The Bulgarian Princess – Part 1
She charged into our family like a rhino that had broken free from the Barnum and Bailey tent. Problem was, most rhinos on the lam eventually moved to other places, like a nice city park or retention pond. She stayed.
Prior to moving to the States seven years ago, she married an American in order to secure a work Visa or something like that. (Early on, I didn’t pay close attention to the details; I just assumed she would be making a quick drive through the dysfunctional, one-stoplight town called My Family.) She and the American were “fake married” and would soon be divorced, which she proudly shared with us during her first visit to our house; this admission made my mother’s left eye twitch uncontrollably and her arm hair visibly stand up. It was spooky. Not the fake marriage thing, but the hair thing. Anyway, I finally figured out that “Give me money,” “I am much prettier than your ugly sisters,” and “Marry me or I’ll poke holes in your condoms and go off the pill” were the few American phrases she could say with ease, so practiced they flew off her serpentine tongue with the agility of an Olympic gymnast dismounting from the uneven bars. She didn’t, however, have a proper understanding of the English language when someone asked “Have you found a job yet” or “Stop asking my dad for money.”
My brother and the Bulgarian Princess were an item, my old-fashioned dad said with a sad shake of his head. To me, items were groceries that passed by on their conveyer-belt journey to the cashier’s scanner, a I-will-die-if-I-they-don’t-have-these-in-my-size pair of leather motorcycle boots, a mid-century modern armchair upholstered in chocolate brown, a piece of red velvet cake. Two people who made out at the dining room table and blurted out not-so-discreet comments about their sex life during dinner were not items. They were an embarrassment, a fleeting one, I hoped.
Three weeks into their relationship, my brother called me. He never calls me.
So, you’re a girl, right?
Yes, last time I checked, looking down at my chest to make sure my boobs were still firmly attached.
Ok, then, well, hypothetically, would you give a guy a scrapbook commemorating your three-week anniversary?
I stifled a laugh into the palm of my hand and ended up inhaling saliva into my windpipe. I coughed and cleared my throat, buying myself time to fully comprehend this skyscraper-sized red flag being wielded by my brother’s girlfriend. I had heard of something similar happening in southern Maine back in the late 1980s, but it could not be confirmed: the scrapbook was never found, nor was the guy who received it.
Well, I would give a guy something like that if I wanted him to break up with me or, ideally, just disappear without a trace, instead of having to deal with the mess of me breaking up with him.
I heard pages flipping. Here, he said, here on page 43, is a picture of the asphalt in the parking lot outside the lab. She took a photo of a smashed piece of chewing gum that looked like a Valentine’s Day heart. I guess we stood on that exact spot, that piece of used gum, during our first kiss.
Page fucking 43? I thought to myself. I had dated people for years and would’ve never had enough material – at least peppy, scrap-book-worthy material — to reach page 2. As for the heart-shaped gum, the only vision I could muster was that red flag, which now had grown to roughly the size of Montana.
Silence from the other end of the phone and then more flipping of pages. I don’t think she’s trying to get me to break up with her, he said. Her divorce proceedings have started and she’s moving out of his house this weekend. And since she has no other place to go and no money…
And that’s how the Bulgarian Princess ended up latching herself onto the teats of my brother, and my family, like a ravenous newborn rhino.
To be continued…