By Ed Sikov
“There’s something you should know about Phil Levine,” Jack Fogg declared with that manly voice that made everything he said sound like a teaser for one of his popular exposes on CNN. He was bringing his old – where else? – Harvard bud Phil in as a housemate.
“He’s a rice queen,” Jack’s delicious boyfriend, Sammy, blurted through a mouthful of Chipper’s signature fruit salad.
“That be racist,” I said off-handedly.
“No, that ‘be racist,'” Shea said a little louder than strictly necessary and with an edge so sharp I could have cut my tongue out with it, which not coincidently happened to be what I wanted to do. The room became a comedy routine as the boys all suddenly tried to look busy. Craig studied a plate of lox as if it miraculously formed the image of Stokely Carmichael. Chipper and Paolo scrutinized the rug. My playlist was set to “Doris! Doris! Doris!” The song: “There I Go.”
Our preseason housemates brunch, at which we divvy up holiday weekend and say mean, funny things about people who aren’t there, had taken a wretched turn; I’d offended the only African-American in the group. Before my thoughtless faux pas everyone was high on thoughts of the new season, helped along by my new brunch cocktail, the Spring Splash. (So simple, so refreshing…. What would it feel like getting thrown in my face?) Even the evil Robbie kept his mouth shut. Kyle was still playing the impossibly gymnastic “Sonny” to Craig’s all-grown-up-Baby-Huey “Daddy,” but he couldn’t be there. Just as well.
With the room seemingly frozen, I glanced over at Dan, who had a panicky look. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the real sight of your partner having a nervous breakdown sparks many more. The words that first leapt to mind were “splatter picture,” “Mau Mau” and (I couldn’t help myself) “spooked.” I could see Dan’s mind working: my sick sense of humor would finally send all our housemates packing, we’d have no rental income anymore, we’d have to take in laundry, and the whole dumb-to-begin-with beach house folly would bankrupt us.
Sean cut through it by launching into a guilt trip so pure that he’d had obviously perfected it through painful experience. Sentences began, “Do you have any idea of how sickening…” and ended with such personally damning touches as “…especially coming from someone I thought was my friend.” I was sorrier than a starving cat in the rain. “I’m ashamed, Sean,” I began just as the front door opened and a hyper fireplug of a man stormed in brandishing a cell phone and booming, “I’m there I’ll call you later I’m Phil Levine sorry I’m late did I miss anything?”
The Spring Splash
2 parts premium orange juice
1 part low-sodium tomato juice or V-8*
1 part Absolut
Mix all three ingredients in a pitcher without ice, chill in the fridge, then serve in tumblers over an ice cube or two. Do nothing to water it down. *Note: The lower sodium juice is crucial. The incredibly high salt content of regular tomato juice gives this drink a funky, off taste that you will regret. At 1:30 a.m. a certain kind of man can get away with tasting a little funky. The drinks you serve at brunch cannot.