Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It's Sin. Just Sin.

Last Thursday my brother arrived at dinner with a girl. This girl had reddish-brown hair and a snub nose. She had a name that was just so indicative of the types of girls my brother likes--girls with names like Carly, Kayla, Candi, and Emily. Names that beg to be pronounced with valley girl exclamation points at their ends.

My brother never leaves the house alone. He's always got a girl with him. Whenever my father asks him to come over for dinner, Adam tells him he's bringing a friend, and then he arrives with some girl my father will eventually describe as "real nice." "Real nice" generally means young, cute, and giggly. And it's never quite clear what these girls do with their time. The one Adam brought to dinner last week announced over our deep fried pickle appetizer that she'd spent the whole day sleeping. When she woke up, she went to take a shower. When she got out of the shower, she went back to bed.

This girl hung on every word my brother said. She giggled at every silly joke he made. She batted her eyes, tossed her hair, and grinned, grinned, grinned. When my father asked after another of my brother's "girl friends"--one that had recently flown up from Arizona to see him, one that he is absolutely ga-ga over--this snub-nosed girl didn't even flinch. She didn't seem uncomfortable. She didn't fold her napkin over and over and over. She didn't stare at the ceiling or out the window or into her lap. She didn't do any of the things I used to do whenever the Wily Republican's friends brought up the girl of his dreams, the one he was absolutely ga-ga over. Therefore, I reasoned, my original assumptions about the girl were false. I'd figured she was one of my brother's casual flings, the owner of one of those pairs panties he is always bragging about after they've fallen to the floor in his bedroom. But only a fling-girl made of stone would be able to sit through talk of another girl without showing some sort of revulsion, some sort of tic.

When my brother went to the bathroom, I leaned over to the girl and asked her about Arizona Girl. "How do we feel about her really?" I asked. "I haven't met her yet."

The snub-nosed girl shrugged her shoulders, cool and collected. "She's nice," she said. "She's good."

She threw me again. If she had interest in Adam--you know, in that way--she would've jumped at the chance to bad-mouth Arizona Girl to members of his family. The family might have some sway, after all, and they might report hearing bad things about Arizona Girl, and this might give him pause. If it were me, I would've given pause to any of the Wily Republican's friends, if they'd cared to hear my opinion. If any ever thought to ask, I would've gladly told them that the other girl--the one who wasn't at all me--was stupid, was no good, was a fool. I would've sold her down the river. And I expected nothing less from the snub-nosed girl. But she remained upbeat and positive about Arizona Girl, and I sat back in my chair, confused.

How was it that my brother had all these girls as friends? Honest to goodness friends, without expectation of sex. Was that even possible? I had to know. I had to. So when my brother came back from the bathroom and the girl excused herself to go, I leaned over to my brother and gave him what I hoped was a stern sisterly look.

"I don't get it," I said. "How do you do it? How are you friends with all these girls without romantic entanglement?"

I wasn't trying to give my brother a compliment. I wasn't trying to tell him I thought he was the world's most eligible bachelor or that there wasn't a girl alive who could resist his burping-farting-girly-drink-swilling self. It's just that I really disbelieved that these girls were hanging around him without thinking maybe, just maybe they'd get a run at him.

My brother stretched and smiled. He looked sly. He looked like he was about to say something real slick, something a tuxedoed spy would say seconds before flicking his wrist and ridding a loose European agent of her silk dress. He put an elbow on the table and leaned my way. "Well," he said, "we've already had our romantic entanglement."

The Boy From Work, sitting to my left and working his way through the fatty folds of corned beef in his reuben, started laughing.

I wanted to poke my eyes out. "Adam!" I said.

"What?" he asked. He waggled his eyebrows. "Oh come on. You know how that goes. We've..." His voice trailed off and he wrinkled his forehead, thinking better of something. "Never mind. I won't tell you about all that."

I wanted to take my tongue, stretch it out of my mouth, and saw it off with one of the butter knives at the table. This was not conversation meant for a polite dinner at one of the new restaurants in town. This was not conversation meant to take place in front of my father. This was not conversation meant to take place in front of me.

But I shouldn't have been surprised. I shouldn't have been appalled. After all, it would only get worse. A few seconds later, my brother would tell me and the Boy From Work and anyone else who was listening that he and this snub-nosed girl, well, they'd taken an awful lot of trips back to our cabin. And then he cracked a grin wide across his face. "And you know what happens at the cabin," he said. "Clothes come off when you pass through that door. That place is sin. Just sin."

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