Meeting the parents

I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea, Philip questioned himself.

The door swings open.

“Jill, it’s Andrew! Hey, come here!”

“Hi Dad,” his voice is muffled in the hug, “How are you? This is Philip.”

Philip offers his limp hand.

Andrew and Philip take off their shoes in the hallway and set them aside. Shuffling to the kitchen, friction from the perfectly cream carpet runs from Philip’s soles to his temples.

“And you must be Philip!” Jill embraces him before he could react. “Andrew never brings home his friends. It’s as if he’s ashamed of us!”

“No, no, he’s only said lovely things about you both. It’s a beautiful home you have.”

“Arw, I know that’s not true but what a sweetheart you are.”

Around the dinner table, they continue the verbal dance in which everyone knows the steps. Each plate has the same quantities of chicken, potatoes, peas and carrots. Andrew’s plate has barely changed since he sat down—food has merely been shuffled around. He swallows a mouthful of wine and clears his throat.

“Honey, aren’t you hungry?”

“Sorry Mum, yes… Just err taking my time.”

Jim shoots Philip a penetrative glance.

Philip obediently finishes the rest of his meal. “How about Andrew and I wash up?”

With their hands hidden in suds, Philip cautiously asks Andrew what happened.

“I don’t know, the words felt like they were stuck in my throat. I think it’s also coming back to this place. It’s intense. It’s as if nothing has changed—like they haven’t changed one bit. I need to get used to it again. In the morning, we’ll have a talk, I promise.”

“You don’t need to make a promise for me. I’m here for you, remember.”

“You’re right, babe. Let’s sleep soon yeah? I’m exhausted.”

Philip’s phone is straining his eyes in the dark. He treads down the stairs and sits in the kitchen with the lights off so as not to rouse anybody else in the house. The tiles underneath his bare feet are like ice. His toes cling to the wooden bar stool. The moon is full and its craters are well defined. Behind him are heavy breaths. He turns his neck. Eyes lock onto his.