A long weekend in a cabin at a state park with my parents and sister was my idea of hell, not a vacation. I was a big boy, so when mom made the suggestion I said something about maybe perhaps when Lucifer's lair could make ice cubes. Which I doubted would coincide with the dates she presented. I'm pretty far up in my 30s, I have a wife and kids and a job and house. I have a life. I have things to do, things I like to do, things I want to do. Long weekends I hold sacred. If it'd been a great big family affair my wife probably would have pushed me to relent. Get the kids together with their grandparents and cousins. A big snugly ugly gathering. But the point was--as mom kept pointing out--was for just us full-bloods to convene. Make it just like way back when our family was four. The good old days. Listen, I told her, I have the best memory. Those were always awful times.
I love my parents and my sister, but in that wavering sort of familial way. We all get along, stepping around each other's quirks, but there's no genuine feeling of closeness between any of us. Aside from our kinship there is really to reason for any of us to want to be around each other. I certainly feel no need to glorify any of that past.
"You have to do this," Liz informed me in a subsequent call. "We have to do this. When Mom called me she was practically in tears."
"No doubt," I replied. "She's got that faucet handle on the back of her head. Remember how she reaches up under her hair, and then suddenly her eyes are brimming."
My sister threw down her trump. "Okay, let me talk to Dena." My wife would make me. And Liz knew she would. There was no real option but a grumbling surrender. Liz didn't even know that Dena was already talking about maybe flying down to Florida with the kids to visit her parents.
"That's it," I'd exclaimed to Dena. "Yesss! My ticket out. Family visit to your sane and wonderful folks." Dena had dismissed my fantasy with a smirk.
And so, after an hour and a half crammed in a small car with my immediate family, I found myself stepping out onto a sorry gravel slot. While the cabin was nestled among a grove of trees, a dozen others were similarly situated within spitting distance, all of them occupied. The place was a rustic as light chocolate colored vinyl siding got. I knew that that in and of itself was not enough to be the vacation wrecker, but what would be I couldn't even guess.
The inside of the cabin was much nicer than the outside. Central air and a fully equipped kitchenette. But a quick tour revealed that our 3- bedroom cottage had two rooms with a skimpy double bed apiece. The living area held a couch that might sleep a small child willing to risk permanent orthopedic damage. Turn up the gas, I thought, and watch the parents go to a roiling boil. The whole park was booked solid. There wasn't even a spare cot to be had. The reservation clerk at the front desk in the lodge informed us of this with a shoulder shrugging giggle befitting her young age. She obviously didn't know what sort of family she was messing with. My parents raised a big public stink.
A supervisor then offered them a rate of 50% of the mistaken accommodations in exchange for the "error in processing" the reservation. Mom--the lawyer--wound up talking to someone a bit higher in the evolutionary chain, explaining that she had a "contract in lodgings" with very little language for the excusing of their booking mistakes. She got us a chit for meals and drinks up at the lodge. I observed the proceedings from the furthest most shadowy corner, feeling exactly as if I was about nine years old. The place wound up losing a lot of money on us when we would never be coming back anyway. As for a family tradition, this outing was known at the start to be filed at the back under Last Gasp.
I knew how the forces were lining up so I blitzkrieged. "There is one thing of which I am certain. I will not be spending the nights on that cramped divan. I get a bed or I'm going home. A real bed. I say whoever discovers the hidden cot is the one who has to sleep in it."
Liz made a squirrely face at me, then mouthed the word stupid.
Mom was instantly on me about being a gentleman. I had to flop down and present the visual truth. "Look Ma! I'm two feet longer than the goddamned couch." I saw her start to waver, quivering like a flame. No doubt Liz saw the look too. The only nights she and Dad had slept apart had been the ones surrounding our births. Liz had told me that before she got married Mom had given her the same advice as her mother had given her. Make your husband a very warm bed every night. "Very warm," I'd choked, "that's double 4-letter words." "Don't laugh," Liz had replied, "though it sounds simple and stupid it works exceedingly well." I'd been the one to blush. And now I blushed again. For the sake of the gathering, Mom was about to sacrifice Dad to the couch. Or herself. Either way, one of us would wind up sleeping with one of our parents. That was, for the both of us, a common primordial fear. The pair of them, for all their combined perfections, had the flaw of sleeping like freight trains. They were the Mixed-Doubles Champions of Snoring. Snoring is like saying a shrieking lunatic is talking.
Liz broke first, addressing me. "Okay. Fine. But if you hog the covers, I'll pee in the bed." That brought us all to a hearty but nervous round of laughter. That was shared history, family memoirs. I was renowned for my nocturnal battles with the covers. The two of us had once shared a bed as children--I think I was about six--and I was found wrapped in a very wet cocoon of all the covers. Liz had shed her soggy bottoms and found high dry ground by the foot of the bed. The edge to the memory was that she had actually done it twice. The second time was when we were about eleven and twelve. Again the four of us were crammed into two beds in one hired room. Though no mention of it was made by anyone in the morning, the most obviously startling observation was that she had done it deliberately. I was--true to form--wrapped up as the prize in the middle of most of the bedding. But it was thoroughly dry on the outside, while inside it was all sopping wet, particularly around my middle. It would seem I had made a mess in the night, but Liz made no bones about how she'd peed the bed. No one wanted to inquire why it was that her nightgown was so dry. The very tone of her voice was a video replay of her rising up from the bed in the middle of the night and pulling back the covers. My own sister straddling my sleeping body, squatting above her exact target, then hiking her gown and peeing all over my crotch.
I was not particularly happy about having to share a room much less a bed with Liz. But there I was, lying on a lumpy sofa that kept getting smaller by the minute. Really, all I could say was a sigh.
She's just not one of my top choices for people I'd choose to spend much time with. I'm the older of us, by barely a year and a half. We were pretty good buddies as kids, but then when we hit the weirdity of the pre-teen years she turned real mean on me. Well, fuck that, so I went all nasty and awful on her. With the maturation differences, our genders got hit with the full flush of hormones about the same time. As always, Liz led the way with the changes. For a month or two things were very sweet between us.
I remember the very first day, in the evening. I was in the den watching the start of one of those wacko movies on t.v. So bad that it's absolutely brilliant. In came my evil sister bearing a tray with a platter of freshly baked brownies and two glasses of soda. She set it on the coffee table and without a word sat down beside me on the couch and started watching the movie. At the commercial break she gave me an alarming smile, making a vague gesture with her hand. "I'm here with snacks. Feel free to help your self." And then we were weeks of being so gentle and tender with each other. It was like having a girlfriend. Almost.
But eventually a really good time would start only to end with her getting mad at me for things that left me baffled. I remember as well the last day of the interlude. Again it was evening, but much later. We were watching a movie that, even for network standards, had some pretty steamy scenes. The cream filling between the car chases and explosions. The sort of thing parents aren't supposed to let their children watch, which is why it didn't start until midnight. It was a Friday night, and like most kids our age it was a date to stay up late that night. That was our ritual on Friday--a couple of comedy shows and then the late night movie. Friday nights for our folks was a celebration of the end of the work week. They'd skip real dinner and go on to cheese trays and cocktails, the both of them dead in bed by eleven.
Liz had taken to getting into her pyjamas pretty early in the evenings. But her sleepwear had turned to t-shirts that weren't really long enough to disguise the fact that she had panties on as well. There she lay on the floor, tucked around some throw pillows, on her belly facing the screen. I was scrunched up on the couch, eventually cradling a pillow in my lap. Liz kept throwing glances over her shoulder my way, whereas I barely had to shift my eyes to go from the screen to the display of her wares. That tight stretching of fabric I will never forget. Her panties were of a thin white cotton printed with tiny lavender and magenta flowers. She kept squirming around like she couldn't even get quite comfortable enough. Though it felt nice, I mostly wanted that pillow hugged to my lap to hide my situation. As the movie began its final descent into a maelstrom of gunfire and great gusts of fire Liz went on a rampage, storming to her room because I always hogged the couch.
Following, was a week brimming with vitriol, after which I mostly ceased to exist as an element in her universe. Which, by then, was a fine if frosty turn of events for me. Liz soon acquired a boyfriend and took to flaunting him around. More than once I was made, it seemed, to stumble across an intimate moment. She walked through the den where I was before going right into the kitchen to present her unhushed request to get on birth control. All I could really feel was embarrassment for Todd. He was a nice kid. He went on to become a nice guy. We get along great. He's been my brother-in-law for over fifteen years now and I consider him among my closest friends. I wasn't as quick on the draw as Liz. After several years I went through some profound changes and wound up hanging out with a trio of girls who were renowned in school as being punk lesbians. That, my sister let me know, made her want to barf. They were lesbians in that they loved to do girl things to each other, but they weren't such lesbians that they weren't all on the pill. Strictly to relieve cramps they would tease me. I lost my virginity in a bed with two lesbians. Neither of them seemed to mind. It wasn't until after we all went our various ways off to our respective college careers that I wound up in a bed with just one woman. All these subsequent encounters were invariably a sort of letdown to me. Two years out of college I met Dena. I met her and married her promptly. Aside from all her wonderful points, we clicked like flint and steel striking in a bed of gasoline. It was after our second time, laying back for some cuddly pillow talk, that I revealed the specifics of my sexual awakening. The third time we had sex, she brought along a girlfriend. After two kids and fifteen years of marriage I still wind up with surprise nights.
After all the matters of our arrival were resolved, we did some family stuff. A hike on a trail through the woods that led back to the lodge, where we had a bad buffet dinner. There was talk of utilizing the swimming pool, but that entailed going back to the cabin for our suits. Once we were there we instead settled in for an evening of card playing followed by television. The night crashed early by unanimous consent. Taking turns in the bathroom killed another hour. I dashed in first, then lay in bed reading, wearing a long t-shirt and an old pair of gym trunks. When Liz finally arrived she just pulled down her pants and hopped in bed. She'd exchanged her halter top for a nearly cropped t- shirt, squirming forever to get herself situated, flashing her panties all over the place.
Marking my page I set my book down on the bedside table. "Geez," I grumbled, "you girls and your panties."
"Wrong," she replied, reaching for the light, "it's you boys and girls' panties."
"Just don't pee on me, okay?"
"Here," she said, shoving the bedspread my way, "just wrap yourself up in this and leave the rest alone."
I did just that and fell promptly asleep.