Sex, Straight Up

By: Kathleen O’Reilly


SINCE THE SUMMER he turned eleven, Daniel O’Sullivan woke up every morning the same way. With an aching hard-on. After he was married, the first light of dawn became his favorite time. He’d roll over, impatient hands searching for his wife. After making love to her, he’d shower, shave, and together they’d take the subway to work. What more could any guy want?

But then one September morning seven years ago, bright sunlight mocking in the sky, that all exploded, along with two airliners, two buildings and two thousand, seven hundred and forty people—one of whom was his wife.


For the next five years he rolled over to look for her, impatient hands searching blindly, and she wasn’t there. And so the hard-on stayed.

The morning wake-up call evolved, the change coming so gradually that initially he didn’t notice it. In those beginning moments of wakefulness, when his brain was more than half-unconscious, he stopped looking for his wife, impatient hands no longer reaching for someone who wasn’t there.


Daniel was starting to forget.

Now, if this was any of a thousand other people in the world, maybe that’d be okay. But Daniel wasn’t wired that way. Love was forever. A promise was forever, and so two years ago he shifted the wedding picture to his nightstand as a reminder of exactly how much his wife meant to him.

It didn’t help.

No matter what he did, no matter what he told himself, in those first seconds of the day his hands stayed stubbornly buried under his pillow. That betrayal to her memory shocked him as badly as her death.

And so the hard-on stayed.

Daniel didn’t look at other women, he didn’t flirt with other women and he sure as hell didn’t sleep with other women. Maybe his sleep-bagged mind would betray her, but his body wouldn’t.

His wifeless life settled into a dull pattern that he didn’t dare disrupt. And it was for that reason that when summer rolled in to Manhattan, Daniel didn’t leave like so many other New Yorkers.

July in Manhattan was hell. Hot, humid, and the dense air hung low on the rivers, casting the entire island in a muggy shade of yellow. The hell-like conditions were the number-one reason that most sane people left the city for the veritable paradise of the outlying beaches. The hell-like conditions were the number-one reason that Daniel O’Sullivan was determined to stay, no matter what his two brothers wanted.

“I’m not going,” he told Sean and Gabe in his most serious, “don’t hand me that crap” voice. And in case they didn’t pick up on that completely unsubtle hint, Daniel turned back to the ghostly glow of the computer screen, ignoring them. They didn’t usually gang up on him—actually, up until this point, it’d never happened before.

Stubbornly, Daniel scanned the bar’s monthly spreadsheet, his eyes moving back and forth over the numbers with appreciation for such simplicity. Invoices and deposits showed a nice, tidy bottom line in the black. All in all, excellent news.

The bar currently known as Prime had sat on the corner of 47th and 10th for almost eighty years, and had been run by an O’Sullivan equally as long. Gabe ran the place now, with Sean and Daniel as near-silent partners, except on Saturdays when the three O’Sullivans all worked there—Gabe and Sean to bartend, and Daniel to do the books.

After their uncle, the previous owner died, Gabe had paid up the back taxes on the place, against Daniel’s advice. A bar in Manhattan was a shaky financial investment, but Gabe wasn’t guided by business sense, but more by the desire to see the family legacy restored to its old grandeur. Against his own better judgment, Daniel had set up a desk and computer in the storeroom downstairs, so he could help with the accounting. The tiny storeroom was barely designed to accommodate one person. When you put three full-grown men in there—like now—the tiny quarters were stifling.

“It’d be good for you to get out of the city, meet some people,” said Gabe, leaning back against a tall stack of cases of rum. Gabe, the youngest of the three, was a great bartender—a people person who never quite got the concept of being alone.

“And you could get laid,” contributed Sean, in his own special way. Every man had one gear—sex—but wise men learned at an early age that you had to keep that fact hidden if you wanted to avoid complications in life and love.

Sean had the exact opposite approach to Daniel. With women, he was honest and up front about his sexual needs, and didn’t try to apologize for it. Illogically, women never seemed to mind, which Daniel had never understood. Maybe it was Sean’s law school diploma, maybe the planets had been aligned at his brother’s birth. Daniel didn’t know, didn’t lose sleep over it, but there were times—like now—when Sean’s “I know everything” attitude could be a complete pain in the ass.

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