While my characters interact as adults on Facebook, it’s kind of hard to get a sense from those Facebook posts and comments of how they might interact IN PERSON. This unpublished excerpt will give you a little bit of an idea.
It’s circa 2008, and Christy and Marty and their daughter Maggie are visiting Brian, Margo and their daughter Becca. “Tony” is Margo’s grown son whom she raised as a single mom, and “Maura” is Christy’s grown daughter, whom she also raised as a single mom.
This unpublished piece (from a draft of my MFA graduate thesis for Goddard College) is also notable in that it was one of the first pieces I wrote in which Christy hinted at the part-time vocation that is explicated in the Facebook posts and in my book Interviews With A Porn Star.
“–Did Tony ever want to dye his hair or anything?” Christy asks, looking over my shoulder at Margo.
“Oh, yeah!” Margo calls out from behind me. “Dye jobs, piercings, tatts, the works.” I hear the fridge door open, and Margo’s voice gets muffled as she speaks into it. “Actually, the only time I remember was when he made varsity in tenth grade. He wanted a tattoo. ‘Everyone on the team’s gettin’ one!’ To which I said, and I quote: ‘No, everyone on the team’s not getting one, because guess who isn’t?‘” She shifts over to her Tony-at-15 voice– “‘But maahhh-ahm'” –then back to her own. “‘No way, sonny boy. N… effin’… O… way… no!‘” I hear beer bottles clinking in her hand as she talks, and then the CHFF! of the fridge door flipping shut and pressurizing. “And that was the end of it.”
Christy looks down at the tabletop. “Maura would have just done it herself…”
Marty laughs. “You think?”
Christy nods. “She pierced her own lip.”
Marty’s eyes widen. “Really?”
“Yep. She wanted a ring, and I said, ‘I am not taking you to get your lip pierced!'” She brushes her hair back. “And of course that loophole was big enough to drive a truck through…”
“Loophole?” Marty says.
“‘Not taking her,'” Margo clarifies.
“Ohhhhh…” Marty says, another Important Parenting Lesson imparted. But he still isn’t getting it. “Just…”
“What?” Christy says.
“Well, just… she pierced her own lip?”
Christy nods. “Yeah.”
Christy takes a breath. “Well, she just… she got some anbesol or whatever that stuff is you put on a toothache… orajel…” She’s looking down, smiling with faint pride at her eldest daughter’s resourcefulness. “…anyway, she smeared that on her lip until it was good and numb, you know… then she got a sewing needle… heated it up over the gas burner to sterilize it… and then–” and she pulls out her lower lip with her left hand and, with her right, pantomimes plunging a needle through her lip–
“Ouch!” Marty shifts in his seat. “Really?”
Christy nods. “Yep.” She’s still looking down, still smiling, and that smile resonates with so many thoughts and memories: the gentle look I remember from dates, lunches, classes, study halls, band bus rides back in high school… and, from ten years ago, dinners out and coffee dates, not to mention a half-dozen or so weekend mornings where we awoke and had coffee at this very same kitchen table in our pajamas, if that…
For the first time in a long time, something about Christy’s expression makes my mind flash back to a small stack of pictures she gave me for Valentine’s Day the spring before we broke up and she and Marty got together–
“AHH!” I tense up as Margo presses a cold beer bottle to the bare back of my neck, right in the spot where the barber puts the electric trimmer. My shoulders tighten and I shiver as she pulls the bottle away, then, from over my left shoulder, she holds it out to Christy, her breasts smooshing against my shoulder blades, and then wraps her arms around my chest and nuzzles my neck from behind, warm and cozy. “Mmmmmm…” we purr together, and she kisses my neck as I put my hands on her forearm, and once again, I am at home, in the moment with her.
Marty, though, is still All Puckered Up down there from the piercing story. “How could she do that?”
Christy has covered this a million times with Margo and me; I can’t believe she’s never told Marty. “Well, it didn’t hurt, Marty… I mean, she numbed it.”
“Numbed it, Bri,” Margo whispers in my ear. “You should tell ’em that joke…”
And now we’ve got two conversations going:
“Yeah, but still… it bled, right?”
“You know, that one you told me about the girl at the doctor’s…”
“…the needle cauterized the wound…”
“…numb numb numb?”
“…I mean, she sterilized it, so…”
“Ohhhh… that joke…”
“Yes, that joke…”
“But didn’t it burn her fingertips?”
“Didn’t what burn her fingertips?” Margo says from behind me.
“The needle,” Christy says, and she looks at me. “What joke?” she says, and Margo sits down in the seat next to me and looks at me, waiting for me to tell That Joke.
“All right…” I say, sitting up, lowering my voice, even though Becca is nowhere near and wouldn’t get it even if she was sitting right at the table with us. Still, Marty and Christy lean in, too. I sit up a little. “So this woman goes to the gyno, see…”
Christy shakes her head. “Of course…”
“…and she gets up on the table, in the stirrups, and she starts crying…” I glance at Margo; she’s grinning like she can’t wait for the punchline, even though she’s heard me tell this one at least a dozen times. “And the doctor says ‘What’s wrong, ma’am?’ And the woman goes–” I screw on a Daisy Duke accent and push my voice up an octave “–‘Well, this is mah first time at the parts doctor–‘”
Margo snorts a laugh. “Pff! ‘Parts doctor!'”
“–‘and ah’m afraid. It ain’t gonn’ hurt, is it?’ And the doctor says” –I screw on my Doctorate Of English Lit voice– “‘I assure you it won’t hurt, but if you want, I can numb you down there.’ ‘Ohhhhh, would yew?'” I look right at Christy. “So the doctor sticks his face right in her crotch and goes ‘NUM NUM NUM NUM NUM NUM NUM NUM NUM!'” I say, shaking my face side to side, jowls loose, and Christy throws her head back and pulls her knee up and laughs with her whole body. I sit back, pleased with myself; meanwhile, Margo is laughing next to me: laughing at Christy laughing, and at Marty’s Commander Data straight face.
“A doctor wouldn’t do that,” he says.
Christy wipes a tear away and calms herself enough to speak. “Ohhhh… Dr. Park would have, right, Margo?”
Margo nods. “Jesus, yeah…”
Marty looks at Christy. “Who was Dr. Park?”
“Our gyno in high school.” She looks at Margo. “Dick Park.”
Marty’s eyes get wide. “You’re kidding.”
Christy looks at Margo for confirmation, and she nods. “Nope. That was his name,” Margo says. “Dick Park.” She takes a sip from her beer.
Now Marty is laughing. Same as ever: he never got jokes, but whenever I’d bring a new National Lampoon into study hall, he’d go straight to the TRUE FACTS section at the back. “That was really his name?” he says. “Dick Park?”
Christy nods. “Swear to God. Dick Park.” She shakes her head. “He was a weirdo. Kathy complained about him, too.”
“Well, he just wanted to play in your dick park, Christy,” Margo said, and Christy nearly sneezes the beer she’s just sipped. Margo drops her voice low. “Would jou like me to… examine jou, little missy?” and now Christy is whooping laughing, same as Rae was in the piano rooms when they played the cartoon music…
…just as the light pounding of two-year-old footsteps on hardwood floor comes down the hallway to the kitchen. Christy wipes another tear from her cheek –“You are evil,” she says to Margo– and then looks down at her daughter, Marguerite Kathleen Morone (Maggie Kay), standing in the doorway with the polaroid clutched in her hand.
“What’s so funny, Mommy?”
“Oh, we just…” Christy straightens herself up and wipes a tear away. “Aunt Margo is making us all laugh, sweetie.”
Maggie glances at Margo quick –“Oh”– then up at her mommy, and the words cascade out, all smeared together with the hard consonants missing: “Weh, you wahseewah WEEbin laffun ahh?”
I find myself translating a half-sentence behind her (Well… you wanna see what… WE’VE been…) but Christy is currently steeped in Toddlereze; she doesn’t miss a beat, but just leans forward and looks Maggie in the eye.
“What have you been laughing at?”
“THIS!” Maggie exclaims as she holds the picture out and up to show her Mommy. “Your HAIR is PURPLE!“
Christy takes the Polaroid and does an exaggerated Not this again take, rolling her eyes dramatically as she sets the picture on the table. “Maggie, you’ve seen that before.”
“Yeah, and it’s silly!”
Christy reaches down and picks her up. “No,” she says, “you’re silly…” and she kisses the top of her daughter’s head.
“Huh-uhhh!” Maggie says. My eyes dart from Maggie’s face to Christy’s, then over to Marty and back to Maggie. Her hair is dusty blonde like her dad’s, but her jaw is strong like her mom’s, her eyes emerald green like her mom’s. I look again at Marty, who, I feared, was getting lost a few moments before, but now seems enchanted by and amazed at his wife and beautiful daughter.
Then I feel someone tugging at my sleeve, between Margo and me. I don’t even have to look down, but I do anyway, because I like looking at Becca as much as Marty likes looking at Maggie. “Daddy,” Becca says, her face serious, “did Maggie give you the picture back?”
Christy holds the Polaroid up. “I have it, sweetie.”
Becca eyes the picture, then Maggie. “Good. I told her she better… “
“‘She better’ or what, bossy?” Margo says.
Becca stiffens, offended. Affronted. Never been so insulted in her life. “I’m not bossy!”
Margo reaches down and brushes through Becca’s hair. “Ohhhhh, no… not you–”
“–I’m not.” She looks at me for backup. “I just wann’ed to make sure she gave you the picture back.”
Now Margo is smirking. She pets Becca’s hair. “Daddy has enough pictures of Aunt Christy, honey…”
I look at Christy and she shakes her head and rolls her eyes, her face flushing bright pink…