Representation matters (so don’t f*** it up)

For the first time in my writing life I paid someone to critique a manuscript. It took a week for me to get up the nerve to read the report, because folks, this book is my baby. In a way no book has ever been. There’s something about my main character that won’t let me go. The editor had a similar reaction. In fact, they said some of the nicest things I’ve ever heard about something I wrote. More importantly, they got it: the point, the vibe, the Universal Tropes driving the story.

That being said, the book is not perfect. It may in fact be deeply flawed. Nothing I can’t redeem, and absolutely worth the effort to do so because I want this book to SHINE. If my character Izzy resonates with other readers the way he did with someone I paid to be professionally mean to me, then this might be my first major success. It can’t be held back by a mediocre subplot, wishy-washy supporting characters, and accidental queerbaiting.

That last criticism hurt. With surgical precision, because it was true. For those who haven’t heard the term or perhaps don’t know the meaning, in modern media analysis queerbaiting means to present a character as if they are queer, but never allow them to be openly queer. Worse is when the queer-coded character turns out to be straight. For example Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory: would you have been at all surprised if he had been gay? You know, like Jim Parsons, the actor who played him?

That’s a good indication why queerbaiting is a problem. We see so few queer characters in popular media whose queerness is both present in the story and…not the plot of the story. Because not every story with queer characters needs to be a painful coming out story. Not every Trans character has to struggle with body dysmorphia. We don’t all get rejected by our families. And more to the point, most of the time we aren’t thinking about our orientation. It’s just a fact about us, like the color of our hair and eyes, or whether or not we can stand the taste of coriander. But by not letting characters be openly queer, it traps queer people in this shadow realm of not properly existing in the public consciousness.

Some might argue that the queer agenda is taking up too much air these days. As much as I can speak for the LGBTI+ community at large, we certainly didn’t plan to become ammunition in the culture wars. But the cats are out of the bags, we are out of the shadows, and that’s simply the way of things now.

Which is a lot of words to say, I fucked up. I did myself what I decry in others’ work. Telford seems gay. Possibly asexual. So why did I bend over backwards to make him kiss a girl? Honestly, it was nothing more than carelessness. I am so dialed in on my main character Izzy that I just kind of did whatever for poor Telford. He deserves better. And Izzy deserves my best.

More posts to come on this process, I’m sure. It’s the longest book I’ve ever written and I think it’s going to change my life. If I get it right…

Why choose?

Reverse Harem and the (r)evolution of Romance writing

If you aren’t an avid ebook reader, it’s likely you’ve never heard of the genre, which has begun to call itself “why choose” because algorithms are prurient snitches. Yet it’s the strongest trend in self published romance, with no signs of slowing down.

It is also an astonishing indicator of where culture is headed. Because two out of every five ebooks sold are romance, and reverse harem tropes are EVERYWHERE.

So what the heck is it? Nothing more or less than a romance story where the heroine gets ALL the boys. Without having to choose between them, favoring one and only one. Without lying or cheating, with the consent of all the men, which is perhaps the most fantastical aspect of the genre, that three or more cis-het guys could get over their egos enough to get along with their partner’s metamour.

OK so what the heck is a metamour?

It’s the point at which the Why Choose genre gets really interesting. Because, pardon me if I’m wrong, but this is polyamory. A metamour is your lover’s lover. Not your competition, just “the other person who loves the same person as me.”

Meaning the strongest trend in romance writing is a vigorous, fun-loving, open-hearted repudiation of the nuclear family. One of the lynchpins of Western society, blamed repeatedly (and quite sensibly) for maintaining women’s inferior status. Less than half a decade ago, women in the US were being arrested for wearing pants. A wife needed her husband’s permission to open her own bank account. The assumption was nearly universal that all women wanted was safety. That women weren’t sexual, weren’t interested in freedom in being their own person, in existing for any reason besides replicating DNA aka having babies.

Oh, my sweet summer child…

That has never been enough. And hear me out, this is not some Sandberg gaslighting about how every woman miraculously can have it all aka a high paying high pressure job as well as a functional marriage, happy children, and time enough to seek personal meaning. Such women usually have nannies. And they are frequently miserable. The women, not the nannies, though I reckon a fair few of them are less than thrilled with what often functions like a sort of indentured servitude.

This is of course not universal. But that’s the point. Women want different things. Women can finally have what they want. And yes, RH is a book trend. It isn’t a sign of the death of marriage. But it is certainly a sign that the Overton window has shifted hugely in the direction of even more freedom for women. And for men, who must bear the brunt of being denied softness, emotionality, compassion. Who are taught they must defend their tiny tribe against an entire world which wants them dead. Truth is, the world usually isn’t paying attention. Truth is, modern marriage isn’t a siege state. Wives are not chattel, nor are they princesses, to be kept in a tower and denied the world.

Women are raw, and horny, and also nice and pretty and kind, but still red-blooded, salivating, alive. And we are tired of being told what to do.

There is a world filled with possibilities. Even it’s only words on a page or a screen. A world where women get exactly what they want, and men are happy for it to happen. So come on over! Sometimes the grass really is greener even once you’ve hopped the fence.

What I read on vacation

against the backdrop of a bright blue ocean, someone lays on the pale sandy beach reading a paperback bookbeach

I went on a trip the end of April with the serious intent of reading some light fiction. I write it, so keeping up with what other writers are doing is kind of a job requirement, but I sometimes just don’t read at all.   Unfortunate but you know how it goes, *insert modern life* and all your plans are suddenly negotiable.  Regardless, I did do a fair bit of reading while away.  I’m not including buy links, just look ‘em up yourself. You got the internet on that thing, right?

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A nice book about how to die well.  I contemplate own mortality with more frequency than most people (don’t applaud, it’s maybe a bad thing) so nothing in here stunned me, but its gentle solace is a perfect fit for these grieving times.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Did Not Finish at 40%.  I might have finished it if it was the only book at a beach cottage when the weather was bad.  I’m not big on murder mysteries and we’ll leave it at that, because I have Many Feelings about this book, its plot, its characters, and other books like it which I don’t want to voice. Inevitably, there’s a movie now.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

A brave little novel that tries really hard to not be a Cancer Story by being a book about books, yet is still inescapably a Cancer Story. But good, though I found the dialogue a bit forced. Yes, the characters are well-read for their age, but my own 19th Century aristocrats barely talk that high falutin’.  The author character was a nice touch, but again, another book I only read because it was on the shelf at the vacation rental.

Glitterland by Alexis Hall

I have no logical response to Alexis Hall ‘s romance novels. They’re all amazing IF you like his style, which is exuberant and passionate and unapologetically queer and very “head-space” with lots of ruminations by the main character. I will resist the urge to discourse on the historical antecedents of this sort of novel, but rest assured Hall does it on purpose.

What we end up with is a scorching POV of a man with serious mental illness and his star-crossed lover from Essex which is evidently the UK equivalent of the Jersey Shore. I told Hall himself that I hadn’t read a finer regional accent in prose since Irvine Welsh, and I now call everyone a ‘donut’ when they mess up but adorably. Ten million stars. It’s about to get reissued with (ahhh!!!!) bonus content and for the first time ever I am going to buy a book I already own.

His Lordship’s Secret by Samantha SoRelle

Born in poverty, ascended to wealth, Alfie hires his long lost friend Domenic to protect him from whomever is trying to kill him.  Events Ensue in a twisty and quite macabre Regency-era plot with interesting class commentary and solid period detail. I love a “dress you up” trope, which I didn’t expect to encounter but which aligned perfectly with our historical fashion-themed vacation. All in all, a nifty self-published novel in the growing canon of Queer Historical Romance

The Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

Barely news (there’s a pun in there) to anyone who reads MM Contemporary Romance, but I am a decade behind thanks to an extended reading drought. Aaaaaaaanyway, I don’t typically like present tense in novels, but I grit my teeth and kept on with this one, because what else do you do on the plane? I was rewarded with good, gritty characters and a strong love story that hits a lot of comforting tropes without being too stereotypical. And the sex scenes are lit.

Ten Thousand Stitches by Olivia Atwater

An author who is finally getting the acclaim she deserves. Like her prior Regency fairy tale Half A Soul, this was a joy to read, with wonderful, complex female leads and a heart-breaking yet ultimately redeeming love story driven by genuine personal growth on everyone’s part. I adore her rendering of the realm of Faerie, 10/10 would visit but very cautiously. This story also aligned with our fashion-themed vacation, being mainly to do with magical embroidery e.g. the ten thousand stitches of the title.  Bravo Ms Atwater!

“Is This Seat Taken?”

a woman's beautiful bare legs as she sits in an easy chair by the window

So: your boyfriend who has family connections to your MBA supervisor invites you to an anonymous orgy. You want to go, because you like to fuck, so much that you agree, despite the fact that you will know probably half of the people there. But you try on the expensive mask he had made which really does cover your face well, a tight fitting cap of blood-red leather that extends to the base of your nose and conceals your hair. You look, in the mask and nothing else, totally gorgeous, a fact he tells you continually as he fucks you from behind, watching himself in the mirror over your shoulder. He is not wrong, and thinking of all the other men who will fuck this gorgeous masked woman, you come, shaking so hard he pulls out, thinking he’s hurt you somehow.

Idiot, you think again.

Yet you go to the party. The orgy. You wear the mask and a garter belt and stockings and heels and a long coat and nothing else. He has waxed not just his pubes but his chest, striding about in leather pants with a tear-away crotch. You spend very little time together, because the pants make you laugh, and as a designated sub that’s the kind of disrespect that earns you a shift in the stocks.

You like getting spanked. You do not like humiliation, being hung out for anyone to torment. Too many of the older men who dominate this scene fall back on that trope, one more reason why you are sitting alone in the back corner of the mansion’s front parlor, wondering if it’s possible to ghost on an orgy.

“Is this seat taken?” Before you answer the man sits down anyway on the other end of the little couch. “I just gotta relax for a bit.” He flops back, breathing hard, his half-hard cock laying against his thigh.

You check him out, because it’s that kind of party. A black beaked mask, Dread Pirate Roberts with a hint of Plague Doctor. The fit body of a dedicated college athlete keeping his shit together. No gray hair in the pubes. Who is he?

“Is the master enjoying his evening?”

“Don’t do that master stuff. You can just talk to me. And I don’t know. Yes and no. I’m thinking about going home.”

Ask me. You blush, because no matter how many dicks your boyfriend lets you have here and now, he will not lend his subs. He has told you so himself, because so many in his clique have asked to fuck you. Asked him, not you.

“Me too,” you say. The plague pirate turns to look directly at you, and you shiver, because the mask is only half of his menace, the rest in his dark eyes that seem to swallow you.

“I want your number,” he says.

“Okay. How—”

“I’ll remember it. And if I don’t, it’s my fault, right?”

“Okay.” You tell him your number.  He says it back to you. “You got it.”

“Does your boyfriend, sorry, master, read your messages?”

“God, no.”

“Good.” He stands up and stretches.  Like the slut you are, you stare at his erection.

“Are you leaving?” you ask.


“Are you sure you don’t want to—”

He turns to you, and you shiver again under his dark gaze. “Not here. I want you paying attention.”


He winks and walks away. His ass is amazing.

“Who was that?” your boyfriend asks as he approaches.

“I don’t know.”

“What did he want?” He is fiddling with his detachable crotch again. You do not love him. Now you know that you do not like him either.



 “I’m getting one of those headaches.  Do you have any idea where my coat is?”


“The call is coming from inside the house…”

an erotic close-up of someone's bare throat under gold lights

Writing erotica is not like writing romance. When sex is at the core of the writing, the rest of the plot serves mainly to create situations where people will want to have it. The sex becomes the plot, and the way it unfolds creates the narrative. Are the characters happy? Guilty? Excited? Fearful? Do they feel good about it at the start then realize as soon as fur hits fur that, oh shit, this is a very bad idea? Or the opposite, warming to the notion the further they pursue it?

While it is popular to add an erotic gloss to another genre (Erotic Thriller, Erotic Horror) this is sometimes like adding sprinkles to ice cream: delicious, but it could have been great without it. In pure erotica, in which sex is the main thrust (hur hur) of the plot, who is the villain?  More to the point, who is even a plausible antagonist in an erotica narrative? The protagonist’s parents? Their social circle? Ex-lovers? These are certainly options, and in a romance-first erotic story, one expects the hero to fight-for-the-right-to-love with another well-defined character.

Love, romance, sexual desire: do we need an external antagonist to narrate these facets of our lives, when the villain of our own sexual stories is so rarely external? The struggle is most often within your own mind, between your consciously constructed desire and your history, beliefs, triggers, and unstated, unconscious, icky longings that you ought not to share but can never deny. So few of us feel perfectly safe in our sexual selves. Always we doubt, whether our own ability to give and receive pleasure, or to withstand humiliation after the fact. When we struggle with our feelings about sex, more often than no, we fight ourselves.

This is the nature of erotica. External threats only matter if they change the protagonist’s understanding of themselves and their approach to sex. The villain doesn’t need to be embodied as a person.  It can be whatever it is that keeps the erotic hero from fulfilling their sexual destiny.  We don’t need to see the betrayal to feel the agony of the struggle.

Indeed, to put the villain in the story can rob it of its sexual pleasure. To frame an abuser, even an absent one, as the antagonist can rob an erotic story of its liberating influence, by making it more about the hurt than the recovery. At its heart, erotic literature is about freedom, about expressing parts of the self not ordinarily permitted. The process of denial is not always important to the plot. We all know that story. What we want from erotica is the getting free.

Nearly Double Teamed by the Sentient Manifestations of the Brown Recluse Spider Meme and Angry Reactions to It.

a red and black female Pamphobeteus spider on a darkly shadowed backdrop

One of my favourite things on the internet is the insect and invertebrate-themed meme sharing group Entomemeology.  It has its ups and downs, but now and then things get wild, and we end up, for example, in contests to see who can write the hottest trash for one of our mods to read on video.

That’s how I ended up writing this story. When I saw the kind of work the others were turning in, I knew I couldn’t possibly match their excellence (read: mind-boggling steam level) so I let the story stall.

I hate doing that. One of my themes this year is Cleaning the Plate, by which I mean finishing as many stories as I can, just for the exercise. So please enjoy this possibly baffling glimpse into the mental landscape of a most wonderfully peculiar group of scientists, hobbyists, and allied weirdos.

And for fuck’s sake, if you don’t like the content, don’t report, just tag a mod…

So without further ado, please enjoy…

Nearly Double Teamed by the Sentient Manifestations of the Brown Recluse Spider Meme and Angry Reactions to It.

Entomemeology party girl Tara finds herself in the middle of the hottest debate going when she tries to hook up with the embodied Angry Reactions to the Brown Recluse Meme.  But what people say on their socials and what they want in private aren’t always the same.  Sometimes the one you say you hate is the one you crave the most.


Everyone knows it’s easy to get into trouble at an Entomemology party.  It doesn’t help that the membership is collectively so fucking hot.  But that night only one guy had my attention.

You know who, and trust me, you would have felt the same.  He was just so confident.  Totally immune to criticism.  Welcome in every conversation, able to make just about anyone laugh.

Not everyone, though.  It seemed like every time I turned around the other one was there, scowling at everything Brown Recluse Meme said.  There’s always been tension between Brown Recluse Meme and Angry Reactions to the Brown Recluse Meme.  Rumors, too, that they were enemies in name only.  Otherwise why did Angry keep hanging around?  The rest of us tried to ignore their flare-ups and shit talking, even when we got sucked into their drama.

It was late and the party was getting a little bugs n’ jugs, so I cut out to the backyard for some fresh air.  There he was.  Not the life of the party but his nemesis, Angry Reactions, chilling on the porch swing in the dark.

“See anything you like?” he asked when he caught me staring.

“Sorry.  I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“No problem, Tara.”

Holy shit, he knew my name.  Somehow it made him easier to approach.  “Mind if sit down?” I nodded to the space beside him.

“It’s a free country.”

The swing wobbled when I sat.  “Is this thing safe?”

“I wouldn’t try fucking on it.”

I laughed nervously.  I’d never noticed how good looking he was, with that hard jaw, those dark eyes.  My fault for spending all my time gawking at Brown Recluse Meme.  No surprise that Angry was resentful.

“So what’s a nice Theraphosid like you doing in a place like this?” he said dryly.

“You mean hanging out with a bunch of science nerds and memelords?  I dunno, I like people who understand me.  Who know how to treat a girl like me.  And I like people who can make me laugh.”

He chuckled, a dark rumble that made me shiver.  “Well, I guess I’m shit out of luck,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“Apparently I have no sense of humor.”

“You have other qualities.”

“Do I?  Like what?”

Shit.  Here’s the thing you should know about me: I can’t help myself.  I see a hot, single meme, even a reaction, sitting alone at a party, I’m going to try and pick him up.  Or her, when the situation’s right.  Angry Reactions to the Brown Recluse Meme was looking at me like he could tear my clothes off with his eyes.

“So what are my other qualities?” he teased, nudging me with his elbow.

“Persistence.  And you’re pretty smart.  And you’re usually right, even if you aren’t very funny.”

“You’re right.  I am persistent.”  He raised his beer to me, toasted himself.  Maybe I should have said arrogant, too.

“Can I ask you a question?” I said instead.

“As long as you don’t care if I answer.”

“What’s the deal with you and Brown Recluse Meme?  Sometimes it’s like you follow him around, looking for ways to roast him.  Why do you even care?”

“Because he’s an asshole.  He needs to be reminded.”

“You don’t even know him.  Or do you?”

He stared at me blankly.  “I just don’t think he’s as funny as everyone else thinks he is.”

“If he bugs you so much, why do you still hang out with us?”

He looked out over the darkened yard, took a long pull off his beer before answering.  “I don’t know, I thought there’d be more to the group.  And don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s great.  But every meme I meet, there he is, every fucking time, shouting his own name like that’s the answer to everything.”

“Are you sure you’re not just jealous?”

“Excuse me?”

“That he gets all the attention.”

He looked at me, calculating, and I thought I’d gone too far, until he smiled with a sly turn of his lips.  “Right now, I have your attention.  That’s making up for a lot.”

“You’re not serious.”

“I’m always serious.”

“And yet you’re smiling.”

He rolled his eyes, even hotter when he was frustrated.  “Look, do you want to fight?  Or do you want to fuck?”

“So you are serious.”

“I’m leaving.  You should come with me.”  He got up and started for the garden gate, assuming I’d follow.  Slut that I am, of course I did, frantically texting my bestie as I went.

<<Sorry to ghost but major hookup in progress>>

She replied instantly.  <<Whaaaaaaaa who?>>

<<Deets 2moro dont wait up>>

She straight up called me, but I ignored it, set my phone to silent, and hurried after Angry Reaction.  I might never get another chance.


I was taking a chance.  I knew they had some history.  Tara was worth it, but as soon as I got out front I saw him, sitting on the curb, flicking through his phone.  He glanced up, then looked again.  “Oh, it’s you.”

“What’s up, fuzzy cheeks?”

“Go to hell,” he said with a laugh.

“Is that any way to greet an old friend?”

“It is if he calls me that.  Are you taking off?”

“You know me, life of the party.”  I’d wanted to avoid this.  It wasn’t like I hated him.  If anything I cared too goddamn much.  He got up just as Tara came down the garden path and stepped out under the streetlight.

“Well, well, well,” Brown said, his grin slipping as he looked back and forth between us.  “I knew it was only a matter of time.”

“Hey,” she said to him, blushing badly.

“Hey yourself.”

That’s when the rideshare pulled up.  A big black Lincoln, with a back seat like a couch.  I’d been counting on doing some nasty shit on the way home, but that was getting less likely by the second as the other two stood gawking at each other like a couple of high school kids.

Sometimes a meme’s gotta take things into his own hands.

Tara might have had history with Brown Recluse Meme, but me and him, we have History.  A past I can’t forget.  That I can’t let go.  That wouldn’t have to be the past, if he didn’t make me crazy.  A past that sometimes we pretend is our future, one secret night at a time.

I touched Tara’s shoulder and she startled like she was waking up, turned to me with a funny smile.  “We good?” she asked.

“Yep.  I’ll just be a second.”

She looked at Brown, back at me, then shrugged and headed for the car.  He watched her go, his jaw tense with everything he wasn’t saying.

“So you coming or what?”

He turned to me, his eyes wide.  “I’d ask you if you’re serious, but I know what you’re gonna say.”

I started backing towards the waiting car.  “Tick tock, fuzzy cheeks.”

“Don’t tease me like this, dude.”

“Why, you got a better way?”


I didn’t need it.

But I sure as fuck wanted it.

Sometimes a meme can’t help himself.  Whatever had started between me and him after that huge fight last summer, calling it complicated didn’t even scratch the surface.  If it had just been him, I’d have been in the car already.  Or if I’d seen Tara first.  Mixing her up in our stupid shit wasn’t going to do anybody good.

But fuck, did I ever want it.

If there’s anything I suck at, it’s not getting involved in stupid shit.  If you know me at all, you know this already.  He knew, because he was the stupid shit most of the time.  He knew and was milking it for all it was worth, grinning in that lop-sided way I always wanted to either punch or kiss.  Maybe both, after the week I’d had.  But I couldn’t do either from twenty feet away.

I didn’t run to him.  I walked really quickly, but definitely didn’t run.  I definitely didn’t melt a little bit when he took my hand.  I am pretty sure I didn’t whimper helplessly as he pulled me close, but after that I can’t say because he is really, really good at kissing.

That sour mouth, incapable of telling a joke, of smiling without it seeming ironic, was still the sweetest thing I’d ever tasted.  It felt so right, like we were made to be together, like I didn’t fully exist without him, even when I hated him.  Even when I hurt him, which always seemed to happen.  But then why was he kissing me so hard, barely stopping to breathe, pushing me against the side of the car?  Why did he always forgive me?

Why did I care, when this was all I ever wanted?  That’s why I do it all, why I never shut up.  Because I want him to remember me, think about me when I’m not around, the way I think about him.

“Oh, hell no.”  Tara had got out of the car and was looking at us not with disgust but plain old boredom.  “I’m so not into getting fucked by dudes who wish they were fucking each other.”

“That’s not what this is,” Angry started, but she cut him off with a gesture.  As for me, what could I say?  If I lied, I was a jerk.  If I was honest…I was a different kind of jerk.  The fact that I couldn’t answer said it all.

“I’m sorry.”

She laughed and touched my face softly, stroking my cheek.  “Call me some time.  When you’re not busy.  You too,” she said to Angry.  “You boys have a nice night.”  And with that she walked away, shaking her head.  Laughing.  It hurt, but I’ve never let rejection slow me down.

The car was waiting.  I got in and Angry followed.  He leaned forward to speak to the driver, slipping him a folded banknote.  “This  is for you to ignore the shit out of everything that’s about to happen back here.”

“I’ll turn off the camera,” the driver offered.

“You do that.” 


“What the fuck just happened?” I said out loud to no one as the Lincoln pulled away with the two memes and without me.

A chance of a lifetime, and I’d said no.  It felt…fine.  Sensible.  Really boringly grown-up but also really smart.  I’d been the third wheel in a bromance before, and let me tell you, having two dudes call each other’s name while they come in me is not one of my kinks.

But you do you.  I was doing no one at all, unless I got my ass back indoors.  As I headed back down the garden path I skimmed through my messages, most of which were just my bestie screaming in all caps because she’d figured out who I was with.

<<hard nope>> I replied.  <<is bc still there?>>

<<y n he wondered where u went>>

Damn.  And just when I’d given up hope of ever convincing Bart that I was totally his type, even if only for a night.  Forget the memes.  They could work their own shit out.  I had hotter prey in my sights.

Untitled poem

romance yourself

don’t wait

you can love someone today

the lover is you

romance yourself

build expectations

make it clear to you what counts

and what is mere performance


needed by yourself

unneeding of all others

all boundaries are a wound


this skin

it is the least I can give you

(February 2022)

No Holiday Inn

You helped him battle cancer. He left you for his nurse.

Three years later, you have no fucks to give. You lost the forty pounds from stress eating and gained fifteen of muscle. Your thighs could crush beer cans, as they do in your act now and then.

You dance under the name Bodacia, as in Boadicea, as in the rebel queen of the ancient Britons, but no one ever gets the joke. Who cares, when you make bank like you do. Private parties are not out of the question, with big tips if you do the beer can trick.

Three years later, and he finally walks in, and though you said you didn’t give a fuck, the minute you see him, you know that you do. You don’t want him back. Not for all the money on earth. What you want is to make him suffer.

You go on again in an hour. You’re thinking about what flourish you’re going to add to your dance to really turn him on. That’s when the best dressed guy in his group—not him—signals to you. Come here, the crooked finger says, and you do, because he looks like money.

“What’s your name?” Money asks when you’re sitting across the table from him.


“So I guess I shouldn’t mention I’m Italian,” Money says, waggling his dark brows over his dark eyes.

“Depends. Are you Roman or Sicilian?” You glance at Kevin who is staring at you, his face screwed up like it’s hurting him to figure out how he knows you, just because you cut your hair and lost some weight and crossed to the other side of decency. That’s why he deserves to suffer, more than anything he did to you. Because you’ve heard his rant about strippers, and here he is, staring at someone he knows inside and out, unable to remember your name because now you’re one of those women.

“Neither. Straight Hoboken,” Money says.

“Then we got no beef. You gentlemen having fun tonight?”

“Could be better. What’s it take to get some time alone with you?”

“Depends on how alone.”

“Well, only one guy in this group is getting married, but he’s not paying for any of this, so what do you say you and him and me go somewhere quieter?”

You mention a price. Money doesn’t blink, and you wish you’d asked for more, but it’s still a whopper and you and him and Kevin stand up.  Of fucking course.

“You’re the first one to ever know who I’m named for,” you tell Money as him and your ex-husband follow you into the Lava Room.

“I’m full of that kind of useless shit,” Money says. “My parents overpaid for my education.”

“Sure beats the alternative.”

“Touché. Speaking of, what’s the line?”

“As in, can you touche moi? I don’t usually hit the panic button, but if anyone undoes their fly, he’ll get charged with indecent exposure.”

“So you’re saying there’s cameras, but…”

You slowly lift your arms, pushing out your tits as you reach back and undo the snap of your halter neck. You let the ends go and the men both catch their breath at the sight of your naked breasts. Money he might be, but he is still your puppet.

Kevin knows. Because of that tattoo, the tiny little heart between your breasts, now smudgy with time. He wants to speak, has nothing to say, can’t make the two of you, the old you and the new you, be the same you. Suffering.

Your breasts loose, your white dress so tight it stays up on its own, you pick a few tracks, fix the lights. The men are whispering to each other. “I told you, it’s not about the money,” Kevin hisses.

“Well, I’m staying,” Money says so you can hear it, “so make up your mind. I don’t want to have to interrupt Her Majesty half way through whatever awesome thing she’s about to do.”

“If the gentleman likes, he can just watch. Maybe he’ll come around,”  you offer, indicating a chair off to the side as a stealthy beat begins to throb from the hidden sound system. Kevin moves, but you don’t pay attention, because he’s not paying, except with the head-fuck of watching you treat this other guy like he’s the love of your life.

Money, who doesn’t have a wedding ring, or a tan line, settles back in the squeaky vinyl chair. They make these chairs special, with broad, low arms that are easy to kneel on, which you do, straddling Money and leaning over him so your naked tits almost brush his face.

“This is already worth it,” he murmurs, his breath hot on your skin. You lean back, further, further, propping your hands on your legs as you arch your tits to the ceiling and point your waxed-today pussy at his handsome face. He can’t help but respond, his breathing getting heavier, hands twitching on his thighs as you lift yourself, curl back over him, bend low and this time let your nipples brush against his cheeks.

You dance to touch this power, this ability to intoxicate. This man wants to fuck you, would pay hundreds of dollars on the spot for the right to open his fly and stick his cock into you. Hundreds of men a week think the very same thing. They pay you with money, and with their attention, their lust your drug, their desire your motivation. This is how you are, most alive when you are wanted.

You climb off the chair and turn, bend, grab your own ass and squeeze till it hurts. You work it, pulling up your skirt by inches, revealing more and more of your ass, more of your juicy cleft, more for him to want. Between your feet you see his, twitching as he struggles. The bass drops, and so do you, jerk and snap your hips, your ass, imagining him in you, making his rhythm your own.

You wind. You shimmy, you squeeze out of your dress. You climb on and off the chair a hundred times, laying yourself across his lap without touching him, presenting each luscious part of you to him again and again, now and then making contact: your breast, your thigh against his cheek, your ass against his chest, his legs. You allow him to take off your thong, holding the top of the front while you stand your way up out of it.

Standing over the man you call Money, naked down to your stacked heels, you almost laugh. But the magic is strong, and instead you bend down then kneel then slide your knees forward until he’s breathing on your pussy.

“How much?” he whispers. “After. Later. I have to meet you again.”

“Do you have any idea how many men say that to me?”

“Five thousand dollars.”

“Hm. No one’s ever said that.”


“No one ever says that either.”


“Shut up and let me dance.”

Security cameras. Microphones. A gentlemen’s club, not a brothel, though those are legal in your state. The more he says, the bigger the problem for everyone. You swing your leg over his head, ride the arm of the chair, slapping your ass down and making him laugh. Kevin makes a weird sound. You haven’t looked at him this whole time, confident he was hating every minute. He makes the sound again, a whimper you know.

The jackass is masturbating.

Fully giving it, yanking and yanking, his head back, eyes closed. You want to do it, hit the button, call security, get him arrested, ruin his wedding, maybe his life. Instead you climb off the chair, walk calmly towards Kevin, who opens his eyes at the sound of your heels. Keeps jerking off.

You lean down and slap him, hard, and he finally stops. “Put your sorry dick away, and get the fuck out. If I ever see you in here again, I’m not going to call the cops, I’m going to get Terry at the front door to rip your balls off.”

“Do what the lady says, Kev.”

Kevin looks like he might cry, nose wrinkling, chin wobbling as he sticks his dick in his pants. You step back so he can get up. For a few seconds he stares at you, mouth flapping, no words coming out. Stares at your tits, your curving hips, your mound, a pink wedge of juicy and untouchable-to-him sex.

Money clears his throat, and Kevin’s head drops. He walks out, not looking back. Money snaps his fingers, and you turn around, climb back on the chair, lean close and whisper, sucking in the smell of him. “Pay for dinner and a hotel room. Nice shit, no Holiday Inn.”

“No money?”

“Sometimes a girl just wants someone to treat her right.”

Blue Streak

“I fell in love with Jack when I heard him swearing at my kids.” I waited for the nervous giggle from the guests, though a few seats down the head table from us Patti was already laughing hysterically. “I mean, Ryder’s terrific, don’t get me wrong,” I went on with an obvious wink at my younger son, who smiled even as he hid behind his hair again. “But I can’t tell you all the things I was tempted to say to him back then, because this is a family event.” More laughter now, and Jack blushing too, all that really mattered because he was so sexy when he blushed. I don’t know if I should have I picked that story to tell at our wedding, and there was so much I’d be leaving unsaid, but what I had loved most from the beginning was his strength. I had so little of my own at the time…


“Explaining it again isn’t going to make a difference, Chris. I just…have to go. You know it, I know it–”

“I don’t know it. I don’t know why, after everything we’ve done to make it work that this is what ends it.”

“Chris, you know this isn’t the only thing. We’re running out of time. If I’m going to start over–”

“Start over? How long have you been planning this? Holy shit, Patricia.”

“It’s not like that…” she said again, through tears, through her hands clapped over her face, which only made me think I was right, that she’d fallen for someone else. This had happened before, so long ago it had started to seem like another person’s life. That had ended in a drunken showdown between me and the son of a bitch at her work Christmas party, but it had started with her crying into her hands just like this.

What had started the crying this time was me telling her about Chicago. I’d been a penniless intern at the firm when I met Patti, pulling sixty-five hour weeks and courting her in ninety minute blasts–two drinks, an improper suggestion, and the first horizontal surface in sight. Fourteen years, two kids and two career shifts later I was on half-flex time, and hadn’t been out of town in months. The kids were both old enough to not be too much work for Patti without me, and the four days in Chicago almost sounded fun.

If I hadn’t said those three words, the fight might not have started, but then again she wasn’t wrong when she said it wasn’t the only thing. I loved her–I had since the start, and in a way always will–and never doubted she loved me, but she had never really trusted me, never trusted that I meant it when I said I loved her. She was never pretty enough, never thin enough, never a good enough mom, and a man can only reassure his gorgeous, compassionate, accomplished wife so many times before he starts thinking he’s losing his mind. When my love couldn’t keep up with her paranoia, she had to augment it, with the kids, with her job, and now with a guy named Josh from her spin class.

I’ve thought a lot about what might have happened if we’d known about her depression sooner. Within twenty-four hours of leaving me she had hit the depths of a blue funk the likes of which none of us had ever seen. For a few days I debated sending her friends to rescue her from her parents’ house and her mother’s steady diet of passive-aggressive belittlement. Then I found her meds. She’d had the prescription for months, but there were too many in the bottle, which meant she hadn’t been taking them, which explained almost everything.

Clinical depression is an illness; if you disagree, you haven’t really seen it hit, seen it turn a person inside out, tear their family to shreds, no matter how hard they fight. I was granted custody, largely on the strength of a letter Patti wrote refuting her own mother’s conjecture about the kind of father I would be. While I dealt with the doctors and psychiatrists and lawyers and other garbage collectors of life, my mom moved into the house to keep things running day to day, but after the dust settled she went home and our new life began.

Nelson was twelve, Ryder nine. He was angriest. He’d always been quick-tempered but was sensitive around his mother, and without her he lost any ability to keep his cool. Fights at recess; fights in the hall; spitting on the school ground and pushing girls, and the crown jewel, throwing an eraser at his math teacher and mouthing back about it. His room became a prison, stripped of toys. The game consoles moved into my bedroom, his handheld onto the high shelf in my closet. Nothing mattered, nothing changed, and the house went into a blue funk of its own.

I can clean–I mean, I hate it, but I assume women hate it too, and it’s a wonder that society tricked them into doing most of it. For the first month people were working and going to school. Food kept getting eaten and not all of it by me, and I became very good at grabbing the five most necessary grocery items and getting out of the store in under five minutes. But it wasn’t long before homework was being forgotten, gym clothes were going unwashed, and the bathroom floor had achieved a state that warranted wearing shoes.

Patti had done so much for us, minded so many stupid little things, like which kind of paper towels fell apart in your hand and shouldn’t have been bought in the first place, or what brand of marble cheese Ryder would refuse to eat as if there was a genuine difference. I was spending money like crazy, leaving two ten dollar bills on the kitchen table every morning because I had no time to make lunches and no time to badger the kids into doing it themselves.

At work they’d given me authority over a new hire, a sparkly-eyed graduate who seemed to have got the job more on the vitality of his handshake than on his knowledge of jurisprudence. At least I had Jack. He’d been working for me only a few weeks when Patti left. When I saw him the day after, I’d found myself telling him everything. He had nodded and been kind but said little else, but he’d also kept it to himself, and he was twice as smart as the half-assed hire I was coddling. Jack was keeping me alive, in body and soul, putting up with my muttering, clarifying my ideas; bringing lunches and dinners, coffees and a couple times a beer when I was still there after sunset, my mind torn between the tasks I couldn’t hope to complete that day and the kids I was ignoring as I pointlessly tried. My assistant.


I don’t know what Jack was doing when I called, but he had never not answered the phone. My optimistic morning had devolved into an impossible afternoon, and I couldn’t trust the new kid Brayson with these easily offended clients. Time and space weren’t about to bend in my favour, so I would have to lean on Jack.

“Jack Kateri here, hi Chris.”

“Yeah, hi. Look, I know this is way off your job description, but I don’t know who else I can ask.”

“Do I even have a job description besides doing what you tell me?”

“Sure you do, ask HR. But look, I need a huge favour from you.”

“I’m listening.”

“I need you to pick Ryder up from school. I’m sorry, it’s bullshit I gotta ask you, I mean I wish I could hand this file over instead and get him myself–”

“Is that seriously it? Am I taking him to your house?”

“Just till Nelson gets home.”

“And you called the school to tell them I’m coming?”

“I’ll do that right now.”

“Gee, Chris, I thought it was going to be a big deal.”

“Yeah, but it’s not your job to run my life.”

“Um, actually it is. You should let me do it sometime, you might like it. My billable hours don’t come off your take, you know. I make company money, baby.”

“What are you talking about.”

“I’m your PA, dumbass. Let me personally assist you for once. Why don’t you go read my job description. Text me the address of the school. I’ll let you know when the prisoner transfer is complete.”

“Oh…kay. Thanks.”

“No problem, boss.”

Nelson would come home on his own after track, but Ryder couldn’t be trusted to walk the five blocks. Instead he’d hang around the front of the school, picking paint off the front steps and envying the passing high-schoolers for their vape pens, their phones, juicy bait to a kid just old enough to get into serious trouble and still young enough not to see it coming. Jack was however even cooler, with a fast car and brand new phone and a great haircut that would have made me look like a try-hard. Ryder had warmed to him quickly the few times they’d met. Surely they could get along for a couple hours.

In the end it was nearly seven by the time I got home. I hadn’t bothered to call, at first too desperate to finish and then too embarrassed. Patti would have already called me twice and been texting every eight minutes, and I had to admit my after-hours productivity had doubled since we’d split. A year ago this would have been eight thirty, with another forty-five minutes to go of her yelling at me for doing my job.

Someone at my house was yelling already, and not either of my boys. Yelling at such a volume that no one noticed the front door open and close.

“…literally the worst day you could have picked for this stunt. You know what your dad’s going through. You know you’ve got to make the best of this shitty situation. He can’t start bailing your ass out too. Not with the sort of shit this one apparently likes to cause.” Hidden by the chunk of wall between the doorway and the living room, I stood where I was, stunned to realize Nelson was in trouble too. Jack was right, I couldn’t take it if both my kids started acting out, but I’d given up on yelling long ago as it only made Ryder clam up.

“And then there’s you,” Jack continued, and though the volume was lower, the intent was even clearer. I could picture Ryder’s sulky look, his head down so all you saw was the top of his head and his poked out lower lip. “I can’t even…you know how fucked up that was, right? I don’t want to say you deserve to have your ass beat, but if you do that kind of crap when you’re older, it’s going to come back on you and you’re going to get fucked up by someone with way less tolerance than me.”


“I’m not done. I know you’re not happy, Ryder. Divorce fucking sucks. Everything changes. And to the rest of the world it’s like nothing changed and they can’t get why you’re so upset. That’s life, and sometimes life is fucked up. I’m not going to lie to you. Things aren’t always going to work out. One day you’re going to want something and you’re going to try everything you can to make it happen and it’s not going to be enough. But being an asshole isn’t a solution. That’s what you were today. And I want it to be the last time. Don’t fuck your dad around.”

“I’m so-so-sorry.” Ryder was crying now, big gulping sobs that reminded me how young he was.

“I know. So here’s the deal. I’m going to let you decide if you want to tell your dad what you did. You aren’t in trouble with school because it wasn’t on school grounds, so this one time I’m giving you a choice. You can tell your dad, or not, but know that if you do anything like this ever again, I will not be giving you another pass.”

“I n-n-know.”

“Okay then. Come on, let’s hug it out…” There was the creak and shush of people getting off the sofa, then Ryder’s voice muffled by the others’ arms and chests. No one had ever spoken to the kid like that. It was too soon to hope that it stuck, when the most I had come to expect was rolled eyes and a slammed bedroom door and absolutely no change in behaviour.

Ryder would never forgive me if he found out I’d been listening, so I opened the front door and closed it again to sound like I’d just stepped in. When I came around the corner Ryder leapt across the room, threw his arms around me and began to cry into my shirtfront. He hadn’t let me hug him in a month.

With nothing in the pantry but peanut butter and dried beans, I dialled up an extra-large pizza for supper, then sat back to watch as Jack put the boys to work. The dishwasher had been full of clean dishes all weekend, yet we’d smothered the countertops in our dirty cups and bowls rather than do anything about it. So much for equality. No wonder Patti had flipped. Jack lived alone and had to do it all himself, and from his clothes, his whole demeanor, I guessed his house would be immaculate. He wasn’t uptight, he was just put together, and he always smelled fantastic. If he was my personal assistant, maybe I could make him take me shopping. I was older than him, but I didn’t have to look this much older.

About the boys’ crimes Jack told me nothing. Not exactly nothing, because if I hadn’t overheard them I would have demanded to know what was making the boys act like guests from a more functional family. With the dishwasher humming in the kitchen we even dared to eat at the dining table, Jack having the good sense to throw a placemat under the hot pizza so we didn’t melt the varnish. Normal family dinner-ish, and Jack knew all about the boys’ day at school, Nelson’s A+ history test I hadn’t known was coming up, Ryder’s presentation on robots that was due at the end of the week. With another woman sitting at Patti’s end of the table it wouldn’t have felt so right. She would have been an obvious usurper. I couldn’t have invited a female assistant to stay for dinner without it being a scandal, but I hadn’t even asked Jack. He had simply not left. Maybe too personal an assistant, but maybe I didn’t care.

The pizza was gone, and I knew if there was more Nelson would still be eating. He only a little shorter than me with years yet to grow and seemed to have doubled in mass as puberty caught up with his athleticism. Ryder was still a loose-limbed boy, speedy but undisciplined, too cynical for someone so young, doomed to be an artist or writer, some open category that didn’t box him in. He would travel. Nelson would study. Jack would…be going home soon, the thought jarring as I watched him play with the pizza box, making it growl and bite Ryder’s hand. Giggling and rubbing his wrist, Ryder turned to me.

“So, when Jack picks me up tomorrow–”

“Wait, when did we decide this?” I said.

“He said he could. Jack, didn’t you say like the timing was perfect, it was a good time of day for you, like not a big deal? And he’s like your assistant, right, so you can make him do whatever you want.”

“It doesn’t work like that, okay? He’s not our servant.”

“I could, though,” Jack said. “Just for the week. Until you get this shitty case laid out. Sorry, I gotta watch the language.”

“It’s okay, shitty’s okay around our house when you mean it,” Ryder said. “Like just there, I had to say it, right, Dad? So he’d get the point about–”

“That presentation’s on Friday, isn’t it?” I said. Ryder clammed right up, then and he and Nelson left the table, taking their own plates and ours to the kitchen, much to my ongoing surprise. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea having Jack keep an eye on Ryder, if it was in the name of helping my work run smoothly. That had to count as assisting me personally.

Leaving behind the rarely heard sound of my boys unloading a dishwasher, we went out on the back porch through the dining room doors, installed at a huge cost on Patti’s insistence and used at most three times in the year that followed. At least the patio furniture was dry, and we sat without talking for a few minutes. Jack was comfortable around me, not always the case with younger men, who often mistake my calm for arrogance. He himself was calming without being a pushover, and he had obviously struck a chord in Ryder. Why was he single? It was really none of my business.

I was single. I was a single father. A single father with a suicidally depressed almost-ex-wife and still no idea what was going to happen to my kids, whether the job that kept them cared for was worth the time I gave it, why I was still acting like this was a minor event, a blip on the radar, like Patti had twisted her ankle instead of bailing on her family. At least it was dark and Jack couldn’t see me crying, but he wasn’t stupid.

“You ought to go on vacation after this case wraps,” he said. “Not to run away from your shit, just…you’re working too hard.”

“It’s a reason to get up every morning.”

“That’s not a good reason. Your kids are a reason. Yourself. What would you do tomorrow if you didn’t have to go into the firm? Like, twenty-four hours to spend however you want.”

“Just a day?”

“A week, then. What’s your fantasy destination?”

We hadn’t travelled in years, so long ago that Ryder probably didn’t even remember the outlandish trip to Alaska, taken at the demands of a then five-year-old Nelson and his insatiable obsession with whales. Patti couldn’t say no, not to her budding marine biologist, though by the end of the fortnight she looked twice as tired as when we’d left. Not a vacation like I should have taken her on, where she could have relaxed into her old self, the girl I had married. Where could I go that I wouldn’t wish I had brought her five years ago?

Crying again, but I hadn’t in weeks, months if you added them up, because I hadn’t had time. Hadn’t had the space, the lack of other people’s need, in order to feel my own. I was kidding if I thought a vacation would have stopped what happened. As if there was somewhere to run I stood up, but two steps brought me to the edge of the deck, the yard a black chasm of shadow, blurred by tears.

“Should I leave?” Jack said.

“No. I’m sorry–”

“Don’t say that. You’re supposed to feel fucked up. I remember when my parents split. She hung him out pretty bad. I had the room over the garage, and I could hear my dad go in there at night and cry. No one was on his side. Poor bastard didn’t have a clue what was going on. He was so sad he just signed everything over to my mom and disappeared from our lives for a while. But I couldn’t forget him, all alone in the fucking garage. Stupid macho shit.”

“What the fuck is wrong with people?”

“Hey, we’re people too. Everyone gets stupid when things are falling apart.” He got up to stand beside me, and we watched an early firefly blundering around at the back of the yard, the green dot bobbing like a tiny boat on the ocean at night. All alone on the sea of love, and the thought was stupid enough that it didn’t matter anymore. Everyone was alone, even when they were together, all of us stuck inside our own heads.

“I should go away,” I said,  and scared by the monotone of my own voice I went on. “Just find a beach and lay on it for a week getting hammered and sunburnt. But who’d watch the kids?”

“Take ‘em with. Let ‘em go parasailing with the youth instructors while you hit the pool bar. They’ll be too high on life to notice if you keep nodding off at dinner.”

“Patti could never rest while they were around. And when they weren’t, she worried about them.”

“You’d have to tell her you were going. You probably have to get a letter to take her kids out of the country.”


“That’s how kidnapping happens. It’s usually one of the parents.”

“We’re going to Club Med, not Uzbekistan.”

“So you are going?”

“Why, you trying to tag along? Are you offering to babysit my kids?”

“I’ve had worse jobs. Babysitting your dumb ass, for example.”

“Maybe you should leave.”

“Yeah, I gotta start packing, wax my bikini line…”

“Shut up.”

“Yes sir, Mr Delange. Will there be anything else?”

“Are you really going to pick up the kids tomorrow?”

“Sure. Do they eat tacos?”

“On Tuesday?”

“Sorry, stupid question.”


Five nights of this. Four nights, because of Friday. Friday would be different. To start with, it was Friday, and despite every servile instinct in my workaholic soul I walked out of the office at four on the dot. As I stepped out into the sunshine I felt something in me take flight, leap up into the golden air and soar. The week had been a kind of test, and I didn’t care if I passed. I only had to try.

The kids had been impeccable all week, as if I would uninvite Jack if they misbehaved again, and so the threat never needed to be made. I was feeling vindicated against the therapists who had either implied or rudely stated that given his mother’s neurochemistry it was my moral obligation as Ryder’s parent to drug the bad behaviour out of him. He was simply too young to suppress his feelings the way adults got used to doing. Jack made him happy, in a way I’d never seen: attentive, polite, eager to earn praise, more respectful than I thought he knew how to be. Nelson too, in his quieter way, ever ready with a question that would lead us all to think and talk. I had always expressed my views cautiously around my kids, wanting them to form their own opinions. Now that they had, and with Jack to counter my authority, we could begin to talk like friends.

Friday, and so I’d brought home beer. Jack would leave his car at our house, get home by Uber or taxi whenever he felt like leaving, which meant we’d see him tomorrow when he came back for it. While the kids cleaned up from dinner he and I sat in the dark on the back deck, waiting for the fireflies to start their show. Cold beer, warm nights, friendship. Pain and recovery. Life went on, and sometimes it improved.

By now I knew as much about Jack as I did about any of my friends, more in some cases.  Being with him was like fresh air, like a clear sky first thing in the morning, and every night as I watched him drive away it had felt like a bank of clouds had rolled back in. To see him the next day at work was a relief, a return to clarity. 

He was shameless about his parents’ divorce and the years of fall-out, about first realizing how much each of them had contributed, and then having to forgive them both. I didn’t feel half of the hatred towards Patti as had seemed to flow between Jack’s parents. I didn’t hate her at all in fact, though I came to see that I was blaming her as if she had done it out of spite, broken our hearts on purpose, when it was really just a symptom of her depression. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be married to me as much as that she didn’t think herself able to be married. That’s why it had never been my fault, why it had always been hers, why she had always said that I should have known we would fall apart, because she hadn’t believed she was capable of staying together. All these things I had learned in the dark these last four nights.

At a tapping at the patio door I turned. Nelson was beckoning me in. Ryder had broken a glass and got cut cleaning it up, and I spent a few squeamish minutes with him in the bathroom, suppressing my very strong aversion to the sight of blood. Thankfully neither boy had inherited this , and they insisted on finishing the chores, though Ryder kept his cut hand up on his other shoulder as though he wore a sling. After a minute of feeling superfluous I went back outside.

Jack wasn’t on the deck, and I went down to the lawn, the only place he could be. The shrubs around the base of the deck were swarming with fireflies, more than we’d seen so far, and I almost tripped over him, crouched down with his face inches from the stumbling lights.

“I didn’t see you,” I said as he straightened.

“It’s okay. I didn’t realize how dark it was down here.”

“Could you see the bugs, up close like that?”

“Sort of. The light makes it hard, right? They’re supposed to taste terrible.”

“According to who?”

“I mean to birds.”

He was drunk. I was too, a bit, though dealing with the kids always made me sober up in a hurry. But we were here now in the dark, chasing fireflies, and I could see the shape of his nose outlined by the light on the house next door, and his forehead and the hair that fell over it, and beneath it all his mouth. And I wondered what the world was like when love was a danger to your health. He had never said I’m gay but I knew his whole life now, his crushes, his shame, different and yet the same as my own immature agonies, the pain of creating your grown-up self by cutting away the excess. He finally felt me staring at him and turned, his face dappled bright and dark by the movement of leaves in the streetlights. “What, do you think I ought to test my theory?”

“Please don’t eat a bug.”

“I don’t think I could even catch one.”


“I probably ought to get going. Why are the kids still up?”

“Don’t go.”


“Are you single?”


“Don’t go home.”

“Chris…don’t fuck with me.”

“I’m not. I mean it.”

“You’re drunk.”

“Not really.”

“You’re fucking with me.”

“I’m not.”

“Prove it.”


“And I did, and I hope to prove it every day from now on, in every way I can.” The raunchy overtones struck me as another giggle rose from the crowd. I hadn’t given a speech at my first wedding, a hasty civil ceremony when Patti had imagined she was pregnant. But this was Jack’s first and hopefully only wedding, and he deserved every minute of it. He was on his feet now, coming to put his arms around me again, a feeling I had never thought of wanting, until I didn’t want to live without it.

“It sounds like a real story when you tell it,” he said only to me.

“It is a story.”

“It was never like that. We just hung out.”

“Until I knew I loved you.”

“Five nights was enough?”

“You’re easy to love.” Even easier to kiss, and I did, and everyone cheered. Next year we’d take the boys with us to Europe, but for our honeymoon, Jack and I were headed for the beach.