It was not until she moved in that I realized I even had an Aunt Madge. However a quick phone call to another aunt confirmed this relative's reality. It seems she never liked my father and boycotted family functions where "that side" would attend. Weddings, funerals, and holidays were all greeted by her non-presence. As a child, I now remember wondering why one chair was always left empty (just in case).
But now she needed a place to stay. "Be careful not to offend her," this other aunt, who prefers to remain anonymous, warned.
Of course, everything offends Aunt Madge. This lesson I learned less than ten minutes after her arrival.
"This room should suffice as my bedroom," she said, walking into my office.
"But it's my office," I complained.
"Whatever should you need an office for?" she asked, looking around at my computer, the bookshelves, and my audio system. "Don't tell me you're one of those Internet users," she stated, then seeming fixated on the box of tissues beside the keyboard. She forced a cough, expressing disapproval before leaving the room with, "be sure to mop the floor before my bed arrives."
Then she took over the television. Now instead of news and the non-fiction cable programming I usually watched, our viewing schedule consisted of melodramatic episodic series starring actors she was infatuated with. This middle-aged woman would squeal like a pubescent child when the lead actor appeared. And should he appear without a shirt -- which he seemed contractually obligated to do at least once per episode -- she was sent into a state of absolute, and very noisy, bliss.
And every night we ate out, always at my expense. While she would say, "I'll eat anything," she was very precise in what constituted anything. Fast food was okay as long as it was burgers or chicken; fish, even the breaded, pre-shaped variety, was viewed with scorn. Most ethnic meals were out. And any restaurant where the kitchen was invisible from the dining area, was good for only one visit. "How do you know if any of their cooks are sick?" she'd ask.
"Perhaps you could cook sometime," I suggested, once when we stopped off at a convenience store for her cigarettes.
"I am not your mother," she said, flatly, the last thing she said to me that evening.
But I was starting to feel used. She treated me more like room service than a nephew. I never saw a cent of the check she got every month. I also noticed her impact on my utility bills. Her thirty-minute showers followed by another half hour of blow-drying her hair, not to mention her daily use of the washer and dryer -- she always wore different clothes with each meal. She also insisted on using the land-line to make long distance calls, distrusting cell phones.
The walls in this house were too thin for her long-distance bellowing. Many nights I could make out her telephone conversations word-for-word, wondering exactly what it was about her life she found so fascinating that she needed to tell people about it.
The straw that should have broken the camel's back was when she decided her cat, Percy (oh, I forgot to mention she brought in a cat, overruling any objection I might have made about being allergic to the damned things) needed a room of his own and took over a small unused room behind the kitchen.
Now I was hoping to use this as a guest room should any of my Internet friends (okay, potential lovers) decide to visit.
"Listen," I said, angrily, seeing my romantic aspirations fluttering away, "you don't pay one cent here. You don't clean, don't give a damn as to what I want to watch on TV, and take over every square inch of this house you can get away with. This has gone too far!"
She looked over all the objects in the room before picking a wine glass out of the sink. "Why, you ungrateful child," she said, throwing the glass to the floor, smashing it. Her predatory stare scanned the sink for new victims.
"Stop it!" I said, grabbing her hand.
"Get your hands off of me!" she screamed, backing away. "Why, I should have you arrested." She walked back to her room muttering, "Arrested ... arrested."
I poured out my frustrations to any Internet friend who would listen. Pamela lived 1000 miles away and always seemed to be moving in a rough circle keeping that same distance. She was always the flirt of the online group, but admitting to her closest friends that her "smoking hot" days were behind her. She was still an appealing, if somewhat intimidating, woman.
Pamela always threatened to visit for a week. "Don't be surprised if I show up at your door some day," she'd type, followed by the inevitable "LOL". She was especially critical of the way I let my aunt control me -- and seemed to have decided to take matters into her own hands by showing up at my front door.
"Let me in?" she asked, sheepishly.
Pamela got Percy's room and Percy got a small closet down the hall from my aunt's room.
The two women took an instant dislike to one another. Pamela would match my aunt's whining over celebrities by asking, "Isn't he gay?" particularly upsetting this over-age teeny-bopper by suggesting two of my aunt's favorite actors would make a "very handsome couple.".
Pamela also enjoyed cooking and made dinner every night of her visit. My aunt often made excuses for not joining us, driving to a burger joint instead. But one time she did explain her prejudices by saying, "I spent my childhood eating at home. Adults eat out."
It should have been obvious that Pamela and I were going to have sex; but then, nothing was obvious to Aunt Madge. The night it first happened, my aunt, waken by Pamela's unfortunate howl, went running to the closet to make sure Percy was all right.
Then she burst into my bedroom. "How dare you!" she hissed, much like the sound Percy made the first time I stepped on his tail.
"I guess we've caused a scene," Pamela said, giggling.
"I want you out of here!" my aunt ordered.
"That is not going to happen," I said, standing up, stark naked.
"It's her or me," Aunt Madge said, making an ill-thought-out ultimatum.
"How soon can you be out?" I asked.
She was out the next morning -- a Tuesday. Pamela's trip ended that same Saturday; she'd only come for a week-long visit, after all -- although I truly hoped it would last longer.
Pamela has talked about the possibility of moving here, but I'm afraid I did nothing to guarantee that. "It bothers me," she said (typed, actually), the way you let your aunt walk all over you. You never seemed like that much of a ... I'm sorry, but a wimp in our conversations. Had you kicked her out right away, I'd probably have moved in immediately. Now I have a lot to consider."
So I could blame Aunt Madge, who goes on her merry way messing up the lives of her siblings' children. But there seems to be something I've inherited from those siblings -- my aunts and uncles. Maybe there is a "wimp gene" that makes us tolerate this woman. All I know is I hope they find a cure for it before I meet anyone else on the Internet.