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Home: The Toast

The setting and the characters are intimately familiar to you. A group of people who do not know one another very well assemble one by one in a cavernous, well-lit kitchen and slowly realize they’re being taught about a small blender instead of getting breakfast.

A cheerful Londoner (Mick) and his overdressed wife (Mimi) are politely but relentlessly explaining the inner workings of this small blender–the Magic Bullet–to their guests as they wander unsuspectingly up to the counter.

If you have read the script, you will know that both sets of couples are given culturally significant names (Mike and Mimi are the ones giving the presentation; Fred and Wilma and, inexplicably, Ike and Tina sit at the counter and listen). The Loose Ends, Hazel and Berman, are not.

Hazel comes shuffling into the kitchen in a bleary housedress, a plastic cigarette dangling from her lips, complaining about garlic, and yet instead of recoiling in horror, the rest of the group laughs good-naturedly at her demands for several different kinds of muffin.

What could bring all of these disparate groups of people together in one country house? Why are only some of them coupled? They are clearly not family, yet they are somehow known to one another. They have just as clearly all spent the night in the same house, yet do not appear to have gone on a group vacation.

What is Berman doing there? Why is he dressed as a down-and-out extra from a Preston Sturges film? Why is he clearly a great deal more hungover than the others? What did Berman do last night? What is Berman trying to forget?

There is, of course, only one answer. This is the day after a first-timers’ swinger’s weekend, and it’s gone horrible, horribly wrong.

Listen to Mimi at the 5:40 mark. This is the key.

“I’ve got some grilled chicken here,” she says, voice thick with meaning and perhaps more than a little embarrassment, “from last night’s barbecue.” Her voice drops at least half an octave on “last night,” and she gives a rueful little chuckle on the tail end of “barbecue.” It’s easy to miss; it’s an almost imperceptible moment, but it’s also a dead giveaway. Her tone, which is bright and busy and brittle for the entirety of the video, briefly and heartbreakingly becomes human. She remembers. She wants them to know that she remembers.

They know what happened at last night’s barbecue as well as she does. They stripped away their civilized masks for one evening–perhaps only for an hour–and stared unashamed into one another’s dark and naked souls, even Berman’s.

Last night, these people exchanged partners and had wild, confusing, expectation-shattering, sweaty, deeply personal, at times uncomfortable, abandoned, protected sex with one another.

And now, they have come together once again in the bright light of day, shattered and newly whole all at once, hoping perhaps to celebrate their newfound connection and tend to one another’s wounds, when Mick and Mimi begin brightly chattering about a Magic Bullet.

Perhaps it’s a new vibrator, Tina thinks to herself. We should stay. They invited us all the way out here. 

They wouldn’t let us go home without at least saying thank you, Fred struggles to convince himself. Without getting our numbers. Without acknowledging…without saying what happened last night. They will. We’ll stay. 

Last night you touched me in a way no woman has touched me for years, Berman thinks. I was emotionally intimate with a naked man, and I felt for the first time the strength of my own manhood in a healthy, whole way. I will stay. I will listen to you about the salsa. I will stay. Please see past the stupid jokes and the broccoli cracks. That’s not me. Last night was me. Please see me. 

This theory explains every previously confusing, niggling detail of what was once a nearly incomprehensible short film. It explains why Tina and Mimi are wearing full makeup and cocktail dresses, while their husbands slouch around in multiple layers of flannel and ratty T-shirts. They are clearly hotwifing enthusiasts. Hence, Berman. The schlubbier and more repellant the male, the more perky and attractive and available the female.

From Hotwifing 101:

Yes, the concept of another man kissing, holding or in some way making love to your wife is definitely a bit out of what we would consider the norm, however it is often a fantasy that many men (and women) have.

It is astonishing to discover how many men would love to see their women with other men, exhibiting some form of intimacy.

But there is no intimacy to be found this morning, only tight smiles and impersonal chatter. “There’s no time for crying,” Mimi tells the group as they stare at her frozenly. Last night was last night. This is my job. This is my real life, and if you’re not willing to talk about muffins, then I can’t let you be a part of it. She presses a button, and an onion is whirled into oblivion.

“There’s no time for crying.”

They leave hours later, not speaking, one by one, each of them carrying an order form for a brand new Magic Bullet. The lights in the kitchen will turn off. Mick and Mimi will congratulate one another on another job well done, and head on to their next town, to their next marks.

There will be no time for crying.

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