But Dad didn't get along with his oldest sister, Aunt Edna, so we never visited her, and saw her only rarely, at an occasional Thanksgiving Dinner. I knew only a little about her family: her husband, Uncle John, fat and blustering; a grown-up daughter, who moved to California; and Cousin Phil, about ten years older than me.
As far as I can remember, I've only met Cousin Phil five times in my life. One of them resulted in a sausage fondle.
I was six years old, and Cousin Phil was a slim teenager with long hippie-hair, wearing a white t-shirt that displayed two pinprick nipples (I wanted to squeeze them). He sat at the table looking at his hands. When Grandma Davis told him to "dress properly and show some respect," he ran into the bedroom and wouldn't come out to eat.
I was eight, and Cousin Phil was in high school, old enough to drive a car, still thin and pale and long hair. He wore a plaid shirt and frayed jeans, and three strands of love beads. He flashed the peace sign at me, but otherwise we didn't speak.
I was eleven, and Cousin Phil was a college man, majoring in one of the sciences (I think physics) at Tiffin University. A little thicker in the arms and the chest, cute but not "dreamy," with short brown hair and dark blue eyes. He was wearing an orange leisure suit.
He brought a friend, an Ethiopian guy named Malcolm. They nudged each other and giggled all during dinner. I assumed that they were boyfriends, that they had escaped the trajectory of job-house-wife-kids that the adults were plotting for us and found joy in each other.
I kept in contact with Malcolm for a few years, even going swimming with him the following summer, always assuming that he was my cousin's boyfriend.
I was fourteen, and Cousin Phil was an adult, a college graduate who had a job working for the city of Montpelier, Ohio (I think in the waste water management plant). His hair was long again, a little scraggy, and his face was pale. He was thicker still in the arms, almost muscular. He had a smooth heavy chest and a little belly.
Malcolm was not in the picture; instead, he brought a girlfriend!
I was devastated to discover that they weren't "best men," a gay couple, after all.
After Thanksgiving Dinner, Aunt Edna and her family stayed in Rome City with Aunt Nora, and my family drove back to Grandma Davis's farmhouse, about twenty miles away, to spend the night. My brother and I were sent up to bed at 9:00 pm, while the adults stayed downstairs, playing Yahtzee and watching tv.
Around 11:00 pm, Dad burst into our room and turned on the light. "Get your clothes on!" he barked. "We're going home!"
"To Rock Island?" I asked. "But we're supposed to stay until Sunday."
"Shut up and get into the car! Hurry up!"
We pulled on our clothes, dumped our pajamas into our suitcases, and rushed down the stairs. I stopped to use the bathroom. Grandma Davis wasn't around. Mom and Tammy were already in the car. I could tell that Mom had been crying.
Adults never told kids anything, but I surmised that there had been an argument, and Grandma Davis ordered Mom and Dad out, or they decided to leave.
Dad gunned the engine, and we roared down the dark country roads.
"We can't drive all the way back to Rock Island!" Mom exclaimed. "We wouldn't get home until dawn! Besides, I want to visit my Dad and sisters tomorrow!"
"Well, where are we supposed to go?" Dad asked. "To a hotel? They won't rent us a room in the middle of the night!"
"Let's go back to Nora's house. I can't wait to tell her about this. She'll take my side, I guarantee."
So we drove back to Rome City, where Aunt Nora was conciliatory. There were eight people in the house already, but she put Dad on the couch, Mom and Tammy in her room, and Kenny and me with Cousin Phil in the attic.
We crept up the attic stairs, carefully closed the door behind us, and undressed, dropping our clothes to the floor. In the orange glow of the space heater, I could see that Cousin Phil was lying on the bed on his back. He had kicked off the quilt and the comforter.
He was naked! I could see his thick, smooth chest, his little belly with an innie belly button. And his penis lying against the dark mass of his pubic hair. Very thick Bratwurst+.
"I'll give you a dime if you touch it," my brother whispered.
"No problemo!" I climbed onto the bed and slid next to Cousin Phil. I brushed my hand over his chest, down his belly, and slowly approached his penis.
But I didn't get there.
"Hey...what..." Cousin Phil murmured. He opened his eyes and stared at me. "Boomer...what.."
"We have to sleep here tonight. Aunt Nora said so."
"Mm......hang on a minute." He jumped off the bed and pulled on his underwear. "Ok, hop in. But no kicking, ok?"
I stayed awake for most of the night, but eventually I got Cousin Phil to hold me in his arms. I touched his belly and his hand, fondled his chest and his pinprick nipples, and reached down to briefly caress his warm, thick penis through his underwear. I don't know if he was awake or not.
That was enough for a lot of fantasies during the next few years.
After breakfast in the morning, Aunt Edna and her family left. We didn't return to Indiana for Thanksgiving again until 1980, and Cousin Phil wasn't there. One thing led to another, and I didn't see him again for 40 years.
We're both back in Indianapolis for a funeral.
Cousin Phil is 65, gray and craggy, shorter than I remember, and quite round in the belly.
He's retired from his job at City of Montpelier, still living in the house he bought shortly after his wedding in 1975. His wife died last year. He has two daughters and six grandchildren.
Job, house, wife, kids, the entire heterosexist trajectory. I escaped it. Cousin Phil didn't.
"Do you remember the sleepover, at Thanksgiving when I was fourteen?" I ask. "Up in the attic at Aunt Nora's house?"
He pauses for a moment. "Sure, I remember that. I can't believe we were ever that young. It was a different world, wasn't it?"
I want to say "No. It's still my world. I sleep in a man's arms most nights." But I just smile.
See also: My Cousin Phil's Boyfriend; Sausage Sightings, Gropes, and Grabs