This Is Between Us

By Kevin Sampsell

Tin House Books
November 2013


We had the drug conversation one night. I'd only had this talk with a couple of other past girlfriends and my ex-wife. It made me feel the same way that the question How many people have you slept with? makes me feel. It's almost like asking someone how much indescribable pleasure they've had in their life. One past girlfriend went on for so long about how much she liked ecstasy that I started to feel like I could never measure up.

One ex told me that she never did drugs, but I eventually found out that she was an alcoholic. Another one didn't count the antidepressants that she almost overdosed on six months later. My first girlfriend was addicted to Lucky Charms cereal (she would keep a Ziploc bag of it in her purse).

You told me you used to like cocaine but switched to pills when your dealer got busted. You gave me a long list of the pills and I had heard of only a couple of them. You described the different combinations you'd tried, the various effects. But you also said you were trying to become more healthy. You were running, doing yoga, buying crossword puzzle books, and watching more documentaries.

All the documentaries you watch are about drugs.




"I used to fuck girls," your brother, Daniel, told me one night, while we were waiting for you to come home from work. He was already on his fourth beer. I knew he was getting buzzed because he was closing his left eye a lot, like it helped him to think.

"I was pretty good at it," he continued. "But I knew I was just practicing for boys. The first girlfriend I had, when I was a freshman in high school, was a virgin, and for some reason I told her that my dick was nine inches. She didn't really know the difference. She just took my word for it, especially because she was scared to look at it."

I was concerned that the kids might be able to hear him, so I turned up the CD player in the living room. He just raised his own volume more.

"I knew she would talk," he said. "It was genius. I even heard that a few people called me 'Nine,' in like a reverent way, you know? I felt like I got respect, even from some of the popular dudes who never liked me. Of course, those were the ones I wanted the word to get to."

"Daniel," I said, hoping my lowered voice would signal him to be quieter. He paused for a moment, waiting for me to say more, but I didn't. He was probably waiting for me to ask him how long it really was. But I didn't take the bait.

"Well, I got busted, of course," he finally said. "First, by this senior girl who was kind of a slut, and then by one of the football players." He laughed at this, and I automatically laughed too. "I'll always remember what this girl said. Her name was Cheri, like with a French accent, but she was Mexican. She said to me, 'My last boyfriend had a nine-inch dick and you sure don't have nine inches.'"

I thought I heard one of the kids get up, and I looked nervously toward the hallway. Daniel made a little snorting sound and said, "They're not getting up. Don't worry."

"Just be more quiet," I told him. I grabbed a new beer for myself. "What did the football player say?" I asked him.

"Oh, you should have seen it," Daniel said. "He was giving me a hand job and then he suddenly pulled this tape measure out and said, 'I want to see if the rumors are true.' He didn't seem to mind that I fell about three inches short of the mark, but I noticed that people stopped paying attention to me for a while after that. Like my mystique vanished!"

I heard your keys jingle from outside and the front door creaking open. "Little sister's home," Daniel said, and then he whispered, "Act normal."

"What are you bros doing?" you asked.

"Talking about our dicks," Daniel said. "What else would we be doing?"




We were lying in bed and I was walking the fingers of my right hand up your legs, closer and closer to your ass. Then I placed my hand flat and imagined it was a surfboard. When it hit the curve of your ass, it was like hitting a beautiful wave. I did it quickly a few times. I did it in slow motion. You didn't say anything. In fact, you were asleep. You started to snore a little. It sounded like the low hum of a motorcycle. I thought of my hand as a motorcycle. Your ass was a ramp. I was a daredevil, airborne.