Feathers From the Sky

By: Posy Roberts

THERE WERE twenty… thirty… fifty people at my parents’ house. Of course I was exaggerating, but it sure felt like it. There were really fourteen people jammed into my parents’ 1950s ranch-style house that maybe had twenty-six hundred square feet, if we were lucky. Half of that square footage was downstairs, and half of that was an unfinished furnace/storage room. So we had three quarters of the house to use. Minus the kitchen, because Mom was cooking lunch and wanted us to stay out of her way.

To say we were packed in like sardines was an understatement, especially when you took into consideration my parent’s tendency to collect retro furniture. Add to that the fact that my oldest brother and sister each brought along enough toys for their kids to fill a preschool classroom, along with portable cribs for the twins and even two high chairs, and the space got even tighter. And their spouses. It was ridiculous.

Making matters worse was that we were going on five days living like this. The festive cheer of Christmas week had worn off the second the wrapping paper from the gifts had been stuffed into black trash bags and hauled outside three days ago, at least in my estimation.

Why the fuck did I decide to spend my entire vacation here? I texted my friend Miya. I knew, of all my friends, she’d understand my plight without me having to expound any further, because she had a big family too.

Because we love our families? Because we love that our parents were fruitful and multiplied?

Yeah. She got it.

I never liked multiplication.

Five more days, Cal. We can both make it until after the New Year.

Are you sure? I really didn’t know if I could.

All I got back was a curt Yes. I knew the conversation was over, so I left her alone.

I was the fourth of seven kids. I was an introvert surrounded by extroverts. I was also a classic middle child who got stuck either negotiating or being ignored. Except I wasn’t being ignored at all on this trip home. More attention had been paid to me than the last twenty-six years of my life, and it was the type of attention that pretty much made me want to run away.

“When are you gonna settle down?”

“Are you dating?”

“Have you got a girlfriend?”

“What are you looking for in a woman?”

A penis and balls wasn’t an answer that would go over very well in my be-fruitful-and-multiply family. I’d come out to them as bisexual when I was sixteen but then dated a girl. It didn’t last. After graduation, I’d gone as far as I could while still remaining in Minnesota. My dad taught in the university system, so I got a discount on my tuition if I stayed within it. I wanted to be able to be who I was without news of that easily traveling back to my family, and going to college in the tree-filled Iron Range seemed like a good place to hide. Duluth and the North Shore had been perfect for me.

The first person I seriously dated at college was a woman. Same with the second. My parents heard about both of them. And then I dated a man. My parents didn’t hear a thing about him. That’s when I realized I might not be the Kinsey three I’d thought I was, because I felt so much more comfortable with men. I was closer to a four, maybe a five, but without any guys willing to play with me down in rural south-central Minnesota when I was growing up, I hadn’t even had the opportunity to experience the real me until college. I still liked women, but in college I finally had the opportunity to be with men, and I dated several men in a row. Yet I kept all that to myself because my family already knew I was bisexual, so I assumed they’d eventually expect me to date a guy.

What ended up happening was my entire family thought my bisexuality truly meant I thought men were attractive, but I was pretty much hands off with them. They expected me to possibly make out with some guys, but then thought I’d eventually settle down with a woman, get married, and have babies the normal way.

But now I was with Philip. Philip Sherman. I loved his name. Philip. It even felt good in my mouth when I said it. He felt good in my mouth too.

“Mommy! Mackie stoleded my woobie!” my three-year-old nephew screamed at the top of his lungs, and then started his fake cry that drove me insane.

My sister, Jen, came to my auditory rescue. “Jaycee, use your inside voice, and remember your cousins are only one. Mackenzie and Ella don’t know any better. Just let Mackenzie have your woobie for a minute. She’ll get bored with it and then it’s yours again.” She looked at me with an apologetic smile, even though Jaycee wasn’t her kid and Mackenzie was. She knew I couldn’t stand the over-the-top crying moments. I’d always hated them with my younger brothers and sister when we were little too. I’d even hated the melodramatic teenage girl moments my other older sister Jessica had.

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