Chapter 1: Spring
I was the first to admit that I don't handle breakups well, but after Yvette, I was a mess. I spent a lot of time brooding. I didn't ignore Alex or my family but I wasn't really connected either. I did what was expected of me and nothing more.
Mom showed up one Sunday afternoon with luggage.
"What's up?" I asked her after I kissed her cheek and got her some ice tea.
"Just came to visit my baby. A mother can do that." And if I didn't know what a brilliant liar my mother was, I might have believed that. I waited. Finally, she relented. "Fine. Alex says you stopped swimming."
"Alex should mind his own damn business." Alex didn't say anything to that. "But that's no reason for you to lug all the way up here."
"Peter Harper McElroy, you been up an' in the water by 5:am ever since you 10 years old. You tried ta swim when you had chicken pox. Now, all uh sudden, you ain't seen sight uh water in uh month?"
"I work in a pool. I swim every day."
"Not the same." Alex muttered behind me. I glared at him.
"It ain't the same, Peter, don't try an' bullshit, me boy. I done it uh whole lot longer-n you. Somethin' eatin' at you an' it's more-n just Yvette done left ya. She ain't appreciate you, no how."
"She loves me, Mom." I stood up; I still hated talking about her. "We just had some issues."
"You love somebody, you make sacrifices fo' 'em." Mom repeated Dad's favorite adage.
"I'm not discussin' this, Mother. How long you fixin' ta stay?"
"Long as I need to." She took a sip and looked at me. "Long as I'm welcome."
"You're always welcome, Mom." I'd have to be a whole lot angrier to put her out. "Come on; let's get you settled in." Alex and I passed in the hallway when he went to get clean sheets. "You ain't gonna be able to walk fo' uh week, when I finish with you, boy."
He grinned for the rest of the day. But he deserved a reward; someone had to give me a kick in the pants.
Mom stayed for two weeks. We gave her a tour of the campus and took her to DC for dinner a couple times. She came by the pool and I let her 'audit' one of my swimming classes. I had to restrain myself when one of her classmates got a little too friendly but once he understood that he was groping my mother, he learned a little decorum.
"Worse than yo' Daddy, boy, I swear." Mom chuckled on our way home.
"Where you think I learned that move from?"
"Yeah, but he ain't never done it off the football field."
She laughed outright. I loved my mother's laugh. I loved everything about my mother. I have never 'loved' my mother although I think she's still one of the hottest women I know but I have enough presence and self-control to have a little common sense. My sister, my cousins, hell even my Aunt if she ever expressed an interest but not my mother. That's too far for even me.
But she is an incurable flirt and I was more than a little concerned when the living Goddess, the Divine Ms. Helen arrived at my door to take Mom for a night on the town. She was wearing a dress that was little more than an oversized tube top. Not that I minded — I'd had a serious thing for Ms. Helen since I was fourteen but I also knew she would take my mother to every illicit den of lechery in a ten mile radius. Once again, I cursed the Human Physiology test that was keeping me home that night.
"Peter McElroy." Ms. Helen's hand stroked just shy of my package. "My how you've grown."
"I've got some time; why don't you come in and stay?"
"Talk like that will get you in trouble, young man." She winked at me. "Of course, you wouldn't be interested in an old woman like me."
"Of course not. You be perfectly safe in my room."
"A gentleman. Just like your Grandfather." Her eyes looked down the hall. "He still keep his, uh, 'liquor' down stairs?"
She knew about the playroom. I had no idea Granddad was such a hound dog — although, I confess, I suspected. "Why don't we find out?" I offered her my arm but she reached past me instead.
"Oh my goodness! Little Alex grew up too, didn't he?"
"God damn, Ms. Helen! You ain't need ta advertise." Alex, always a step bolder than me, kissed her firmly. "Everybod' already buyin' what you sellin'."
"Always the charmer."
"Boy, uh little slut, he is." We all turn to see Mom coming down the stairs in a dress that proved to me that she still worked out on a regular basis.
"Christ! Uncle Charles know you wearin' that, Aunt Elizabeth?"
"No. An' I ain't tellin' him." She slipped into Ms. Helen's arms for a hug that left me uncomfortable for a number of reasons.
"Beth got it honest." Alex whispered in my ear.
I cuffed him. "Stop starin' at my Mom's ass."
"You boy's behave yo'selves." Mom shouted as she slinked into Ms. Helen's car.
"Ain't us misbehavin'!" Alex yelled back. "Ya'll breakin' all ten commandments just breathin'!"
Their laughter was drowned out by the squealing tires.
"They are so getting' laid tonight." Alex said, watching them pull out of the neighborhood.
"That is my Mother, do y'mind?"
"Yeah. Whatever. Hey?" I turned to him. "Am I gonna get laid any time soon?"
"You all healed already?"
He grinned at that. "Mostly. But I ain't mean that. I mean, it used ta be, before, it used ta be we had fun sometimes an' you fucked me sometimes." I started to speak but he shook his head. "No, no. I know you. You ain't gettin' laid, you ain't happy. I ain't gettin' laid by you, you damn unhappy."
I sat down on the porch swing. He sat beside me.
"What if Vette's right?"
"About me being, I don't know. Oversexed."
He snorted. "Then you get laid uh lot. So?"
"So, it ain't normal."
He laughed outright. "Normal? What in the hell do I know 'bout normal. Dude you have got ta be shittin' me!" He swung around and put his head in my lap. "Peter, I will do whatever you tell me. I'll do it publicly, long as it won't get me arrested. But ain't neither one of us 'bout ta do it normally." He reached up and ran his fingers through my hair. "You getting' kinda shaggy."
I'd always worn it kind of short — a by-product of swimming a lot. I used to swim obsessively. Maybe not. Maybe I just liked swimming. Maybe it was the same with sex. I kissed Alex softly. I would have loved to take him upstairs and blow off studying. I couldn't but I would have loved to.
"Up." I shook my leg and he sat up. "I got uh test tomorrow. You too, right?"
"English Lit. Done deal."
"You read the book?"
"Twice." I look at him. "Come on. I drop below uh 2.5, Dad freezes my cash account." Which sounded like Uncle George.
"Then you can help me study. You have physiology."
"Yeah, you just wanna use my body."
"Like you object."
I woke up early as usual and lay in bed the way I had for the last few weeks. I didn't want to go swim but I couldn't stop waking up at the same time every morning. Someone tapped on my door.
Mom. She came in and sat beside me.
"You up." It was a statement not a question.
"Yeah. Can't manage ta sleep late."
"Yo' Daddy like that. Still up by first light even if he ain't workin' the dock." She was quiet for a minute. "You hungry? I make you breakfast."
I shook my head. Mom was a rotten cook. "I usually don't 'fore I swim."
"Yeah, but you ain't swimmin'." She poked my stomach. "Getting' kinda pudgy, are ya?"
"No." I wasn't but I couldn't say I wasn't worried about it.
"I guess not. So?"
"So why you up 'fore the crack uh dawn if you ain't swimmin'?"
I shrugged. "I can't sleep."
"Maybe you got too much energy." I might; I doubted it. "Maybe you need a new outlet." She was probably about right. "You don't swim like you used to. You don't work like you used to. You don't screw around like you used to."
"MOM!" she caught me off guard with that.
"Well, you don't. You was always an active child gettin' inta everythin' so I knew when you managed to bring it down to just one hobby, you had ta be workin' that energy off somewhere." She looked at my wide-eyed expression. "Oh now, come on. You ain't think yo' Daddy kept condoms in yo' glove compartment, did you? Mr. Moral Majority? The Church Deacon? Oh, honey, now please."
In retrospect, the 'magic condom box' in my glove compartment all throughout high school was an odd thing for my father. I had always just assumed that it was his concession to the reality of having a teenaged son with a car.
"So you ain't swimmin' and you ain't screwin'. What are you doin'?"
I wanted to be shocked. But I couldn't be. My Mother amazed me. "Nothin'. Probably why I can't sleep."
"Likely." She noded. "So what you gonna do 'bout it?"
"Weren't you ever worried? I mean, I was kinda obsessive, wasn't I?"
"Peter, you were obsessive about everything when you was three. If you said you didn't care was when I started worrin'. Hell, I wish Robert was as easy. That one-" she shook her head. "Beth too much like me, so at least I knew what ta look out fo' and you all but raised yo'self — which was uh good thing 'cause I wasn't in the mood ta do it." We both smiled at that, in large part because we both knew it was true. "But Robert? He's uh handful."
"He always seems kinda quiet to me."
"Yeah, 'cause you ain't never go see what he doin' in his room all alone, all quiet. Trust me, that one gonna give yo' Daddy uh massive coronary one uh these days."
"Don't say that, Mom."
"See if Ima uh lie."
.... There is more of this story ...