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Fourth comings, p.6
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       Fourth Comings, p.6

           Megan Mccafferty
 

  The one thing I will say about Manda is this: She’s always been an unrepentant sex maniac.

  sixteen

  Shea sullenly dragged herself in behind Manda and greeted me with a dip of her baseball cap.

  “’Sup.”

  To which I replied, “Hey, Shea.”

  And she said nothing else as she headed to the kitchen table and huddled over the Automobiles section of the Times. Even in her hooded sweatshirt, calf-skimming cargo shorts, and dingy white Vans slip-ons, Shea isn’t exactly butch. No, I’ve come to the conclusion that her gender-blending aesthetics and attitude are modeled after those of a sixteen-year-old boy. She looks no different from the dozens of teenage skaters grinding all over Prospect Park, fueled by ADHD and megadoses of caffeine and testosterone. She even smells like a high school boy, a ripe combination of a fermented hamper and AXE deodorant body spray. So it’s no surprise she acted just like a surly adolescent when Manda took off her baseball cap and playfully nuzzled the charred-black buzz cut beneath.

  “Daaaaaaamn.” Shea has a talent for stretching four-letter words into four syllables. “Dinja gettanuff lasniiite?” Her tone could only by the very loosest definition be considered affectionate.

  “Mmmmm…Never…,” Manda cooed.

  “Daaaaaaamn. Why you gotta be such a pain-in-the-asshole rapeface?”

  Shea also has a talent for such wonderfully scatological outbursts. (Though I can hardly blame you for not embracing cumchugger, though I swear she meant it as a term of weird endearment.) I’m not at all freaked out by Manda’s Sapphic tendencies, but I do think it’s peculiar how her pangender partnership with Shea exemplifies the kind of cruel misogyny this self-described “fourth-wave feminist” has so aggressively fought against since high school. Manda would have never dated a guy this offensive back then, and is only dating one now because she’s really a girl. Let me put out an apology to the entire GLBT community, but I just don’t get it.

  And yet I kind of can’t blame Shea for being so…pissed off. I mean, all but the most genetically blessed go through periods of squirmy discomfort in our own skin. But there’s a big difference between my kind of discomfort (“Boo-hoo! I don’t have any boobs!”) and Shea’s (“Boo-hoo! I have boobs! And where the hell is my penis?”).

  “Where’s Hope at?” Shea asked in a slightly more pleasant tone, opening a jar of peanut butter. Shea is always very interested in Hope’s whereabouts. If only Hope were right here, right now, we’d all be that much closer to having an orgy. Or so Shea would like to believe.

  “Sleeping.”

  “She need comp’ny?”

  “I doubt it,” I replied. I then watched as Shea scraped out what was left of the peanut butter with her forefinger. I was placing bets on how long it would take Manda to start licking it off.

  “How’s Marcus?” Manda asked.

  The sudden interest in my life was unprecedented. I hadn’t prepared an answer I’d be willing to share with Manda on this subject.

  “Uh,” I replied.

  “Shiiiiiiiiiiit. You buttplugs break up or what?”

  “What?” I asked. “Why would you ask that?” I hadn’t given Shea or Manda any indication of, well, anything.

  “Oh, I don’t know,” Manda said. “It just seems like you were having some troubles right before he left.”

  “He has troubles with New York,” I said, repeating a familiar excuse. “Not with me.”

  “All the more reason why I thought you might be having second thoughts about the long-distance thing,” Manda said as she overfilled her mug, spilling coffee over Mary Wollstonecraft’s ceramic portrait.

  “Oh.”

  “Sooooo?”

  I didn’t want to get all touchy-feely in a figurative or literal way. So I figured the best strategy was nonchalance.

  “Well, I was thinking that it might be easiest for both of us if we just do our own thing….”

  “Break up,” Manda clarified.

  I was still very suspicious. Manda and Shea were way too interested in my emotional life. “Well, I tried to break up with him, but he wasn’t convinced and…” I stopped there. Manda and Shea could not be the first to find out about your proposal, even if it was an elaborate inside joke.

  “And…?” Manda asked.

  “And I’m taking time to think.”

  “So you’re technically still together?”

  “Yes,” I said. “More than technically. We are—”

  “Hellyeah!” Shea slammed down the peanut butter jar and leapt up from the chair to engage in an elaborate touchdown dance: her baggy pants thrust up and down, one hand flat on the floor and the other smacking an imaginary ass.

  I asked the only logical question. “What the hell?”

  “Hellyeah! Hellyeah! Hellyeah!” Now Shea simulated wild, rearentry copulation with an imaginary strap-on.

  “We had a bet about your breakup,” Manda said. She beamed as she said this.

  “You are so owned! You thought Marcus was breaking up with her! Ownage! Ownage! Ownage!” She was still thrusting her pelvis.

  “Puh-leeze, I am so not owned!”

  “Ownage! Ownage! Ownage!”

  Living with Shea is like living with the zitty, Ritalin-tweaked little brother I never had. Only she’s twenty-three years old. And she has a vagina. Oops. There I go again, getting all caught up in the heteropatriarchal paradigm. Shame on me.

  Manda squealed and positioned herself in front of her boifriend to complete the faux-porno tableau. “Give it to me! Give it to me! Give it to me!”

  I retreated back down the hall before the simulated act could be authenticated.

  seventeen

  Hope was sitting straight up in the top bunk when I opened the door.

  “I’m so sorry,” she said.

  “Are you kidding? People pay good money to watch what I just saw for free.”

  “I meant about you and Marcus.” Her head hung low, but her curls still teased the decorative squares pressed into the tin ceiling.

  “Oh, you must have heard wrong,” I said.

  “Heard what wrong?”

  “Marcus and I didn’t break up,” I explained.

  Her head jolted with this news. “Really? I thought…”

  “Manda and Shea had a bet about our breakup.”

  “I know that,” she said. “They actually asked if I wanted in on it.”

  “What were the stakes?” I asked.

  “You don’t want to know,” Hope replied, a wry smile sneaking across her face. “But it involved something called a Jaguar Harness.”

  “A what?!”

  “I told you that you didn’t want to know!”

  And then we both laughed. Joking about the sexual imprimaturs paying half our rent never gets old. The oppressive mood had been lifted, but I was still surprised by how rattled Hope seemed by the prospect of us breaking up. Perhaps she needs to believe in us because it helps her feel better about her own long-distance relationship with Wynn.

  I love Hope and Wynn. Just the very sound of them is so positive. He won’t be around much anymore because he’s living with his parents in Pittsburgh while he earns his M.F.A. in Multimedia/Visual Communications at Carnegie Mellon. This should make my sleeping arrangement less pervy than it was all summer. There won’t be as many opportunities for third wheeling, that is, suffering in the bunk alone, excruciatingly aware of the entwined lovers above or below.

  I always had a single at Columbia, so I was never subjected to the various collegiate indignities suffered when one roommate is getting laid and the other is not. Since we’re older now, and this isn’t a dorm, Hope and I tried to put a “no sex” rule into effect during third wheelers. As you are well aware, you and I violated that rule last week. In our dubious defense, we did check and double-check to make sure Hope was asleep before the bunk started its rhythmic squeaking and creaking. But I can’t say with any real certainty that she was really out cold, or just too embarrassed to say otherwise, as
I was all summer long when Hope and Wynn whispered and moaned in the dark. Horny twentysomethings hath no shame.

  “So you two are still together,” Hope said slowly, carefully, as if she were trying to find the upper-right corner of the sky in a five-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle.

  “What would be the polar opposite of breaking up?”

  “Um…staying together?”

  “The ultimate commitment.”

  “I don’t know,” she said, her voice wandering off in search of the answer. “His’n’hers tattoos?” She politely laughed at her own joke.

  “Marriage,” I said. “Marcus asked me to marry him.”

  I had expected Hope to respond with a joke. Something along the lines of “But what about Kirk? Won’t he get jealous?” Because what did this sound like but the grand setup to some great big joke? But she just blinked at me from the top bunk.

  “I’m not kidding,” I said, wiggling the fourth finger of my left hand. “He got down on one knee and everything.”

  THWACK! Hope smashed her head against the ceiling.

  “Holy shit! Are you okay?”

  “Sort of,” she said, rubbing her curls. “Are you okay?”

  “I don’t know,” I confessed.

  (Confessed isn’t really accurate, is it? Is it possible to confess the obvious? Would I be writing in this notebook if I were certain of anything, even my own okayness?)

  “I mean, this isn’t something I ever thought would happen,” I said. “Especially not yesterday. And I’m still not sure what to make of it.”

  “I don’t blame you,” she said. “Tell me everything.”

  I climbed up to the top bunk and obliged.

  “And so,” I said, finishing up, “he wants an answer when he comes back from Outdoor Action on Saturday.”

  Hope’s eyes popped out of her face. “You didn’t come right out and say no?”

  “Uh, no.”

  Hope rattled her head in disbelief. “Jess!”

  “What?”

  She shut her eyes and screwed her mouth tight.

  “Hope,” I said. “You’ve been my best friend since seventh grade. And you’ve known Marcus even longer than I have. You can’t say the wrong thing.”

  Hope was about to respond when I heard the unmistakable sound of muffled whispers right outside our door. I shushed Hope with my hand, climbed over the side of the bunk, then crawled across the floor to the bedroom door. I flung it open so quickly that the two interlopers tumbled cartoon-style right onto the lemon-curd carpet.

  “I dint hear nuttin’!” Shea lied.

  “But I did!” Manda said, pushing her way past her pangendered partner in crime.

  “Invasion of privacy?”

  “Oh, puh-leeze,” Manda said. “If you want privacy, you gotta pay more.”

  She had a point. Meanwhile, Shea preened behind Manda, winking and wagging her green-stained Sparks tongue for Hope’s, uh, benefit.

  “So come on,” Manda said, tapping her foot. “Let’s see it!”

  “See what?”

  “The rock!”

  “There’s no rock,” I said, holding out my hand so she could inspect the silver.

  “No rock? Puh-leeze!” she said, dropping my hand as if it were something toxic. “What kind of engagement is that?”

  “I wouldn’t have expected someone who has exchanged clit rings to be so traditional.”

  Shea guffawed.

  “What?” I asked.

  “Huhhuhuhuh,” Shea chuckled. “You said clit.”

  This proves it: I am living with Beavis and Sluthead.

  “Well,” Manda said, “it’s slightly less humiliating than the three-carat solitaire Sara bought herself.”

  “Ah yes,” I said, recalling our Pineville High classmate’s condition. “A carat for each trimester…”

  “When’s she due, anyway?” Hope asked.

  “Two weeks ago,” I answered.

  “Ouch,” Hope and Manda said at the same time.

  eighteen

  I haven’t seen Sara in about six weeks, not since the babymama shower. I was the only one in Sammy invited. As you might recall, Manda and Sara were former BFF’s, the cornerstone of the Clueless Crew back in their Pineville High heyday. But Manda hasn’t forgiven Sara for so gleefully informing all of Pineville that the former had turned into a quote carpet muncher unquote in college. And Sara hasn’t forgiven Manda for so gleefully informing all of Pineville that the former had dropped out of college after getting knocked up after two minutes of unprotected passion in the Bamboo Bar parking lot.

  I was not an obvious invitee. High school graduation brought with it many liberations, including my emancipation from the alphabetical guarantee that D’Abruzzi, Sara would be assigned to sit in front of Darling, Jessica in homeroom and every single honors class from seventh through twelfth grade. Since I threw my mortarboard into the air back in June 2002, my relationship with the guest of honor has consisted of rare, random run-ins around Pineville. I was only dragged to the shower by my sister, who felt obligated to attend because of her husband’s ongoing business partnership with Sara’s father, the Jersey Shore Junk Food King, Wally D’Abruzzi. These two families have gotten insanely wealthy off Americans’ insatiable desire for frozen custard and deep-fried dough, having opened up twenty-five new drive-through Papa D’s Donuts/Wally D’s Sweet Treat Shoppes in the past year alone.

  Wally D spared no expense on his daughter’s celebration of accidental fertilization. But I don’t need to relive the gitchy-gitchy goo-goo gag-me details because it was hardly any different from a typically torturous baby shower. Not that you, Marcus, would have any idea, since you were lucky enough to be born with a penis. The only significant deviation was how there was more talk about the bride-to-be than the fetus-that-already-was.

  “Omigod! You should see my Vera Wang!” Sara brayed. “It’s so quote Jessica Simpson unquote.”

  “Scotty proposed?” I asked. “Uh…”

  “Congratulations!” my sister chimed. “That’s fantastic!”

  Sara flinched, then quickly recovered. “Well, we’re not technically quote engaged unquote,” she said brightly. “Not technically. But it’s like everything but technically. We’re living together, and he totally wants this baby.”

  My eyes bulged in disbelief. Bethany elbowed my ribs to shut me up.

  “It was practically his idea to have it! Any other guy would have wanted me to quote get rid of it unquote. But he was all like, ‘Do you want to keep it?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I totally do.’ And I know he totally wants to get married, so I’m just, you know, helping him out, getting things started because he doesn’t have a lot of money and I do, so…”

  So Sara—unemployed college dropout and daughter of self-made millionaire Wally D’Abruzzi—bought herself the three-carat solitaire diamond that she will start wearing as soon as her ring finger shrinks to its prepregnancy size. Nothing Sara said could make me believe that this was anything other than a devious get-married gambit. By purchasing her own ring, Sara had put a new and demented twist on the classic Impregnation Equation:

  ENGORGEMENT + ENTRAPMENT = ENGAGEMENT

  “Think of all the bad girls who have been transformed by marriage,” she said at one point during her insane, estrogen-spiked monologue. “Christina Aguilera. Avril Lavigne. Pink. Omigod! Getting married is, like, the best makeover ever.”

  There was only one little quote glitch unquote to getting hitched: Scotty hadn’t proposed. And despite this minor setback, all this wedding talk was only occasionally interrupted by the cranky unborn human who had taken over Sara’s uterus.

  “Ow!” She winced, groaned, then admonished her stomach: “Destiny, settle down in there!”

  Destiny?

  “Omigod! We’re naming the baby Destiny Estrella. Did we tell you that?”

  No, she had not.

  “It’s because Scotty and I totally think it was quote destiny unquote that brought us together.”
r />   Really? It wasn’t the Natty Lite?

  (If the Dalai Lama were there, he would’ve made the same joke. But being His Holiness and all, he probably could have gotten away with saying it to her face.)

  “And Estrella means quote star unquote in Spanish….”

  “Uh,” I said, this time out loud. “Didn’t you take Spanish for four years?”

  “Yeah, so?” she huffed.

  “So you should know that the Spanish l isn’t pronounced.”

  “What do you mean it isn’t pronounced?” Sara sniffed.

  “The l in Spanish doesn’t sound like l, it sounds like y,” I explained. “So it’s Es-STRAY-ya. Not Es-STRELL-A.”

  I was trying to spare Sara the embarrassment of mispronouncing her daughter’s middle name for the rest of her life. And you know what I was thinking about when I did this? What you told me about the Four Abodes of Buddhism: kindness, compassion, joy in others’ joy, and level-headedness. The Four Abodes are just great, Marcus. Really. They make sense to me. They kick the Ten Commandments’ ass. I mean, you’d have to be a total dick not to be down with the Four Abodes. And yet whenever I speak with the Four Abodes in mind, I still sound like a bitch.

  “Whatev,” Sara said. “I like it my way.”

  “It’s a great name,” Bethany said, snapping my bra strap in admonishment.

  “Omigod! I know! It was gonna be quote star unquote in Italian, you know, because of my heritage and all, but star in Italian is quote SteLLa unquote,” Sara said, going out of her way to overpronounce the l’s. “And Stella is, like, an old lady’s name. Like someone with drooping boobs who pushes a mop for a living.”

  I followed my sister’s cue and nodded vigorously.

  Sara covered her mouth, then burped into her hand. “And star has a deep significance for us as a couple because there were all these stars out the night that we, you know, quote conceived unquote. But Destiny Star is, like, a porn name. Destiny EstreLLa is, you know, quote classy unquote.”

  Oh, yes. The mangling of foreign words is always considered the epitome of genteel refinement. As is referring to oneself as “classy.”

 
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