I have not been in a small private plane before. I have not been with a rich boyfriend before who can invite me to Southampton for the weekend, a place I have not heard of. He says we will fly there from Manhattan and that it’ll take about 30 minutes. He is a kid like me, but it is his father’s house and his father’s arrangements that include the plane. I pretend that this is no big deal but I am nervous, and I hate that I am nervous. Not nervous about the plane. That's nothing. Nervous about being with these people who are not nervous about anything.
I like the way my new boyfriend looks – especially his long dark curly messy hair. And he’s a writer. He’s written a novel. Already. I am out of my league, but any boy who is not my old high school awkward gangly boyfriend makes me feel out of my league. I feel out of my league with everyone actually.
Jeffrey was in this summer’s writing class that I only signed up for because my father wanted me to take a class at his favorite college. The writing class met once a week around a seminar table in a basement with tiny windows along the tops of the walls, giving us a groundhog’s view of cut grass.
I noticed Jeffrey during the second session when he kept catching my eye every time the group broke into laughter. I’d laugh, look up, and there would be that boy’s brown eyes, laughing like everyone else but looking straight at me.
A few weeks later and he has written to me a single-spaced two page letter on crinkly white onion skin that says at the very end “I love you” – words so precious I am immediately afraid of losing them. Words given to me by a boy I have noticed for his pony tail and the interesting cotton smocks that he wears, smocks I have never seen before and wonder where he gets them – he has said these magic words though we have only spoken once or twice, like when he mentioned that novel after class. A novel. He’s written a novel. How did he do that? How does anyone do that? How will I ever be able to do anything like that?
The house in Southampton is a mansion with a circular drive, and people who all know each other, family and friends of family. Jeffrey, this brand new boyfriend, who says he loves me but it is hard to believe it, feels at ease here.
He laughs as we stand outside in the dark, talking to a boy named Eric who is Jeffrey’s stepbrother. A stepbrother. A stepmother. Divorced parents. All things that my plain family cannot claim.
“How are you?” asks Jeffrey to Eric, who responds, “Stoned,” and Jeffrey laughs. I do too, happy to be with people who smoke pot and know where to get it. Jeffrey has plenty of pot, and a bong to smoke it from. He also knows how to have sex. I have been looking for a boy who can take me across, and Jeffrey has, in my mother’s double bed when the family was away, under the framed photograph of me as a two-year-old – and of course I did not tell Jeffrey this was my maiden voyage. He must not know.
For I am his third sleeping-together girlfriend. He’s already had two, and mentions their names easily, telling stories from time to time, laughing – already he has so many lover stories and I have to let him assume that Bob was an appealing ex-lover too.
“How are you doing?” Jeffrey asks during one of the Southampton weekends. “Me and Jane used to play the Truth Game. It means you have to answer the question and say the truth.”
We are sitting on the bed in the well appointed bedroom we’ve been assigned for the weekend. Jeffrey sits cross-legged, barefoot, in tee shirt and jeans.
It’s come up before, this truth thing, this saying the truth. It seems to be part of having a real boyfriend who says he loves you.
I can’t say how awful it felt to play backgammon when he is teaching me and winning over and over. I can’t say how bad it felt to sit with him and his sister as they made each other laugh while I just guessed at what might be the right things to say.
But this time I do say something. I say I’d like to leave. With him. To go back to the city. “Really?” Jeffrey is taken by surprise. “Why?”
I’m not sure, I say.
“Well, ok,” says Jeffrey, “but you better tell my father.”
I had not expected this, had not realized there would be protocol, but what do I know of families and mansions and weekends?
I tap on the door of the room that Jeffrey’s dad and his wife share. I have been here before. Have sat on the king-sized bed with Jeffrey as the family banters – but now it is just Alvin. In this family you call the grown-ups by their first names.
“What’s up, sweetheart,” drawls Alvin, hardly looking up. He is a small man, sitting on the bed made by women, leaning against the headboard, his legs extended, watching television and smoking. He wears an ironed button-down shirt and pants with a crease.
I say apologetically that although it’s only Saturday afternoon I’d like to go back to the city.
I don’t say how much easier it is to be with Jeffrey by myself, that that’s when I like it best – when it’s him and me in that Manhattan apartment, littered with Jeffrey’s childhood but where no one lives anymore, where we can walk up First Avenue in the middle of the night for an ice cream sundae or a hamburger in a coffee shop or into a movie theater in the afternoon – all things I have never done before.