“Oh God, she’s crying again . . .,” Meg began.
“Of course she’s crying, they just wrecked her freaking house,” Shelby said, exhaling as she passed a glass pipe to me.
I reached for a lighter. “This can’t be good for the children,” I lamented. “Watching their house get trashed.”
“Oh, just you wait,” Meg nodded. “They’ll be fine at the end. But if that mother keeps crying, I’m going to bawl.”
Meg and Shelby introduced me to their shared guilty pleasure: getting stoned to “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
I don’t watch reality shows. I didn’t even know this one existed.
But then, I don’t smoke pot either.
With Shelby, I often do things I don’t do.
It was all part of our ongoing project to educate one another from our areas of expertise. So long as we both kept an open mind, we each gained new experiences and insights into one another.
I schooled her in her film noir, American history and orgy etiquette.
She reciprocated with pornographic anime, blowjob advice and marijuana connoisseurship.
The pipe in my hand was a souvenir of this exchange.
One night, we decided to go to a movie. I opted for “Capote.”
“Okay,” she asked, “Now, who is Capote, anyway?” She pronounced his name as written, with a silent final vowel.
I gave her a capsule biography of the man who introduced a new genre of literature in the year of my birth, then devolved into camp and self-parody before dying of drink in the year of her birth.
I promised that knowing this would not ruin the plot.
She liked Philip Seymour Hoffman, so she agreed to the movie.
We talked about Capote afterwards over margaritas and nachos, prepared the way she likes them: chips and cheese—that’s it—with salsa and sour cream on the side.
She noticed a head shop across the street from the restaurant, surprised that the cops parked outside let it be.
“It’s the Village,” I shrugged. “People were smoking pot here before there was a police force.”
She suggested we visit the shop afterwards, if I wasn’t scared to go in.
“Sweet, there’s no fear. It’s legal to sell paraphernalia here. The law just pretends people buy it for tobacco.”
“That’s pretty fucked up,” she laughed.
“Maybe, but it works, right?”
The store was filled with glass pipes and bongs.
As it happens, Shelby knows glassblowing nearly as well as she knows pot smoking.
She quickly engaged the shopkeeper in intense conversation. The shopkeeper, a raven-haired tattooed woman not much older than Shelby, was impressed by her expertise.
She pulled out trays of pipes, retrieving others from drawers behind her counter.
I browsed as they talked, stopping to pet the store’s dog. I listened as they examined pipes with the same focus one might bring to buying a car.
Shelby found exactly what she wanted and plunked down the cash.
The door chimed as we waved goodbye.
“I thought she was going to follow you home, sugar,” I smiled.
She lipped her arm into mine. “The dog?”
“No, dear, your new girlfriend. I think you made her night.”
Shelby looked back. “Ya think?”
Now, I know I’ll never be much of a stoner. I’ve lived this long without owning so much as a joint I could call my own. I was married for a decade and a half to a wake-and-bake pothead, and never succumbed to regular smoking.
But still, I recognize that knowing good pot from bad is just plain subcultural literacy.
Shelby took pity on my ignorance, holding the good stuff under my nose, making me eyeball the fine grains, and teaching me to distinguish one strain from another.
I was still learning to mix smoking pot with drinking bourbon.
As the television show ended, Meg and I decided to watch “Cool Hand Luke.” She had never seen the film, or really much cinema of the seventies.
She thought Paul Newman was a brand of salsa. She assumed George Kennedy was among the clan that summered in Hyannisport.
That’s unacceptable cultural illiteracy. A failure to communicate, really.
Meg and I were pretty toasted by the time the hound dogs bayed. We giggled about eggs.
Shelby sat quietly, cutting her new clothesline into precise lengths. She cauterized the ends and wrapped them in tape.
When the movie ended, Shelby turned off the television.
“Let’s move into the naked room,” she said, standing.
We complied, happily following Shelby into Meg’s bedroom.
Shelby unzipped her jeans, stepping from the legs into nudity from the waist down. Her tight t-shirt was pulled up on the curve of her belly.
My eyes were on her as my cock popped from my jeans.
Meg leaned across the bed as Shelby and I met beside her. She watched as I lifted my baby’s face into a sweet nuzzle, her lips grazing mine.
“You stoner,” she teased.
“No baby, that’s just me, high on love,” I smiled.
“Yeah, right,” she said, her voice low and steady. “Stoner.”
Meg let out a laugh, quickly covering her mouth.
The three of us have had sex many times. Meg always watches as we begin. It’s partly her nature to wait until she is pulled in. It’s also just good manners.
When fucking one’s best friend’s boyfriend, one should always permit the lovers time together.
Meg is courteous like that.
Meg watched as Shelby took my cock into her mouth, holding my hand as I surrendered to my jailbait girlfriend.
Meg pet Shelby’s hair as I fucked my baby. We watched as Shelby’s eyes closed and her head turned, knowing she was giving over to the sensation of being full, of being loved.
Meg watched me as I am when Shelby retreats during sex. She saw that I took that moment of privacy within intimacy, touching Shelby’s skin, even after all this time together, still marveling at its pale luminosity, its unlined simplicity, its soft give under my forefingers.
Meg caught me smiling at her, as if to ask, can you believe our good fortune?
Meg pinched Shelby’s tiny pale nipple as I pulled out, impatient for her orgasm. I could get there faster with my fingers in her, my mouth on her.
Meg complied when Shelby asked for her breast. She gave herself to Shelby’s ravenous mouth, satisfying her insatiable oral fixation.
We encouraged Shelby as she shouted it was coming. We stayed with her as she delivered her orgasm to us, its birth announced with rapid pants and loud nasal whines.
Meg stayed with me as Shelby put on a coat and left for a smoke.
Meg took my hand, and took my kisses. She took my cock into her. She took my grasp on her neck as I squeezed, our eyes locked on one another’s, green on blue, as I denied her air until she came under me.
We all have our needs. Meg needs oxygen. I need her orgasm.
Our needs were soon met.
Meg left me to rest, stoned, drunk and well sexed in her bed. She joined Shelby to wreck her lungs in the cold night air.
She laughed that Shelby had texted a friend that she was listening to her best friend fuck her boyfriend.
That night, Meg slept in my arms as Shelby took the couch. Her ropes lay unused on the floor.
Tomorrow would be another day—the last of my forty-first year, and the fourth of my birthday week of wall-to-wall sex.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Cool Hand Luke