Photographs and Memories, part 8

Saturday, June 18, cont.

Grampa and I talked until noon, by which time we were all hungry. Pete went to the kitchen to make sandwiches, and returned with Jeff and Val. I asked, “Is Dad back?”

Jeff said, “No. We were just talking about that. Did he say how long he’d be gone?”

“He only said a while. Let me text him.” I took out my phone. Hey, just wondering where you were.

He responded quickly. Walking around cemetery. Headed back soon.

But “soon” turned into two more hours. Dad didn’t get back until 2:00. I wanted to ask him about his visit, but he immediately headed to the kitchen to help out and I didn’t get a chance to talk to him.

By 4:00 Tyler and Blair had arrived, and the cooking began. If I stayed indoors any longer I’d be the only one in the house, so I hobbled to the back yard. Carly installed me at her table, my foot propped on a chair. Pete was already there, deep in conversation with Stefan.

Kung_yang

By Takeaway (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I looked around for Tyler and Blair. Tyler was hanging out with his brothers; Blair was at the same table but might as well have been on a separate planet. I figured he was put off by the noise and convivality. As I watched for a while, several people approached and tried to engage him in conversation. He seemed to rebuff them all.

Not for the first time, I wondered what the hell Tyler saw in him.

Once we all had plates full of food I asked Carly, “Do you know how Blair and Tyler met?”

“They were set up by mutual friends. Why?”

“I know it’s too late to point this out now, but they don’t seem well suited.”

Stefan said, “This is the first time I have met him. I am not impressed.”

Pete said, “I’ve only met him once, at our wedding. I wasn’t impressed either.”

I said, “Tyler thinks Blair’s family is terrible. I wonder if they really are, or if that’s just Tyler?”

Shana said, “I guess we’ll find out.”

Mike asked, “How many events do we have to attend this week?”

Carly said, “There’s a party on Tuesday, at Tyler’s house, that all the cousins are invited to. Thursday evening is the rehearsal dinner and Friday evening is the bachelor party.”

I said, “Dennis told us they have twelve groomsmen apiece. Does Blair have twelve friends?”

Carly said, “I think Blair’s groomsmen are mostly couple friends of both Tyler and Blair. Tyler had a dozen people he wanted to ask, so they had to come up with a dozen for Blair. It took some doing.”

Shana sighed. “I hope this isn’t an epic disaster.”

After we ate everyone milled around for a while, talking and laughing. Pete made a point of cornering Blair and had a brief conversation. I was thinking about going into the house when Tyler drifted over. I said, “Hey. Having fun?”

“Sure.” He plopped down at the table. “Jamie, can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Is married life – different?”

“Different how?”

He bit his lip. “Blair and I are sniping at each other all the time. We have been for months. I’m hoping that once we’re married we’ll be…” He shrugged. “Happier.”

Uh oh. Unrealistic expectations were about to raise their ugly heads. Pete chose that moment to join us, bringing me a beer. I said, “Ty, I can only tell you how it is for us. Our best time, in terms of not sniping at each other, was between our engagement and the wedding. For those seven months we agreed on everything. Since our honeymoon, it’s about the same as before we were engaged.” I decided Tyler deserved complete honesty. “I thought it would be different. Jeff said it was different, although he couldn’t explain how. But we haven’t felt it.” We’d discussed it last spring.

Pete said, “Our legal status has changed but it hasn’t altered the rest of our life together.”

Tyler looked hopeful. “It hasn’t affected your sex life?”

Pete and I looked at each other and said at the same time, “Weeeeell…”

Tyler smiled at that. I said, “Our frequency has dropped off a little. Just a tad.” It sounded as if I was trying to convince myself as much as Tyler.

His hopeful expression faded. I said, “Since you two have been arguing before the wedding, maybe you won’t after. I mean, come on, Ty, this wedding is insane.”

Pete said, “And it’s probably driven the two of you temporarily insane.”

“Maybe.” He sighed deeply. “Ever since Massachusetts made marriage equality legal, I’ve been dreaming of my wedding, you know? I’ve kept notebooks and clipped pictures from magazines and read every website created about gay weddings. I’m having the wedding I’ve always dreamed of – but now I’m worried about what comes after. Neither Blair nor I have good models for any marriage, much less gay marriage.”

I said, “I’m not sure there are good models for gay marriage. We haven’t been at it long enough.”

Pete said, “And it’s not really an issue of gay marriage. It’s all marriages or partnerships. At its heart, it’s a matter of two people learning to live together.”

I said, “And – Ty, every time you have a problem, you run to one of your parents rather than talk to Blair. You have to talk to Blair. It’s not fair to him otherwise.”

“You’re right.” Tyler squirmed. “Talking’s not our best thing.”

Pete said, “Jamie and I saw a counselor together for over two years. It helped us work out stuff that would have tripped us up otherwise. You and Blair should consider that.”

“I’ll try to talk him into it.” Tyler looked back and forth between Pete and me. “Maybe Blair and I need to spend more time with the two of you. Y’all finish each other’s thoughts. You give each other looks and you know what they mean. You’re touching arms, right now.”

I hadn’t even noticed, and I didn’t think Pete had either – we both glanced at our arms at the same time. He and I both had rested our forearms on the table; my left and his right were indeed touching. Tyler said, “Blair and I don’t do any of those things.”

Pete said, “You shouldn’t compare our experience to yours. We’re in a different place than you. We knew each other for nearly nine years before we got engaged. How long did you two know each other?”

Tyler looked glum. “A year and a half. Maybe we got engaged too soon.”

Pete said, “Maybe you just need to give yourselves more time.”

I asked, “Have you had any more interaction with his family?”

“No. They’ve been sightseeing. But we’re having brunch with them tomorrow.” He grimaced. “I’m dreading it.”

Pete said, “You know what I do when I have to spend time with a lot of people that I’m afraid I won’t like? I think of it as an anthropological expedition, observing and taking notes on a foreign tribe. It works.”

He laughed. “I like that idea.”

I said, “Try to sit beside the normal aunt from Manhattan. Maybe everyone else will leave you alone.”

“I will.” He stood. “I’d better get back to Blair. He gets nervous in crowds if he can’t see me.”

I watched Tyler go, thinking, Ai yi yi.

Aunt Linda stood by the back door and clapped her hands. “Come to the front porch, everyone. Time for pictures.”

Every summer in Beaufort, all the kids had lined up on the front porch for a group picture. The last time we’d all been together was eight years ago, for Doug’s 60th birthday party. I had that picture framed in my office.

We went onto Dennis’s front porch and lined up. The tallest – Jeff, Kevin and I – took the top step. Will, Henry and Tyler took the middle; Henry was in front of me and successfully hid my crutches. Shana, Lindsey and Carly stood in front. Linda tweaked everyone’s positions, and “the grownups” each took a couple of pictures.

It seemed weird for Tanner to be missing. I didn’t want to say anything about him for fear of upsetting Tyler, but I was sure that others were feeling the same thing.

 

The party wound down around nine. Sarge pleaded exhaustion and went to bed; the cousins headed for the Metro and their hotel. Pete and I ended up in the kitchen eating ice cream by ourselves. I said, “I saw you talk to Blair earlier.”

“Yeah. I got him to open up a little bit.” Pete sighed. “He’s completely overwhelmed. He kept functioning because he could escape to work. Now he’s off for the coming week and he’s shutting down.”

“That’s bad. I’m sure that Tyler is counting on Blair to handle his own family.”

“That’s a realistic expectation, but I don’t think Blair is up to the task.”

“Did he talk about the wedding?”

“A little. He wanted to elope, but he never mentioned it. He does love Tyler, so he wanted to let him have his dream wedding.”

“Is Blair close to his family at all?”

“Only the aunt from Manhattan. His mother’s an overprotective control freak and his stepfather blends into the woodwork. His father, as we’ve already learned, is totally obnoxious, and he described his stepmother as a cow. He says his relatives are mostly coming for the food.”

I groaned. “Wonderful. Where do they all live?”

“Ottumwa, Iowa.”

“Oh.”

Pete grinned. “Don’t be a California snob.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.”

He carried our empty bowls to the sink and rinsed them. “They’re an odd couple.”

“They seem like total opposites.”

“I read a statistic once. The more lavish the wedding, the higher the chance of divorce.”

I sighed. “God, I’d hate that for Ty.”

“Does Tyler’s brother know when and where the wedding is?”

“Probably.”

“Do you think he’ll show up?”

“Yeah. I do.”

“I think Kev and I are going to have our hands full with Blair’s father.”

“Will, Henry and I can handle Tanner. I’ve handled him before.” I laughed. “Didn’t work out so well for him.”

“What happened?”

“We were all in Beaufort for our yearly reunion. I was ten, so Tanner was eight and Tyler was just five. Henry was twelve and Will was fourteen. Tanner wanted to follow his older brothers around and act like he was equal to them, trying to get their approval, and Tyler tagged along after Tanner.”

Pete chuckled. “Yeah, I used to dog Steve’s steps everywhere he went.”

“So did I, with Kevin. I guess all little brothers do it. Anyway, we were playing baseball in the back yard. Tanner was being a shit to everyone, but especially Tyler. Ty was so little, he couldn’t keep up. We were letting Ty run the bases even though he couldn’t hit, and Tanner picked up the ball and hit Ty in the back of the head with it.”

“Shit. Was he hurt?”

“Yeah. He went down like he’d been shot. Split his head open. He was lying in the dirt, screaming. All the grownups ran out. Doug, Dennis and Linda took Ty to the hospital, which left Dad and Sarge to deal with Tanner. Dad said, ‘What happened?’ and Jeff told. Tanner said he did not, and I said yes, he did. Tanner charged me, and Dad snatched him right up into the air by the back of his pants.”

“Wow. Smooth move.”

“He had lots of practice doing it to Kevin. So Dad held Tanner out at arm’s length and asked Sarge what he recommended. Sarge said he’d take Tanner to help move bricks out front.”

“Bricks?”

“I think Sarge was repairing a garden wall. So Dad set Tanner down, and he came after me again. I tripped him and he went sprawling, but he jumped right back up. I looked at Dad and Sarge and they’re like, ‘Don’t let us stop you.’ So Tanner charged again and I punched him out.”

“Did you knock him cold?”

“No, he was only stunned. Sarge and Dad took him inside to clean up his bloody nose. When Dennis got back from the hospital with Tyler, he packed Tanner up and took him home to Aunt Marilyn that night.”

“Was Tyler okay?”

“Yeah. He had to have about a dozen stitches. Doug carried him around the whole rest of the week and Linda let him eat ice cream every meal.” I grinned, remembering. “Dennis came back in a couple of days and Ty was already spoiled rotten.”

“So you and Tanner have history.”

“Yep. And I don’t mind repeating it.”

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2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

2 responses to “Photographs and Memories, part 8

  1. melody

    I read that there was a bonus short story with Encountered to Death called there goes the neighborhood. I bought Encountered to Death from Amazon, but did not get this bonus. Where can I read this story? Is it on your blog somewhere? Thanks! Melody

  2. HI Melody! Right now that story is only in the print version. I’ll put it on the blog later in the summer.

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