Funny what people put up with just to have a seat at their family’s Christmas dinner. Like me: 41, childless and single, sitting here at my parents’ mahogany table between my cousin Frieda, who has five kids by four men, and my hard-of-hearing granduncle Henry, who has never pronounced my name right.
And directly across from me, looking more delicious than the roasted turkey, Cornish hens and honey-glazed ham, is my brother Avery’s friend Carlos, with his olive gold skin and muscle-strapped arms; Carlos, whose cappuccino brown eyes I can feel even now stroking my face like fingers.
One Friday in July, Carlos stopped by Avery’s to hang out. I was there instead house-sitting while Avery was out of town. Three hours, two chess games (we each won), and one bottle of Sauvignon Blanc later found us on Avery’s sofa, sweatily engaged in the action that led to the best night of my life. But my guilt almost killed the memory of that pleasure. Carlos is 29, twelve years younger than me, and I couldn’t help feeling like some deranged nympho who had just robbed the cradle.
So here I am: a moderately successful fashion designer wearing a hideous reindeer sweater my Aunt Barbara knitted for me, ignoring the love of my life when I want to crawl across the gravy bowl and tongue kiss him until Uncle Henry’s dentures pop out.
Frieda’s voice cut through my reverie. “So, Carlos,” she asked, “are you seeing anybody?” She licked her lips and eyed him like a jackal sizing up a wounded impala.
“I am, actually,” he said, “but not nearly as much as I want to.”
“Anybody I know?” I asked innocently.
“That’s hard to say, Alyse. I mean, how well does any person really know somebody else?” Carlos flashed me a devilish grin.
Luckily, Avery and my dad started talking sports, which stopped all other questions and let me slip unnoticed to my childhood bedroom upstairs.
An hour later, I was on my bed daydreaming when Carlos came in. He pushed my old clothes chest in front of the door then sat next to me.
He cut right to the chase. “Are you ashamed of me?”
“No. I’m ashamed of me. I humped a guy who was in kindergarten when I was at my senior prom. It’s a lot to process.”
Carlos looked straight at me. “I don’t care about our age difference. I fell in love with you, not a number. Know what else?” He flashed that Lucifer grin again. “That’s one of the ugliest Christmas sweaters I’ve ever seen, and I think we’re both wearing too many clothes.”
Carlos leaned over and kissed me. Somehow my sweater came off, along with his shirt and pants. The people downstairs were a galaxy away. All that mattered now was the beautiful being on top of me; not a pervert-seduced child, but a gorgeous, grown adult out to show me again how much of a man he really was.
published 22 April 2013