By Kate Schulman
I’ll let you in on a little secret –– the Bruno family does a good funeral. We invite everyone into the home, and everyone cries, and everyone eats –– oh, does everyone eat –– and then everyone goes home, and we’re up to our eyeballs in trays of baked ziti and various press-on nails that have left their owners to find crevices in our home to rest in.
If you don’t laugh at it, you cry. So you can guess which one I’ve opted for. I’m no masochist, unlike my mother, also known as the queen of Staten. She’s not gonna let you forget it.
You’re probably wondering what the scene is, are you not? I’ll tell you –– this is my great uncle Sam’s memorial service luncheon, located at 34 Mariner St. This also happens to be my mother’s house. She enjoys getting people together to eat and cry and all those other schmaltzy things families are supposed to do.
Where am I right now? Talking to my cousin Robert. Where? In the kitchen, my back all leaned up against the blue floral wallpaper.
“So, you liking Oneonta, or what?” I ask, taking a sip of my beer. Robert grinned.
“Am I liking Oneonta? What kind of question is that? I’m lovin’ it. Do you understand how many girls there are? Like, really hot ones who know how to do that thing?”
“Robbie. Just say ‘blowjob.’ I’m not your mother, I’m not gonna kill you for thinking about growing up and getting fellated by a coed with a blond ponytail,” I say, putting my hand on his arm. His whole little body sagged a little in relief.
“Well, lemme tell you –– it’s fuckin’ awesome. I swear to God; I’m never moving back home.” I laugh.
“Well, when you need a place to stay, don’t think about movin’ in with me. I don’t have any more room on the sofa –– that’s where Penny sleeps.” Robbie rolls his eyes.
“Again, with that fucking cat. It’s always about that fucking cat. When are you gonna get some real pussy, huh?” he laughs, punching me in the arm. It’s my turn to roll my eyes.
“Please. I get plenty. I just don’t bring back my winnings like the rest of you.”
“Yeah. Uh-huh. Right.”
“I’m serious! Y’know what? Forget it, I’m not arguing with an 18-year-old. Let’s just join the rest of the party,” I state, putting my hands up.
“Yeah, some party. Does your idea of a party include smoked sausage on a stick and aunt Debbie drunkenly singing that Bette Midler song?”
“You mean, ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings?’”
“Yeah, that one. I’m telling you, you’re gonna wish we stayed in here,” Robbie warns me, as if I needed a warning when dealing with my family. I know my family. They’re a colorful bunch of people that think Guilani’s still the mayor and that people who work for the internet are, “weird hippie freaks.” They’re not totally wrong, by the way. My friend from AA, Trevor (you can tell we come from different families just by that name), does freelance web design. He’s also a vegan, which I confess I don’t know too much about but seems like an awful way to spend a Saturday.
Oh, yeah –– I’m an alcoholic. Well, a recovering alcoholic. You would’ve thought that a narrator’s just looking in on his crazy family, but he’s totally normal, right? Wrong. The only thing that keeps me different from the rest of ‘em is my acerbic wit and penchant for using fancy words I don’t know too much about.
And yeah, I’m drinking a beer in a floral kitchen at a memorial service for my great uncle. What’s it to you? I allow myself one drink a week, and it’s usually a beer unless I meet a girl that night, which in that case, a beer turns into a glass of Prosecco, ‘cause that’s what chicks like.
Today, however, I’m tempted to storm into the living room and, using my skills from my eighth grade drama class, swipe everything off the snack table and guzzle all the vino in sight.
But I won’t. Well, I probably won’t. Let’s see how the open casket goes. If great uncle Sam’s wearing that patchy blue velvet suit, there’s a possibility that I’ll drink myself into such a stupor that I’ll end up with my forehead on the buzzer of my ex-girlfriend Hannah’s house. Again. Don’t act like you’ve never done something stupid, I know you have.
“Hey, Guy! Get in here, we’re cutting the cake!” I hear my mother’s raspy voice above the not-so-muffled chatter coming from the living room, shaking me out of my daydream.
“Yeah, I know! I’m coming!” I shout. You may think it’s weird to have a cake at a memorial service like this is your cousin’s communion party or a birthday party or any kind of party or something. And it is weird, don’t get me wrong or nothing –– but it’s a chocolate cake with those candy flowers on it, so it’s not like I can exactly skip out on that, can I?