The invitation arrived in the mail, anonymous. Embossed with silky golden letters, it had an RSVP date just three days from when I had received it. Curiosity got the better of me. I immediately sent my acceptance via electronic reply and quickly set about picking out suitable attire for the occasion.
I had never even had Michelin tires, so I couldn’t fathom dining at one of the three-star restaurants. I looked up to the top shelf of my closet and blew the dust off an old box. Inside was a pair of crispy Hush Puppy penny loafers. Perfect outfits are built on solid foundations from the ground up.
Three days later, not a second late, a plum purple Wraith pulled up outside. By the time I was to the end of the driveway, a chauffeur wearing a crème and lavender Italian three-piece suit held the door open for me, a gentle bow as I shuffled in.
The location was exquisite, oceanfront overlooking San Diego Bay. As the sun set, the sky blushed soft shades of red and orange, the perfect setting for my first taste of the high life. The only thing that was missing was other people. It looked like the place had rented out on my behalf.
Before I could wonder about the menu, a hooded figure, all black, wearing a fencing mask with a large PlayStation square painted on the upper half, appeared in a doorway I hadn’t seen. In its right hand, it held high a large covered silver platter.
The figure crossed the room without making a sound and placed the platter in front of me. It lifted the cover. Gently settled atop a bed of baby romaine lettuce sat a single sheet of paper with one sentence typed on it: “Her most impressive accomplishment in the Octagon was talking herself into this fight after posting a one-fight winning streak against Sara McMann.”
A moment of confusion…
The figure placed on the table a fork and knife wrapped in a magenta-colored napkin that matched the tablecloth.
From opposite sides of the room, two tall, hooded figures appeared from shadowed corners, each wearing the same black fencing mask but with circles painted on the upper half. They took positions on either side of me and stood at attention, arms crossed in front of them, a pistol in their right hands.
…Then it dawned on me.
“No!” I said, shocked.
The figure removed the hood and pulled the mask away from its face.
Jessica Peña stared at me.
The message was clear.
I unwrapped the silverware and started eating.
Without delay, the next course was placed in front of me before I could swallow the last bite. This one wouldn’t go down easy: “This past Black Friday, Juliana Pena was stopped by store security after her mouth attempted to pass several fraudulent checks that her skills couldn’t possibly cash.”
After chewing for what seemed like an hour, the final bite was in my mouth, and the main course was placed in front of me: “Loss Prevention provided the authorities with security footage of Pena talking about how she’s Amanda Nunes’s worst matchup, how she will drag Nunes into deep waters and submit her, and so on, and so on.”
Halfway through, I asked, “Can I get a doggie bag and take the rest home?”
Juliana shook her head. No.
Eventually, the final course arrived: “Pena has excellent Jiu-Jitsu, but her striking wouldn’t earn her a top seed on a 90 Day Fiancé reunion special.”
When the fifth platter was finally taken away, Juliana placed a check holder in front of me with an Andes mint resting on top and walked away. After a couple of steps, she stopped and turned around. She rummaged in her pocket and withdrew a small square packet and threw it at me. A pack of Wet-Naps smacked me in the face.
A slight smile pulled at the corners of her mouth, and she continued on her way out the door. The two goons were a step behind.
Inside the check holder was a business card with the handwritten date July 30, 2022, and two words: “And Still.”