He is my sister-in-law’s kid, and I guess that technically makes me his uncle. My wife is enmeshed with her sister; they had an abusive father. That’s their story and even if it’s true, it’s just a story. I met the parental ogre several times before he kicked, and he seemed pretty harmless, but of course they always do, the psychos.
My sister-in-law, let’s call her Betty, asked my wife Lindsey if her son could stay with us while he looked for a job in Silicon Valley. Betty has three sons, two of whom seem warm-blooded. The son she spoke of, Drew, contributed nothing to family gatherings. He skulked in a dim corner. The character he expressed on Facebook posts was a hot meal of whines and potty mouth denunciations of the idiots surrounding him in Akron.
Betty his mother understandably encouraged him to get out of Akron, go to California. She asked Lindsay if we would keep an eye on him. He was not the most predictable kid. Maybe, she feared, he inherited his Grandpop’s craziness.
Boys that age should be quarantined, that was my belief, and not sent to live with relatives.
Betty said he would pay us rent.
Lindsey doesn’t know the meaning of no. I saw the need to set down some non-negotiable terms. He would keep his room and bathroom clean. He would let us know if he was staying out after midnight. No drugs in the house. No exceptions. Most important, six months was the absolute limit. By six months he was on his own or it was Akron redux.
I was hoping when he arrived he might be changed from the sad sack last seen at a wedding who didn’t dance one dance. That was irrational; not the dance, the hope. We got him settled into his room in the basement and showed him the bathroom and where the towels were, etc. and went upstairs thinking he might join us, have a beer and get to know us a little, but that was irrational too.
I left it up to Lindsey to negotiate what was appropriate in terms of our own sociality, and so we barely saw him. The basement apartment had a separate entrance. If he was staying out after midnight, we didn’t know, nor did we know if he was spending his time getting to know the city or lying in bed all day.
After a few weeks of Lindsey wringing her hands, I’d had enough. I could hear some scratchy noise coming from downstairs. I knocked hard, then real hard, on his bedroom door. Eventually the door opened. He took the buds out of his ears. For a second I thought I saw a spark of life in his eyes but they went blank. I asked him the dumb parental questions, how he liked the city, if he was looking for a job, etc. He didn’t know if he liked the city. He already found a job.
This news excited me more than it did him. What the job was I had to pry out of him. Unsurprisingly, it was with a start-up. They were putting the finishing touchs on an app that would change the way we paid bills. I suppressed my raging excitement. The start-up was on the verge of going public.
I googled the company and sure enough, there was an article in the Mercury News about how it would revolutionize the way we “move money through our lives,” and how analysts figured the IPO would give it a 650 million dollar valuation.
Only once did he not decline Lindsey’s invitation to have dinner with us. That evening he came upstairs with his laptop and put it on the table beside his plate. Even for Lindsey this was going too far, and she told him he’d have to put it away while we ate. Lindsey prides herself on her pot roast. Drew did not finish his helping. It wasn’t because he was vegetarian; trash from Jack in the Box filled our garbage cans. All through the meal his knee bobbed up and down. He asked if he could take his dessert, a slice of chocolate cake, downstairs, saying that they were on a horrific deadline. It was a relief when he closed the door behind him.
By the time we were three months into our co-habitation, I gave up trying to be nice; it went nowhere. I checked Facebook to see if we were getting slimed and found no posts. Either he was as busy as he said he was or I was blocked. I suspected the latter. I didn’t really need to know if we met Drew’s approval.
The revolutionary app whose IPO disappointed analysts by achieving only a 610 million dollar market valuation apparently didn’t facilitate the paying of rent. We were past the four and a half month anniversary of his arrival and there had not been one check or whatever forthcoming. I said to Lindsey, this was her job, her baby. We were not here to foster her nephew’s irresponsible behavior. She didn’t argue. She said she’d go downstairs and have a talk with him.
I suggested that she remind him we were one month and two weeks away from D-Day, out-with-Drew Day.
When she came back upstairs, I knew something had changed.
“What’d he say?”
She turned her head and got a mystical, faraway look. “He asked if we’d sell him the house. He was serious. He said he’d give us twice what we could get on the open market.”
It had happened. The Drewster had joined the ranks of those transformed: from schlub to master of the universe in the blink of an eye.
“Are we selling the house?” I asked, meaning to be facetious.
“Maybe we should. Think what we could buy in Oregon.”
I could not believe what I was hearing. “This is our home.”
“You’re right,” she said. “We love it here.”
As the days counted down, all the drama of the deadline happened upstairs. Lindsey and I were yelling at each other a lot. I’m sure Drew could hear us. Once Lindsey put out a feeler that we should give him more time but I squashed it right there.
I expected that there would be a final confrontation. Wrong again. With three days to spare, a truck pulled up and some guys in jumpsuits carted away his things. I figured Lindsey knew where he was going but she didn’t say, and I didn’t ask. The gilded will find a place to live, even if nobody else can.
I had to patch things up with Lindsey. Now and then, when she was unguarded, I got a look from her like she was wary of me. I sometimes wondered if when she baked a pie or put a pot roast in the oven in our cramped kitchen she thought about the kitchen she could have had in the farmhouse in Oregon with the apple orchard on the hillside and a barn for horses. There we were stuck in a city getting noisier and more crowded by the day. I wondered, half-seriously, if Drew’s offer was still good.
One day, out of the blue, Lindsey said, “Drew’s back in Akron.”
“What’s he doing?”
“Living with his mom.”