“TJ, I need to hug your neck,” Linda cooed, coming up behind me in her kitchen. “I just love you that much.”
“Thanks, Linda,” I smiled, leaning back into my sister-in-law’s embrace. “You just take all the neck you need.”
“I will, you know I will,” she drawled into my ear. “Now, did Jesse tell you all about my friend, Cheryl? You know she’s dear to me. I love her like a sister.”
Linda held firm, pulling me closer.
“He did mention that, yes,” I said, my breathing a little tight. “She sounds perfectly nice.”
Linda dug her nails into my shirt. “She is nice, I think you will enjoy meeting her. But if you decide to get with Brenda tonight, I will totally understand. She’s sweet too, and all the men want her.”
“Yes, Jesse mentioned that as well.”
“Good, I think you can’t lose, really.” Linda kissed my cheek before pulling away. “We’re going to enjoy showing you off. Now, do you still drink bourbon? I think I will join you in one before we go out to Morgan’s.”
Linda dropped ice into glasses, changing the subject to her new niece and wishing Jesse would hurry up with his shower.
I listened, my mind wondering at the ease with which my family pimped me out.
After the demise of his first marriage, following his wife’s admission that she was in love with a lesbian, my brother Jesse was utterly adrift. His life was taken away during the course of a conversation, leaving him to wonder what would happen to him and his two kids.
It was the first divorce in my family.
As it happened, he married again, with a pretty and fun-loving Auburn fan. Jesse realized, after the awfulness of divorce, that his duties as a father were winding down. Last summer, when his son was entering his senior year of high school, Jesse bought a deep-sea boat for vacations with his wife.
My brother could survey his life and check off all the attainments that he might have hope to reach at retirement. He was not even forty.
When my own marriage went south, Jesse was the first person to put things into a new perspective for me. Like him, I fought hard to stay married. Like him, I would have done anything to keep my family intact.
“If your wife doesn’t want to be married, you have to let it go,” Jesse told me, at a time when I was feeling crushed and hopeless. “Trust me, you are about to have the most fun—and the most sex—you have ever had in your life. And, when you are ready, you’ll settle down again, if you want.
“But,” he had gone on. “Not too soon. Enjoy yourself.”
Jesse and I had spent the day entertaining my kids at the lake. We had taken the pontoon boat out for long tours, dragging inflated rafts for them to ride in the wake. My grandmother brought down sandwiches and chips for lunch, and in the late afternoon, we cut into a watermelon.
As the sun headed west, Lillie finally lost the front tooth she had been wiggling since April.
The kids were worn out by the time supper came around.
I showered after supper. I reminded the kids that I was heading off to spend the evening with Uncle Jesse, and I would see them after breakfast in the morning. I kissed them each as they drifted into a relaxed stupor with a SpongeBob marathon.
I slipped a five to my grandmother, who was tickled to act as the tooth fairy’s proxy.
Jesse handed me a beer as I got into his truck.
“Okay, you ready to have some grown-up time, daddy?” he smiled, popping the lid on his can.
I crunched the lid on my own. “Hell yeah, I am. Let’s get this party started.”
His wheels spun on gravel, kicking up red dirt.
As we headed up the Interstate, we listened to comedy on satellite radio and talked about the day behind us.
Finally, Jesse began to talk about the night before us.
“Listen, there may be a slight change in plans,” he said, a little sly.
“Oh?” I put my empty into the cooler and retrieved another beer. I held it towards my brother.
“No thanks, one is my limit when I’m driving,” he said, tapping the can between his legs. “Now, the thing is, Cheryl is very nice, and she is real excited about meeting you tonight. Really, she called Linda about three times today, asking if we were really going out.”
“Yeah, well—sweet and clingy. I told you she was clingy like that.”
“But the thing is, there’s also Brenda.”
“Brenda is a total ten. I mean, she is easily six feet tall.” Jesse paused to let that sink in. I remembered that my somewhat diminutive sibling is impressed by tall women. “Cheryl, she’s about a . . . well, I’d say she’s about an eight.” He sipped his beer. “Well, an eight or a seven.”
It occurred to me that I didn’t know anything about my date’s appearance. I thought to ask Jesse to fill in the blanks in her portrait, but he was busy describing Brenda.
“Now, Brenda is way hot. I mean, she can have any man she wants. I’ve told her about you, but, you know, she has a boyfriend. Or, from what I heard today, she had a boyfriend.”
“Yeah. Apparently he pissed her off last night and she told him it was over. I don’t know all the details, but Linda says Brenda is really pissed. So we are trying to get her to come out tonight to hang with us and meet you.”
“Oh, okay,” I nodded. “Well, that would be a good thing, huh?”
“Yeah man, ‘cause you would meet a hot-as-shit woman on the rebound!” he laughed. “Now, that’s as good as it gets.”
I began to suspect that Jesse’s motivation in getting me laid had to do with his own vicarious thrill seeking.
As Jesse told it, he and Linda are very popular at their regular bar. Both are incorrigible flirts. They must make quite a team of heartbreakers, getting their friends hot and bothered with flirtations that would ultimately be unsatisfied. At the end of the night, everyone knew that Jesse and Linda were going home together. Their last dance was spoken for.
That must be the envy of a few people at Morgan’s.
At the same time, Jesse and Linda must enjoy being desired, even if they aren’t going to consummate that by fooling around with their admirers.
Jesse is presumably turned on by taking his hot wife home at the end of the night, knowing each of them could have anyone they wanted.
With me in town, Jesse could avail himself of another outlet for vicarious sex. I could score with the woman he wanted. As a back up, I was slated for the woman who wanted him.
Linda and I were gossiping over bourbons on the porch when Jesse came down from his shower. His hair was wet and brushed back. He was wearing jeans and a floral-patterned shirt with the top two buttons left open. He smelled sharp and slightly astringent.
It was nearly ten. The sky was finally giving over to night.
“Y’all finish up,” Jesse said. “Let’s get on over to Morgan’s. The first round is on me.”