One ritual Jason and I have together is watching The Daily Show together every night before going to bed. Well, we don’t watch it together in that we’re not actually together, but we often call each other if we’re not with our significant other. Which is actually pretty frequently.
We’ve been watching The Daily Show together for years. I can’t even remember how long we’ve been doing this for. At least five years. Sometimes we argue though, because Jason thinks that The Colbert Report is a better show, but I think The Colbert Report is too much Colbert and you just kind of get overwhelmed. Not that Colbert isn’t funny or anything, but it’s just sort of too much.
Lately though, Larry and I have been spending the night together more and more, and I feel like it’s not appropriate to spend thirty minutes on the phone with another guy while I’m with my boyfriend. So our Daily Show ritual hasn’t been happening much lately.
Tonight while Larry is in his bathroom, brushing his teeth, I turn on the television in his bedroom to Comedy Central. Jon Stewart is just starting up his monologue. I love Jon Stewart. He’s funny but there’s also something sexy about him. Not enough to make my top five, but he’s definitely hot.
Larry comes out of the bathroom and sees what I’m watching. He looks sort of dismayed. “What is that?” he asks.
“It’s The Daily Show,” I say.
Larry frowns. “I always watch The Tonight Show.”
“The Tonight Show?” I stare at him. “What are you—middle aged?”
“It’s a really good show,” he says, a little sheepishly. “Leno is really funny. I like it when he does headlines.”
“Seriously?” I’m having trouble wrapping my head around this. My parents like Leno. People my age don’t like that show. Why are Larry’s tastes so weird? Why can’t we have one goddamn thing in common?
And I’m also kind of irked by the way he takes the remote and just changes the channel. I mean, he could at least try to like what I like. Or at least let me enjoy watching my show, considering I was here first.
My cell phone beeps and I see the text message from Jason pop up: “Daily Show?”
I reply: “Larry watching Leno”
Jason writes back: “Leno is for old people”
See? Jason gets it.
I’m about to text him further insults about Leno and people who watch Leno, but Larry crawls into bed with me, and I can’t very well do this in front of him. So I reluctantly put the phone down on my night table.
Larry fluffs his pillow then lays his head next to mine. He’s a pillow fluffer. He wants his pillow to be maximally puffy before he lays his head down on it. I expect him to start watching Leno’s monologue, but instead he has this weird frown on his face, almost like he’s constipated or something. Finally, I say, “What is it?”
“Tasha,” he says. “How come you always wear your socks to bed?”
What? What kind of stupid question is that? “I don’t know,” I say. “I guess my feet get cold.”
“It’s pretty unsanitary.”
Larry nods. “I mean, you wear the same shoes every day and then your socks are in those shoes. That’s kind of gross, don’t you think?”
“You should talk!” I cry. “You cut your toenails in bed!” And I don’t even want to add that after cutting his toenails, he will then touch me without washing his hands. I feel like shuddering at the thought of it.
Larry looks at me and I feel my hands balling into fists. I’m ready to fight with Larry. I want him to retort with someone else I do wrong so I can start ticking off his faults on my fingers. And there are a lot. I’ve got the next three lingering on the tip of my tongue.
“You’re right,” Larry says. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”
Fight averted. My shoulders sag and I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed.
My cell rings and for a moment, I’m hoping it’s Jason, but I know he won’t call while Larry is here. I’m shocked instead to see my parents’ phone number pop up. Why would my parents call at 11 at night? They go to bed at like 9 every night.
“Tasha?” I hear my mother’s voice on the other line, sounding small.
“What’s wrong?” I ask her, my heart pounding. If this is some sort of Lydia wedding disaster, I will kill her.
“Tasha,” she says, “Nana died.”
I feel stunned, which is probably a weird reaction considering Nana was about ninety years old. She was incredibly old. This was inevitable. I should have expected it. But I didn’t. “How…?”
“She took a nap this afternoon and I couldn’t wake her up,” Mom says. “The doctors said she had a stroke in her sleep. It was very peaceful.”
My mother’s voice breaks and that’s what gets me. The tears rise up in my eyes and in a second, they’re spilling over onto my cheeks. Larry looks at me in surprise and gives me a “what’s wrong” expression.
“Tasha?” I hear my mother’s voice. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I manage to say. “I’ll call you back later.”
I put down the phone and now the tears are flowing freely. I bury my face in my hands and sob.
“Tasha,” Larry is saying. I’d practically forgotten he was there. “Are you okay? What happened?”
“My grandmother died,” I say between sobs.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” Larry says. He puts his arm around my shoulders and I cringe. I don’t want Larry near me right now. I don’t even want him in the same room. His presence feels stifling. “Can I do anything?”
I shake my head. “Can… can I just be alone?”
Larry seems a little taken aback, but he nods. “Um, okay. Do… do you want me to shut the TV off?”
What kind of stupid question is that? I nod.
Larry turns the television off and crawls out of bed. He leaves the room and gently shuts the door behind him. I feel a little guilty, but not that guilty. More than that, I feel perplexed by how much my fiancé’s presence annoyed me. If Larry’s the guy I’m spending the rest of my life with, shouldn’t I want him to comfort me when I’m upset? But I know that anything Larry says will just make me feel worse.
The thing is, when I close my eyes and think about who in the world would make me feel better right now, there’s only one person who comes to mind. My best friend.
I reach for my phone and call Jason on speed dial. He answers right away, “Tasha, what’s up? Did Larry let you shut off Leno?”
I answer him with a sob.
His voice sobers up immediately. “Tash, what’s wrong?”
“Nana died,” I say, and then the tears turn into full wracking sobs. I’m crying my guts out and it lasts long enough that I start to feel self-conscious that I’ve been on the phone just crying for so long. Jason doesn’t say much, but the thing is, just knowing he’s there on the other line, makes me feel comforted somewhat. Especially since during one of my last conversation with Nana, she talked about what a great guy Jason was and how she wished I’d end up with him. Nana really liked Jason.
“I’m sorry,” I finally say, when I’ve recovered enough to speak again.
“Can I come over?” he asks me.
“No,” I say. “Larry’s here.”
“He is? Where?”
“I banished him to the living room,” I say, feeling slightly embarrassed.
“Let me drive you to Pittsburgh,” he says.
I hesitate. Actually, it would be great if Jason drove me, especially since I’m not quite sure how I’m going to scrape together enough money to fly to Pittsburgh, and the train is always agony. Plus there’s no one I’d rather take a road trip with than Jason, even under this kind of circumstance.
But I’m worried that if I let Jason drive me to Pittsburgh, it’s a slippery slope. I don’t want him to take that to mean I’m dumping Larry.
“I know it doesn’t mean you’re dumping Larry,” Jason says, as if reading my mind. “I just want to help you out. And I got that car that I never drive, just wracking up three hundred dollars a month in garage fees. Let me do this for you, okay?”
“Okay,” I hear myself saying, although before the word even leaves my mouth, I know this is going to be trouble.
Larry seems a little miffed when I tell him that I don’t want him to come with me to the funeral, although Larry never seems to get all that terribly miffed. “Don’t you want me to meet your family?” he asks in a hurt voice.
“Of course I do,” I insist, although the truth is that I’m dreading my family’s reaction to Larry. He’s so different from the guys I’ve dated in the past and I know they’ll all think I’m settling. I need to give Larry a makeover or something before anyone meets him. Or better yet, a personality transplant. “Just not under these circumstances. I don’t want them to always associate you with Nana’s death.”
“Yeah, but…” Larry bites his lip. “Don’t you want me to be there for you? Like, for comfort?”
I don’t have the heart to tell Larry that his comfort is more annoying than anything. “I’ll be okay,” I assure him. “Besides, I thought you said this was the busy time at work.”
“That’s true,” Larry agrees reluctantly.
In the end, Larry stays home. I tell him that Jason is giving me a ride and he finds that comforting, and says he knows I’ll be in good hands. Of course, that makes me feel guilty, because I know Jason’s intentions. But then again, I don’t have any intention of letting anything happen between me and Jason.
The next morning, Jason picks me up in his car bright and early for our trip to Pittsburgh. It’s roughly a six hour drive, so we have plans to stop for lunch at the halfway point. I’m still sleepy when I get out to the car and I feel resentful of how bright-eyed Jason looks for some reason. He actually looks very cute in a green T-shirt that highlights the color of his eyes.
“How are you feeling?” he asks me after I toss my bag in the trunk and climb into the front seat.
“Been better,” I say, although I feel guilty that my exhaustion is upsetting me more than the death of my grandmother. Although I miss Nana, I realize that she was very old and lived a full life.
“I was trying to think of what would cheer you up,” Jason says.
“Yeah?” I ask, my interest piqued.
“I wasn’t sure,” he says, “but I found this mix CD you made me in high school and I figured it might be fun to listen to.”
“Oh god,” I say. “This is probably going to embarrass me, isn’t it?”
“Well, let’s see,” he says and presses the play button of the CD player. We both wait, holding our breath, for the first song to start.
I hear a familiar voice warbling: “I want you to know that I’m happy for you. I want nothing but the best for you both. Another version of me, is she perverted like me? Would she go down on you in a theater?”
“Oh god,” I say. “It’s Alanis Morissette! You’re punking me. There’s no way I made you this CD.”
“You totally did,” Jason insists. “You were really into Alanis when she first came out. You thought she was really angsty and punk.”
“I did not!” I say. Although now that I think about it, I did recently discover the jewel case for Jagged Little Pill at my old bedroom at my parents’ house. “This is really embarrassing. I’m skipping it.”
“Okay,” Jason says agreeably.
I go to the next song and this is Flaming Lips’ “She Don’t Use Jelly.” This isn’t quite as embarrassing as having the most overplayed song of 1996 on a mix CD that I made, so I let it play.
“I can’t believe you were willing to hang out with me,” I say. “Considering the kind of crap music I made you listen to.”
“Well, you were hot,” Jason says with a grin.
He laughs and doesn’t say anything else.
As the CD goes on, I start to vaguely remember making this mix for him. I remember putting on some Sublime songs, thinking they would be fun to listen to while we got high together. It sort of brings me back to the days of high school, when my Nana was alive and life was… well, pretty damn good. High school was good for me, maybe the best time of my life in retrospect. Studying sucked, of course, but I had a great time and my choice of the hottest guys in the school. I imagined myself being a famous musician by now, or at least something famous or at least something really cool. I definitely never saw myself at age 32 teaching grade school and engaged to some loser that I don’t even like, much less love.
No, I don’t mean that.
I like Larry. I sort of love him. I mean, who’s really in love when they get married? That’s something that grows over time.
Anyway, I’m just… upset. Not at Larry.
I’m staring out the window, thinking about all this when I feel tears coming to my eyes. Jason glances over at me and he can tell I’m upset. He reaches over and takes my hand for a second, but then quickly takes it back because he needs his right hand to work the accelerator.
Eventually, we pull over at a McDonald’s. After we pull into the lot, Jason says to me, “You okay, Tasha?”
I nod. “Sorry.”
“Why are you apologizing?” he says. “Your grandmother died. I think you have a right to be upset.”
I nod again, although that’s only a small part of why I’m crying. I remember how Nana was always telling me that Jason was in love with me, and how I never believed her. She was the only one who guessed. Well, except for all of Jason’s girlfriends.
We order food, both of us opting for burgers and Cokes. When we’re sitting at the table, devouring our high calorie meals, Jason looks pointedly at my meal. “You used to always order chicken nuggets when we were kids,” he notes. He’s smiling gently and I can tell he’s trying to take my mind off whatever upset me in the car.
Jason will never let me forget that we knew each other back when we were two stupid kids. “I know,” I say. “But then they ruined the nuggets.”
“Yeah,” I say. “They used to be juicier and greasier and even have dark meat nuggets. Without the possibility of dark meat nuggets, I don’t see the point.”
“You realize,” Jason says, “that the reason they changed the chicken nuggets was that there was a lawsuit that said that whatever was in the nuggets before didn’t even qualify them to be called ‘chicken,’ right?”
“So that doesn’t bother you? That you were basically eating mystery meat?”
“Hey, I don’t come to this place to eat healthy,” I say. “Whatever was in those nuggets, it tasted good.”
Jason laughs and I realize that this isn’t the kind of easy conversation I could ever have with Larry. He’s too… serious. He could never joke around about chicken nuggets. Or anything, really.
“So,” Jason says, chewing on a French fry. “I’ve got to ask you, what’s sex like with Larry?”
I spit Coke all over my tray. Literally. I have to grab a napkin to clean it up while Jason smirks at me and says, “That good, huh?”
“It’s fine,” I say, trying to hide my pink cheeks.
“Why are you so red?” he says. “We’ve talked about sex before.”
“Yeah, but…” I don’t want to point out that we talked about sex before Jason admitted that I was the object of his desires. “You just never asked me about Larry before.”
“Well, I didn’t think you’d be marrying the guy.”
“Well, it’s fine,” I say again, sticking my chin out defiantly.
“What do you expect me to say?” I retort. “That it’s mind blowing?”
“No,” he says. “I definitely didn’t expect you to say that.”
I take a breath. If Jason’s goal was trying to keep me from feeling sad, he’s succeeded. Now I just feel irritated. “So what are you saying?” I ask, my voice growing angry and a bit sarcastic. “You think if you and I had sex, it would be so mind blowing or something?”
For a second, Jason looks stunned that I said that, enough that I feel a twinge of guilt. Finally he recovers and says in a quiet voice: “At least I’d do my best to try.”
Jason and I just stare at each other for a minute. While we’ve talked about sex before, this is the first time we’ve ever hinted at the idea of having sex together. I would have thought the idea would be weird, but it’s weirdly not weird. And my heart speeds up a bit when Jason leans forward and says in an even lower voice: “I have a mouth, after all.”
I don’t even realize I’m holding my breath for a minute. I feel an almost forgotten tingling in my panties, the way I feel right before I know something is going to happen with a guy I’m really into. I don’t know why I’m feeling this way, because it’s just Jason. All I know is that I haven’t had this feeling once in the entire time I’ve been with Larry. And I’ve missed it.
I think that’s all this is. There’s nothing between me and Jason, it’s just that Larry and I don’t have enough romance in our relationship. Well, maybe not romance, but heat. Once I get back, that’s just something we’ll need to work on once we get married.
I clear my throat. “I don’t think that will be necessary. I’m fine, thank you very much.”
“So you say,” Jason says, not looking like he believes a word of it.
To be continued....