“Where is my underwear? I can’t find it!” Our weekend houseguest, Captain, grew increasingly agitated as he frantically searched our apartment. Doug, my then-husband, scratched his head and turned to me, “Have you seen his underwear?”
Captain, aptly nicknamed for his insistence on always controlling the TV remote, wasn’t exactly my favorite person and certainly not my preferred houseguest. I had no interest in discussing his underwear, let alone searching for it.
Captain had been Doug’s best friend since college. He was a bachelor but always insisted that his “race wasn’t run yet,” believing he could still get married if he found the right woman. In his mid-fifties, overweight, and slovenly, he had a penchant for junk food. He held onto the notion that his perfect partner would be twenty years younger, in great shape, and resemble Christy Brinkley. That was the dream woman he was holding out for.
Captain paced the living room and yelled, “Where could my underwear be? It was in this duffle bag last night,” he said with a perplexed look on his face.
I assumed he had misplaced them, which wasn’t surprising given how much he had drunk the previous night. He was tipsy when I went to bed, convincing Doug to accompany him to a late-night bar to meet women. Reluctantly, Doug agreed, and they went to a basement bar known for its chicken wings. It was a dumpy place in an old Chicago greystone, but women felt comfortable going there late at night. The antique square wooden bar surrounded the lone bartender who chatted with the regular patrons who were in their late twenties and thirties.
Captain was elated when he entered the bar and saw mostly women. “There are so many women!” he slurred.
Captain approached the first woman sitting at the bar. He tapped her on the shoulder and uttered loudly, “Ruberarararar?”
She looked at him quizzically, “What?”
He repeated himself. Eventually, she turned away, and he moved on to the next woman, repeating this peculiar interaction. This pattern continued until he made his way around the entire bar, approaching every single woman. Disappointed, he turned to Doug and mumbled, “There’s no one here.”
Today was the day he was leaving, and I was relieved. During his visit, he constantly made disparaging remarks about my black cat, Sarina, who had a lot of personality. A friend once complained that Sarina gave him a dirty look when he criticized her. She was devoted to me and sought me out whenever I was home. Together, we had been through breakups, new jobs, and big moves. At one point when I hit rock bottom, I burst into tears and felt truly hopeless. Sarina jumped up on the couch and comforted me by rubbing her face against mine. She seemed to sense my mood and knew when I needed her.
As soon as Captain arrived, he wasted no time, “You have a cat? Ugh!” Throughout the weekend, he continued to make snide remarks about her, “Don’t you think she should lose some weight? She should take better care of her appearance. You should bathe her.”
“Thanks for the cat fashion advice, Captain.” I looked at Doug and rolled my eyes. These criticisms came from a man who didn’t shave the entire weekend and whose clothes were decades old and ill-fitting. His comments about my cat struck me as odd. Sarina irritated him simply by entering the room.
“I don’t like cats,” he said proudly to Doug one afternoon. Sarina turned toward him, narrowed her eyes, and swished her tail.
Captain’s face became redder, and the sweat beaded on his forehead as looked under the foldout sofa he’d been sleeping on that weekend. He surveyed the large room that was our living room, dining room and kitchen. He looked under the small coffee table, opened the drawers of the TV cabinet, and crawled under our small pine table and chairs. No underwear. He looked in trash cans, under the TV, and even flipped up the rug. “It’s my only clean pair of underwear!” he yelled.
“Are you sure they’re missing?” Doug wondered; “Check your duffle bag.”
“I have! They’re not in there!”
“Just go commando,” Doug suggested.
“No! I have standards,” he said as he continued to search frenetically.
The situation grew increasingly peculiar and urgent. Soon, Doug and I were also scouring the apartment for Captain’s underwear. We searched through the tall wooden bookshelves, filled with books and photo albums, pulling out various items. Moving on, we opened the drawers of the bureau in the hallway and kitchen cabinets and drawers. Nothing. Next, we checked the bathrooms, but to no avail. The last room in the house was our bedroom—a spacious room filled with a king-sized bed with a flowery comforter and matching pillows. I was sure his underwear could not be there. We combed through the bedroom, and Doug peered under the bed, “I found your underwear, Captain.”
“What? How did it end up there?” he asked incredulously.
The underwear was covered in dust bunnies—and it was clear that someone had intentionally placed it there, harboring ill feelings toward our houseguest. There were three people and one cat in the house during the weekend. Neither Doug nor I nor Captain put the underwear beneath our bed.
The cat strolled into the bedroom with a smirk on her face.
“I think that wretched cat is to blame,” Captain muttered.
“You really should watch what you say around her,” I said.
Anne E. Beall is an award-winning author whose books have been featured in People Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Toronto Sun, Hers Magazine, Ms. Career Girl, and she’s been interviewed by NBC, NPR, and WGN. She has also published in several literary journals. She received her PhD in social psychology from Yale University.