He ran around the table, behind the seated guests, spoon feeding everyone creme brulee at high speed, whether they wanted it or not. Periodically he'd yell at the giant flatscreen television showing silent football in the corner or shout, 'Vegas!' for no apparent reason at all. The guests, slumped a little drunkenly in their chairs, turned the conversation inwards and talked in insular circles that made no sense to me at all. They accepted the mouthfuls of dessert blindly, like birds.
He strutted more than walked in the way men in their 40's do. His face lined but not yet beginning to crumble. More physically strong than at any other point in his life. His wife sporting a bleached-blonde beehive converted into a ponytail over a spray-tanned body jittering inside a short dress and high boots. The angle of his chin gave you no doubt that if you stepped outside his invisible and unclear lines of behaviour he'd take your fucking head off then laugh about it while he clapped you on the back.
The house itself was some kind of poor 70's brick contraption renovated and extended beyond recognition. The outside 'smoking room' was cedar-lined, marble-floored and had a touch screen for music and a television bigger than the ocean. He said, 'I can watch television from any angle in the house. I have screens everywhere, those doors there, those ones, they cost twelve thousand dollars, see that tennis ball it cost eight thousand. Vegas!'.
He told me he wakes at 2:30am, 'just fucking pumped! Ready to go to work!'. But he restrains himself and only rises at 5, works til after sunset, is in bed by 8. Except for when he 'parties' which he does in a style I'm unaccustomed to.
Close to the marble 'smoking room' is a bar, a fully-stocked bar, all the bottles magnums, with two fridges of beer, a dishwasher, television, plumbed-in coffee machine and overhead racks of glasses. The wine glasses were bigger than boats. Magnums of red wine appeared at the table with astonishing regularity. Before dinner was served my face went numb and the world a little swirly.
He and his wife are happy. They are handsome, their children are handsome, they are rich. They have everything they want. They walk through the world like it's a football tour invented for their pleasure. They scream out non-sensical utterances at random intervals for the sheer joy at being alive. I'm not certain but I suspect I had a terrible time.
My brother and I walked through the ludicrously large front door and out into a suburban cul-de-sac. The yard we were standing in was watered, trimmed and groomed a uniform deep green but across the road, dead lawns, family cars, red bricks and ordinary street lights. The house we walked out of had all the trimmings of a 7 star hotel in Dubai but five metres away South-Western Sydney lay undisturbed.
My brother drove me home. We sat in stunned silence for most of the journey unable to process what we had just experienced. I said, 'I'm not sure I understand why they are so blindly, wildly happy'. My brother said, 'You are too much of a suicidal Russian novellist to truly understand how ignorance and money can equal bliss'.