The brilliance of the amber light cast by the Tennessee sun was valued highly by the people living under it. And as it was, it was remarkably appropriate as the Clement’s only son arrived for dinner with his freshly won girlfriend. The dusk was flattering to the old property; the lower wavelengths of light seem to appeal more to human eyes than any other and it gave the house a lambent glaze. Normally, the blemishes of the house would be noticeable with an extraordinary precision but as it stood everything looked flawless. It was as if their arrival at this time was not by coincidence; Mark understood these things and made it a point to take his time driving through the countryside.
Mary Wallcraftstone is a principled young girl from Brooklyn with a contagious sense of certainty. She met Mark while studying philosophy at New York University, right in the heart of a conversation where he began reciting quotes from early feminists and how imperative it was that women found a place inside this country without the help of anyone else. But for now and forever, It’ll always be a popularity contest, it is who you know and nothing else; any of us that are unfortunate enough to be born detached from these people…Well we’re Fucked.
But never-mind the semantics of breaking through economic classes. For all anyone could tell, Mark was telling the truth. All he wanted was her intellect. And Mary was virtuous. She prided herself on it in fact. “I’ve only been with three guys in my whole life” she has said. Three was the magic number for her, anymore and it would be a tragedy; She believed that reputation was such a fleeting thing, one misstep and it could be unrepairable. And she never wanted to have to move out of the county for trivialities.
The couple approached the porch from the gravel road and made their way up the stained ipe steps to the dor. “This house is beautiful” Mary said softly. “It is…” Mark replied, “The sun down here has a devilish way of doing that.” He grabbed her hand firmly and lead her to the door. They walked into the house, both with a bit of reluctance. Mark took off his shoes with the toes of his feet; his nervousness rattled through him, but if Mary wasn’t still holding his hand to feel the slight tremors she would’ve never noticed. So for now, Mary just imitated what Mark was doing, except for the fact that she was better at maintaining her composure and didn’t let herself tremble. “Mom! Dad! … I’m here, where are you?” Mark announced. “In the kitchen” they responded echoing each other in a slightly separated delay.
Mark gave Mary a slight gesture with his head and a wry smile to try and persuade her to join everyone in the kitchen. She of course was eager, but like most intelligent girls assumed a hesitant front to see what reaction Mark would have. Would he become more forceful and drag her in there anyway, or maybe do what she secretly wanted and lead her into a room with a couch and grab her a drink. It was a gamble, not to mention undependable. To feign anything against yourself is tactless. And even if the response is genuine and desired, it comes at the cost of artificiality. But with ignorance, Mark pulled Mary in close and gave her a little kiss on her temple and whispered to her, “C’mon let’s get the worst of it over with, huh?” Mary was delighted, it looked like Mark was more like Mary than she originally thought, and she agreed so she gave him a nod.
In the kitchen, Mark’s parents were working on the food in a peculiar symmetry; preparing the serving dishes, uncorking the wine, separating the fat from the meat and organizing the arrangements on the table close by. Neither of them took their eyes off of what they were doing and only spoke in quick fragmented acknowledgements over their shoulders. Back to back, they circled the intricate black and white patterns that repeated on the kitchen floor. It was as if they had become two moons fixed into a mindless orbit, where the laws of momentum had been traded in for a mutual devotion to hospitality. Mary stood in astonishment and was amused by this and she held a cheerful grin thinking how quaint they were to be in such perfect unison.
“Sit down, please… Everything’s just about done”, Mark’s mom said finally.
Mark gave Mary an inviting look, undistracted by his parents’ performance, but she was awestruck and it left her frozen. Normally she would be embarrassed but in this case it actually gave her some credibility. This time her hesitation was authentic, and made Mark giggle. “Come on, don’t be shy”, Mark said quietly. She like most intelligent girls quickly shook it off, let out an amiable laugh and told him that she was fine. And although her guard was down, she was again delighted by how incredibly awkward it was to see Mark’s parents working in such a weird way; there was no greeting, no exchange of pleasantries, no eye contact and for that matter no introductions. Just an informal dance with an unusual chirality.
Once Mark and Mary sat down his father promptly came over with the wine and filled up everyone’s glasses to the brim. “This will go great with the steak”, He said without breaking his focus. Mary smiled and said thank you, musing to herself that Mark’s parents must have met while working in a restaurant. Mark’s father, took the two glasses intended for himself and his wife and then continued helping to prepare the rest of the meal.
“Should I introduce myself, I feel weird just sitting here not saying anything to them”, Mary whispered in confusion. Mark leaned forward for the sake of privacy and said, “Ohh no… its best not to interrupt them when they get like this, I’m sure they’re just worried about getting everything just right for us.” And Mary, like most humble girls, sighed and excused herself for the bathroom. She needed some time to gather herself, since the ordinary expectations seemed to have dissolved into a strange uncertainty.
Mary didn’t rush and when she headed back for the kitchen table she couldn’t help but notice Mark’s mom and dad eating their dinner in an office down the hall from the bathroom. They were surrounded by paperwork, all of it completely disorganized and thrown about. Mark’s dad seemed to be content with the wreckage, even eating off a plate on top of one of the stacks; carelessly dropping food and droplets of wine. And Mary’s curiosity got the best of her at this point and she refused to just walk by. She walked up to the doorway and introduced herself. “Hi” she said sincerely, “I’m Mary, I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself before, it’s just that you both seemed a little preoccupied.” “Don’t worry about that Mary, we tend to get a little wrapped up in things, this is Sarah and my names Justin. We don’t take much stock in introductions, over the years, we’ve come to realize that there is just more people than we can handle to remember, and in the grand scheme of things it’s better not to get to know anyone too personally” Justin said and Sarah followed him saying, “You see we’re all fighting for the same things and we’ve devoted our lives to making sure we can all get them despite your pedigree.” Mary stood overwhelmed with curiosity and after a short pause said, “Why don’t you join us in the kitchen?”. The Clements turned to each other and smirked in disapproval. “I wish we could” Justin said, “But there’s still too much work that needs to get done, just look at this mess.” The room went silent and Mary wondered if the Clements had been mistaken her for just another friend of her sons; Their lack of interest was beginning to insult her. And she couldn’t understand how anyone could be so absorbed in an apparently losing idea that they consume a perfectly useful room with it. “Why don’t you go eat your supper before it gets cold” Sarah said breaking the silence, “I’ll be in, in a minute to check up on you two”.
Mary wandered back into the kitchen dumbfounded and looked as though she was struck sharply in the back of the head. And she couldn’t help thinking about a story she was told as a little girl about a neurotic thief that took anything and everything even if it wasn’t necessary.
When Mary got back Mark was sitting at the table deliberately sipping his wine and looked deeply concerned. He had a feeling that she came across his parents’ office and was working out a way to explain it to her. She sauntered over but she was still distracted. To her philosophically, the excessiveness was unnecessary and if it was ever founded on ethical principles that point was long lost; it was now something psychological, most likely an issue of pride.
Immediately Mary confronted Mark, “What’s the deal with your parents?” she asked uneasily. Mark exhaled loudly, this wasn’t the first time he’s had to clarify his parent’s eccentric behavior. “I wish I knew” he said pausing to take some wine. “I think they think they’re going to change the world.” Mary sat down with her eyes fixed on him to provoke a better explanation. He looked at his food and sighed, “Well, I don’t know, They’ve become obsessed with total equality or whatever that means” he said, “I hope they didn’t scare you. I know they can get a little preachy.”
Mary felt unsettled, like there was something she had to do give Mark’s parents a little relief from their burden. But she understood that there was a difference between giving someone an equal opportunity and giving everyone the same thing as a right. “I guess it’s good to have something to live for” she said. “Yes I agree” he replied and he gave her a smile. “At least they didn’t get into religion with you” he joked. “… for the past ten years, politics and religion have become the only things they’re passionate about. I wish sometimes they’d just enjoy life.” Mary agreed and like any girl deep in contemplation, left the table with her dinner uneaten, walked over to the counter and grabbed the bottle of wine. She found the nearest couch and started drinking; remembering a story she was told just recently about passion being angers slutty cousin, and given the chance how it would be just as dangerous.