Not Like Other Girls, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 - we meet Jordan, the non-binary twin and learn about their life (romantic and otherwise)
Jordan walked around the jobsite, looking for the electrical subcontractor. They were getting tired of this, to be honest. Every day, they’d find him placing bets on his phone while his guys were busy bullshitting or jerking off or doing anything but what they were paid to do - which was wire the fifth floor.

If they had their way, the guy and his crew would’ve been out the door three days ago, but…

“Look, Jordan,” the architect said, laughing. “I get that you want them doing their job but, if they don’t work, they don’t get paid, so they’ll do it.”

Jordan took a deep breath. You’re the low man on the pile, they thought. “Except they aren’t. Mike is always on his phone betting…”

More laughter. “And losing. All day yesterday, I heard him talking about how he’d like to kill the guy who came up with half points,” then, imitating his rasp, ‘the fucking half points, they’re fucking killing me…’

Jordan laughed, in spite of themself, “You’d think he’d wanna get paid, so he could lose some more.” None of the betting sites took credit cards. If they did, Mike’d be dead.

The architect looked at them. “Jordan,” he smiled, “I like you. Everyone likes you and we’re all impressed with your vigilance.”

They held their breath for the inevitable ‘but.’ No compliment came without one. ‘You work harder than anyone else on the team, but we’re starting Nia this week.’ ‘I like you but not that way.’ ‘If I had my way, you’d be on the crew with me, but you know how your mother feels.’ They sighed, “But?”

He smiled. “It’s a compliment.” Then, a pause, “however, you can’t pick every fight. The project will get done on time and on-budget. My rep is on the line and I’m not sacrificing it. And the electric will get done on five on-time and on-budget. Everyone knows you’re on it. You just don’t need to be so ‘on it.’”

“But he’s...”

Grinning, “See, you said but. I didn’t say but. But he’s what?”

They thought about their father. The way that he would never have let a sub pull this kind of shit. How he would have been in the guy’s face until he did the work, telling him, ‘keep this shit up and you won’t work around here again.’ On the other hand, this was a 35 story building, not a strip mall. And they were new around here. And dad told them when they started, ‘your job is to keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. When the boss wants to hear from you, he’ll ask. He didn’t ask? Take the hint.’ “But nothing. I’ll tone it down,” they tried not to grumble.

The architect looked at them. “I like you and you have a real future. Try not to have a heart attack first.”

They walked around, checking on the progress in the building and watching one of the workers frame an interior wall. They always liked framing, especially wood. There was something meditative - not that they’d say that out loud; maybe Emily could get away with talking about meditation in California, not here - about measuring, cutting and putting it up and then do it again. The repetitiveness calmed them. If they had their way, they’d be doing it now but they remembered Dwight, Dad’s foreman - ‘be the guy who showers before work, not after.’

They caught two of the guys talking in Spanish, one mumbling ‘tortillera,’ while the other one looked at him like he was crazy. Whatever, they thought. I don’t know what you said but I know that, in five years, I'll be running projects like this and you'll still be carrying buckets of nails.


9:00. Time to call Emily. They used to call right after work, until she pointed out that it was a three hour time difference and ‘I can’t take too many personal calls because the bitch next to me always complains.’ The problem was that Jordan was usually a couple of drinks in by the time they remembered to call, and they owed her not being shitfaced, at a minimum.

Emily picked up the phone. “Hi, this is Emily Berrigan,” she said, brightly.

“This is Jordan Nehlen,” they teased. “Is this a bad time?”

“It’s never a bad time for you. Besides, I’m stuck in traffic,” she laughed, then cursed the driver in front of her. “How’s it going?”

“It’s good, it’s good. I’ve been mad busy at work and they’re driving me crazy.”

“Who is,” followed by ‘don’t ride up the shoulder, asshole!’

They took a deep breath. They never knew what or how she would respond to anything involving construction. Not that she didn’t care and wanted to know, but they could hear it in her voice if it got too close. “Oh, every day I come in and I find my guys jerking off or whatever, and I was told not be ‘so intense.’”

A laugh. “You intense? I am flying there today to tell them...that they have no idea how intense you actually are.”

“Ha ha. Very funny.” They hadn’t seen her, not in per\son, since she was thrown out and left for California six years ago. They felt guilty but, up until this year, it just wasn’t doable. There had been that one soccer tournament in San Francisco but Emmy couldn’t make it up there. Besides, they wanted to see her without distraction. Maybe this year. “It’s just…”

A pause and they wondered what was next. “How big is this building?”

“I told you, thirty-five stories,” wondering where this was going.

“And this company does work all over the country, right?”

Dubiously, “Um, yeah. Where are you going with this, Ems?”

“So, this is a national company building a really tall building. Maybe, they know something,” upspeak at the end. They smiled to themself at the way she had become a total California girl, upspeaking and using ‘hella’ instead of ‘mad’ or ‘crazy.’

“It’s just...they...and...shut up!” They laughed.

“I didn’t say anything, Jor,” she laughed, her little trill.

“Yeah, well, anyway, what’s new?”

A pause, “I saw Uncle Rob and Aunt Jeannie.”

That knocked at least one drink out of them. “Uncle Rob? And Aunt Jeannie? As in,” and they stopped.

“Yes, them.”

“Where?” They looked at the TV, at the commercial for ‘your local Ford dealer.’ To be honest, it was time to replace the truck, it needed a new transmission and brakes and they had neither time nor the inclination to do either. But, they had restored it themselves with their father when they were 14 and it reminded them of then. Before everything.

“At work. Last Friday.”

“What were they doing at a law firm there?”

“I was covering a shift at the restaurant.” ‘Jesus, can you pay attention to your lane?’ They pictured Emmy behind the wheel, giving a finger to someone and then feeling guilty about it, the way she always did.

Jordan sighed. “I thought you said that you were done with that.”

“I am,” she responded. “Maya asked me to cover…”

They thought about their sister, the way she always wanted to please everyone, even as they didn’t give a damn about her. They remembered the parking lot at school, Emmy in tears because of what those bitches, her so-called friends, had said to her. “You don’t have to say yes to everyone, Ems.”

“She’s my friend. And Fridays mean money. That I need.”

They knew why. They had checked and insurance covered it, but they also knew that no hospital ever sent you home without some other bill. “Right. Yeah. How close?”

“Almost there,” she said brightly. They pictured her in her work clothes, the dresses they imagined she wore like she was making up for lost time.

“Anyway, Uncle Rob and Aunt Jeannie. What happened? Did it go OK?” They tensed up, thinking of how Uncle Pete and his bitch of a wife would have made a scene. How they wanted to punch them every time someone snickered and then dead named her at a holiday, not that anyone talked about her much at all anymore.

“They were amazing.”

That was not a possible answer. “Really? For real?”

“Yeah. I was like ‘ohmigosh,’” and she went off describing how ‘they called me by my name every time’ and ‘even Uncle Rob was totally cool with it,’ and they pictured her, her hair in a ponytail, like one of those cute low-maintenance girls they should go for, but never did.

They smiled, wondering if this was somehow going to get her back home, even for a visit. “Cool. That’s great, Ems. You don’t think….”

Before they could finish, Emily’s voice grew harsh. “No!” Then, an apology. “Sorry…”

“No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”

“I know,” and they pictured her sad face, her big blue eyes. “But, no, Jeannie is totally on board. We didn’t even talk about,” and a pause, “that, other than Rob being on his own and stuff.”

They felt suddenly protective towards her, their little (by five minutes) sister. They had tried to apologize once and she laughed, ‘all kids are assholes, Jor. What matters is now. Let’s not go there.’ “Cool.”

Jordan was leaving work when, “Hey Jordan,” they heard one of the other project managers say, “we're going to Buckley's after work. You in?”

“Nah,” they said. “I have a softball game.” They thought about their mother, how she'd tell them, ‘go out with the people from work. It's not what you know, it's who you know.’ They had gone out with them the other day and besides there were women at the game who knew people too. “I'm in next time.”

Work ended and they went to the bathroom to change, stripping off today's khakis and button down. They looked at themself in the mirror. Grandma Linda always called them a ‘full Nehlen,’ like a slur. Except they were grateful that they had inherited that weird combination of dad's bulk and Grandma Dori’s small chest, barely a B, which on their frame looked like nothing much at all. They laughed, thinking about how Emily would kill to have a chest like Mom and Stef, even though as far as they could tell, she looked pretty good. You'd never know that she was ever anything but what she had always been.

They carefully folded their clothes and put them in the equipment bag, then took out the uniform. They put on the sports bra first, glad that it minimized what little they had, then the jersey and finally the pants, making sure to tuck everything in and that everything was straight. Their father used to say, ‘someone with a sloppy uniform is someone who doesn’t care on the field.’

They drove to the game and walked over to the field, bat bag over their shoulder. “Jordan,” they heard Veronica shout.

“Hey, Ronnie.” They had met Ronnie when they first moved to Indianapolis. Ronnie had been dating someone Jordan knew from college. That relationship failed spectacularly, with dueling restraining orders, but she and they had remained friends. “What’s up?” Ronnie, to test them, threw a ball at them, which she caught barehanded.

“You always have fast reflexes. Not as fast as mine but fast,” Ronnie grinned. “Kayla can’t make it today. Work shit.”

“Fuck,” Jordan groaned. “What are we going to do for a third baseman?”

Ronnie looked at her. “You.” Normally, Jordan played second, turning a double play and nailing the runner at home being their two favorite things.

“Ah, come on…”

“Ah, come on nothing. OK,” other Kayla, so named since she was the second one to join, “can cover second but she doesn’t have your arm for third.”

Jordan looked at her, and laughed. “If you’re trying to get me into bed, ain’t happening.”

Ronnie looked at them. “If I get to the point where I’m fucking your ass, and make no mistake it would be me fucking you, just shoot me.”

A running joke. “I won’t. Know why? Because I’ll have shot myself first, superdyke.” When they called each other that, Kayla the first would lose her shit, bitching about solidarity or something. Jordan looked over at the other team, at a girl, brown ponytail and a killer ass stretching. They looked at Ronnie and tilted their head.

“Nice,” was all Ronnie offered. “You want her? I won’t block.”

“We sure…” Jordan had their fill of experimenters in college, girls testing the waters before marrying some investment banker. Whatever, they’d think, just know that you got my sloppy seconds.

“I saw her at Henry’s,” one of the last remaining lesbian bars in the city. Jordan figured that they were supposed to be happy that they could be public, but they wouldn’t mind more places where straight boys and girls weren’t staring at them when they kissed someone.

“Cool,” they said, staring while the girl sat down and did stretches.

A ball rolled towards Jordan, and they rolled it up onto their foot, then started juggling it. They missed the thrill of playing in college, the cheers of the crowd. Well, the 1000 or so people that showed up at most games. They were doing tricks, juggling it higher and higher when the girl looked at them and winked, causing them to drop it.

The game began, Jordan crouched, hands on knees. They hated playing third. They had played second since middle school, liking the way that you had to go either way when the ball was hit, depending on the situation. Third, you went to your left. That was it.


Fourth inning, one out, runner on third. The batter hit a line drive to Jordan’s left. They backhanded it, touched the base before the runner could get back and threw out the runner at first by two steps. “Now, that’s a lesbian league play,” someone said, to everyone’s laughter. ‘Lesbian league’ having been adopted as a term of praise a couple of games ago, after some meatheads on a field next to theirs had used in a manner that they couldn’t decide was insulting or not. They flicked the ball to the ump and jogged off, to see the girl from before smiling at them.

The game ended, Jordan’s team having won. Both teams were around the cooler when the girl came over. “Hi.”

Jordan’s eyes walked up and down her. “Hi, I’m Jordan. You want a beer?”

“Kira,” and she stuck out her hand, Jordan enveloping her soft skin with theirs, suddenly aware of the callouses they had developed over the years. “Do they have White Claw in there?” Jordan smiled. Of course, she wanted a White Claw. Girls like her didn’t drink beer, not that they minded.

Kira took the White Claw, “That was an incredible play in the fourth.”

Jordan smiled and ran their hand through their buzz cut, aware that Kira was watching their every move. “Thanks. I was impressed with how you ran out that single in the sixth.”

Kira laughed. They would’ve said it sounded like birds chirping, except that they could hear her old teammates laughing their asses off at that, making fun of their fondness for femme girls. “Sure. I watched you with the softball before. Do you play soccer?”

“Yup. Well, I did. Four-year starter at Purdue at center midfielder. What about you?”

“I’m a senior at Butler. I’m majoring in economics, with a minor in theater.” She ran her hand through her hair and Jordan watched her shirt ride up ever so slightly, showing just a little strip of stomach, flat and pale.

“That’s quite a combination. Do you plan to tell people the marginal cost of Shakespeare?”

Kira smiled. “Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard that particular one. What about you?”

“I’m a construction manager. I’m working on a new building on Washington.”

Kira smiled and looked her up and down. “That sounds interesting. How did you get into that?”

Jordan smiled back. “That is too long a story for after a softball game. How about you let me take you to dinner and give you the whole story?”

Kira grinned, showing her teeth, small, perfect and white. “How can I refuse such a subtle invitation? Sure,” and then she took out her phone and shared her contact information. “Call me. We’ll set a date,” and she walked off, Jordan’s eyes never leaving her perfect peach shaped ass.


Thursday night. Mastrangelo’s.

Jordan sat at the bar, drinking a beer and waiting for Kira. They had worn their blue button-down shirt, having taken an extra today, rather than try and clean site dust off of themselves. The change had not gone unnoticed, the guys busting their chops and the secretary in the trailer looking creeped out. Whatever, bitch, they thought, get over yourself.

They had offered to pick her up, but she had demurred, saying that she’d take her own car. Stef and Emily had both told them in the past not to take it personally, that, “she just wants to be sure that, if it doesn’t work out, she’s not stuck going home with you.”

They were staring at the TV over the bar, when they felt a tap. “Hi.”

They turned to face Kira, who was wearing white jeans and a blue tank top with lace around the top (a camisole, they remembered, hearing Mom’s voice, ‘it’s a camisole, Molly, I swear.’ That being the first and last time they wore one, Mom having once again declared them ‘hopeless.’) “Hey, how’s it going?”

Kira leaned in and kissed them on the cheek. “This place looks great. I’ve never been here.”

“They have great veal parmigiana,” which got a look. “I mean, unless you don’t eat veal. Then, they have other choices.”

Kira smiled, showing her top teeth, those beautiful little white teeth. “I don’t. Not for ethical reasons, I just don’t like it that much.” Then, Jordan thought, why did you give me that look?

“OK. Well, everything I’ve had here is pretty good. Can I get you a drink?”

“Sure. Barolo, if they have it.”

Jordan took out their wallet, and held up a $20 bill between their fingers. The bartender came over, eyes going between Jordan and Kira. Whatever, dude. “A glass of Barolo, please.”

The bartender took the $20 and walked away. Kira looking annoyed. Jordan laughed to themself. Femmes always took it personally, like they were being judged. I've been judged my whole life, they thought, and guess what? He's taking my drink order, not the other way around. The bartender brought back the drink and set it down, walking away quickly. “Do you want to drink that here or at the table?”

Kira took a sip and Jordan could see the lip print on the glass. “Let's go to the table,” she said, looking back at the bartender with disdain. They wanted to tell her to ignore him but that would only point out what was obvious and would ruin the night. They sat down, Kira on the inside, and she smiled, looking at them, her hazel eyes twinkling, “So, construction manager, what does that mean?”

“I coordinate between the architects and the contractors and workers, make sure everyone does their job,” and then they paused, wondering how deep to go into it. “Like there's a budget and a time frame,” and they thought about the other day, “and I want to make sure that no one is slacking off.”

She smiled, “So you're the tough guy, huh?”

Was she flirting with me, Jordan thought. “I'm the tough guy,” they said, smiling the easy smile their ex told them made them seem nice. Seem.

“Should I be scared?”

Jordan looked at her, her cute ears with the flower earrings. “Definitely. You should definitely be scared.”

Still smiling. “I don't think so. How did you get into construction management?”

“My family runs a construction company back home. I always liked going out with my dad on-site and, when I was being recruited, I saw that Purdue had a program and there you are.”

“Where's home?”

“DeKalb, Illinois. About 60 miles west of Chicago.”

“How come you didn't go back after graduation?”

Jordan groaned inwardly, hating this question, hating that they didn't have a good answer, even as they had worked on the lie for years. “Two reasons. One, I think that it's good to work for someone else for a while. I had a professor who said that businesses do much better when the next generation works for someone else first, you know, learn new things, learn what it's like to report to someone who you don't see for dinner every week.” The lie seemed to be working and they continued, “and, second, the business is big enough for the current generation, my dad and his brothers, but maybe not the next,” leaving off how Uncle Pete's sons had their own crews, Kevin getting one two years after he dropped out of NIU. “Besides, if I was there, I wouldn't be here.”

“Does that line usually work?” Kira laughed.

Jordan smiled, “You tell me.”

Kira touched their hand, as a woman nearby rolled her eyes, “I'll let you know.”

Not letting go, “So, theater and econ major, how did you get into that?”

“Two reasons, I have them too. First, I love acting but it's not exactly an easy way to earn a living…”

“I know. My sister's an actress, or trying to be.” They owed Emily a call. She had left a message the other day, which she never did, but she didn't sound like it was a problem.

“You have a sister? Older or younger?”

“Actually, Em's my twin, although I’m older,” which got a smile. “I mean, I have an older sister, Stephanie, too…”

Kira’s eyes widened. “You have a twin? Identical or fraternal?”

Jordan smiled. Em's fraternal, in the truest sense. “Fraternal. We look nothing alike, to answer the next question,” they laughed.

“You have two sisters though. That's so cool. I just have a brother and we are not close at all. Are you all? All of my friends are so close to their sisters.”

“Emily and Stef are incredibly close. Me, we've definitely become closer.”

Kira looked at them. “What do you mean?”

Shit. Now, you sound like an asshole. “It's not anything. We were just incredibly different growing up, I played sports, she didn't. She was into,” and they smiled, thinking about that first time, when they came into Stef's room and saw Em in the dress, “makeup and clothes and theater and stuff.” Oh and my mom hated me and my dad hated Chris. “I think, when we weren’t on top of each other, we came to like each other a lot more.”

That seemed to placate her. “And Stef's like that?”

They laughed. “Stef is into clothes and makeup but she's definitely a much bigger bitch than Em.”

Kira laughed, “That's not nice!”

“Oh, she would proudly tell you that. She was a cheerleader and all that, but she's tough. Like she and my grandma can't stand each other and my dad says it's because they're too alike.”

“So, you have a cheerleader, an actress and a jock? Boy, your poor dad didn't know what hit him, did he?”

And...let's not go there. “What's second?”

“What's second what?”

“You said there were two reasons for theater and economics. What's second?”

Kira laughed. “My dad wouldn't pay for just theater. He says uneducated actresses are boring and he wouldn't pay for me to be boring.”

Jordan rubbed the top of her hand, ignoring the sighs of the woman next to her. “You don't seem boring to me...must be the economics major.”

“You've found out my secret,” and she slowly moved her hand away. “What’s left?”

Jordan was amused at Kira’s forwardness, the way she toyed with them. “I imagine there are some secrets left.”


Jordan and Kira lay in bed, in the afterglow. “So…” Kira said, naked and grinning.


“Look at you, all smug. Pretty proud of yourself, huh?”

Jordan laughed. “You are a tough one, aren’t you?” They ran their hand down Kira’s side, reveling in the curves and the smoothness, so opposite their own bulk.

“Am I not supposed to be?” She rolled over into the sheet.

“You can be whatever you want to be,” they said looking into her eyes.

“I think I'd have to be, to keep up with you,” and she ran her finger down Jordan's chest, tracing circles around their right nipple.

They smiled. “You think you can keep up with me?”

Kira smiled lasciviously. “I would be very happy,” and she drew out ‘very,’ “to try.”

Jordan ran their fingers on her collarbone. “Really?” They hoped that didn't sound too needy.

“Mmm hmmm,” and she kissed them. “So, how do I introduce you to people?”

“This is Jordan?” Then it hit them. After all these years, they didn’t know how to play these kinds of games. They remembered back to Megan in high school, the way she kept them guessing.

Kira kept smiling and running her finger around the nipple, which was driving them crazy. “No, I know that. I mean, what do people call you?”

Just ask, they thought. And then they thought, ‘shut up. She’s cute, funny and gives great head. If she needs to do this, let her.’ “Jordan,” they teased. “Emmy calls me Jordy when she wants to tease me.”

“Jordy? I like that,” she smiled and kept playing with their nipple. “I meant, what’s your pronoun? What do you prefer?”

Jordan hated this question. They wanted to tell her to fuck off, that it didn’t matter, except that it did. And if it didn’t matter to someone, there’d be some other reason - thick ankles, clingy personality, something, that would make it worse. “They, I guess. I mean I’m non-binary, although I don’t actually care about pronouns.”

“Really?” Kira sat up.

“Really,” they smiled. “I’m me. I’ve been called enough shit in my life,” by my own family, for one. “Call me whatever you want.” I know who I am.

Kira smiled and ran her finger on Jordan’s chest. “OK, Jordy. So, are you trans? Not that I care.”

Which is why you asked. Jordan smiled, thinking ‘only one of those to a family.’ “Nope. No interest. This is me.”

“Did you ever think about it?”

They smiled. “Do you always cut to the chase like this?” Before she could answer, “I thought about it a little,” a lot, “when I was younger. I mean, I totally hung out with the guys, but around middle school, I stopped,” remembering that sleepover but then Coach Lynch, their soccer coach and the way she showed them how you could be tough. “Besides, the side effects suck, I hear. My friend did it and he got fat and started going bald and shit. If it’s what you want, go for it but, nope, not for me, thanks.”

Kira smiled. “Good,” and she rolled over.

Jordan looked at her back. What’s your deal, they wanted to ask. Baby dyke coming out or bored straight girl, experimenting? Then, they stopped. Why the fuck do you care, they wondered. You like her and she seems to like you. Asking, the way you always ask, will only fuck things up. Let it go.

They were driving home for the weekend. It was the last place they wanted to be, home having become exponentially more uncomfortable but it was Grandpa’s birthday and Uncle Pete had somehow managed to get a suite at Wrigley. And Grandpa wasn’t getting younger and the Padres were in and they wanted to see Tatis, see if he was everything they said.

“You can crash here,” Stef had offered. Stef and her boyfriend lived in Lincoln Park. Well, their stuff mostly, Stef spending all of her time at the firm and Jared at the bank.

“Jared won’t mind?”

Stef sighed. “I told you, Jordan. He likes you.”

“You’re not just saying that, are you?” All these years later, they still didn’t fully trust Stef, remembering the way that she always criticized their clothes and their video games (‘oh god, you’re hopeless,’ being her favorite.)

“Yes, yes, I am. Which is why I invited you.”

“Ha ha. I should probably go home though.”


“I dunno.”

‘You know. You know that you don’t like it there and you’ll have to drive seventy miles and the highway will be a mess. Just stay with us.”


“Oh yeah, we’re having dinner with them the night before. Mom convinced him to get a room at the Palmer House. A romantic weekend.”

Jordan groaned “Don’t make me think about that.”

“They’re doing all kinds of weird shit. Mom told me.”


She laughed. “Ew, gross. No. Oh god, I don’t even want to think about that.”

“You’re sure you’re OK with me?”

Stef laughed. “With you? No. With you crashing here? Yes,” which led to a conversation about work.

Friday night. If Jordan timed it right, they’d be in Chicago by 8 (‘which is fine, reservation’s at 8:30,’ Stef said, ‘not like I can get out before then) and at the restaurant by 8:15.

Jordan timed it right. But I-90 didn’t cooperate. 24 miles took one hour. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck,’ they thought, dreading the inevitable. At 8:45, they walked into the restaurant, apologizing profusely and explaining the problems.

“If you had left more time, you wouldn’t have this issue,” their mother said, by way of greeting. “You know it’s a mess there.”

“Hi to you too, mom,” they said, feeling her eyes burn a hole in them, specifically their shoes. “I left Indy at 5.”

Their dad turned to their mom. “That’s plenty of time, Laura.”

With barely disguised scorn and a look at Stef, “Thank you for your support, Doug. I appreciate it. It’s Friday. They,” the word choked out, “could have left sooner.”

Their father, looking at them, “Champ,” his name for them since childhood, “is the low man...person,” followed by a ‘heh heh’ “on the totem pole. First one in, last one out, right, champ?”

Jordan looked at Stef, who smiled and shrugged. “Yup. Anyway, I’m excited for the game tomorrow. How did Uncle Pete score a suite?”

A look exchanged between their parents, followed by their dad’s, “You know Pete,” and a brief mirthless ‘heh heh.’ “Anyway, this kid Tatis looks like he’s all that and a bag of chips.”

Jordan smiled. “I can’t wait. Should be a good game,” if you eliminated Uncle Pete and his wife. And Uncle Kevin and his.

Jordan’s mother looked at them. “Is that what you wear to work?” A pair of khakis and a button down shirt that they hadn’t had time to change.

“Um, yeah. What would you expect me to wear?” A conversation as old as time, or Jordan.

“Look at how your sister is dressed.” Stef was in a black pants suit with a white satiny looking top, which she wore effortlessly like everything else she wore.

Stef, rolling her eyes, “I work in a law firm, not on a job site, ma.”

“Are you the only,” they could see the wheels spinning in her head. They had had this fight for years, Jordan having thought it was over.

Jordan tested her. “Assistant construction manager? No, there are three of us.”

“Don’t be cute,” she snapped.

“I can manage that.”

Stef chimed in. “Jesus, are you going to do this all weekend? Because I’ll leave and skip the game tomorrow.”

Then, their father. “How are things going with your crew?”

“Good,” they said, “really good.” Other than with the electrical guy who spent all day complaining about how the Bulls ‘fucked him but good.’

“You still having problems with your electrical guy?” They had brought this up with him once, which led to the conversation with the architect.

“Nah,” they lied. “We have it under control now.”

“Because you can’t let them walk all over you. We fired one last week for being lazy.”

A sigh. “I know. I said that I have it under control.”

“Because I don’t give a…,” which led to a look from their mother, “I don’t care if you’re having problems with your wife or your girlfriend or whatever, my site, you’re on the clock. Right?”

“Uh huh,” they said, taking a roll and buttering it, their mother’s eyes following the roll from basket to plate to Jordan’s mouth. “I know.”

“The way you move ahead is by not taking shit, right?”

Their mother began twisting her napkin in her hands. “We all know, Doug. No one takes shit.”

“Thank you Laura.” They looked at Stef, silently asking ‘why’ and getting no good answer. “Champ gets it.”

Jordan looked at Stef. “So, how’s work?” She had been assigned to a big merger, which she had told them ‘means I get to sit in a conference room until 12 AM collating papers. Glad I made law review.’

Stef smiled. “Hella busy,” which made them both laugh, thinking of Emmy.

Their mother looked at them. “What’s so funny?”

“Inside joke, ma. A meme.” That would shut her up. Since they were kids, their mother hated memes (‘in my day, you had to write jokes and they were funny.’) “Jordan,” emphasizing the name, “sent it to me.”
Back at Stef’s. She took off her shoes, boots with a low heel, ““You OK?”

Jordan took off their shoes, dropping them next to Stef’s, still amazed at the size difference. Not making eye contact. “Yeah, fine.”

Stef looked at them. “Don’t let them…”

Jordan, brusquely, as they headed to the couch. “I don’t...sorry,” they said as they sat down. “I didn’t mean that the way that came out.”

Stef sat down next to them and rubbed their right shoulder. “I know. It’s not the worst thing to talk about stuff.”

And it’s not the best either. “Nothing to say, Stef. It is what it is.”

Stef laughed a little. “Yeah. By the way, I counted. Three times, only two angry.” The number of times either of them called them ‘Jordan.’ “They’re getting better.”

Jordan sighed, “Can we not?”

“Of course,” presumably thinking about tomorrow. “What else is going on?” Jordan hesitated and Stef pounced. “Who is she?”

Jordan looked at the wall. “She who?”

Stef laughed. “You are the worst liar ever. You’re not looking at me.” They had been told by everyone that they knew when they were lying because of that. “Who is she?”

Jordan paused. “You can’t say anything to them.’

Stef laughed. “Like I would do that. Why would I ever do that?”

“Fine,” Jordan sighed. “Her name is Kira. I met her at softball. She’s a senior at Butler.”

Stef looked at them. “Please tell me she’s not high maintenance.”

Looking at the floor, but smiling. “Shut up.”

“Just say it and I will,” and she poked them in the side.

“Fucking weirdo,” and they poked back, making sure not to do it too hard.

“You’re the one with the problem. You’re a glutton for punishment,” she laughed, whacking them on the back of the head.

“How so? How am I a glutton for punishment?”

Scoffing. “Oh please, I had a long day and I don’t have time to explain each and every instance of your gluttony,” and she headed to the bedroom. Jordan stood up to follow her, then stopped as the door closed. From inside, “You are and you know you are.”

“I’m not but she’s not...high maintenance.” They didn’t think she was. “She seems normal.”

“Just be cool this time,” Stef said, as she came out in a faded Michigan t-shirt, the letters cracking from repeated washings, and shorts. “Be cool and let it work itself out.”

“You and Em. God,” and they went for their backpack, to get their toothbrush and their change of clothes.

She laughed. “We know what’s best for you.”

Someone should, they thought.

“You’d think so,”Jared said, as they walked down the steps from the El, in response to a comment from Jordan about how cool it would be to live in one of the buildings where you could see the game from the roof. “But my friend Alex does and he says some asshole beating a drum for nine innings while you’re trying to get laid kinda sucks.”

“Thanks for that image, Jar. I needed that,” Stef laughed. Stef was wearing her Cubs t-shirt and jeans, just like Jordan, but somehow Jordan knew that they’d be found lacking. “Hopefully, we get a good game.”

Jordan stared up at the ‘Wrigley Field, Home of Chicago Cubs’ sign, remembering the first time that Dad had taken them, alone, as a reward for a good game. The way that he took their hand as they crossed Addison, Dad talking about ‘Ernie,’ ‘Hawk’ and ‘Ryno,’ the players from his childhood. And the way that he fed them ice cream and popcorn, telling them with a wink ‘this is between us, Champ.’ Champ. They were still ‘Champ’ to him, they guessed. “We should,” they said, as they walked to the suites’ entrance, Stef holding the tickets in her bag. “I mean, should we get something to eat,” they asked as they passed the concessions.

Stef laughed. “Nah, they took us to a suite when I was a summer associate. They have better food and an open bar.” Jordan assumed that somehow Uncle Pete would cheap out, that he’d have a cooler of Old Style and some chips and that they’d end up going out for food, but they couldn’t say that, not in front of Jared.

They got to the suite and they saw Grandpa Peter sitting in a chair, staring out at the field, the emerald green of the field and the ivy covered walls. Normally, they hated the way that Northside dorks would rhapsodize about the wonder of it, but they still had to admit it was pretty cool. Stef walked over first and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Happy birthday, Grandpa.”

“Steffie,” he smiled. “They let you out of your cell?”

“I’ll go in tomorrow, Grandpa,” she laughed. Grandma Dori came over, with a plate of vegetables. “Hey, grandma,” and each offered the other a perfunctory kiss. Hopefully, they’d each be distracted by someone else for the rest of the day. Jared rolled his eyes at them and then offered his hand. “Happy birthday, sir.”

“Jared. Glad you could make it,” and he looked through him.

Jordan leaned in and gave him an uncertain hug. “Happy birthday, Grandpa. I would’ve brought you something except you can’t bring in anything.”

Grandma Dori looked at them, and they felt bare before the world, “He doesn’t need anything.”

Grandpa looked at them and rolled his eyes. “Hey there. How’s Indianapolis treating you?”

“It’s good,” they nodded. “Work is good.”

Grandpa looked at them. “It’s not supposed to be good. It’s work. You’re the first one there every day?”

Jordan pasted on a smile. “Just me and the security guard.”

He looked at them. “Good. You want a beer? They have it on tap.”

“Sure. You want another?” He smiled and held up a half-empty glass with a smirk. Dismissed.

They walked over to the bar where cousin Kevin was drawing a beer, his latest girlfriend they assumed, blonde and trashy like those who came before her, looking at her phone. “Hey Kev,” and they offered their hand.

“Hey,” pause, “Jordan. You drove up from Indy for this?”

Jordan looked at him. “It’s his birthday. And I wanted to see Tatis.”

Kevin handed them a beer and, with a nod, “Jordan, this is my girlfriend Kylee,” of course she was. “Kylee, this is my cousin Jordan.”

Jordan offered their hand and was given a dead fish in response. A dead fish accompanied by a withering appraisal. Whatever, you skank, they thought, as they talked to Kevin about work and the Cubs.

“Still an assistant manager?” Uncle Pete laughed, interjecting himself.

Jordan smiled, thinking ‘yeah, on a thirty-five story building. How’s that strip mall?’ “Hey, Uncle Pete.”

“Because we have Kevin here managing ten guys on a project.”

Jordan smirked. “That’s great, Kev.” And you get to deal with their bullshit. “I’m managing twenty on mine. A thirty-five story building’s like that.”

“Yeah,” Uncle Pete interjected before Kevin could, “but you’re still an assistant. We trust Kev with decision making,” which made Kylee put her arm around his waist. He’s fucking you, Jordan thought, not marrying you, you dumb bitch.

“They’re a year out of school, Petey,” they heard Uncle Rob. “And they’re doing it on their own.” Then, Rob turned to them. “Hey, Jordan,” offering a bro hug.

“Yeah, well, maybe they,” eye roll, “are like some other people who can’t handle the heat.”

Jordan looked at Rob, who just snickered. “Hey, Uncle Rob. How’s everything?” They noticed the ‘RJN Construction and Engineering’ polo shirt. “How’s business?”

He gave them a half smile. “It’s been great. Busier than ever, all over the country. How’s Indianapolis? A friend of mine from college drove past, said your building is coming along nicely.” Uncle Pete and Kevin walked off to talk to some of the other cousins. As they walked away, “Ignore them. We’re proud of you, for what it’s worth.”

Jordan looked at him and smiled. “Thanks.” Someone should be, they thought. They wondered whether they were supposed to say anything, whether Emmy would want them to.

Aunt Jeannie came over and gave them a kiss. “Hey, Jordan.” They exchanged pleasantries and were talking about their son Liam, who ‘had plans’, when Aunt Julie came over.

“Molly,” she fake smiled, using their old name, the one she had stopped using in college. “How are you?”

“It’s Jordan now,” they sighed, having been through this with her on every holiday. “I changed it, remember?”

“Oh, that’s right. Dori told me that. Said you’re non-binary now. How brave of you.”

Jeannie and Rob just looked at her, and Jordan offered, “Yeah, thanks.”

“Are you seeing anyone?”

Rob, “Well, they see you right now, Julie.”

“Very funny, Robby,” which made him wince. “I just wonder if she, sorry they, find it hard, given their situation.”

Actually, I spent Thursday night fucking someone silly, they thought. “It isn’t, Aunt Julie. Anyway, excuse me, I think I’m going to get something to eat,” as they saw a big tray of Italian beef sandwiches wheeled in.

They were taking one when their mother came over. “Hello.”

“Oh, hey, ma.” They watched as their mom watched them take a bite, hoping nothing was dripping on them.

“How’s everything?” Mom said, as she took a turkey sandwich, throwing one piece of bread into the garbage.

Since last night? “It’s good.” Kira wasn’t a topic of conversation, not yet if ever.

“Work is good?”

They looked at her and sighed. “I told you yesterday that it’s good, very busy.”

“Your father thinks I should apologize for yelling at you yesterday for being late.”

And you don’t. “It’s no big deal. You were hungry,” they offered.

“Well, he thinks I should. Anyway, try and have a good time today,” and she looked around the room, taking in the various Nehlens. Jordan decided that was the apology.

Jordan shrugged. “I’m excited for the game,” and their mother walked off to talk to Rob and Jeannie.


Fourth inning, Bote got taken out at second by the runner, blowing the double play and leaving the Padres with runners on first and third. “Ah, damn,” Jordan grumbled. They were sitting in the outside seats. It was a beautiful day. Why come to a game to sit inside, they thought. Cousin Mikey sat next to her. “That sucks.”

Mikey, Stef’s age, not looking at them. “Yeah.”

“How’s everything Mike?”

Now intently watching as the pitching coach came to the mound to talk to the pitcher. “Fine.”

“How’s work?”

Expecting one word and getting. “It’s busy.” Wow, two words, then, “we’re mad busy. Working on a project in Schaumburg. Total gut renovation of an office park. I have forty guys on it.”

They nodded, surprised that the guy who spent every holiday ‘going for walks’ and coming back reeking of weed, like he didn’t know how to vape, could do that. “That’s great. I’m managing…”

He looked back at the suite, where he saw his father waving him in. “Yeah, I’m getting called in. Grandpa must want something,” and then he got up, leaving them sitting there.

Fuck him, they thought. They decided to walk in. They had as much a right to be there as anyone. They walked in backwards, not wanting to miss Tatis’ at bat.

They walked in to find everyone standing around Grandpa, while he sat. “Goddammit,” he yelled, as Tatis knocked one out, flipping his bat in the air. “Goddamn showboat.”

Uncle Kevin. “Fucking bullshit.”

Uncle Pete. “Too bad you can’t brush anyone back anymore.” Turning to Cousin Kevin. “It used to be that the next guy would get nailed in the side. Bob Gibson,” and they were shocked to hear his name mentioned without spitting, “would have this guy,” and they saw the batter walk up, “in the dirt by now.”

Jordan chimed in. “What’s the big deal? He hit one out. That’s his move.”

Dad stared at them. “We’ve discussed this, Champ,” which got a smirk. Well, fuck you, I had a four-year soccer scholarship to a Big Ten school, you losers. “Act like you’ve been there before. Or deal with the consequences.”

“I just…”

Before they could finish the sentence, Grandpa stared at them. “I was talking to my men, not you,” followed by a glare at their father. Smirks from everyone except Dad, who stared at the floor, and Uncle Rob, who rolled his eyes.

Fuck you, you old asshole, they thought, then felt guilty about it, their father’s standard ‘he’s an old man’ ringing in their ears. They walked over to where Mom was deep in conversation with Aunt Julie and Aunt Karen. They stood at the periphery, listening to a conversation about Mom’s office, about managing ‘millennials and Gen Z,’ and their sense of entitlement.

“That’s not fair,” they offered. “Maybe we’re not entitled. Maybe you all just took too much abuse and are mad because we won’t.”

Julie looked at them. “Excuse me?”

“I just think that…”

“Jordan,” there was the first one, “we weren’t talking to you,” their mother said.

“I don’t think I’m entitled. I work hard.”

Karen, “As opposed to the rest of us, Molly? We sit on our butts and eat bon-bons?”

Gritted teeth. “My name is Jordan, Aunt Karen. Not Molly.”

“Jordan,” their mother snapped, offering the second one.

“Whatever. As your mother said, we weren’t speaking about you or to you. I’m surprised you’d deign to speak to us at all.”

And I’m surprised you know the word ‘deign,’ they thought, as they went outside.


By the fifth inning, Jordan left the suite to go for a walk, not that anyone noticed.

They were walking along, looking at pictures and occasionally looking up at the game on one of the TVs, when they heard, “Hey, Jordan.”

Jared, beer bottle in hand. “Hey, Jared. What’s up?”

“Why the fuck did you come?”

They knew Stef was lying, that he didn’t want them in the apartment. They felt their hands clinch. “If you didn’t want me, you should have just said so. I won’t do it again.”

Jared stuck out his hand. “I didn’t mean it that way, Jordan. Sorry. It came out wrong.”

They stood there open mouthed, knowing that the Nehlens inside would mock him if they heard that. “Yeah, well, what did you mean?” Trying not to sound hostile.

“Seriously, why the fuck would you ever voluntarily come for this?”

Jordan looked at him, as he took off his cap and ran his hand through his brown hair. Staring at the TV, as the Padres ran the squeeze unsuccessfully, the runner tagged out at third, “Why did you?”

He laughed. “I didn’t have a say in the matter. So, why?”

“It’s Grandpa’s birthday.” Offered half-heartedly.

He took a pull of his beer and swallowed. “Send a card next time,” he laughed. “The old fuck doesn’t appreciate it regardless.”

Jordan was offended for their grandfather, though God only knew why. “Yeah, well…I wanted to see a game from a suite.”

He took another drink, “Next time, ask me. The bank lets us use them from time to time.” They watched as the Cubs closed out the inning. “I should get back, before Kylee asks Stef again if she wants to get high.” He started walking away, saying, “next on the pole, Kylee,” which made them laugh.

They spent the sixth wandering the stadium, stopping to watch the game from time to time.

By the seventh, they had decided. They’d stay for the stretch and ‘let’s root, root, root for the Cubbies.’ They texted Stef, ‘I’m out.’

‘See you back at the apartment’

Jordan stared at the field as the Padres ran out for the bottom of the inning. ‘Nah. Headin back home. Had enough’

‘Come on stay. Jager bombs on me’ followed by the woozy face emoji.

‘Nah. I wanna go back I think. Thx for lettin me crash and thx 2 Jared’

‘Are u sure’


They made it south of Gary before Dad called. To ask them the name of his old foreman.

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