Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 13


No, For The 13th Time

Seeing the maid of honor reminded me of the Hearts tournament.  If a moment could be pinpointed where the world had turned on my sister, this would be it.  Innocently enough at the time, but I should have known better.  By this time I had already learned my lesson on setting up my sister with my friends, but the opposite lesson was not yet true. 

    Yes, I was a hypocrite. 

    My sister was living in an apartment with a girl she knew from somewhere.  All of my friends were enamored with her hot roommate in some way or another, making every attempt to fish for an invite whenever possible.  I didn’t particularly mind, as I shared their fancy to a degree and liked hanging out with sis.  It soon became routine that a rotating cast of characters would hang out and play cards a couple of times a week.

    One night, after a particularly fierce game, the conversation shifted to who was the best card player among our little tribe.  Everybody was entitled to their own opinion, with most statements ending with a cocky “…besides me” in an effort to impress the object of our affection.  Unable to reach a consensus, we decided to organize a tournament to answer the question once and for all.

    Turning the tournament into a social event was my sister’s idea.  Rather than the typical stand around and drink cocktail gathering, she was always fond of theme parties and enjoyed the planning and preparation that went into the festivities.  The game of choice would be Hearts, with an elimination format that was so confusing it was a wonder we were even able to get people interested in participating.  (Of course, most weren’t coming over for the tournament...)

    We needed sixteen players for this to work effectively.  My sister had eleven lined up; I was tasked with filling the remaining five slots.  I found four without any problem (dangling the roommate as bait didn’t hurt) and asked around to learn if anyone knew a serious card player for the last seat.  That player ended up being Nelson.  I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.

    But how could I have?  Friend of a friend, liked playing cards, seemed harmless enough.  How much of a screening process did I need?  An extensive background check and three references from former lovers?  I wasn’t even trying to set them up.  It was just one of those things that happens when you least expect it.

    In actuality, my most vivid memory of that day wasn’t Nelson and my sister meeting.  I really didn’t give it much thought when it happened.  Instead I remember being bounced from the tournament in the first “real” round after a misguided strategy in the qualifier backfired on me.  I can usually play decent defense when it’s every man for himself, but a three against one conspiracy is hard to overcome without having a lot of luck in the deal.  And luck was certainly not on my side on this day.

    Harnessing those feelings of embarrassment, shame, and anger allowed me to blink back to 1998.  It was still midday, giving me plenty of time to walk over to my sister’s place from the future wedding site.  Again I wished that I was able to go home first to change out of my hospital scrubs, but I still had a bad feeling.  I may have undone the trip that led me to the hospital by going back to the wedding, but what if I hadn’t?  Or what if I had both undone and redone it in yet another attempt to coerce myself?  In the end I had to trust my instinct that it wasn’t a risk worth taking.

    I made the trip to my sister’s apartment without getting too spectacularly lost.  Normally I took the subway when I visited, and thus knew the last leg quite well as a pedestrian.  Getting there entirely by foot would have been more difficult had I not learned from my previous blunders and followed the train tracks to a place I was familiar with.

    Upon my arrival I immediately discovered a flaw in my plan.  Although my sister lived on the first floor, the building was raised from ground level.  Three steps led up to her front door.  Combined with the fact that I was already wading in the earth due to elevation differences between the park and the city, it left me just head and shoulders above the hardwood floor upon entering.  Interacting with myself might be out of the question this time around.

    My sister and her roommate were in the kitchen preparing snacks for the main event.  The roommate was wearing a t-shirt, a new pair of fitted jeans, and open toed red shoes that showed off her pedicured feet but not much else.  My sister wore a thin sweater and a long, loose skirt.  With my lower perspective and invisibility I started to wish their outfits were reversed, but my nice guy instinct overrode my sex drive and forced me to stay focused.

    They talked as they cooked, expertly moving around the kitchen without getting in the way of each other in a choreographed routine they had performed a million times before.

    “How many people did you say were coming?” asked the roommate.

    “Sixteen for the tournament, though you never know who else will show up to watch.”

    “You didn’t count me as a player, did you?  I hate cards.”

    Hates cards?  I suddenly liked her roommate a lot less.

    “What do you mean you hate cards?  You play with my brother and I every week.”

    “You haven’t noticed that I’m terrible and lose every time?  I just play because I like the attention.  Especially from your brother.”

    Likes me?  I suddenly liked her roommate a lot more.  My sister didn’t seem to feel the same way.

    “My brother?” she laughed.  “You can’t.”

    “Why not?  It’s not like you’re about to go after him in an incestual affair.”

    Sis made a face.  “Of course not.  But he’s like...your roommate-in-law.  It would be incest for you too.  Plus we share a wall.”

    “Enough.  I get it.  It’s not like anything will come of it anyways.  Don’t say anything to him, okay?”

    My sister just smiled as she put her magic nacho casserole into the oven.

    “I’m serious.  Promise you won’t tell him.”

    “I promise I won’t tell my brother that you have the hots for him.”

    Not that the promise would matter, as now I did know.  That would have been good information to have a few years ago.  I was actually a little upset that my sister hadn’t told me.  If she was screening I couldn’t really blame her, as I was fairly certain who she learned that trick from. 

    Dual memory syndrome started to have its way with my mind again.  Only this time, the second memory was better than the first.  I began to recall a series of harmless trysts with her roommate over the years.  Nothing too serious, just an occasional roll in the hay without any strings.  As a matter of fact, I was starting to realize that the first of these was going to be today.

    Was it real life or just fantasy?  Bounced from the Hearts tournament early, everyone else still occupied by the games, she and I on the living room floor.  “Consider me your consolation prize.”  Although I was fairly sure that never happened, a vivid landslide of memories were tumbling through my mind.  Or were they?  I couldn’t even remember if we were lovers or if I just wanted to.

    The door buzzer sounded as I pondered this conundrum.  My daydream breezed into the hallway and pressed the unlock button without first using the intercom to identify the entrant.

    “Who’s here early?” my sister asked.

    “Don’t know.  We’ll find out.”

    “I really wish you wouldn’t open the door without knowing who it is first.”

    “What’s the big deal?  Our apartment door is always locked.”

    The words weren’t even completely out of her mouth yet when the always locked apartment door opened with neither effort nor knock and my younger self walked in. 

    “Always locked, eh?” started my sister.  “And don’t you ever knock?”

    I maneuvered into a position behind a chair so as not to startle myself with the image of his lifelike bust on the floor of the apartment.

    “Sorry,” said younger me.  “Being buzzed in and then knocking on top of that seems pointless.  It’s like getting double permission to enter.”

    “What if we were naked?” asked the roommate.  I could tell she was flirting based on the conversation I had just eavesdropped, but younger me was oblivious.

    “Um.  I’m sorry,” he said, hiding behind his long dyed hair and inspecting the ground in front of him. 

    Why was I acting so shy?  Inexperience?  I realized that the cute little redheaded girl hadn’t came into my life at this point, and thus the confidence she instilled in me was also missing.  I always recalled feeling more confident when my sister was around, but maybe the effect was cancelled out by the presence of a (presumably) unobtainable crush.

    My sister had had enough.  “Alrighty then.  Who wants a drink?”