An hour later, the owner of the house arrives from a day of golfing, tan and sweaty and chortling anecdotes under a baseball cap. Manservant has already provided us with white plates filled with various sliced meats and carved away cheeses. Salami, swiss, beef and pork, everything room temperature and sweating in the excessive heat.
“Do you want anything to drink?”
This is the beginning of a very long weekend being waited on constantly. We will not be allowed to provide for ourselves the rest of the trip. In addition to manservant, there is a cook and a housekeeper. After two days of feeling like a handicapped baby, I walk into the kitchen to get something for myself, waving my hands like white flags to the chef in an apology for invading his domain.
“Pear?” I ask, holding the fruit with the intention of wrapping it up in a napkin and taking it outside to eat with, you know, my teeth.
“We do it for you,” he says.
I insist it’s okay. “I’ll just take it with me.”
“No, no, no.”
I reluctantly hand my pear to manservant, who will deliver it to me thirteen minutes later, cut with the same serrated knife that everything soft here is cut with (the cheeses and fruits all come out looking like DIY crafts projects) and served on a plate with carrot garnish. I just wanted to eat my fucking fruit. Just like I want to make my own coffee, scramble my own eggs, toast my own toast.
I hate being waited on. The process is not only gratingly inefficient, but makes me uncomfortable. Growing up, we had maybe two different maids for maybe a week apiece. My mom was always grumbling about how they didn’t know where anything went and porcelain figurines were routinely disemboweled. As a result, my mess has always been (comfortably), my mess. My fruit, my fruit.
Manservant serves me wine that begins to warm mid pour.
Juan is from the island, though he currently lives in Puerto Rico, developing large swaths of property in – from what I can immediately gather from his rather, um, abrasive personality – what are likely hostile coups that involve burying the previously owners in their shanty houses before covering them with dirt and erecting something more profitable.
“My grandfather owned half of this fucking island,” he boasts with his trademark Central American slur. He is nearing forty or turned it recently. He has the aging face of a petulant baby, big eyebrows stuffed above eyes filled with raucous self-satisfaction and big pillow lips that laugh with his good fortune.
He says something about “being at the top” and American Express black cards. “There’s nothing higher than this,” he says. “Where do you go from here?” He leans back in his char, his arms behind his head, his tennis shoes stretched out in front of him while he surveys his domain. Actually, while he surveys his parent’s domain. This is his family’s house.
Juan, apparently, does not care much for his family. At breakfast one morning, he tells us his family is not “some big, white-teethed family that plays football on the weekends.” He leans in over his eggs as though we are about to strike a business deal and says something starting with the word “fucking.” I myself am not one to stray too far from the filthy word trough, but when Juan says “fucking”, it sounds especially depraved, vicious, even. “Fuckkkeeeng,” he says, his tongue chocking on the “c” and the “k” in the middle. He laughs like el diablo.
My disdain for Juan grows exponentially over the course of the trip, each hour providing another fifteen reasons not to like him. He is offensively arrogant. He talks over everyone and never listens. You watch him sitting down at dinner, his eyes on the mouth of whoever is speaking, lying in wait until their lips cease moving so that he can move onto what he wants to talk about.
He rails George Clooney. “Gay,” he spits. “He has to be gay. That guy could have anyone in the world and look what he goes after. Trash. He’s dating, what? A waitress right now?”
Eva bristles. “I know that girl. She’s very nice.”
“He’s gay. Anyone with standards that low has to be gay.”
Eva holds onto her wine glass and I watch her breathing become faltered in the way that it does when she becomes impatient or frustrated, a hiccupped seething.
I was not brought here specifically for Juan, though Jack did bring me thinking that, well, maybe something could happen and was worth a shot. Shot in hell, I think, sitting across from him and feeling my skin burn feverishly in the physical irritation I develop while in his presence. Funny enough, Juan sort of has a girlfriend: a trashy, unemployed Russian with a young child and a fake nose, who, oddly enough, George Clooney might likely be interested in as well.