by Kacy Cunningham
You think you’ve had awkward sex? Try sleeping with someone who has the same name as you. Sure, he spelled it with a “y,” but it sounds the same. I always wondered why people care how you spell your name. It’s not some kind of intimacy, unless you think Starbucks calling out your name at the end of the espresso line is intimate (and okay, maybe sometimes it is). As a rule, though, keep it phonetic, people.
Anyway, the similarities between Cody and I went further: his last name also started with a “T,” and our birthdays were only two days apart! November 12th and 14th, same year. Weird, right? But the weirdest of all was calling out his name when I climaxed. I mean, I’m the first to admit that I’m self-centered, but that was an extreme even for me. One night, he said my name twice in a row in this breathless whisper, and I couldn’t help giggling and answering, “Oh yes, Cody?”
“What’s so funny?” he said, still inside me.
“Were you talking to me or yourself?” I smiled. “I guess I’ll never really know,” I said and winked. I tried to get the rhythm between us back, but we’d lost it – I leaned forward when he leaned forward, nearly knocking into each other.
“Damn it, Codi,” he said and pulled out.
So I’m a tad immature. “Come on,” I said. “It’s funny. How many people can joke about this?” He didn’t answer. He crossed his arms over his bare chest, moody and brooding. “Sex can be fun sometimes, you know. Some people like to laugh.”
Things with Cody didn’t work, and not because of the sex. It’s too bad, really, because he was quite the catch, and I’d say that even if we weren’t so alike.
Back when there was hope though, Cody invited me to his parents’ for dinner. They made king fish and grits, two things I despised and didn’t eat.
“But it’s smoked,” Cody said, defending the fish. He took me out back to show me the fish smoker, like I didn’t believe him. He flicked his thick blonde dreads over his shoulder, proud.
“I just don’t like seafood. You know that.”
“Taste buds change,” he said and shrugged and lit a cigarette.
His brother, Ray, was a skinny teenager who made me never want to reproduce. He sat against the tall muddy wheel of his Dad’s Ford truck and listened to Rammstein on full blast and on repeat.
Fishing was like Cody’s family’s religion, not a hobby but a ritual. His father made a living as a commercial fisherman – I didn’t know there was such a thing – and they went out every Sunday afternoon, rain or shine, which is sort of admirable because rain in Florida is devastating, what with the annoying regular evacuations when streets are underwater in a matter of hours. Anyway, that summer Cody and I spent together, I fought off countless fishing invites until he said that his mom requested my company.
“Your mom goes every time? Even in the rain?”
So I agreed, if only to know this selfless, warrior woman better. We took two fishing boats, not glamorous flat pontoons with nets and poles lining the deck and a cabin crew serving chilled champagne like I hoped. No, these were small things that looked like rowboats but with rickety engines haphazardly attached to the back. Needless to say, we didn’t move very fast.
“It’s not about speed,” Cody said, screaming unnecessarily. The two of us were in one boat, and his mom, dad, and gloomy brother were in the other boat. They all looked ahead, their tan faces so serious. Slowly, carefully, Cody’s mother positioned herself to lie down and relax on the wood slab of a seat. I kept stealing glances at her; she sat near the top of the boat. Her legs were extended over the edge now, her pink toes with red polish flexing back and forth. Eventually, her eyes closed. Her face was to the sun. She seemed to be dreaming!
Meanwhile, the boat rocked on and water splashed in incessantly. I gripped the sides of the boat, clenching my teeth.
Cody smiled at me.
His dad winked my way.
“Not so bad, huh?” Cody said. His blue eyes looked so clear, shining, happy, and because some part of me really cared about him, I tried – I really tried – to smile back. I wanted to enjoy this moment, I did. But no. I had to look away from those hypnotizing blue eyes. Not so bad? Were we on the same boat? Bigger boats with real engines whizzed around us, and I closed my eyes tight. I felt vomit rising. “Is it almost over?” I asked in a shrill, squeaky voice.
Cheers erupted from the family boat. I opened my eyes to see Cody standing, back straight. He was reeling in his fishing pole with great care.
“What is it, son?” his dad asked like he was Lassie the dog. “What ya got there, son? Another king fish for supper?”
“Don’t interrupt his concentration, honey,” his mom said. This – all of it – the blazing summer sun bouncing over the water making it hotter than I thought possible, the crappy boats, the whine of those makeshift motors, the never-ending waves, this family bickering, the hope for king fish for dinner – oh, this was my hell.
Everyone was silent then, and I looked to see what they saw: a long, silvery fish jerking on the fine line. Cody turned toward me. “Hold it steady,” he said.
“Hold what steady?”
“The boat. Just sit real still.”
“What are you doing?” I asked, standing where I had been sitting as he began to slowly lower the fish to the boat. “Where are you putting it? Don’t you have a basket or a bucket or something?” I looked around – nothing. Just as he set the fish on the floor of the aluminum boat, as the slimy fish body was flappity-flopping against the boat, I scrambled to the far back of the little boat and jumped. The water was warm and salty in my eyes and mouth.
“Codi!” Cody said behind me. I didn’t know what to do so I foolishly put a hand up and waved, not looking back, and I doggy-paddled toward the shore. We weren’t too far from the swampland where we’d pushed out. A little further and I’d be able to reach the muddy sand and run back to the car to make my getaway.
Cody and his family turned the boats around and came as quickly as they could, thinking I wanted to be rescued. His father extended his pudgy hand.
“No, thanks,” I said, swimming slowly between the boats.
“I threw the fish out,” Cody said. “Get in. It’s fine.”
“I’m okay, thanks.”
“Babe, it was one fish. Do you know how many fish there are in the entire ocean?”
It was a good point, but I couldn’t see those fish and I didn’t have to sit next to them and share such close proximity.
Cody’s mom laughed. “You’re literally swimming with the fish!”
I hated them all. I hated that four-foot iron smoking device in their backyard where they smoked all the fish they caught. I hated seafood and grits. But most of all, I hated that I was here, swimming to shore surrounded by people I didn’t like very much, if at all.
“Just leave me alone!” I cried and I dove underwater, swimming as fast as I could, eyes open to watch for fish. I kicked like crazy to spray water all over them. It’s crazy, I know, but that’s life; sometimes you just find yourself in the middle of an ocean, swimming alone, and asking yourself honestly, “How the fuck did I end up here?”
Kacy Cunningham just finished the first draft of her first novel. When she’s not writing, she’s cornering the market on being a basic betch.