"You're here," he murmurs through my hair. "Yes, you idiot," I answered playfully, "ARE you drunk?"
He wasn't. The pub is jammed and GI Jim is nowhere in sight. B returns with a drink to tell me he thinks GI Jim is on the make and he doesn't want to cramp his style. It isn't long before closing time when I see a hulking man waving through the throng and B suggests we take the party home. When we arrive at his place, GI Jim is already there.
He's bigger than I remember from photos B had shown me, tatted up with a no-nonsense army buzz cut and harder looking in person. I get the sense he's fiercely protective of B and he eyes me up and down like I could be the Enemy.
A couple comes out of the hallway, the man long haired with piercing blue eyes in a cut off metal shirt whom B introduces as Crazy Jesus followed by a tall translucently skinned redhead with almost gothic make up, "My college best friend, and his girlfriend, Jezebel."
Crazy Jesus tucks Jezebel closer to him as we all plop on the couch, almost as if he's afraid she may fall into my clutches. She seems relieved to see me probably having had it with the all male-chaffing and eager to have female company. B later informs me they'd been razzing Jezebel the entire night to no avail, "she never says anything funny, we tried EVERYthing." I feel for her and we attempt a somewhat stilted chat between Crazy Jesus holding her in a death grip and B draping himself over me. GI Jim eyes all of us with cynical disgust and hunkers down to squeeze a throw pillow.
I decide to shelve my questions and spend the rest of the night having Crazy Jesus shift between giving me a drilling stare and paying attention to Jezebel, who's really quite sweet beneath the matted Emo Rock look. As the witching hour draws closer, I make noises about leaving, B looks at me like I’m delusional, “You’re not going anywhere Panda,” he informs me with a sly smile. I half-hiss, half-whisper that clearly his house is full of guests and he may be better occupied tending to them.
B ignores this as if I hadn’t said a word, drags me upwards and with a wave sings off a “Night y’all”, effortlessly taking me with him. Crazy Jesus immediately stretches out while I look helplessly at Jezebel who returns it in equal measure as she disappears into Crazy Jesus' arms. GI Jim does nothing but grunt a good night. Apparently, the Caveman Convention is in town and we're dinner.
I'm not exactly sure who wrote the evening's program, but between my asking questions and complaining that really I should go, all B does is look at me dotingly as if I were nothing more than a tiny talking doll. "Shhh, Panda, bedtime." he says folding me into him and promptly snoring away.
In the morning, B tells me they’re going to a Metal Festival and I decline to join, thinking of the heated pit where they usually host such things. We volunteer to walk to the store and stock up on drinks for their drive. I’m not saying much as B tells me about the 4th of July weekend he spent out of town, more because I’m thoughtful over meeting his best friends when B suddenly confesses, “You know the 4th was a guys’ weekend, you know that right?” I shrug and smile, “Oh ok, of course.”
Men often rail against their freedoms being curtailed, by questions or demands, "the old ball and chain" they joke. But do they know that women equally rail against the burden of caring? That even while it's in our nature to care, to cosset, to have concern, we know only too well the cost of such feelings. With age, most of us have received the bill for all that, and we've paid - with peace of mind, with our bodies, even with our souls. We pay with the years of ourselves we give to someone and something with love.
I love being coupled, I do. Yet I dread potentially slipping into the role of being someone's jailer, as if suddenly I was designated Keeper of the Moral High Ground. And my partner would then look at me with the admiration formerly reserved for his mother and unfortunately, also with the annoyance of a small child not wanting to be reminded of what he should or shouldn't do. This isn't the destiny of every relationship by any means but at least in Area 51, such issues are averted, and I'm blissfully free to choose NOT to care. Or appear not to. My so-called unconcern wouldn't be taken with suspicion or be deeply questioned.
I'm woefully lacking the penchant to chastise him. That never works anyway and I was still too busy processing what in the world B was trying to accomplish by having me meet his closest friends. This is NOT Area 51 protocol.
We get back to his house and hand out the shopping, I say my goodbyes and watch Jezebel's pale face lengthen in regret as she finds out I'm not coming. I realize that unlike her, I was free from having to endure 12 hours of screeching death metal in a hundred degree heat with likely soon to be inebriated boys who'd do nothing to amuse themselves except for harassing her. I hug her sweetly and tell her to bring wipes. She looks at me like she knows exactly what I'm talking about.
GI Jim is on form barking out timelines as B dawdles kissing me quite thoroughly in front of all of them. All I hear as B giggles through the kiss is GI Jim going, "Oh Jeeeezus Effin Ch-RYst. Can we stop the love in now?"