know I know I know. I am just frazzled with all the planning and I was trying to get a good guest list and, well, it’s all very stressful.”
“If it’s so stressful to have this party…why are you doing it?”
“It’s my 45th birthday! I want my family and friends to celebrate with me! It’s a big deal. We are hiring a yacht to take us around the bay and there’s going to be a cake from the famous bakery downtown and maybe even live music if I can find the right band.”
“It sounds like you are going to have fun,” I said.
“For Pete’s sake!” she said. “Now it sounds like you aren’t going to come either!”
There was that sake word again. “No, I don’t think so, Clarissa,” I said. “I hope you have a great time, I really do. But it’s just not my style and you should know me well enough to know that. Plus, you said that awful thing about my son and it’s not sitting well with me. So let’s just let this go and you do your party and have a blast. And I will spend the time with my son, who’s beautiful, even with his neck messed up right now.”
She let out a huge sigh. “Sorry! Okay! Whatever! Gotta go!” And hung up.
For heaven’s sake.