Andrew had been jolly once. I’ve never known another person to fit a word so perfectly. He was hugely tall and hugely wide and hugely confident. When we were younger my cousins and I would hide behind a wall, peeking around to watch our parents having fun, sitting at the dinner table on to yet another bottle of wine. Their card games were played intermittently throughout loud outbursts of “remember when” followed by hysterical laughter, filling the room with warmth. Andrew’s laugh didn’t suit the way he looked. It was high pitched and giddy compared to his frame. To us, his laugh was often funnier than the reason we’d started laughing in the first place.
One Christmas he and my dad got a little too drunk.
“Sophie,” my dad slurred, pulling me aside and giving me this look like he was about to break serious news. I stared at him, returning his gaze with my undivided attention.
“Go and put Shakira on.”
“Shakira, you know?” he continued to stare intently until the silence grew unbearable and his frown broke into a crooked-toothed grin.
“Andrew and I are going to do a dance performance.”
“Got any costumes?” Andrew added, his face appearing beside Dad’s. Their cheeks were a matching shade of red, their breath the same musty smell of beer.
Eager to assist with a performance of any kind I returned to the living room moments later with a rainbow clown wig, a grass skirt and lei, a snorkel and mask, and my stereo. Following a quick debrief where I delivered some pointers based on my own performance experience, they confirmed that they were ready for their debut.
“Introducing,” I yelled, barging into the kitchen and demanding the attention of Mum and Gini who had been sitting at the counter engrossed in conversation, “Peter and Andrew!”
I hit play, and a twanging guitar drawled out of the speakers. The drums rolled in and Shakira howled like a wolf against a wall of pan flute. From opposite sides of the kitchen my dad and uncle emerged, shirtless, dressed in the costumes I had found.
“One, two, three,” my dad yelled.
On three, they ran towards one another, jumping in the middle and slapping their hairy beer-guts together.
“We’re belly dancing,” Andrew said, grabbing his flabby stomach with two firm hands and wiggling the folds in the direction of his wife.
I looked over at my auntie in time to see her fall off her stool, crossing her legs and whooping with laughter.