My wife got it into her head that hosting a Super Bowl party would make for a great weekend. Never mind that all of her friends were girls and that I didn't care for the sport. The last party she hosted was our New Year's Eve Party, and it entailed me cleaning up vomit all the next morning. With a food buffet this time consisting of lashings of melted cheese and processed meat, ready to be washed down with several crates of Budweiser, I didn't much fancy getting up the next morning and facing the blocked bathroom sink.
Mercifully, this party was small and orderly and passed without incident. Our guests, Edith and Francesca (my wife's bridesmaids), drove to our house in separate cars and departed by mid-evening, making the affair short and tame. Neither of them seemed the slightest bit interested in the football match. Their attention was focused less on the television screen and more on each other and the objects in our lounge. Edith, the elder of the two, began to thumb through our wedding album, which was stationed on the sideboard.
"Your best man was a strange one," she said, smirking at a photograph of Humphrey standing in a stiff, awkward manner, scowling into the camera.
It was one of those rare moments when I found I actually wanted to hear what she had to say. "How do you mean?"
Francesca, in her dominant way, answered for her. "He said he didn't want to tie the knot until sex was no longer an issue."
His comment was indeed rather mystifying. I couldn't see how sex had ever been an issue for Humphrey. As far as I knew, he wasn't getting any now and I strongly doubted things would change.
"Look at him glowering," chuckled Edith.
As she flipped through the pages of the book, from our wedding vows to the confetti, his face never changed from one photograph to the next. He must have maintained that aggravating scowl throughout the entire day.
"He's such a miserable old fart," muttered Francesca.
It was not without some small delight that I took the opportunity to ask Francesca how old she thought Humphrey looked. My intention was to pass on to Humphrey her response, especially if her answer was in the ballpark of forty. I forget whether she said thirty-eight or forty eight. Either way, it pleased me greatly. Being only a few years younger than Humphrey, and finding Francesca in such a candid mood, I didn't dare ask her how old she thought I looked.
Glancing at the photographs of our reception, I am reminded of Humphrey's efforts on the dance floor. Having witnessed his curious shuffles to the James Blunt song "You Are Beautiful", during the groomsmen dance, I am convinced that rather than two left feet he, instead, had wheels. He seemed to have perfected the art of gliding about a dance floor in an effortless fashion—a stiff and rather dated fashion.
When the Super Bowl finally came to a close, I found myself analyzing Humphrey rather than the football game. In particular, I wondered how he continued to function each day without suffering some form of mental collapse.
Several days later, I received word from him, providing me with an answer to this question. It didn't take a genius to deduce the obvious—he was utterly mad.
"Leo, I am in love," he began, prompting an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu. "I have met my soul mate."
I am not a believer that there is one true love for each of us. I like to think that there is a pot of lovers for us all, with a gaggle of sumptuous trollops in it, and all of them would make us exceptionally happy. The more easily pleased have a larger pot to pick from, that's all.
"My most recent date might not have been great, but it was a vast improvement on the last," continued Humphrey. "After drinks at Captain Heartache's, where my date knocked back a bottle of vodka and a Gin Rummy, we walked to her apartment in downtown York. I say walked—she was so drunk, I carried her most of the way."
Humphrey is a teetotaler. The occasion of my wedding is the only time I recall him being tempted to drink. He resisted the temptation that day, much to everybody's misfortune—his best man speech that evening was so appalling that it's still talked about.
"I wrapped my arm around her delightful midriff and guided her to her home, enlivened by the promise of what awaited me," wrote Humphrey. "It was eviction night on the television show Big Brother."
The previous year, Humphrey was one of those many sad people who, once the latest Big Brother television program had come to a close, contacted the telephone hotline asking for advice on how top cope with life after Big Brother. Their advice to him was to purchase the DVD.
"My initial impression of her apartment was one of disappointment. She had no television. Once I'd recovered from the frustration of not being able to watch Big Brother, I took more interest in the rest of the apartment. It failed to impress me to the point that I groaned outwardly, which didn't go unnoticed. The best I can say for it is that the strategically placed mirrors made it appear less cramped than it actually was. As close to the heart of the city as it is, the deafening street noise that perpetually assaults your senses only serves to accelerate your desire to escape its noisy, cramped confines. My workplace was only a short walk away. The constant street noise actually increased my desire to flee to the more quiet surrounding of my office."
As far as I could deduce, his date, though more successful than his previous one, had not gone as well as he had hoped. Apart from stumbling over clothes and makeup boxes into stacks of photos of her former lovers, he had failed to conclude the evening with a marathon session of lovemaking, which, I am certain, was his intention.
"After she had attempted to seduce me with a cup of tea and a cookie, I cleverly weaved into our conversation the fact that I had once been a masseur. She took the bait and allowed me to massage her on the couch. The ensuing grapple nearly ended up with me in court. Thankfully, I successfully avoided a sexual assault suit by agreeing to leave her apartment immediately, and on the condition I never return."
Despite being harried out of her apartment in the early hours of the morning, amid catcalls and sprayed saliva, he retained an inexplicable, optimistic manner, which was so typical of Humphrey.
"During our struggle on the sofa, the act of holding her head against a pillow while she kicked and writhed, meant that her makeup was completely wiped away. Let me tell you, she was no oil painting. I swiftly deduced, when I pinned her to the couch, that the back of her looked far more appealing than the front. Up close, face up, she came across as a frightful hag."
His dreams that night were consumed with her many mental defects and physical abnormalities. Come morning he was suicidal. He even sent her a text message informing her that their affair was over because she wasn't right for him. The succinct phrase he used was: "I have impeccably high standards and I just can't bring myself to dramatically lower them for you."
In the ensuing days, the girl surprised Humphrey by not responding to his many heartless text messages. Later, having pondered the tenuous emotional state he must have left her in, Humphrey penned a letter of apology. This, also, remained unanswered.
"In the space of a week I have gone from being a prize catch, to being a prize booby. There is a fine line between a date that ends in fourth base and a date that ends in court."
In Humphrey's case, I had rarely heard of a date of his that didn't end in scandal. Perhaps his expectations were too high. God knows what his dates expected!
"Sometimes I wonder if I am cut out for romance," admitted Humphrey, dejectedly. "My solitary, lonely, cobwebbed existence is fated never to find the type of excitement that a voluptuous exquisite young harlot might provide."
His last sentence gave me an inkling why his appeal to the opposite sex was limited to lunatic harpies. As endearing as he was, I could fully understand why rather than induce love and lust in the opposite sex, his personality was more likely to incite violence and bloodshed.
"You are a man of taste, decency and fortitude," I lied. "No matter how inexcusable the woman's behavior, you must remain chivalrous. Be empathetic and yet unafraid to lightly discipline her when she is unruly, but do please treat her with respect."
I knew that the last of these recommendations would cause Humphrey anxiety. The only form of respect Humphrey understood was self-respect.
"It's alright for delusional married fools like you," angered Humphrey, in his next email. "Big green eyes, delightful shapely bodywork, long sweet-smelling hair, large succulent lips …you are blinded by beauty, man! You throw a party every week to relieve the boredom of your married life. What of the rest of us, eh? What about unfortunate, deep-thinkers like me, who see past a pretty package, who require more than tinsel, costumes, and tiaras, who long for something or someone with a mind that is not just worth exploring, but worth revisiting? What are we to do? Surely, your marriage is an excuse to avoid the pressures of a social life. Never mind that it is also a ready way out of the stress of dating."
American Football is an improvement on the British equivalent. In fact, I find that most American entertainments are improvements on my typical British pastimes. Humphrey was and remains an uninteresting pastime. His attitude, just like his dating skills, stinks. Moreover, he is mad. Completely bonkers. Francesca had him down pat when she said, "He's such a miserable old fart."
Until he is ready to change his outlook and his behavior, he will remain a thoroughly wretched individual. I am glad to be across the Atlantic, away from his clutches. Married life may have added several inches to my waistband, curtailed my social life, and turned me into a boring househusband, but the fact that I am no longer a participant in the dating game, or required to spend my evenings on a Thighmaster alongside Humphrey, competing for the shapeliest legs, shows that it isn't all bad.
To hell with Humphrey and my former life! These days I have better things to think about. The Academy Awards are nearly upon us and I have an Oscar Party to plan.