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Archive for the ‘dreams’ Category

Bernard and I arrived home around four. We unpacked the car. He left to return the rental car. I stayed to organize boxes and suitcases.

I emptied my pockets of condoms, glad they went unused. I made a sandwich.

Bernard returned before five. He made a sandwich. Around six, Bernard settled in to watch the news, warm under a quilt. He fell asleep immediately. He would sleep until morning.

The holiday exhausted him.

I was also feeling the worse for the wear.

Around eight, my phone rang. I put on my coat and scarf. I closed the door quietly behind me. The elevator took me to the lobby. A car was waiting. The passenger in the back seat leaned forward and smiled. I smiled back, opened the door and sat next to her. She kissed me. “It’s over,” she said. “You survived eXmas.”

I took out my flask. The driver took off.

That night, I dreamed I was on a television show that turned out to be a sleeper. Good reviews led to more viewers, and it was a hit in certain circles. It focused on an eccentric family, sort of like “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

I was a minor character. The success of the show did not make me instantly famous, but everyone was thrilled for me and now and then, someone would point me out on the street. This small measure of fame was nice.

The patriarch of our television family, President Josiah Bartlett, was dead set on a project that we considered a folly. He treasured a quote from Plutarch and now wanted to see that quote destroyed. He wanted to watch as that quote was hurled from a speeding train.

I wasn’t sure why he wanted this, or how it would be pulled off. I imagined carved marble letters being smashed on rocks. To realize this vision, our television family traveled by train to a remote mountain location. We were left at a bend in the line, overlooking a sublime view. “Men, you set up camp,” the President ordered. “While the ladies prepare a fire for dinner.”

As we sat around camp, I realized I was bored and not quite sure what was supposed to happen. I also realized that I had had sex with many of the other campers.

I talked with a cute couple. He was freckled with red hair. She was a doe-eyed pixie who sat with her legs curled under her. He said she was his sub. She nodded in agreement. “I’m really aggressive and passionate,” he said. She nodded. He began to initiate something with her, but as they kissed, he said something that didn’t sit well with her. The moment was lost.

Later, he tried again. He knocked over a beer, and in cleaning up the mess, he was distracted into something else. “You say you are a good dom,” I said. “But you get distracted and don’t follow through. Do you have trouble focusing?”

“Sometimes, yeah.”

“Here. Kiss me,” I said.

“Okay.” He moved closer.

We kissed as his girlfriend watched. We kissed tentatively at first, then with increasing ardor. But I had to keep him focused. He was not a great kisser and he seemed to get lost now and then. He pulled back. “Ow, you kiss too much,” he said.

“Too much?” I asked.

“Yeah, I don’t really kiss that much.” The girlfriend nodded.

We heard the train arriving. “This is it,” the President shouted. “Everyone come to the tracks!”

We raced over. The train rounded the bend. A conductor leaned from the window as it passed, tossing something from a window. The President ran to collect it. “That’s it!” he cried. He gathered up a small bundle.

We drew close to see that he held a paper plate, tied to a rock. It was nestled in his arms like a newborn. The quote from Plutarch was written on the plate. “Kind of anticlimactic,” someone whispered to me. It was my ex brother in law, Richard.

“Not too impressive,” I agreed.

“Okay everyone, break camp,” the President called. “We take the next train out.”

We packed up our tents and waited for the train. We were taken to a nearby station in an Old West town. We were put onto a tram. It raced us through the town and into a saloon, winding past bar, tables and patrons, like “The Wild Ride of Mister Toad” meets the Gem Saloon of “Deadwood.”

“Looks like the set designers had fun,” Richard said.

“I’ll say!” I replied. We disembarked at the end of the tram ride. I lead the group. I nearly stepped on Annie Sprinkle, who reclined on the floor. She was dressed in a gypsy blouse, long skirt and full petticoats. She spread her legs as I passed, exposing herself. “That’s one off the tab,” she called to the bartender. The bartender guffawed. She flashed Richard. “That’s two!” The bartender laughed as she flashed us each in turn.

We left the saloon, and I became confused. Why was President Josiah Bartlett on our show? Or maybe I was on “The West Wing?” But if so, what was my relationship to the President? Who was my character?

I thought to ask Richard, but he wasn’t around.

Monica Lewinsky ran up to me. “Baby, I missed you!”

“I missed you too, Molly.” In the dream, her name was Molly. We kissed and she hopped on my back. “Where are you taking me?” she asked.

“Nowhere. Molly, look, you know I’m not interested in marrying you.”

“Silly boy,” she said, nibbling my ear. “You know I’m the one.”

I woke up.

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Dead Letter

School began not long after we returned from the South.

The children’s lives are divided between their mother’s house in the suburbs—formerly, our shared marital domicile—and our apartment in the city. The schools in the city are preferable to those in the suburbs, so the kids are registered in my local school district. This means all school related mailings come to my address.

This makes my ex Lucy anxious for two reasons.

First, she dislikes any factor of the children’s lives that is not completely under her control. To get the information contained in a school mailing, she needs to deal with me.

Second, I get an outrageous volume of mail. I have to confess that sorting it is not always my highest priority. I make sure to separate anything requiring immediate attention, and allow the rest to pile until I just can’t stand to look at the heap. Lucy is aware of this.

One evening, Lucy called.

“Henry, we are expecting a mailing from Jason’s school. It’s important because it includes his new class assignment.”

“Right, I have my eyes out for that.”

“Did you receive it?”

“No, not yet.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Henry, this is very important . . .”

“I realize that.”

“Can you please go through your mail to look for it?”

“It’s not here, Lucy.”

“Can you please look?”

“I will look, but as I said, it’s not here.”

“Fine. Call when you find it.” Click.

I sorted my mail. No letter from the school. I called.

“Henry, how could you have lost this letter? Can’t you focus at all on the children’s education? Don’t you know that that this is a critical year for Jason?”

She began to pace her words, as she broke down a crucial fact so that even I could understand its import: “Your son Jason. Needs to get. Good grades. In order to get. Into a good high school.”

“I recognize the value of a good education. And I’m aware of the correlation between grades and high school admissions. I am just reporting that the letter did not arrive.”

“Fine. I’ll have to call the school. Thanks a lot.” Click.

Lucy sent an email to say that the school gave her the assignment, so the letter was no longer needed. She had taken care of it.

She also reminded me that I had agreed that she and her brother Richard would join us for dinner on Saturday, during my weekend with the kids. I replied that it was great news about the school information, and of course, I looked forward to seeing Richard.

Richard is a fine fellow. He’s very smart—he would be on my short list of people to call as a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”—and he keeps above the fray of our divorce even as he provides a sympathetic ear to his sister.

On Saturday, I took the kids swimming at a friend’s pool. It was a lovely warm day, as summer drifted into autumn. I periodically reminded the kids that we were having dinner that night with Uncle Richard. They were excited. As five o’clock rolled around, I toweled the kids and we dressed to return home, where we would meet Lucy and Richard.

“Hey Richard, welcome back!” I kissed him on the lips, as we do.

“Nice to see you Henry, you look great.”

“Uncle Richard, Uncle Richard!”

“You look great too, Lillie. So big! I can barely lift you!”

“I want to show you my video,” Collie tugged. “We did a play last year. I was a star!”

“I heard all about it! Let’s watch it in a minute, after I talk with the grown ups.”

“Boring!” Collie teased.

“I know, I’m a dull uncle.”

“Do you have any beer?” Lucy asked.

“I was just about to offer,” I replied. I went to the kitchen and brought out three glasses of Kingfisher. Richard was sitting on the couch. I place the beer on the coffee table.

“Lucy, here’s your beer.”

“Thanks, just a minute.” She was sorting through my mail.

Richard and I sat, talking.

“Jesus Christ, Henry!” Lucy held up an envelope.

“Don’t tell me you found the school letter?” I asked.

“No, but look at this. It’s a newsletter from my union, dated last month. You have to get my mail to me!” She looked at me, her face contorted into scowl that read “This is so fucking obvious, moron.” She took the newsletter to the kitchen and tossed it in the trash, unread.

“Maybe you want to save that, and let them know to correct the address,” I suggested.

“That’s not the point,” she said from the kitchen.

I shrugged to Richard. We picked up the conversation.

I could hear Lucy opening cabinets. “Henry, why do you buy Capri Sun?

“I’m sorry, what?”

She emerged from the kitchen. “Capri Sun. It’s not one hundred percent juice. You shouldn’t buy it for the kids.”

“Okay.”

She sat down and took her beer. She noticed a book on the table.

“T. C. Boyle? Since when do you read T. C. Boyle?”

“That’s a bestseller, Lucy. I’m not the only person to read it.” I heard the undertone: T. C. Boyle, like Paul Auster, was her author. I had no business reading her authors.

“Oh, I know that book,” Richard said. He began to discuss it. I was glad to let him handle the conversation.

Collie came out to remind Richard about the video. Richard took his beer to watch in the other room. Lucy returned to sorting my mail. Jason came out to join me on the couch. “I’ve seen that video like a hundred times,” he said.

“Me too. So where should we go for dinner?”

“I dunno. Sushi?”

“I’d like sushi. Anything but pizza, really.”

Lucy overheard our discussion. “You are not invited,” she said, her back to us.

“Excuse me?”

“You are not invited to dinner.”

Jason rolled his eyes. I was surprised. “Are you saying that you are taking the kids on my night, and I am not invited?”

“That’s right.”

“Huh. Well, how about that?” I shrugged to Jason and went to the other room.

I was not going to get into it with her in front of the kids.

As they prepared to go, Jason said he would see me later.

“You’re not joining us?” Richard asked.

“No, he isn’t,” Lucy answered, tying Lillie’s shoes.

“But Dad,” Collie asked, “What will you eat?”

“I’ll eat something here, don’t worry. I’ll see you afterwards.”

Jason looked at Collie, holding a finger to his lips. At the door, I told Richard it was great to see him again. I took his face in my hands and kissed his lips. As we do.

Lillie watched. She laughed. “You kissed a man! That is so gay.”

Richard feigned shock. He took Lillie’s hand. “Let’s just begin to discuss all the ways that is an inappropriate thing to say,” he said, leading her down the hall.

I closed the door. I was famished. I ate a simple dinner.

I emailed Lucy.

Lucy, I spent the day telling the kids we were having dinner with you and Richard. It came as a shock that this was not the case. It came as a greater shock that you chose to tell me this in front of Jason. Can we please do better?

Also, you need to respect that when you are at the apartment, you are in my home. You are not invited to go through my belongings. If you need to see something, just ask.

I was hurt and angry, and took great care in choosing my words. I recognize that Lucy is not entirely to blame for her moods. There is something about me that makes her furious. I regard her outbursts as akin to those sparked by Tourette’s Syndrome: unpleasant, and not entirely within her control. I try not to let it get to me.

Still, I am resolved to point out when she crosses a line. Being rude to me in front of the children is not acceptable behavior.

The email was deleted the next day, unread.

“What did you eat for dinner?” Lillie asked when they returned.

“Some pasta. How was the Chinese?”

“It was so good! Why didn’t Mom let you come?”

“Um, I don’t know, honey.”

“Yeah, that sucked,” Jason said.

“I’m glad you ate,” Collie said. “I was worried. I brought you a fortune cookie, you want it?”

The kids went back to their mom the following day. I left town on a short trip. When I returned, I found an email from Lucy.

The judge signed our agreement. I guess that’s it.

A few days later, I received an envelope from my lawyer.

Dear Henry,

Enclosed please find an executed Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law and a Judgment of Divorce. Congratulations, you are divorced!

I remain,

Yours truly,

Elizabeth Weiner, Esq.

Enclosure

Also enclosed was a bill for seven thousand three hundred and forty-five dollars.

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What a tender kiss he has, I thought.

Verdad and I were making out at a party. I ran my hand up his nude arm to his shoulders, then to his smooth cheeks. His soft skin sparked my fingertips. I traced a lazy finger along his forehead, his brow, his aquiline nose.

My touch returned to his cheek, only now it felt scruffy and unshaven, the cut of his jaw more angular and manly. I pulled back to look at him. It wasn’t Verdad.

Whoever it was, he smiled.

“You know,” I said, looking away. “This is a little awkward, but I don’t recall your name. Your face is very familiar, though.”

“You don’t know me, huh? Look closer.”

I looked.

“Anything?” he shrugged.

“Nothing. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Here, try this.” He joined his thumbs and forefingers into circles, and turned his hands upside down on his face, mimicking glasses.

His image came into focus for me.

“Oh God, of course,” I slapped my cheek. “You’re Elvis Costello.”

“Yeah,” he grinned, pointing to his eyes. “Contacts. No one notices me. Anyway, it’s Declan—nice to meet you.” He extended a hand.

“Likewise,” I said, taking his hand. “I’m a big fan.”

“Well, thanks. I’m a big fan of those kisses.” He tugged my hand, pulling me closer. “Give us more.”

His lips touched mine, and my chest heaved. It was like the weight of a thousand butterflies landing on my heart.

That, or the weight of an eight-year-old boy.

“Daddy, Daddy!” Collie jumped on my body. “Time to get up-py, up-py!”

“What? What time is it?”

“Breakfast time, breakfast time! Wakey wakey!”

Where the . . . oh yeah. My room at the lake house.

“Okay baby, you can go tell Papa I’m up.”

“You’re not up up.”

“I will be, I just have to get dressed. Go. I’m coming.”

“Okay, I’ll be back if you fall asleep.” He trotted out, leaving the door ajar in his wake.

I fell back on my pillows. Two weeks without sex were taking a toll. These dreams were insane.

Two weeks. Huh. I rubbed my eyes. When I was married, I could take month after sexless month with nary a blink. Guess I am out of shape.

I dropped my feet to the floor and pulled up my shorts, stooping to adjust myself to the least conspicuous position. I pulled on a t-shirt that dropped to cover my hips.

“Well, well!” Dad called from the griddle. “Great day in the morning! Is this an official sighting of my wonnerful, wonnerful son, Hanklin?”

“I’m afraid so,” I shuffled past, hugging him. “It won’t get much prettier than this.”

“Did you sleep well, honey?” Nanny smiled, slipping her hands around my waist. I turned my hip to her—or rather, turned away my still-aching groin—and kissed the top of her head.

“Very well. A little too deeply. You?”

“Well,” she said, squeezing me. “At my age, if you wake up at all, that’s a good night’s sleep.”

I kissed her again. “This may be the last sunrise you see, old woman, if you don’t get out from between me and my coffee.”

My kids were seated at the table, eating bacon, eggs, grits, biscuits and fresh peach slices. I poured my coffee, streamed in half and half and sugar, and sat thickly next to Jason. We exchanged glances.

“You’re up early,” I said.

“You’re up early,” he deadpanned.

“Yeah, but you look like death.”

“Yeah, but you look like death.”

“Stop copying me.”

“Stop copying me.”

I sipped my coffee, smacking loudly.

“Ah reet, ah right, that’s good java, daddy-o,” I said in my best Wolfman Jack impersonation

He coughed into his juice.

“Too easy,” I said, returning to my cup. “Even at this hour, I still got it.”

“You can keep it,” Jason retorted. He paused a beat, trying not to lose the rhythm before delivering his zinger: “At least I got my hair.” He and Collie burst into laughs.

I put down my cup, aghast, and punched his arm. He punched me in reply.

“Do I have to separate you?” Dad asked, delivering my serving. “’Cause I will, right down the middle.” He bonked a fork on my head before setting it next to my plate.

When Dad was home, the vacation was much easier. He would wake early and find Nanny on the porch, where she had watched the sunrise. After a cup of coffee and quiet conversation, they would go to the kitchen and pull out the griddle. From their beds, the kids would smell bacon and follow the scent into the kitchen, like cartoon hound dogs sniffing wavy lines in the air to their source in a rabbit warren.

No alarms, no wake up calls.

I was allowed to sleep for so long as the kids let me. It was never very late, but there is nothing better than waking to the sight of children eating a breakfast you didn’t have to cook.

After we ate, Dad went to prepare the boat for the day while Nanny washed dishes and the kids watched television. I took my coffee to the computer to check email, generally a fixture of my morning routine.

I wasn’t sure how much time I would have.

Sure enough, the familiar squeaks and squawks of the dial-up connection proved as great a lure to some bloodhounds as the smell of bacon had been to others.

I was quickly reading and responding to a few notes when Mom came downstairs, holding her new Maltese puppy. “Good morning!” she beamed at the children.

“Good morning,” Collie replied on behalf of himself and his sister, neither of whom diverted their eyes from Spongebob Squarepants.

“Well, look who decided to get out of bed,” Nanny teased, with more than a hint of malice.

“Good morning, Mother. Any eggs left?”

“Well, I guess I can put some on. I was just cleaning up . . . ”

“Why, thank you, that would be nice.”

Jason was clearing his plate and passed by the computer. “Wow Dad, you got eight hundred and eighty two messages!”

“Yeah, a lot, right?”

I was reading an email from Luis.

Hey Henry,

How’s it going, sweetheart? I’m seeing Jen tonight. Any chance we can meet you at your place?

Luis

I had just hit reply and typed a few words—“I’m out of town until next week”—when Mom flew across the room, as though her curiosity had sprouted wings.

“Somebody wants to say good morning to you, TJ!” She shoved the puppy’s snout in my face.

As I recoiled, I saw Mom sneak a glance at the computer screen. She had used the dog as a diversionary tactic to spy on me.

“Your dog is very cute,” I said, pushing it back. “And very nosy.”

“You working or writing one of your friends?”

“Yes.”

“Well, who are you telling you are out of town?”

“Mom . . . please.” I closed the laptop cover. “I don’t listen to your phone conversations. Don’t read my emails. Please.”

“I don’t know what’s so damned interesting,” she said, pulling her dog close. “But I can take a hint.”

“Here’s the hint again, Mom, in neon: mind your own business.”

“How do you want your eggs?” Nanny called.

“Scrambled is fine,” Mom replied, on her way to the kitchen. “Y’all got cheese?”

I signed off, leaving unread the bulk of my emails. I took my coffee and left to retrieve the children’s swimsuits.

My father raised comedians. My mother raised privacy advocates. My adolescence was filled with her intrusions.

“Mom, I can hear you breathing. Can you hang up the extension? Mom? Okay, look, I’ll talk to you tomorrow at school—my Mom won’t hang up.”

“Mom, do you need the bathroom? I see your shoes under the door. I’ll be right out.”

Now, in retrospect, she claims to have acted from love. It’s a parent’s duty, she argues, to be on top of what her children are doing.

“You didn’t know when I took your car for a joy ride,” Jesse teases.

“I stole so many of your cigarettes,” Lee laughs.

“I’m still shooting up,” I add, scratching my arm.

“You using that good shit I sold you?” Frank asks.

We know better. She had never heard the phrase “tough love” when she started prying in our things. She was just nosey by nature. Her sons were generally good at hiding the evidence. But sometimes we slipped.

I remember waking from a nap one afternoon during my senior year of high school to discover Mom in my room, reading a torrid mash note from a girlfriend of mine. I had fucked this girl, but good, and she was begging for more in very explicit terms.

Mom knew this girl was black. She was shocked.

“Mom, what are you doing?”

She crumbled the note. “You . . . you can do much better,” she managed, before leaving the room.

“You should leave that note. Mom? Mom! That’s my note!”

My diploma was still warm in my hands when I moved out of the house.

(And if you think I’m a rake now, you should’ve visited my bachelor pad at age eighteen.)

No surprise, then, that I never felt the compulsion to come out to my family about my bisexuality. That was mine and none of their beeswax. It’s an open secret, nothing more.

I had told my future wife that I was bisexual when we began to get serious—that was her beeswax, after all—but throughout our relationship, she never knew my ATM or email passwords.

It wasn’t as though I had secrets to protect; we shared a bank account and I was generally content with fidelity. I just needed some measure of privacy. If she wanted to know about private matters, I preferred that she ask me, rather than take it onto herself to open my accounts. For fifteen years, that was largely a matter of principle.

It proved prescient when my ex wanted some reason to dump me, and searched everywhere for the presumably hidden weapons of mass destruction that would support her foregone conclusion that war was justified.

It may seem odd that a blogger should feel so strongly about privacy. I mean, no one has forced me to detail my life so intimately as I do. And yet I do so with a great concern for being as honest and direct as possible.

Because while I value privacy, I also value honesty. These things should not be contradictory.

I enjoy living a life that is open and welcoming. I treasure the people who appreciate that openness without prying and tugging for more than I offer. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I can trust them enough to open still further.

Pity those who just can’t resist the temptation to rummage through my medicine cabinet or dig for gossip juicier than that I so willingly offer. They risk finding themselves tossed unceremoniously to the curb.

Prying eyes followed me through adolescence, and through my marriage.

Hopefully, I am free of that now.

On this trip home, I took care to dump the cache when reading news or email on the family computer. I used a secure laptop to write or check blogs, using every password protection I knew.

I’m all grown up, and still worried about Mom digging in my business. Because, sad to say, she still does. I long ago developed strategies to create privacy in a den of spies.

When the sex dreams got too bizarre and I needed a moment alone, I reverted to the tried and true refuge of my adolescence and marriage.

Me and Rosie Palms in my fortress of solitude.

“Mom? Dad? I’m in the shower if anyone needs me.”

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That night, after my talk with the teenagers, the sex dreams took a turn for the incestuous.

Following our afternoon on the boat, Lynn’s boyfriend had broken up with her via telephone. Lynn made a tearful call to break this news to her mother, my brother Jesse’s ex wife Teri.

This got me to thinking about Teri. I realized I had not seen in her in a couple of years.

My subconscious took hold of that realization. I would see Teri that very night.

In appearance, Lynn and her brother are perfect amalgams of their parents’ combined traits. Both parents are attractive, blonde, blue-eyed, with glowing smiles.

Their children share that description, but for one additional factor. In marrying Teri, Jesse had added several inches to the gene pool. She is around six feet tall, as are the kids. My brother Jesse, at five foot seven or so, is dwarfed by his ex and their children—an amusing detail in any family photograph.

My brother and his wife broke up a decade ago when she decided that she was a lesbian.

This came as a great surprise. At the time, Jesse and Teri had two young children and a new house.

My brother was distraught. Are you sure? he asked. Can’t we work something out? Maybe you can be a lesbian without divorcing me? Shouldn’t we stay together for the kids?

What else could he say? Divorce and homosexuality are equally alien in our family. All we know is that families stay together, no matter what.

It wasn’t possible, Teri said. She was already in love with someone else—a woman.

My parents were equally distraught. I might even venture that my mother’s distress surpassed even that of her son Jesse, arguably the person more affected by Teri’s decision.

To their great credit, though, my parents made it clear to Teri that that they loved her no matter what. Divorce or no divorce, she was still their daughter. She was still family.

(This by contrast to Teri’s own parents, self-styled sophisticates who told Teri to clear out her childhood bedroom in their home, as they no longer had a daughter.)

Mom called me with the news. I was stunned and felt terrible for Jesse and the kids, not to mention my mother, who could barely talk about it without crying. I hated what this was doing to my family.

But, I said, if this is what Teri wants, then that is the way it is.

How can you say that? my mother asked. They have children! What about their responsibilities to them?

I know, I replied, but what is the alternative? If she’s gay, she’s gay. She can’t stay married and pretend otherwise. I’m sure they will continue to meet their obligations in a new family arrangement.

Besides, I went on to say, it was very brave of Teri to come forward with this revelation. Coming out is very difficult, particularly given her family’s reaction. I felt compelled to support that. In fact, I was happy for her.

Mom hung up on me. Perhaps I had gone too far.

Teri’s girlfriend left her not long after the divorce was finalized. Teri told Jesse she had made a terrible mistake and asked him to take her back.

It’s too late, he said. He was already engaged to someone else.

Since then, Teri has dated a string of men. None has quite stuck.

Naturally, this family history has been much in mind since the end of my marriage. Mine was the second divorce in my family, and my marriage was also ended at the wife’s behest.

“She’s going to regret this,” Mom says of my ex, “Just like Teri did.”

“Maybe so,” I say. “And if so, just as in that case, it will be too late.”

Mom nods. “Good. You can do better.”

The conversation with my niece and nephew must have brought those thoughts home. Thoughts of Teri brought her into my dreams.

I suppose that if I were going to have sex dreams with a family member, it was commendable that my subconscious had the decency to switch dials from my niece and nephew to their mother.

In the dream, I was giving Teri a tour of a house my parents had recently purchased. It was large, ancient and utterly devoid of furniture. “Kind of drafty,” Teri said, shivering.

“If you are cold, I can show you a little secret to this house,” I said. “But you have to keep it between us.”

“Oh, I’m curious,” she smiled. “Show me.”

“You promise to keep it secret?”

“I do.”

I bit my lip. “Okay then, follow me.” I led her into the butler’s pantry and opened a closet door. “This way,” I said, reaching for her hand.

We descended a dark staircase, entering a sauna. “Hey, that’s a nice surprise,” she said.

“Isn’t it? I love a sauna.”

I opened the door and led her into the steam. When my vision adjusted, I could see that the sauna was full of nude men. Some were touching one another. All noticed us standing there, fully clothed.

“Oh!” Teri exclaimed, her hand rising to her mouth.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “This must be men’s day. Come on, let’s go this way.”

I led Teri into a room with plastic mats on the floor. I recognized it as a swinger club.

I only vaguely recollect the rest of the dream. It had to do with me fending off advances from entreating couples as I led Teri in search of the staircase upstairs.

I awoke and lay in bed, wondering at the occasional transparence of dreams.

Teri, so far as I know, is the only other member of my birth family to have any experience with bisexuality. Yet our experiences are so different that there is no reason for me to expect that she would understand my current life better than any other family member.

That following evening, we took Lynn back to her mother’s house. Teri came out to say hello to me and my kids. I stepped out of the car to hug her neck.

“Well, you look great,” she said, pulling me close. “You’re getting some sun.”

“Why thank you, I feel pretty. And you look as lovely as ever!”

“No, no, I’m fat! Look at me”

“Nonsense, you are wasting away, you scrawny thing,”” I said. “You need to get some meat on those bones. Now come over here and say hey to the kids.”

It felt familiar to indulge in this exchange, so common among reuniting Southerners.

Teri leaned into the car and cooed at each of my children in turn. Lynn reminded the kids that this was her mother. Teri reached around the car seats to hug my Mom and Dad.

“My goodness,” she said, standing to face me. “Your babies are so big! I feel so old.”

“Tell me,” I replied, my arm on Lynn’s shoulder. “I’ve been hanging out with this one, you know.”

We talked about our growing children for a bit before my kids grew restless. “We should get going to eat,” Mom called.

I kissed Lynn’s cheek and stepped forward to hug Teri goodbye.

“Keep in touch,” she whispered into my ear. “We’re still family, you know.”

I buried my face in her hair and kissed her neck. “Bye, Sis.”

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Dream

Jessica came over for a night of meat-and-potatoes loving. We poured some bourbons and talked, splitting a cigar as we listened to 1920s jazz.

We stayed up late until all hours having sex. I stayed on top—“doing all the work,” as she puts it. We slept until one or the other of us started up again. We would go at it until she came, then sleep until the next round. I waited to come until the very last round the next morning.

I made ham and cheese omelets, with onions and coffee. She was happy and laughed often as we talked.

When she left, I found a Christmas gift had been left behind for me.

As Jessica and I slept during that night, I had a dream.

In the dream, we were in my bed, in the dark. Jessica was giving me head.

My teenage daughter Rachel walked into the room. She looked around and left. “Rachel?” I asked, as Jessica continued at her task. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” she said. “I was just looking for a place to sleep.”

“Why aren’t you in your bed?”

“Well . . . ,” Rachel hesitated. I got up to investigate; Jessica followed.

The apartment was filled with people I didn’t recognize. Two pleasant well-dressed elderly women greeted me. There was a mother in panties, nursing a baby, next to a young man with blonde dred locks. Three young women in flowery party dresses were chatting near the dining table. Other folks milled about.

The room was lit by Sterno flames.

“Who are these people?” I asked, as tamped out the Sternos with my hands. “How did they get here?”

“I dunno . . . ,” Rachel mumbled, looking at her feet.

“Rachel,” I said, sternly. The guy with dreds rode past me on a bike. “Did you leave the apartment?”

“Yes,” she sighed in admission. “But only for a little while. I went to the park and I found someone who needed a place to stay, and then someone else, and then these nice ladies . . .”

“Rachel!” I admonished. “You can not bring people home from the park in the middle of the night.”

“I know,” she said. “Sorry.”

I certainly did not want these people in my home. But now that they were here, I felt I had no choice but to feed them.

I took stock of my pantry. I found a bag of frozen ears of corn, a box of mashed potato flakes, ground beef, and other sundries.

In reality, these foodstuffs are never to be found in my kitchen. They were mainstays of my family’s diet when I was a kid. These are the first things I learned to cook.

I started some mashed potatoes, which evolved into a shepherd’s pie, and then was neither mashed potatoes nor a shepherd’s pie. The corn looked fine, but turned mealy as I boiled it. I heard a baby cry, and thought, hurry, they are hungry. My parents were at the table, asking how much longer until dinner?

There was a knock at the door. A man in a trench coat asked my name. I told him my name. He asked me to sign on a dotted line. I signed.

“Sir, you are hereby subpoenaed to appear in court concerning paternity suits filed by two women.”

Two women?” I turn to my parents, incredulous. “How many babies are there? One or two?”

“I’m just serving the papers, sir. The information is in these packages.”

He hands me two envelopes, each marked with the name of a plaintiff. I forget the name of one woman.

The other was Cilla Freick.

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