Krush said the meteors would streak the Tennessee sky after midnight. He would swing by his place, grab the missus, then join Beave and me at my parents’ house outside Etowah. By eleven, I had a fire going in the backyard, around which we sat with a bottle of champagne and played cards.
The champagne was left over from a special occasion that had never materialized, and it took only three glasses before I was ready to get naked. Then I got so naked, I jumped into the pool. After another hand of cards, Krush and Beave agreed we didn’t see each other enough, so skinny dipping with me would be alright.
Krush’s wife remained fully clothed, by the fire. She was a short, big girl, and I wasn’t completely sure why Krush had married her. Floating in the lukewarm water, I stared at the heavens—stable, unmoving, eternal—and searched for explanatory shapes. In the past year, I had moved to Boston and started dating a dancer named Riley.
“I bet that’s tight,” Krush said, shaking the water from his thick black curls like a poodle.
I told him it was, though I couldn’t really remember what other vaginas felt like, so my assessment was suspect. My memory loss was largely due to a tendency of only getting fucked when I was fucked up. Riley thought I found myself in such situations because I was more of an asshole when inebriated, and the girls I liked only liked assholes.
Over the next few hours, or minutes, we treaded water and raced the length of the pool, until Beave, breathless, suggested we get in the hot tub, which we did. Krush’s wife joined us too, but she kept her bra and panties on.
“I’m going to try guys for a while,” Beave said.
Krush’s wife lit a cigarette, the smoke hovering above the rapid bubbles and changing colors beneath the water. She said, “Honey, it don’t work that way. As above, so below.”
Above, the stars were still so perfectly well-behaved. I wondered if maybe Krush had misheard about the meteors.
The reason Beave wanted to try guys was because his last three relationships had sucked. Girls liked to cheat on him, especially the most recent one, and he was under the impression that infidelity was the worst possible thing that could happen to anyone. “A guy couldn’t be any worse to me,” he said. Krush’s wife smoked in silence.
On the porch, Bon Jovi’s “(You Want to) Make a Memory” thrummed from the speakers—too soft, quiet, and embedded with the “kinda always like it used to be,” for me to listen to without sinking below the bubbles.
I slept with guys and girls. That was why they called me Flip. As I went to change the song, Krush whispered, “Flip has the whitest ass.” I noted this in my write-down-later file because despite my nakedness and the cool August breeze, it made me feel incredibly warm.
Before I got back in the tub, Krush’s wife met me on the porch and asked if we had any more wine. I said we did, and together we went inside to retrieve it.
“I feel like I should wrap a towel around me or something,” I said, tenderly pulling a bottle of Dad’s homemade raspberry batch from the chilled liquor cabinet in the dining room, my body dripping on the hardwood floors.
She insisted I was fine, but I imagined my dick looked very sad and shrunken.
Bringing the bottle into the kitchen, I sat two wine glasses on the bar and haphazardly attempted to open the bottle. Overestimating my drunkenness, I handled the corkscrew too harshly and knocked a glass off the counter, where it shattered on my foot, slicing the skin in a diagonal curve towards my toes. Blood flowed in what seemed an impressively slow motion.
“Goddamn,” Krush’s wife said and sat me down at the kitchen table. With my slurred instructions, she somehow managed to find the first-aid kit under the bar. She patched the cut while I stared at the slippery red liquid smeared on the kitchen tiles in the shape of my heel and felt sorry for myself. Finished, she slapped my thigh. “Thank you,” I muttered, experiencing an over-whelming urge wrap my arms around her, to bless her mouth with my mouth, but as I made my move, she picked up the bottle of wine, threw a wet towel on the floor. Arm-in-arm, we returned outside, where giggles peopled the night.
In the hot tub, Krush and Beave argued about whether anyone mattered in the grand scheme of things. I understood this was the kind of difficult conversation people had when they feared they weren’t doing anything with their lives. Over the past year, Krush had gotten fatter and married-er, while Beave had gotten dumped-er and gayer. They both worked what they considered menial, in-between jobs: Krush sold TVs, Beave waited tables. I remained silent, struck by the inescapable fact of being older, knowing we would grow older still, somehow less than we were even now. They did matter, I thought, just maybe not in the way they imagined they would. Fingering a jet, I realized I had been peeing for some time.
The ‘rents wouldn’t be back till tomorrow afternoon, when Beave and Krush and Krush’s wife would be working and I would be working out, watching the numbers in my bank account drop, and thinking about Riley, her taut girlish figure snuggled into my twin-sized bed back in New England, long legs extending the length of the mattress, her tendency to grab me in her sleep as if I were something precious.
Krush and his wife left sometime after four a.m. Still naked, I found a blanket for Beave, and we watched Halloween on the sixty-inch flat-screen TV Krush sold my parents.
“Don’t worry B,” I said, patting his shoulder. “We’ll get you straightened out.”
And I wasn’t completely sure of what I meant by that, only that within it lay a special wisdom I’ve never since been able to recapture.