Record 15: Laguna Beach, Tuesday, July 5th, 2012. Day.
Axel’s parents were wealthy. They had a 3 story mansion just off the PCH with an elevator and a live-in maid they called Rosario, which wasn’t her actual name. It was a name applied to her. A name they gave her. A name she accepted because they paid her a maid’s fortune and allowed her access to the family golf cart. But this story is not about Rosario. It’s not about Axel’s parents’ 3 story elevator house that they no longer have. It’s about Axel and I.
My name is Corina and I’m 29. I have a bachelor’s degree in communication from UC Irvine. I graduated with a 3.2 GPA. I’ve decided not to go for a post-graduate degree because I’m in crippling debt, and I don’t have money to spend on textbooks and meal plans. “Do not be outrageous, Corina.” Axel’s mother would tell me over her morning Kombucha. “We’d be more than happy to fund your education. After all, you’re family now.”
My retaliation was that, no, I was not family. Not yet. I would be after next month; after a two-year engagement, a $9,000 diamond, and lofty pronouncements to friends and family via Facebook, email, twitter, and even regular mail and phone calls, I would be a part of Axel’s family.
“They just want to help.” Axel told me as we laid on the beach, sun searing us through our SPF 30. I sipped from an oversized Dasani bottle – a desperate and futile attempt to cure my first hangover since junior year. “I don’t want your parents’ money.” I replied, forcing sincerity. “Or what’s left of it, I should say.” Axel laughed and turned onto his stomach. “It’s not like they’re broke, doll.” “Please don’t call me doll.” “Right. Sorry babe.”
I took a generous pull from my Dasani and turned over. Axel’s parents were, in fact, very broke. They could not afford to pay tuition for me, or for Axel for that matter. Their delusion frightened me, though not as much as Axel’s strict adherence to his parents’ every proclamation. If they said they’d miraculously inherited a million dollars, Axel would not inquire as to where the money came from. He’d simply smile and sigh simultaneously, a gesture of overwhelming relief and contentment I’d come to recognize as his way of giving into the disconcerting nature of fantasy, cloaked in pretentious verbiage and smugness.
“There’s no post-graduate degree that interests me anyway.” I told Axel, my head still throbbing. He nodded like he understood. I rubbed my temples. “Still hurting from last night?” He asked. “Yeah.” Axel chuckled. “They love their old fashions, my folks.”
I took another Dasani swig. Axel reached out and held my hand. “You’re not worried about next month, are you?” He asked. “About us? Not at all. I’m worried about your parents.” “Do yourself a favor and don’t. They’re just fine.” “But they’re not, Axel. You know this. And you and I, we can’t take care of them. Not financially.”
Axel stood up furiously and gathered his towel.
“How many times do I have to tell you before you’ll believe me?” “Don’t do this now.”
I stood and brushed sand from my stomach and arms.
“If my parents say they’re doing just fine, then they’re doing just fine.”
I shook my towel out and folded it over my arm.
“Axel, you know they’re not. You know they’re in debt. And that’s fine. I just don’t want that to burden us.”
Axel and I stood facing one another, each with polka-dotted beach towels draping over our arms.
“I can prove it to you.” Axel said. “I can prove to you that my parents have money, if that will make you happy.”
I shrugged. “How have they made money since they declared bankruptcy 3 years ago?”
Axel’s face went pale. Did he not know? He must have. Just last night, as we watched fireworks from the beach in Newport, his mother, rambling and energetically drunk, ranted and babbled about how it was so difficult to make money in the 21st century.
“My parents never went bankrupt. Where did you hear that?”
This was a fight I didn’t want to finish in public.
“Okay then, Axel, how can you prove that your parents have money?”
He smiled. “Let them pay for your post-graduate degree.”