“Slow Jamz”

When I was little, my mom had me and my brother kneel at our bedsides and recite our nightly prayers…Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be. She knelt beside and lead us in the prayers.

After the formal ones were concluded, she would ask certain saints to intercede on our behalf, and then would say the names of two girls–Katie&Sheila–with no saintly prefix before.

One night, when I was about 6, curiosity having the best of me, I asked, “Who is Katie and Sheila?”
She answered, softly, gently, that they were my sisters shortly before I was born. It sounded (and still does) more devastating that it actually felt.
“They were born with a rare disease. Sheila passed away first, then Katie.”
“Well, why do we ask them to pray for us?”
“Because they’re in heaven.”
“How do you know?”
My mom pursed her lips for a moment before explaining patiently how they had died too young to go to hell, that to sin, ones conscience must be able to distinguish right and wrong, which didn’t happen until one was 7ish. But because they were not even 5, they now resided in heaven. 

Soon I realized I knew the difference between good and bad and would always ask my twin sisters, during my nightly prayers, to help me decipher between the two. This Catholic thing was hard and complex, like calculus, with a lot of rules and nuances, and picking the right answer versus the wrong one had very important, even eternal, consequences.
It’s the end of March, still dreary as hell, cold as fuck. I receive a text from my mom. She’s been reading my old blog, searching my name on Google, scouring social media…the works. Suffice it to say, she disapproves of almost everything she finds. “It’s very crude, Brendan, ” she declares.

I hit her back, glibly: “Ma, damn, I wrote most of those stories years ago.” As if that made it easier for her to digest.

Always a stickler for details, she continues on, “Then why do they say they were published in March?…or this one, you didn’t know those people until the past year or so.”

“I’m just experimenting with different styles,” I text back, frustrated. This is half-true. These posts are an evolution of my older style and also an adaptation of stuff I’ve recently read. My mom only wants clean, wholesome Christian stories. My life is composed of the antitheses of those. Up until that time, I had nothing but smutty stories to tell or want to tell.

She messages again. “I don’t know why you would put that stuff on the internet for everyone to see forever. Do you think anyone is going to want to marry someone who talks about girls like that?” But I hadn’t thought much of marriage and I wasn’t trying to brag or demean anyone. I just wanted to tell entertaining stories. So I had nothing to say in returns silently dwelling on what she had just illuminated for me.

A few days later, the usual crew is pregaming at my place. We’re passing around a joint and a plate, polishing off a case of Two Hearted, swigging from a pint of vodka. Logan hits me up so I tell him to slide thru. Besides Steve-O, he is one of the few dudes Rican bear to have around lately. If I express myself thru words, then he does it thru music, so I always let him DJ at leat part of the time. He starts playing this ultra bluesy, underground Amy Winehouse-ish piece. This woman’s heart is broken and longing. You can hear it in her voice.

Logan is tapping his feet, patting his knees, and bobbing his head along to the music. “This is why I love the fucking blues, man,” he drawls. “You hear that?”

I don’t hear it. He’s still swaying to the music. I take another pull of the vodka and pass him the plate. I never had much musical talent.

“She is stuck out in the rain,” he explains, furtively glancing at Kasey. I raise an eyebrow. I men, that is what she is singing but clearly he’s hinting at something more.

“She’s stuck out in the rain, Brendan” he says again, nodding towards Kasey as he moves along to the song.

I look at Kasey, who is sitting cross-legged next to me, to see if she had noticed Logan, but when I turn to her, she matches my gaze and smiles up at me innocently. She is just happy to be there.
Lately I hadn’t responded at all to my mom because I feel like she never had anything positive to say. E.g. she’d text me: “Would you want your future father-in-law to read those stories?”

Of course fucking not, Ma, I think. But none of these stories are about his about his daughter…

I suddenly recall some throwaway comments Logan made the other night. 

He was talking about how his older sister was about to marry some guy and there wasn’t any stopping her. He just wants to make sure she was sure that her boyfriend was the one. He shrugs his shoulders after explaining the whole situation. I ask about his family. He tells me how he is the youngest of three, with two older sisters, which makes sense because he is pretty wise to the ways of women considering how young he is. It took a lot of struggle&heartbreak on both sides for me to figure it out. 

He asks the same of me. I tell him I’m the oldest of 3 brothers. I hesitate before adding, “That’s technically not true. I had two older sisters who died before I came along.” I don’t know why I’m telling him. I hardly tell anyone. I almost need think about it.

“Wow,” he muses, “you ever think what it’d be like if they were still alive?”

“No,” I lie, because that’s all I’m thinking about now: how I grew up thinking I was the gifted eldest son; how, in reality, I’m more akin to a middle child acting out recklessly; how useful and annoying having two older sisters would’ve been.

Later that night, after Logan had left, me and Kasey are walking up to Ashley’s to meet up with Shay and her friends. We’re about to cross Thompson St., in front of the old abandoned restaurant, and Kasey observes, quietly, “I guess I’m your girl now.” I don’t affirm or object to her statement. This moment just feels like that blues song and I am only now picking up on its rhythms.

I sigh in resignation because I’m the last to know. I go, “Pinkies?” holding out my pinkie finger for her to grasp with her own and she does.

“Fuck,” I’m thinking, ” I caught the worst STD of all: feelings.”

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