pages Family Life

by Lauri Maerov

Published in Issue No. 65 ~ October, 2002

The bathroom door closes slowly–the triangle of harsh light thins to
gray as my lover shuts himself in. Only seconds before, Ralph
whispered in my ear as I lay beside my son on the hotel bed watching a
rerun of Miami Vice. I felt the cool point of his nose against
my cheek and his tongue for one brief wet flick. “Meet me in there in
five minutes,” he hissed, as if we were undercover spies at some big
shot’s party and the six year old by my side was our midget

I don’t care what Jakey watches as long as he’s stoned
oblivious on boxed wavy lines. If we can’t get him a babysitter,
he comes with us. We go to the movies a lot. We took him to Sexy
and Snatch. I just clamp my hands over his eyes till
the bad part’s over. Sometimes, Ralph has his fingers inside me
up my skirt. Jakey doesn’t seem to notice. Or maybe he does and
thinks that this is just the way things are. Jakey likes guns and loud
noises; so I can turn on anything like that and it’s cake, you
know, he’s out. Sometimes I even give him a little Vicodin or
muscle relaxant. It’s okay every now and then. Better than
leaving him home alone the way Jakey’s father, Shithead, and his
trailer trash girlfriend used to do.

So Ralph is waiting in the bathroom. I slip off the bed and join him.
He’s already started without me, which usually pisses me off,
but this time he has the magazines out, and he knows how I love those
magazines. Not soft stuff like Playboy, but hard like
and there’s a couple called Big Girls and
Lick that I really like.

I don’t know why I love these big fat asses and soft breasts
that cascade down like the hills outside Agoura after the burns when
there’s nothing left but furry brown slabs of dirt. I know girls
aren’t supposed to like this stuff, but it’s the only way
I get turned on these days with Ralph and he knows it.

It’s not that Ralph is bad looking or anything, although I miss
his pony tail and I can’t stand that hair gel he uses now
because it’s a bitch to get out of the sheets. It’s just
that everything about him is all edges, and he always wants to do it
from behind.

In the bathroom he’s already standing behind me with one hand reaching
down into my sweats. He pulls up my t-shirt and presses against my
skin and his other hand’s turning the pages. I don’t give
a damn anymore if he gets off. All I want is to look at these slick
girls with their bodies jutting out all the wrong ways. And I think,
how long did they have to stand there like that to get that
, and I wish I were there holding them up, my hands all over
them, spreading legs and arms and cupping all that soft fleshy stuff.

Then Ralph starts in on me again. “When are we going to get another
girl? Come on, don’t you have any friends you can bring with you
next time I come to visit?” I shake my head and I’m really
getting off now, because I know I’ve got Sheri and I’m not
telling him, and she’s a better fuck than he’ll ever be,
and it’s all his fault because he got me started on these

The next night, Ralph and I are having a fight, the same one like
always, about me and Jakey coming out to L.A. to move in with him.
That is not going to happen, even if he does promise to pay for
private school and make up the child support payments we’d lose
from Shithead. No way I’m leaving Vegas with my father still up
in Chino and me running the business and other particulars–meaning
Sheri. But Ralph doesn’t get it, and I’m not going to
spell it out for him. The only thing is, while we’re yelling,
Jakey finds the magazines. He sits in that sticky, vinyl hotel chair
eyeballing my girls for I don’t know how long.

Ralph sees him first. He clams up all of a sudden and eases over to
Jakey. Ralph puts his arm around my son and real gently closes the
magazine. He starts whispering, almost like a lullaby, about how
certain things are special for when you get older and how he’d
be happy to talk about it more in a few years, and maybe even some
time soon, only now it’s bedtime.

Jakey buys it cold. I guess that’s why I’m still hanging
on with Ralph, even though sometimes when he touches me I want to get
sick. Ralph loves that boy.

I tell him we’ve got to be careful with the magazines from now
on. At his house, we lock them up in the safe with the guns when
we’re done. I used to keep my crystal in there too, but Ralph
blew a gasket when he found it. He draws the line with meth since he
got back from rehab, and you have to respect him for that. I only do
it now when Jakey stays with Shithead.

Today, when Jakey and I are driving up to see Pop in Chino, he asks me
about the magazines. “Leila, do they have those magazines with men in
them?” Well yeah, I tell him, but I remind him about what Ralph said.
He’s just going to have to wait.

I keep a bunch of my favorites under the mattress for when Sheri comes
over. We love to lie in bed naked in the dark with the flashlight and
the magazines and our hands all over each other and Jakey lying on the
floor watching The Sopranos or some other stupid thing.

If Ralph could only see us now.

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Lauri Maerov is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Her essays have appeared in Southern Humanities Review and Every Woman Has a Story (Warner Books). She won the 1999 Literary Awards Fiction Prize for her short story "The Last Great Days of Slam Dunk" from Another Chicago Magazine. In addition, she is the author of the novel Copycat (Penguin).