Have you ever been invited to a party and realized that you were the only one who didn’t get the right invitation? Like when it’s a costume party and you didn’t know you were supposed to dress up (or worse, when you think that it’s a costume party and dress up only to find you’re the only one who looks ridiculous)? Or when it’s a surprise party and you give away the surprise to the guest of honor beforehand because the “Shhh!” was missing from your invitation? Or when it’s a friendly ask for dinner and to discuss a new business venture and you find it’s … well, it’s not what you think. To wit:
Many years ago, B. and I were invited to the home of a now-former colleague of mine for dinner with him and his wife. While I had worked with this colleague for a couple of years, he had left the company by then and had put out feelers to me, thinking that perhaps we might work together in a creative capacity (he on the design side, me on the writing side). I had always liked him, and both B. and I looked forward to what we expected would be a fun, congenial evening – good food, good company, good conversation. Good God, we had no idea what was to come.
First clue. Both Colleague and Mrs. Colleague had had quite a few Margaritas (he more than she) by the time we arrived and, after introductions (during which he pronounced me “stunning” – a bit over the top, no?), proceeded to take us on a tour of every room of their lovely home. Which was fine, except that we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in their bedroom (it was a nice room, but still). We all stood around talking for at least a half hour, commenting on our host’s collection of cowboy boots, commenting on the artwork on the walls, commenting on … isn’t dinner ready yet?
From there we proceeded to sit down at the dinner table, B. and I on one side, Mr. and Mrs. Colleague on the other. There seemed to be a bit of choreography in their settling down, he across from me, she across from B. They had switched to wine by now while we, never big drinkers to begin with, sipped at a glass each.
Second clue. About halfway through the meal, Colleague excused himself to use the bathroom, leaving the three of us to chat. Now if you’ve ever met B., you know how enthusiastic and full of positive energy he can be, especially when talking about movies, or Springsteen, or teaching, or me. He has a passion for those things and it comes through all the time, to everyone he meets. However, when Mrs. Colleague said to him, “I love how passionate you are,” for some reason it just didn’t sit well with me. Don’t know what it was, call it intuition, but something just didn’t feel right.
Third clue. After Colleague returned to the table and sat down, I felt his leg graze mine. Assuming that it was an accidental bump, I moved my leg several inches to the side. His leg followed – with a prolonged caress of mine. At this point, I knew it was time to leave – the table, for sure, but the evening even more so. The only problem was that I had no way to communicate my thoughts to B. in a tactful manner. Darting my eyes frantically to and from the front door several times didn’t register. Jumping up, I offered to help clear the table.
After dinner we sat in their den for conversation about the above-referenced joint business venture, which was now so out of the question. Sitting as close to B. as I could without actually climbing onto his lap, I counted the moments until I could get us the hell out of there. When Mrs. Colleague came by with a tray of after-dinner drinks and leaned over to serve them, her chest practically toppling the glasses over, I knew it was time to hit the road.
“We’ve really got to go,” I said, nearly knocking the tray out of her hands and pulling B. toward the door. “Early morning work meeting tomorrow” (this was a Saturday night); “got to beat traffic” (at midnight?); “have to pay the babysitter” (we have no kids) – whatever it took, whatever I had to say, it was time to say good night.
On the way home, we were both quieter than usual until B. spoke up.
He: I’m not sure how to say this. You know I would never stand in the way of your growing your career, but I don’t think that going into business with that guy is the right move.
Me: (relieved that I didn’t have to be the one to bring it up) Really? Why?
He: (looking distinctly uncomfortable) Remember when we were sitting at the dinner table and he left to use the bathroom?
He: Well, his wife took off her shoe and put her bare foot in my lap.
He: At first I thought maybe she miscalculated and meant to rest it on the wooden rail under the table. But when I moved my chair back so that her foot was out of my lap, she moved her chair forward and put her foot back.
Me: (shaking my head in disbelief) Then what?
He: Then I moved my chair back quite a bit and her foot dropped to the floor.
Me: Oh my God. Well, that’s going to make this easier to tell you.
He: (eyebrows raised)
Me: When he sat back down at the table, his leg brushed mine. And when I moved mine out of the way, he moved his, too, and gave me a major leg massage. That’s why I grabbed my plate and got up to clear. What’s with the two of them playing footsie?
He: (thinking for a moment and then cracking up) I got it – they’re swingers!
He: Swingers! They were trying to –
Me: I get it, I get it. Whoa.
He: (shrugging) Not our thing, but if it works for them … whatever. (pause) What could possibly have given them the impression that we’d be interested in that?
Me: Guess we’re too adorable for our own good.
©2023 Claudia Grossman
Great story, not such a great experience.!!!!!!