When Callista started dating Colin Raffaeli, I had to break them up.
You have to understand how terrible Colin Raffaeli is. Imagine Colin Raffaeli pulling up with his friends in his gigantic off-roading pickup with those monster truck tires I’ve never even seen at a dealership (where do you get monster truck tires?), Lil Wayne blaring at that bass level that’s so distorted you hear the car vibrating more than any music.
I didn’t have to imagine because I was watching the driveway from behind the French blinds in the front sitting room by the foyer, under our track lighting. Colin Raffaeli was wearing a big white Abercrombie polo and big khaki cargo shorts and big brown flapping flip-flops. You could almost smell the body-spray on him.
I watched my sister kiss him goodbye and trot into the house and up the stairs without seeing me. I turned back to watch the truck, and inside, I saw Alan Kerwin, who was on the soccer team with Colin Raffaeli, make a gesture in front of his chest in pantomime of a big pair of female breasts jiggling before his pectorials, and they all collapsed in laughter as the truck peeled back, skidded sideways with a screech, and tore away down the road.
The next day, I consulted with Hal.
“It’s certainly endearing, Armand,” he told me. “To see a little brother so concerned for his sister. Especially when both are still in high school. Usually you don’t see that kind of filial attachment. There’s that old Haversham-Velasquez loyalty. I know my family’s not like that.”
“I fear you’re missing the point,” said I, pacing around my father’s unused study, while Hal reclined on the leather couch tossing up a comically undersized basketball. “Colin Raffaeli is a dick.”
“Have you talked to Callista about how you feel?”
“Aw,” I dismissed him with a wave, “she doesn’t see the side of him. You know how people are. All she sees is the sweet big goofball special caring face that he puts on. To her he’s all attentiveness and companionship. It’s only when she’s not around he shows his true colors. He’s two-faced, and he’s a douche! Two things a Haversham-Velasquez can’t tolerate!”
“You do tend to put just one face up, Armand,” admitted Hal, “and tell everyone exactly how you feel about them at all times. Whether they want to hear about it or not.” He said it with an inflection I couldn’t place, so I didn’t dwell on it.
I stopped pacing in front of my father’s desk, where the family crest he’d made special-crafted in Europe shone down from the wall in high-karat gold. “I’ll have to catch him in the act. Maybe if I have some evidence, Callista will listen to me about who this ass-hat truly is.”
“Has she refused to listen to you so far?” asked Hal, but I was already halfway down the stairs.
I was lying in the locker room bench wearing a towel when Colin Raffaeli and the rest of the soccer team came back in from practice, my hands behind my back. It wasn’t unusual that I would be there, since I was a swim team champion, and often used the school’s indoor sports complex that my father had helped finance after class, even during school Literary Journal season, which it now was.
There was a general rush and din of talking and laughter when they all came in and I started to dress as they did, so I could just hang around and listen to them.
“Of course nipple size is different depending on race,” one of them, Alan Kerwin, was saying. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
“’Why wouldn’t it be?’ What are you talking about?”
Colin Raffaeli was in the corner, his dumb face in its usual repose of slight squint, like, oh, oh yeah, I’m listening to you really intently but also I haven’t slept in a while and those two realities combine in my really focused squint.
“Every race has different nipples,” said the soccer Captain, Solomon Granger, authoritatively, “but every girl has different nipples anyway. Even sisters. But not twin sisters. Trust me.”
“Idiot,” said Kevin Raimi, throwing a soccer cleat at Solomon Granger’s face, implying his claim of having firsthand knowledge regarding the nipples of both sisters and twin sisters was false.
“It definitely depends on race,” insisted Alan Kerwin further. “Like hair! Some girls have more pubic hair.”
“Idiot!” Kevin Raimi threw his other soccer cleat at Alan Kerwin. “That’s because they shaved it off.”
“I meant overall!” justified Alan Kerwin nonsensically.
“Anal-hair definitely depends on race.”
When they left, I picked my extra iPhone up from the locker near them where I had left it recording and checked, but the App said it was a trial version and it had only recorded the first 30 seconds for free; I had to choose whether to upgrade if I wanted to record more than that at a time. “Curses!” I exclaimed.
At home that night, I was in the kitchen sampling the bacon-wrapped-dates-with-blue-cheese hors d’oeuvres that mother had Erma prepare for us after dinner when Callista and Colin Raffaeli came down the stairs to sit down at the table. I glared at Colin Raffaeli.
“Well, how involved were you with him, physically?” Colin Raffaeli was saying.
“I’d rather not talk about it,” Callista said.
“I respect your boundaries,” said Colin Raffaeli thoughtfully, squeezing her arm kindly with a very sincere expression.
The perfectly-stuffed date plopped to the floor and I realized bacon and blue cheese was crushed between my clenched-fist fingers.
“I appreciate you do,” my sister said lovingly, and gave Colin Raffaeli a peck on the cheek. “I have to get back to violin, but I’ll see you tomorrow at school, and don’t forget you said you’d help me measure the fabrics for my drama costume.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
My sister bounded up the stairs happily.
I advanced on Colin Raffaeli, and jammed my finger in his popped polo collar. “You listen here, you hypocrite limpdick,” I told him, “I know your game and I’m not playing. I know you’re an ignorant douchebag and I’ll be damned if you think you’re good enough to date my sister. The Haversham-Velasquezes are not some group of clubbing, cheerleading -”
“Calm down!” said Colin Raffaeli, just sitting there. “What are you talking about?”
“I respect your boundaries? You don’t talk like that! No one talks like that!”
“Look. Listen. I know I’m not the kind of guy you ideally imagine dating your sister.”
He was right. He wasn’t. I could imagine that type of man. The kind of man who is sitting in a library with an open tome at work on an important idea and suddenly gasps, a loud in-sucking of air like the whining rise of a vacuum cleaner just turned on, and runs with bounding steps like a child back to the shelf for the Eureka.
“And you’re right,” Colin Raffaeli continued, “that it isn’t usually how I communicate. Do I talk that way with other people, my bros, or my mom? No. Do I make sure to portray a certain thing when she’s around, just to her? Of course. But that doesn’t mean it’s not sincere. It’s the way I learned makes her comfortable. I had to adapt to what works with her. And I was willing to do whatever it took to be with her.”
“She’s brilliant and cultured and sensitive,” said Colin Raffaeli, with the plaintive tone of a kicked puppy, and I could tell his squint was being honest with me. “And of course, she’s beautiful, not that that’s more important than her personality, but I mean, of course both of you, you’re both so damned physically attractive because you are mixed race.”
Could I fault him for that? I thought. Was it racist? No, I couldn’t fault him for that. It was undoubtedly racist but it was also so, so, undeniably true.
“Callista’s someone special,” Colin said, “and I’m willing to be a certain way with her if it means she’s willing to be with me.”
Speechless, I watched him walk away and rev his giant truck before peeling away, careful not to scratch my new Aston-Martin V-12 Vantage convertible with his door.
The next day, I was saying to Hal in my room, “So I guess even though culturally I am superior, in this case I was the overbearing asshole who didn’t seek out the thoughts of involved parties and assumed that he knew better.”
“It’s important to keep an open mind about others,” said Hal, “but I find your fiery demeanor endearing.”
“Life is complicated, Hal.”
“It is,” he nodded knowingly.
Then Hal and I made out.