“Sexgate” was 6 days ago.
We don’t discuss it. Dad has been giving me awkward looks and Mom is her usual bubbly self, seeming unaware of how psychologically damaged I have become. I’ve heard them three more times since the original incident. I have been camping out in my car whenever they get started.
“I can’t talk to them about this. It’s too…” I make a noise that defines my disgust and try for the umpteenth time to get the image out of my head. Jess sits across from me and she laughs before she makes a certain face as her daughter latches onto her left breast. “Well…you can’t honestly say you didn’t know they have an…active sex life,” she chuckles again.
“Yes, I could. I have deluded myself for 26 years. I could have gone the rest of my life and the next without seeing…that. Plus I can hear them. They are like…fucking teenage rabbits.” Jess covers my niece’s exposed ear and makes an annoyed face. “Uh…baby?” she says toward my expletive. “She’s 4 months old,” I retort.
“Listen, just talk to them. You all are adults. Not to mention, it is their house. Be glad they have it contained to bedrooms.”
I sigh deeply as I weigh my options, which are all flawed. I could continue with my denial and sleep in the driveway periodically or pull up my big girl pants and give my parents “The Talk“. Sex was a normal part of life; I even partook in it every blue moon. I just had to stop thinking of them as “Mom and Dad” and as my slightly older roommates “Jasmine and Ken”.
I played with Amerie for an hour after her dinner, until she eventually drifted off to sleep. Jess and her husband, Martin had just moved into a condo, not too far from our parents, before she had the baby so they were in the process of learning how to parent and unpack and furnish a new home. Jess, who was normally a glowing vision of beauty, looked exhausted: her eyes darker than normal and her unkempt hair was braided back out of her way. Instead of the skin tight jeans and cropped hoodies she loved so much, she wore basketball shorts and a ratty camisole that was covered in stains. “I’m exhausted, Bug. I never thought such a little thing could disrupt a whole life,” Jess said, dropping her head onto the table as I rocked the baby. I couldn’t help but look down at her as she slept. She made a weird little sucking sound as she moved her tongue around her toothless mouth. “She’s sweet,” I said, smelling the top of her head.
“She’s a tyrant. If she’s wet or hungry or bored, she just screams bloody murder.”
“So you’ve finally met your match?” I tease.
Martin drifts into the kitchen, looking just as disheveled as his wife. Normally, he was neat as a pin and spiffy for his job as some sort of game design engineer. Today, the red plaid shirt he wore was wrinkled and the gray undershirt had a stain by the collar, courtesy of his daughter, no doubt. He walked to the counter and poured almost the entire pot of coffee into his thermos before approaching us. “Hey Erica,” he says flatly. I return his salutation as he bends down and kisses his wife. “Love you,” he says before he comes and scoops his daughter from my arms. He pulls her small body up to his face and whispers something to her as he inhales her baby smell. There is nothing but pure adoration in his eyes as he looks at her. At that moment, I knew all the restless nights, all the sacrifices they have been through was worth it. He hands her back to me and drifts out the back door to his car.
They were a completely different couple when they first got married. Jess had skipped the college route after high school and decided to travel the world. She met Martin in Brazil and learned that he was from Flint. Their relationship was whirlwind; they traveled together for over a year through Japan and Europe, ending in Paris. Martin proposed to her on the Pont des Arts bridge (the one with all the locks) and they were married by fall. He was an attractive guy, into comic books and superhero movies but his biggest passion was for Jess and she was equally crazy about him. She was over the moon when she found out she was pregnant.
Jess, Martin and Amerie were still on my mind when I drove home. She was so happy and I was happy for her. I just couldn’t help but feel the pangs of envy on how different our lives were. She was married and a mom; I’m single, unemployed and living at home with my parents, not much of a life in comparison. All the lights were on when I pulled into our driveway. Hopefully that was a good sign. I made sure to make as much noise as possible: honked the horn, jingled my keys, fiddled with the lock. “Mom? Dad? I’m home!”
“Heya Bug,” my dad said, emerging from the kitchen. “I got a surprise for you,” he said, beckoning me. He led the way toward the basement. After we walked down the short flight of stairs and he led into what used to be our basement. A queen sized bed was pushed against the wall, the wooden headboard nearly matching the wall panel behind it. A red love seat sat across the “bedroom” in front of a rather large TV, divided with a glass coffee table. It was my own studio, bigger than the one I had just moved out of. “Daddy…you didn’t have to do all this,” I said, wrapping my arms around him. My mom snuck up behind us and embraced me too. “I know that couch in the den is a piece of shit. Plus we don’t want you to be uncomfortable here,” Dad said.
Speaking of uncomfortable…I pulled myself away from my parents and turned to face them. “I am really truly grateful that you guys reopened your doors to me in my time of need. But I think we need to clear the air on some things…” The pair of them glanced at each other like busted teenagers. They knew where this was going. “Now I realize that…passion is necessary to make a marriage work…”
They broke out laughing before I could even finish talking. “That’s not funny, guys. Seriously. My sanity is at stake here!” I said, sounding too much like a spoiled toddler. “We’re sorry, Bug,” was all my father could say through his guffaws.
“Sweetie. We’ve been going through sex therapy for about a year now, for your father’s injury and I gotta say, it’s working for us.” My hands reached my ears before she finished the sentence and I la-la-la-la’d so I couldn’t hear the rest of the filth flowing from her mouth. “Please! Spare me any and all details. I have gotten to know the both of you more intimately than I care to admit. We just need to come up with a code word or signal so I can get out of the blast zone!”
“We’ll try to keep it down,” Mom said, glancing up at my dad before the pair of them turned and left me to my space. “This is a serious matter, guys!”
I got no warning later that evening. I slept with the TV volume on high.