Courtney talked for two hours straight about our mother’s latest insanity. Get this. When Digger left? It was because she was cheating on him. With a born-again preacher. The only reason they went through with a formal divorce was so she could legally re-marry. He gave her everything, which I guess amounted to the house, the car, and whatever they had in the bank. She didn’t sue him for child support or alimony because preacher-man said he wouldn’t accept a dime of Digger’s money (well, other than the house, etc… which they presumably sold) and neither should Claire. Some kind of fucked up penance for having cheated, I guess?
“What about Janine and Lilibeth?” I asked.
“Both married. Janine before she even graduated college, and Lilibeth the second she did.”
“Really.” I couldn’t even picture it.
“They got out while the getting was good.”
“You make it sound like some feudal thing where the girls get married off into other families or something.”
“Well, that’s kind of what it was like. I never hear from them, either.”
“Well, it sounds like you’ve had no address and no phone for the past six months,” I pointed out.
“True. Whatever. They’ve got their own problems, I’m sure.” Courtney shrugged. “Be glad you weren’t at the weddings. God. Painful.”
“What do you mean?”
“Miserable, sad affairs, done on the cheap, and the families, bleck. Neither of them went all the way to born again but there’s a lot of pretending that everyone’s just totally normal, white-picket-fence happy.” Then she laughed. “Wait, what am I saying? They are all totally normal white-picket-fence types.”
“But are they happy?”
“Not a chance.”
Okay, that was enough catch-up about family members who were little more than total strangers to me anyway. “So how’d you end up in Austin? Did you come here because we were going to be stopping here?”
“After Mom remarried, we moved to Texas. They stuck me in a private school but at least everyone there wasn’t a brainwashed 1950’s zombie.” She stretched. “I fell in with the, you know, the artsy rebel crowd there. Some of them live here now.”
“Oh. Okay.” That meant at least I could convince myself that some of the couch surfing she’d done wasn’t with total strangers looking for an easy fuck.
I know. I shouldn’t even think that way. But this is my kid sister we’re talking about, and how close was I at times to running away and probably ending up hustling my ass or whatever? Maybe I was exaggerating. Or maybe I was finally seeing the reality. I’d let Roger get off on me how many times without my consent after I’d missed a rent payment?
Maybe that was a bad example. Maybe I didn’t even know how to give consent then. Maybe that was fucked up in some completely different way. Which of us was using the other? I don’t know. It scared me to think no how clueless I was then.
Courtney, at least, didn’t seem as clueless. I knew why I didn’t want the suburban white picket fence dream, why I’d never fit into that life. I didn’t know why Courtney didn’t, except maybe she saw the women she knew being miserable at it.
I finally said, “If you really want to talk to Digger, Carynne can put you in touch. She talks to him every day, sometimes multiple times.” I didn’t want to say when he’d be joining us, honestly, because half of me believed he wasn’t going to show up. “You got a place to stay tonight?”
“Nowhere special,” she said, like it was a line from a movie or something. Then, “No, not really.”
“Well, we have an open bunk. That one.” I pointed. “I may as well show you around.” I gave her the nickel tour of the bus. “We don’t have a lot of rules–”
“Other than no smoking.”
“Other than that,” I agreed. “If someone doesn’t like a noise you’re making, they’ll tell you and expect it to stop. Headphones if you want to listen to music. Everything in the fridge is up for grabs unless someone puts their name on something, which I don’t think anyone has, in the bus.” That was actually a rule we had at the house in Allston, but I figured it applied, given that three of us lived there and the rest were over often enough. “Col, can you think of anything else?”
“No hogging the shower.”
My little sister, unlike me at her age, didn’t beat around the bush. “So can I come with you? Is this for tonight, or longer?”
“I have no fucking idea,” I said. “I’ll have to ask the guys if we can take a… passenger. I figure no one’s going to kick you out tonight, though.”
“‘Specially since none of them are even here,” Colin said. “Must be a good party.”
Or they must’ve all found other places to sleep.
Ziggy was the only one who came back that night, shortly after Courtney had gotten into her bunk on the bottom row, and me and Colin into our respective ones.
I was tired, and wired, but somehow with my sister lying there across the aisle from me, I could not even contemplate jerking off. Well, I contemplated it and decided no freakin’ way. Just no.