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.”
“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.
How’s it going, sweetheart? I’m seeing Jen tonight. Any chance we can meet you at your place?
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?”
“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.”
Read Full Post »