Sunday, 15 February 2015

Meet the Bakers

I don't know you about you, but I'm ready for another piece of the Tom Baker puzzle. When we left him last week, he was moaning about what to do with his life, and how to dodge the very obvious affections of a smitten psych major. (And let's face it, who wouldn't be smitten with the lovely Dr Baker.)

But now it's time to meet big brother Nate…

The Prelude to Attraction (Part 2)

The third problem is closely related to the second, because it involves the endless texts I’ve been getting from my brother, Nate, ever since I stopped in back home on my way to this conference in San Francisco.
Nate and his fiancĂ©e Jess live around the corner from my mom’s place, so my visits invariably involve a lot of big brother time. Ordinarily, I fucking love it. Nate and I have always been close, even when he was busy pounding the shit out of me when we were little kids. Seeing him the three or four times a year I make it back to Austin is half the reason I bother going at all.
But this time things were different.
This time, we hadn’t even cracked our beers before Nate was telling me the news about Jess’s new job.
“So we’re moving to New York,” he said out of the blue, as we stepped out into his yard.
“Excuse me?” I said, half-convinced I’d heard him wrong. He rocked back on his heels and smiled thinly.
“Jess landed a job with some kickass firm in the city, so we’re moving there in a month,” he said.
“But what about Mom?” I said, like it was a reflex.
“Yeah, about that,” he started, his expression flattening out. Something told me I didn’t want to hear what was coming next.
“I was thinking you could move back here once you’ve finished studying,” he said. “We’ll be looking to rent out the house anyway. You could move in.”
“And do what?” I said dumbly. A part of me was already numb to the idea.
“I don’t know,” he said. “What you do. There is a university here, you know.”
“I know,” I snapped, regressing about two decades with a single retort.
And I did—I do know it. The department in Austin is pretty goddamn impressive too. But for all my whining about being spoiled for choice, the second I felt Nate narrowing my options down to a single university in a single town, I started to feel an almost visceral longing for all the roads I would otherwise have taken.
“I’ve been thinking about going overseas,” I said quickly, winging it.
“Since when?”
“A while,” I lied. “It’s the best thing for my career.” Which is probably true, all things considered.
“Yeah, well, we can’t leave Mom here all by herself.”
There was a snort and a giggle from somewhere inside Nate’s kitchen.
“You most certainly can,” my mom said, appearing suddenly at the door with Jess in tow. “If either of you boys even thinks of changing your life plans to hang around in Texas waiting on me, I will personally see to it that you get the sense slapped into you.”
“Mom,” Nate moaned, moving over to slide an arm around her shoulders. “We just want to make sure that you’re being looked after.”
“I know,” she said, planting a kiss on his cheek. “And you’re very sweet.”
She motioned for me to join them, and pulled me in to her free side when I obliged.
“But also very silly,” she added. “And somewhat overbearing.”
Nate rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“Look,” she said. “Your father and I split up over a decade ago now, and while I’ve really enjoyed having you boys around, I’m sure I can get along just fine without you.”
“Tom needs to go out and see the world,” she added. “And you and Jess do too.”
She looked over at my almost-sister-in-law, who beamed back at us.
“Besides,” she said carefully, “I’ve been thinking about getting into internet dating, and I can’t do that with you cramping my style all the time.”
We both groaned and stepped straight out of our familial embrace.
Mom’s dating history hasn’t exactly been a closed book in the years since she left our dad, but neither Nate nor I like hearing about it. Although we’re both glad that she doesn’t have to endure his particular brand of dickishness anymore, we’d prefer not to know about how she’s now spending her nights.
“Okay, family meeting over,” Nate said. “Let’s get this barbecue happening.”
The rest of the night slid by without any more talk of me moving back home, but Nate caught me by the elbow as we were on our way out.
“I’m serious about this, man,” he said, the context implicit. “I think you should consider it.”
And now here I am, days later, with a phone full of brotherly texts reminding me how far Austin is from the East Coast, and how good a son I would be if I packed up all my dreams and shipped them back to his place.
Of course the real problem is that I’m staring down the barrel of another six months of thesis hell, but don’t even get me started on that.

Don't forget that you can skip forward a few months and read all about Tom in The Science of Attraction. And feel free to let me know what you think of The Prelude to Attraction as it unfolds!

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