Well I managed to get home without causing any wrecks. By the time I pulled up in front of my house, I was pretty zoned out. I was trying not to think about Tyson and my guilt, to just focus on my reunion with Jerry; but everything was so muddled in my brain, I just ended up feeling kinda numb and flat as I walked up th the driveway.
I got to the rear bumper of Mom's car and stopped in my tracks. `Oh shit! How the hell do I explain why Ty's not with me? Oh man, shit!' I shuffled around anxiously trying to come up with some lie that would sound plausible. `Maybe I can say he's...'
My little emergency strategy session was abruptly interrupted by the front door flying open and the shrill voice of my mom at her most upset,
"Daniel Benjamin Dresden! Get in here NOW!" The distorted view of her form through the screen door disappeared as abruptly as it had appeared.
What the hell?! What brought this on? A `DefCon Four' situation??? In the call to an ass-chewing, whenever my proper first name was used was DefCon Two. If my last name was added, it was DefCon Three, and if my middle name was included, it was DefCon Four-- serious shit. Yeah, I read too much sci-fi.
`Man, I really don't want to deal with any bullshit right now, puleeeze! I've had enough for one day!' I thought as I grudgingly moved forward.
I tried to think back on what I could have possibly done in the last day or so that would warrant this level of severity in her tone and volume and came up empty handed. `Ok, try to keep calm. Just listen, apologise, admit you were wrong, whatever it was, promise to never do it again and make your escape to your room. Call Jerry as soon as you think it's safe to use the phone. Get on in there, or she'll get more pissed off.'
I trudged like a beast of burden to the door, feeling like I didn't even have the strength or resolve to turn the handle. I just didn't want to deal with anything else today. I was so exhausted and strung out from all the intense emotional ups and downs, I didn't know if I could even remain calm if she really chewed my ass for some stupid thing I'd done that I didn't even remember doing.
Just as I turned the handle of the screen door, a light bulb came on in my head, `That's gotta be what it is! I bet she found out I skipped school those two days between the two sick days back when... Well fuck that! So I missed four days in four fucking years of high school! Big Fucking Deal! It's not like I'm gonna flunk out now or anything! If that's what this is about, I'm gonna go off! No. Calm down, Danny. You're tired and stressed out. Stay calm.'
I stepped into the living room and saw her pacing the floor with a piece of paper in her hand. She whipped around and almost knocked me over with the look in her eyes and on her face. I had never seen this look before. It scared me. This wasn't about skipping school. The look was about evenly mixed with anger, confusion and sadness. I didn't know what to make of it. My initial reaction was to try to comfort her and find out what it was about-- but having had my full name invoked, I was apparently the cause of her distress.
She looked like she was too upset to speak and began shaking the paper In her fist at me. I had been too busy gauging her expression to look at the paper until now. My jaw dropped when I recognized it.
Oh Goddammit!!! Oh Goddammit to hell!!! My fucking suicide note.
"WHAT-- WHAT THE-- WHAT THE HELL-- DANNY!!!!" Her eyes were bulging out of her head, tears were running down her cheeks and she was shaking uncontrollably. I had never seen her even remotely this upset in my entire life.
Oh God. Oh you clearly merciless God. I was really sure I was not at all capable of dealing with this after all I had already been through today! `How much emotional upheaval can I take in ONE FUCKING DAY?! You stupid mother fucker! Why did you keep that note?!' I mentally beat the shit out of myself for being so stupid. I slumped down on the arm of the stuffed chair beside me and hung my head.
"Mom I..." have no words to tell you and don't know how to explain this. I feel like my tongue's been cut out.
She was trying to calm down enough to speak, "Danny, how could... what were you... what..." She just couldn't bring it together.
We both jerked our heads around when we heard the sound of tires screeching to a halt in the driveway. OH MY GOD. DAD.
He yanked the screen door open, burst into the room slamming the door behind him and came to an abrupt halt. Trying to control his panic, he appraised the looks and body language of both of us and started,
"What's going on?! I could hardly understand a word you said on the phone, Lydia. What's this about a note that's got you so hyster-- upset?" He advanced toward her when she held the note out to him, turning her head away as though she couldn't bear to even see the paper she was holding. He took it and started to read.
At least I was able to say something to try and lessen the impact, as it sank in that he didn't know what was going on yet, "Dad, I was really scared and confused, and in a lot of pain back then. I'm... I'm over it now. Everything is..." My words fell away as I watched his face contort and a couple of tears roll down his cheeks-- which made my own start flowing as well.
His face was ashen and he suddenly looked much older than he ever had to me. He bit his lower lip to arrest its quivering. My stomach was twisting in on itself and I was on the verge of throwing up any second. Fortunately, I had missed lunch.
He sat down unsteadily on the couch and covered his eyes with his hand. The tension was unbearable, punctated by Mom's sobbing and sniffling. A motorcycle screamed through a U-turn in the cul de sac out front, suspending my steady decline for the moment. My attention rejoined the room with dread as my dad rubbed his eyes and shook his head, then started reading the note again.
I didn't know what to do, what to say, how to handle this at all. How could I ever explain this? To find out in one note that I was about to kill myself, and find out I was a queer, a deviant, on top of being their only son... I didn't know which of the two factors was upsetting them most at this point-- and they probably didn't either... God, why hadn't I thrown that note away?!
I had been wanting to come out to them soon, and after talking with Jerry today, knew I was going to no matter what. But I obviously didn't plan to have the suicide attempt coupled with the news in the same Goddamn moment. Now, I was ashamed of myself for all of it.
Oh, I talked big a while ago to Jerry, about being honest and proud, but I was ashamed at this moment, on top of feeling like the worst son in the world for how much I was obviously hurting them. All three of us just sat there in a kind of shell-shocked silence for an interminable little chunk of our lifetimes, dwelling on the saddest possible turn a life can take.
Imagining-- feeling like I knew for certain-- what they were thinking, picturing, I started thinking I really did deserve to die. I deserved to be shunned and hated at the very least. I realized I was not worthy of their love.
I had all these torturous feelings and thoughts shredding my insides, but I couldn't find a single word to say to them. I was overcome with self loathing at what I'd caused the two most caring parents who ever existed, who have given me everything they ever had to give, and more love than I ever deserved.
I stared at my knee and tried to brace myself for the bottomless disappointment I was certain was coming. I was so overwhelmingly ashamed, I just didn't know if I could ever face them again, let alone at this moment. I really, honestly wanted to be nothing, just not be. I wanted to die-- fuck the irony in that.
Mom was the one who shattered the silence, still on her feet, coming at me with an anger that I'd never seen in her, tempered with hurt and maternal instincts.
"How could you-- how could you think... You never said a word to..." she stood in front of me, trembling with emotions she'd never expected to have to deal with.
Then her voice lilted higher and higher as she struggled to get a complete sentence out, "We TRIED AND TRIED to get you to talk to us! Why did you just shut us out like that?! I'm so... Dammit, Danny! How could you..." Her voice softened to sadness at the images in her mind, "Did you actually attempt...? Did you ...?" She half turned and backed up to the couch, sitting slowly, in jerky starts. I couldn't answer any of her questions.
She looked at me, then looked at Dad. With a deflated grimace, she said flatly, "I don't know what to say. I can't handle this." She shook her head slowly and slumped back into the cushions with her hands in her lap, looking off into the kitchen blankly, crying softly.
I couldn't lift my leaded stare off my knee. I started wondering how she found the note. She had to have gone through my stuff-- which I had never thought she ever did. I was so confused, with so many dilemmas in my head, I guess I latched onto that and blurted out,
"How did you find it?" I asked, with way too much attitude. Oh man, as it was coming out of my mouth, I realized I needed an executioner to just put me out of my pathetic existence right then and there. I couldn't believe I asked something so stupid and trivial in a moment like that.
Mom looked stunned. Dad let loose for the first time, "WHO CARES how she found the Goddamned note?! Can't you see what this is doing to her?! And to me?" He wrung his hands til his knuckles were white and his palms red. I pictured them around my neck and shuddered. I watched him mentally count to ten or something akin to that.
"Danny, we've never given you anything but our full love and support! How you came to this," he held the note out and looked at it as he talked, "right in front of us, when we were begging you to talk with us! What were you thinking?! You're not stupid! You have a head on your shoulders and know how to use it! What in the hell made you think you couldn't talk to us?"
The hurt that showed in his eyes as I glanced up guiltily just made me want to shrivel up and slink away to some dark hell.
"I'm so sorry," I offered weakly. "I was... in a lot of pain. And scared."
He looked at me like I had just insulted him or something, "So you shut us out of your life, during the worst crisis you've ever had-- the worst crisis anyone can have! You just closed us off, like we didn't exist. You couldn't trust us to help you get past killing yourself!" He shook his head, "How do you think that makes us feel, Danny?!" His shoulders jerked as he fought back sobs, trying to hold my gaze to see if I had an answer to give, but I had none and his tears fell.
I couldn't return his excruciating gaze. "I was afraid you'd..."
"We've NEVER given you a reason to be afraid of us! We've never beat you, or abused you, or done anything to make you afraid of us!" He was shaking and trying to keep control.
But then my reasons for not telling them slammed into my consciousness and erupted. Somehow, I was able to lock eyes with his the entire time,
"I WAS scared of you, Dad! All my life I've heard you talk about gays like they disgusted you! And joking about them, and, and, always saying things, like, like you hated them-- and that meant me!" I shook all over at the memories of all the little comments, and the outright statements he'd casually made over the years that had chilled me to the bone on every occasion.
I saw him thinking back, searching his memory for anything to back up my claim. "Wha...?" was all he got out.
"Like, I remember just about three months ago, when we were sitting at the shop and the gays were marching in protest over Anita Bryant on the news, and you looked me right in the eye, and said, `I wish those damn perverts would just stop flaunting it!'" I blinked and gulped back a sob. "It felt like you'd just kicked me in the gut. It was like you said it to me! I knew if you ever found out about me, I could never live with your shame." My tears flowed again as I pictured that day.
The shock on his face registered with me as I saw him recalling the incident, and maybe some more times the subject had come up. I saw it dawning on him just how often he'd made big and little comments like that over the years.
But remembering that incident and his accusing look-- that felt at the time like he knew, like he was making the point to me, like he was warning me I'd better not be queer-- reinforced all the shame and fear I had at the moment and over the years, pushing me past the point of being able to deal with it all. I sprang to my feet and fled to my room crying. I simply couldn't face him any longer.
"DANNY! GET BACK IN HERE!" His voice boomed into my head and stopped me in my tracks just inside my door. I stood there shaking and crying, scared and ashamed. I was terrified of what I thought he might say, terrified that he would tell me he hated me. My only examples of other parents in this situation so far were terrifying, between Jerry, Tyson and Rachel's brother, Robert.
I couldn't make myself turn around. I jumped when he yelled again, "GET BACK IN HERE DAMMIT!"
I tried to force myself to get control of my breathing and turn around. My feet somehow lifted and turned me and walked me back to the living room-- I had never ignored a command like that from my dad. He seemed a lot calmer, as I stood looking down at the floor, but his tone was slightly sarcastic; or so it sounded to me.
"Now you think you're homosexual just because this boy seduced you?" He didn't wait for my answer. He cocked his head, "Did you... did you have... did you do this with Tyson too?"
I was still as stone and just as silent. I stared at the floor and felt just like I did when they interrogated me at eight years old when I stole a bicycle, numb with fear, but angry at the same time, about having to feel such shame in front of them.
"I told you he was, Ben. You saw as well as I did how he acted around Tyson, how he looked at him," Mom said evenly. "I told you this was happening and you needed to start dealing with it."
"I DON'T..." he caught himself, calmed again and turned his focus back to me, "You're too young to decide something like this, Danny. You can't make this big a decision based on one or two... experiences." He tried to sound firm but reasonable, "You've never even had a girlfriend, so how can you be so sure you're homosexual?"
I glared at him, stomped my foot in rage and yelled as loud as I could, "I'VE KNOWN THIS SINCE I WAS THIRTEEN, GODDAMMIT! I DIDN'T `MAKE' THIS DECISION! I FOUGHT liKE HELL WITH THIS! READ THE GODDAMNED NOTE!" They were stunned silent, and I added, "AND NO ONE `SEDUCED' ME!" just as loudly before they could react.
"Daniel! Don't talk to your..."
Dad cut her off and stood up abruptly, waving the note around, "I DON'T BEliEVE..." He tried to get control of his emotions, walked to the middle of the room, took a deep breath and said, "I want to know how..." Then his shoulders slumped and he mumbled, "I don't know what the hell I want. I don't know what's going on here."
I cried and moved a step or two toward him, reaching a hand out tentatively, "I'm sorry, Dad! I'm sorry I yelled, and I'm sorry I'm this way..." I hung my head, sobbing out, "I'm sorry I'm not the son you wanted."
He kinda wobbled around in place for a moment, seemingly torn between reaching out to me and running away from me. Flight won out and he lurched toward the front door, note still in hand, "I need... to get out of here for a bit. I need..." he paused a second or two with his hand on the knob. He looked at me and I looked at him. The shock, confusion and hurt in his eyes chilled me to the bone. I felt that falling sensation, just like I had that morning at Jerry's in the library. I felt utterly hopeless. He blinked another tear out, then closed the door behind him and left. I heard the truck start up and just lost it.
"Oh God!" I cried and slumped down to the floor, engulfed in an overwhelming feeling of loss. Mom was instantly there with her arms around me.
"He HATES me! I knew this would happen, Mom, I knew it!" I cried from the depths of my soul.
The one person in the world whose approval I most needed had walked away from me and I just couldn't handle it. I needed my mother's approval too, but I guess I sensed I had it somehow. Maybe it's just one of those `male' things, but everything rang hollow without my dad's love and acceptance, and now my most dreaded fears had been confirmed.
"No no no, Danny, he doesn't hate you. He just needs..."
"HE HATES ME!" I yelled. "He hates queers and I've always known that!"
"No, Danny. He does not hate you. He just doesn't know how to deal with this yet. Give him some time. He needs... to figure some things out. He just needs a little time. We've talked about this some and I know he doesn't hate you. He just wasn't ready for this. He doesn't know how to-- respond to it, yet."
"Oh Mom, I didn't wanna be this way," I pleaded with her, crying loudly. "I tried and tried to fight it! I never wanted to be this way! I knew it would make Dad hate me and-- and that day-- I couldn't take it anymore, after Jerry... I should've gone ahead and done it."
"Oh God, Danny! Don't you dare say that!" She pulled me away from her and shook me slightly, "Danny, listen to me! We love you. Your father loves you. If you killed yourself... If you did that-- it would kill him. He wouldn't be able to handle it at all. He loves you so much," she hugged me tightly again.
"HE HATES ME!" I screamed in agony.
"He doesn't hate you, Danny. Listen to me! I know him and I wouldn't say it if it weren't true." She hugged me tightly to her and spoke softly, "He loves you more than you'll ever know, Danny. I've never known a father who loved his son as much as he loves you. This is just something he was never prepared for. He doesn't quite know how to deal with it. Please try to understand that he just needs time."
"I've let him down so totally," I cried. I could see no hope in this at all.
"No, you haven't let him down. You just... went a different direction than he expected. He'll adjust and you'll see how much he loves you. Just give him time, ok?"
There was silence for a moment, then I asked, "What about you?"
"What about me?" She pulled my head back and looked into my eyes, smiling through her tears, "I love you always and forever, honey, just as you are. Nothing could change that in this lifetime or any other."
"You don't care that I'm...?"
"No, I don't. I've been getting a feeling that you were gay for a long time now; but I was afraid to ask you about it `cause, you know... I was afraid if I asked you if you were, and it turned out you weren't, I... was afraid it would, maybe, traumatize you to ask you...That's confusing..." she shook her head and gave me a weak grin.
"I know what you meant." I felt better at least to know she loved me no matter what.
Her tone changed then, "But I want to know why you wouldn't at least talk to me about this, especially when you came close to... killing yourself."
I thought for a moment, "Mom, you couldn't convince me right now, if you tried to say you wouldn't have told Dad about it, if I told you all this when I was about to do it."
I saw the acknowledgement in her eyes, "Yeah, of course you're right."
"I know y'all talk about everything, all the time. There's no way you could keep something like this from him."
"Yes, well, that's always been a good thing." She moved to get up off the floor, so we both helped each other up. She took me by the hand and led us to the couch. "Ok, hon, then tell me everything now, from the beginning."
I looked around panicked still, "Well what about-- Dad is-- when's he gonna...?"
"Don't worry about him. He needs some time. You need to talk about this, Danny. It's dangerous to keep all this bottled up inside you, so tell me everything."
I sat and looked at her blankly. I didn't know where to begin, what she really wanted to hear. "Uhhh... I don't know what to say. It's not..."
"Well... When did you first think you-- liked boys?" I was relieved that I heard not a hint of derision or disgust in her voice nor saw any in her eyes.
I blushed at having to talk about it with her, but knew I had to now. "Umm, it's hard to say. I mean, I don't think I thought about boys in sixth grade, but everyone else thought I did..." I kinda shrunk into the couch.
"What? What do you mean? What happened?"
It was painful everytime Huntsville came up, always hard to talk about it; but I tried to start, "It all started one day when I was sitting there after lunch, kinda lost in thought, not really aware of where I was looking, `cause I wasn't focused on what I was looking at. All of a sudden, this guy starts calling me a faggot in front of everyone. I'd been staring at his, uh, jeans, and didn't realize I was, I swear. Well, he started in and everyone joined in and I took out running. They chased me down and beat me up. Then--"
"How many kids chased you and beat you up?"
"Uh... five... that time."
"Oh, Danny!" She grasped my hand with a look of agony in her features, "I remember you coming home all beat up! And it happened three times, and you stopped wanting to go to school."
"They only beat me up physically three times, but they would just hit me every chance they got and taunted me all the time. They made life hell for me every hour of the day," I mumbled.
"Honey, we tried to get you to talk about it then, and you told us it was nothing, just a conflict with a bully; and you refused to tell us who it was. Why did you tell us it was just a single boy and no big deal?"
"Because I would've had to tell you why they were doing it, if you made a big deal of it and told the principle or something."
"Danny... I just don't understand why even as far back as Huntsville, you were afraid to talk to us about this! I even asked your teacher why you kept getting in fights; but she was a really dense woman, to put it kindly," she shook her head. "But you should have talked with us!"
"What, you think I hadn't heard Dad say hateful things about queers back then too? I didn't even really know what a queer was then, but I knew it was something bad, from Dad, even before they started calling me one."
The painful look of regret in her eyes said a lot to me. She tried to get past it and keep the conversation going, "Please don't use that word."
"Say `gay' or `homosexual', hon, don't use hateful words like that-- especially about yourself."
"Oh. Well... I don't exactly feel real good about myself right now, Mom." I looked at her and felt bad that having her unconditional love wasn't enough for me. It just didn't make up for not having my dad's love. It was like invalidating her importance in my life, and that was just wrong. I despised myself. "I mean, I understand why he hates me-- but I can't help it!"
She looked off into the distance and said, "You just don't know how much he loves you. I know you remember the times, with all those jobs that didn't work out, all the moves we've made, all the times we had nothing but the clothes on our backs." She looked back at me, "But what you didn't see were the times he broke down and cried `cause he felt like such a failure, when he couldn't provide for us. And you never heard him talk about what he hoped for your future, all he wanted to do for you, and how proud he's been of you as you grew up. You don't hear him brag about how smart and gifted you are to his friends-- and anyone who'll listen."
She reached over and wiped a tear from my eye with a mother's touch. "Danny, he loves you. He'll get used to this and everything will be fine."
I wanted to believe her. But I didn't. All I could think of was the look in his eyes when he left, like he didn't recognize me, like I was some alien who had shown up at his house and turned his life upside down.
"Did you see how he looked at me when he left? He looked at me like he didn't even know me!" I sniffled and hung my head, "And I guess he doesn't..."
There was a strained silence; which was eventually broken by hearing Dad pull back in the driveway. My stomach knotted up and my heart was in my throat. I started to get up and go to my room, but Mom pulled me back down on the couch.
"No, Danny. Stay right here." She held my hand firmly, "We're going to work this out."
He wasn't gone very long. I didn't know if that was a good or bad thing. I had never felt as afraid of anything in my life as I felt then, hearing my dad get out of the truck and walk to the door. Mom's grip was the only thing that kept me from running away. I gauged how fast I could get to the back door and through the gate and how long I could run til I dropped.
In those tense seconds, I thought about what it would be like to live on the streets like Ty had; how Dad could take the car back to where he bought it; how maybe I could work my way through college and make it on my own, and maybe still be able to talk to Mom once in a while, maybe even meet her somewhere to talk sometimes. I thought that maybe Jerry and I could get a place together-- and that thought gave me a little bit of strength. I thought about Rachel's brother and how sad that was, of how Ron's birthday party is coming up soon and that I was supposed to go to it. I thought of how I hoped Jerry could smooth over the rumors that were bound to be flying all over school tomorrow, how I needed to find Ty and talk to him. I thought of how I couldn't imagine what life for me would be like with out my dad in it...
The door screeched with gothic foreboding as he opened it slowly. His eyes were all red around the edges and he just stood there in the middle of the living room looking down at the floor. He was silent for a long time, thinking, trying to figue out how to say whatever he had come to. Time didn't stand still. It dragged on for an eternity, as I waited for his pronouncement, my sentence. I died a thousand deaths in the tense silence, and had to force myself to breathe. Finally, he looked at me, looked at Mom, back at me.
He walked slowly over to me and reached his hand out. I stared in fear at it. It was shaking almost as much as I was. I slowly realized he wanted me to take it. I looked up into his eyes and saw sadness and regret. I didn't know if he could see the fear in my eyes or not. I cautiously put my trembling hand in his and he pulled me up into his arms and hugged me so tightly I thought my spine would snap.
"I'm so sorry Danny!" He held me tightly and swayed side to side.
I fell completely apart and hugged him desperately. I buried my face in his shoulder and cried like a baby. After a minute, he sobbed out, "I'm so sorry I made you afraid of me. It kills me to know you actually thought I would hate you! You're my son. I love you. You're my bud, and I could never hate you for any reason, Daniel."
I cried loudly, with relief, completely unable to form a word, just wailing into his shoulder. I clung to him for dear life. He had always been the anchor of my life, but I had been adrift for a long time, unable to be truly close because of this ominous barrier, this gulf between us; that I hadn't had the nerve to cross, that he hadn't known to cross.
When my cries died down to sobbing, he gently pried me off of him and held me out at arm's length, looking me over. "Danny... this is... It's not easy to deal with, ok? I don't have... I've never had to..." He shook his head in frustration, "I don't know whether this is a `choice' or something you learn, but..." He fixed his gaze on me and spoke deliberately, "I will learn to deal with this. I love you, and I don't care who you love or how you do it. I mean, I care, but... I understand that you don't feel you have a choice," he paused and wiped his tears away.
"And I'm very sorry for all the things I've said about gays. I've just... I've never known anyone face to face who was-- well, I didn't know I knew anyone... Anyway, talking like that just became a habit, you know? Being around guys all my life who talked that way-- you understand what I'm saying? I really never gave it that much thought before; but I don't `hate' homosexuals. I just don't understand it, don't understand what makes someone want it."
He motioned for me to sit on the couch and sat beside me when Mom moved over for him. "We can arrange for you to see a counselor, or a psychiatrist or something-- if you want-- if you think it would help you somehow... like, deal with this or..."
I stared right back into his eyes and said, "No, Dad. I don't need a psychiatrist." I tried to sound positive, not mad or reactionary to him, "I'm not suicidal at all anymore, and I'm not sick. This is not a `choice'. Rachel told me the American Psychiatric Association even removed homosexuality from their list of psychiatric disorders. I have to catch up with them on this for myself, and stop thinking I'm sick. I just want you to accept me, that's all."
"We don't think you're `sick', hon, but counseling can maybe help you deal with all these things, like, like the urge to-- like suicide." Mom was trying to be comforting.
"Who's Rachel?" Dad asked.
"Umm, Rachel is the friend who stopped me from, uh, doing it. They live around the corner, about a block and a half away. She has a gay brother and she doesn't talk to her parents anymore, `cause they can't accept Robert, and are hateful to him. She really helped me with this, and her husband, Ron, too."
"I want to meet her," Mom declared.
I looked past Dad and gave a thin smile, "Sure... I'd like you to meet them. They're really nice people, and they have a really cute little girl named Carly." I realized as I said it, that I was trying to convey that they were a straight family who were open, loving and accepting, like maybe they could be a role model for my folks in some sense.
Dad scowled and said, "I'd like to kick this boy's ass." He held the note up, then realized he was talking about a schoolboy, "Well, maybe his dad's ass."
"Well, uhhh, that's all changed now." I hesitated. I wasn't sure how to tell them what had happened today. They both looked questioningly at me. "Ummm... We made up, today. He was really, really sorry for what he did to me, and apologised for letting his mom get into his head like that."
Mom asked, "What do you mean? What all happened with him that weekend? What did he do to you that made you come to this?"
Well, I had to tell them the whole story, so I did. I started over, at Huntsville, so Dad would have that important reference point. There was so much more to tell than the day I told it all to Rachel and Ron, or the day I talked to Rachel alone, but I also was no longer in the state of despair I'd been in when I talked either time to them. I managed to get through it without too many more tears.
They listened intently, only interrupting to clarify a thing or two, like what was going on in my life at thirteen that made me realize I was gay. I told them how I was infatuated with Billy Joe Carson, the fifteen year old who lived down the street from us back in Dallas. I told them how we'd snuck into a public pool one evening, after it closed, and skinny dipped. I got a hard on from looking at him and he started teasing me about it-- even though he got one too. Fortunately, he let it drop after that, and never told anyone. But it made me face up to how his beautiful body and very nice penis turned me on-- not to mention his dreamy blue eyes. At that point, with huntsville not that far back in my mind, I could no longer ignore the writing on the wall: I had no attraction whatsoever to girls, and I was always thinking about boys-- sexually. I was gay.
It got easier to talk about it as I realized how hard they were trying to understand and accept it all-- and they never showed even a hint of disgust or shock. Of course, I didn't tell them about the acid trip and gave no sexual details at all-- though it was abundantly clear that I'd had sex with Jerry and Tyson. When I got to the part about meeting him, Mom asked where Tyson was. She felt bad about having completely forgotten him today; but it was certainly understandable.
By the time I was wrapping it up, it had become relatively easy to talk about. I felt like the entire world had been lifted off my shoulders. At one point, it seemed almost like I was standing and watching me talk to them, like on a TV camera or something; like I could see all three of our faces and watch myself talking, and study their expressions. And that was also when I felt our triangular bond stronger than I'd ever felt it. The relief of being completely honest with them was a wonderful and liberating feeling that I hadn't known since I was old enough to understand or appreciate a feeling like that. I felt almost lighter than air.
We all sat in silence for a couple of minutes when I finished, digesting it all. At that point, I felt a curious dichotomy of emotions. It struck me that I was wanting very much for them to react positively, with understanding and love about what I was going through, the situation I found myself in, and being in love. I very much wanted their love and acceptance. But simultaneously, I had a surprisingly ardent and loud voice in my head telling me I wasn't going to let them negate my life and choices if they did have any kind of problem with it now that they knew the whole story. I didn't know where it came from, but it infused me with much needed and appreciated strength of emotion.
Just the telling, openly and honestly, was all I could credit for this new feeling. All I knew was, it felt really, really good. It felt like the beginning of independence, of being my own person, suddenly not nearly as dependent on my parent's or anyone else's approval. I still wanted it very much; but I no longer felt like it would be the end of the world if they didn't accept me for who I was. Very liberating feeling.
Dad was the first to speak, and I was so happy that the first thing asked after my tale wasn't questioning or challenging anything about myself or my `gayness'. His question was about now, coming from concern for my emotions, and could only be asked with at least some acceptance of my nature.
"So... you're absolutely positive you're in love with Jerry now? You really think you can trust him with your heart again?"
I could see he was apprehensive. For one thing, he'd never met Jerry, and only knew what he'd put me through-- regardless of the justifications behind it that I'd carefully tried to explain; regardless of how he'd put his emotions and his future on the line for me today. For another, he knew Tyson and liked him, cared for him; so it wasn't easy for him to accept this dramatic change of events today. I understood and empathised with that-- it was still hard for me to take in the sudden change.
I nodded my head enthusiastically, speaking to both of them, "Oh, wait til you meet him! You'll see what I mean. He's the most-- the most wonderful guy in the world! He feels so bad about what he did to me, but he was scared and confused." I was pleading for them to understand and believe what I'd felt. "I know he loved me the whole time. I know what it's like to be that scared; to not be able to accept what you're feeling until it just gets to be too powerful to deny it anymore. He's ready to turn his whole world upside down for me, willing to sacrifice everything he's ever had in life-- for me. I know I can trust him with my heart now. I know."
They both seemed to be coming around, I could tell, so I kept it up, "You just can't fake what I saw in his eyes and felt in my heart today. He just...he loves me!"
I looked past Dad and held Mom's eyes, "I get... my heart just... when I think about him I just..." I fumbled for words to express how strongly I felt, and ended up blurting out hardly the grand affirmation I was trying to come up with-- but I guess it did say a lot anyway: "My legs turn to jelly when I look in his eyes." I blushed at my gushing, avoiding my dad's eyes.
But I was not about deception or masks any longer. I was determined to be up front with them about my entire self from now on, and this was who I was. If he was going to accept me, he was going to have to accept me as I was, the real me-- a hopeless mushy romantic queerboy, emotional crybaby, often confused, afraid and insecure; but full of love and wanting to share it, wanting to be a good person, to be accepted and loved, wanting desperately to be optimistic about people, life, about the world. Me. Period.
Mom smiled with real empathy and said, "Well, I just don't want you to get hurt again. I hope you're sure he's the one for you." She reached over Dad and squeezed my knee reassuringly.
I looked at her and asked, "When did you know Dad was the one for you?"
Mom got a wistful look in her eyes and smiled a warm smile, "Oh, I knew the second I laid eyes on him. I was a carhop at a drive-in burger joint in St. Louis-- yes, on roller skates," she laughed. "I had just turned eighteen, and he was twenty-one. He was the most handsome man I'd ever seen, in his shiny car." She glanced at him and spoke to me, "He always says it was his car that hooked me-- but I couldn't even see the car after I saw his eyes. At that moment, I couldn't have told you what color the car was, but I could have told you his eyes were gray," she smiled dreamily.
"Anyway, I bribed my best friend and co-worker, Beth Bartlett-- you remember her from when you were little-- to let me take him, even though he was on her side of the drive-in." She laughed again, "I was so nervous and klutsy, I spilled his Coke all over him."
Dad chuckled at the memory as Mom continued, "When he got it cleaned up, he said, `Now you owe me a date to make up for this.' And smiled that smile I fell in love with." She smirked and rolled her eyes, "But our first date was a disaster! Everything went wrong, and we ended it early and not too happy with each other."
They looked at each other and smiled. Dad winked some private little memory at her. "So I refused to see him again-- but I just couldn't stop thinking about him. He was so damn sexy." She blushed a little and I had to grin. "Well he kept pestering me, and Beth kept pointing out how obviously I was smitten by him, so I finally gave in."
"And boy did he make up for that first date! He brought me a dozen long stemmed roses and took me to a fancy restaurant on the riverfront, Paolo's, with a wonderful view of the Arch from the deck," she made a rainbow motion with her hand to illustrate St. Louis' Gateway Arch. "Then we walked and talked for hours, holding hands. It was soooo romantic." Her eyes sparkled with the memory.
"Then we made out in his car, in the parking lot of the Hilton, of all places." She laughed heartily, "There was a Southern Baptist convention going on there, and I felt so naughty," she giggled, "but he was the one who's eyes turned my legs to jelly." She smiled knowingly at me. "We were married three months after we met, and we had you almost exactly nine months after we got married."
I looked at both of them. "Man, I just hope me and Jerry are as lucky as you two."
Dad gazed at her while he spoke to me, "You couldn't possibly ask for more, bud, and it just gets better and better every year." My heart swelled up so big at seeing the amazing love they had for each other, still burning fiery hot after all these years-- and it was so wonderful for me now, because I understood it. I knew what that intense kind of love for your soulmate felt like.
Mom sent a subtle, suggestive smile Dad's way, then turned to me and furrowed her brow, "Well, Danny, I've been reading everything I could find on homosexuality-- which is not much-- and I'm very worried about what it will be like for you, what life will be like. There are so many things stacked against you from the start..." She was trying to be realistic while not being a downer about it.
"I'm scared too, Mom. I don't know what to expect-- but with y'all's support, and with Jerry, I should be able to handle it all," I said somewhat confidently.
Dad spoke up, "We just wanna know that you're really ok now, that you don't have any..." He cleared his throat. He still held the note in his hand, and had stared at it a lot while I'd told my tale. "I'm just afraid of..."
"Dad, I'm ok now, really. I feel like I've learned a lot from all this. I really feel like I would never even consider anything like that again-- no matter how bad things get-- especially now I know y'all love me no matter what."
He nodded and said, "Promise you'll come to us if you ever, ever feel anywhere near like this again." He looked for a promise in my eyes and got it.
"I'm so sorry I put y'all through this. I should've thrown the note away."
"No, hon. Then we wouldn't have known what you were going through." Mom looked at me with her warm hazel eyes, her mascara smeared a little around them. Her voice was like a goose down comforter on a cold winter night, "You didn't `put us through this'. It's what you were going through, honey, and that means we all go through it-- and we should all go through anything important together." She looked at both of us and we acknowledged our solidarity with our eyes.
"And Danny..." Dad looked at me with determination, "I have a lot of... well, a lot of crap to overcome-- a lifetime of it-- but I do accept it. I do accept you, and love you unconditionally. Just... give me time to adjust, ok? I have to learn to think differently, have to get rid of all the..." He gestured a process. "You know, just things like, getting used to knowing I'll never have grandkids, and the thought of what..." He stopped himself. "Just be patient with me, ok? I worry about saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, unintentionally or something..."
I looked at him and saw the struggle in his eyes-- but saw the absolute rock solid love for me there too. "Ok. I know. It's gotta be hard to deal with. It was hard for me to deal with... sometimes still."
"Oh, and Danny," Mom waved her hand to get my attention. "You asked awhile ago how I found the note. I just want you to know I wasn't snooping, or anything like that. I was changing your sheets and saw ants going in and out of the bottom drawer of your desk. I opened it up and there were a couple of potato chips in there. I saw the note half hanging out of a folder and it said "READ THIS NOW" so naturally I pulled it out and saw "HOUSE IS FILLED WITH GAS" on it and read it. I just want you to know I've always respected your privacy."
My mind flashed to yesterday, when Ty asked to see the note and we talked about all that. It was much later, when we were munching and talking and laughing, that I noticed it and went to put it back. When I bent over, with the bag of chips in one hand and the note in the other, Ty had goosed me and a couple of chips fell in the drawer and I didn't get the note all the way back in the folder-- being too busy laughing and backing up to him while telling him to kiss my ass.
"Thanks Mom. I didn't think it was like you to go through my stuff." I looked at both of them and said contentedly, "I'm really glad everything's out in the open now... that I can be completely honest with you, finally." I added solemnly, "I was trying to get up the courage to tell you real soon, but I wish it hadn't happened like this. I never meant to hurt y'all-- well..." I dropped my eyes, "I guess if you think about it, I almost did hurt you in the worst way on purpose just..."
"Bud..." Dad cut me off, "this was definitely harder because of the note, but I'm glad that all of it was discussed and worked out. We've both been so worried about you since that weekend. And even way back in Huntsville; I feel really bad we didn't catch on then to what was going on and somehow gotten it out of you, what you were going through."
He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and said, "But everything's gonna be alright now, ok?" He smiled and I almost started crying again.
`Yeah, I feel like I have a chance now,' I thought as I looked in his eyes.
"Ok now," Dad wanted to get down to business and stop dwelling on all that, "What about Jerry and Tyson. What are you gonna do?"
"I don't know, Dad! I wanna be with Jerry right now, but I've gotta try an' find Tyson and talk to him." I shook my head sadly, "I don't know what to do."
"Do you think he went back down to Galveston, to that house, those nice people?" Mom asked.
"That could be. Actually, that would make sense, I guess. I just hoped he'd stay and talk with me about it." Wringing my hands in frustration, I said, "He doesn't even know for sure I took Jerry back yet."
"I have a feeling from what you said, he knew deep down you'd go back to Jerry," Dad offered.
"Yeah. I guess he did. I guess I must have known it too, deep down. I feel so bad about hurting him. I feel like such a horrible person to do this to him." I fought back more tears.
"Can you call-- what was her name-- Sheila?" Mom asked hopefully.
"Celia. I don't know their number or their last name."
"Bud, I think what you need to do at this point, is reassure Jerry. I know you feel bad about Tyson and want to straighten that out, but since you can't yet, you should concentrate on Jerry, make sure he's still as sure of things, you know."
Wow. I didn't expect that kind of insight from my dad-- and I definitely didn't expect for him to actually encourage me to be with my boyfriend. I got such a warm feeling all over. At some unexpressed prompt, we all stood at the same time.
"Well, I guess I should call him or something... maybe go see him this evening."
They both vaguely nodded assent, pretty uncomfortable with the reality of what that meant. Mom started toward the kitchen, "I guess I should start dinner." We all felt awkward, unsure of how to act, with this whole new dimension to our relationship.
"Umm, I'll, uh, watch the news or something..." Dad mumbled.
He hesitated in front of me, turning to speak in a cautious tone, "Bud... try to take it slow with Jerry. You're young, and at this age, we often make more of things than they really are; just `cause we want it to be perfect so badly." He shook his head and held his hands up in defense, "Now I'm not trying to trivialize, or say your love is less than it is. I can easily see it's very strong for you. I just don't want to see you get hurt any more. Just be careful, ok?"
I wrapped my arms around his broad shoulders and lay my head there, breathing in my father's scent. I had it in my sense-memory from countless hugs over the years, the same way I had my mother's scent in there. It was always comforting to refresh it. Maybe it's a holdover from our animal origins or something, but it's comforting in a way that almost nothing else can quite be.
"Thanks Dad. Thanks a lot," I paused. "I do love him, Dad, more than I ever thought possible. I hope you can accept him as part of my life now. I think you'll like him when you meet him." I squeezed him tightly and he returned the hug.
When he released me, we stood apart and I saw he still held the note. I looked at it and said, "I should throw that away now."
"No," he said very quietly, looking at the note contemplatively, "I'll keep it."
We looked into each other's eyes, and though I didn't understand; I didn't question why he wanted to keep it. I accepted that he had his reasons.
"Ok." I looked down at it again with a ping in my heart and back up to him, "Uhh, can I use your bedroom phone to call Jerry?"
"Sure, go ahead." He winked at me, "I guess we should get you an extension phone for your room, huh?" He smiled and put his hand on my shoulder like he always had. Yes, I felt like everything was going to be alright.
"Hey, babe. @@? Oh, not much... except I just came out to my parents. @@?!! Yeah, that's what I said. @@? Well, It was scary and we went through a lot of shit; but they accept me and love me. @@? Huh? Yeah, I should have known they would, really. Man, I can't tell you what a relief it is to have all this out in the open! @@. I'm glad it happened, now. It feels so good! @@? How? Uh, well, it came up cuz... Umm, my mom found... Well, she found the note I wrote that day. @@? Huh? Yeah, my suicide note. @? Yeah, I still had it in a notebook-- I don't know why. @@. Yeah, it freaked them out-- big time. It was all really painful for them, and for me. We all cried a lot. I'd never seen my dad cry before. @@? Well, he had a hard time with it, and he's still kind of adjusting; but he's trying really hard, and I think he's gonna be ok with it in time. But he loves me-- there's no question about that. @@? No, I don't want you to see it. @? Because. @@@@. Let's just put all that behind us, ok? Besides, Dad kept it. I don't have it anymore. @@@@@@."
"Thanks Jerry. That means a lot to me. @. I love you too-- and now my parents know it. @@? Yeah, I told them everything. @@! No, they don't hate you! @@! No they don't! I told them all the reasons why things happened the way they did and they understand. @@. I swear, they don't hate you, Jerry! @@ No! It's not like that! They're nothing at all like your parents!"
"@@? I couldn't find him! I looked everywhere! I even drove over to his folks place in League City and saw his dad. @@? No, hell no! I just saw him when I honked and he came out the door. @@? Hell no! I wasn't gonna say nothin' to him! @@@! You got that right! Hey, I'll bet you could take him down. @@@@@! Oh I'd love to see that! And when you got `im down, I'd come over and kick him in the head just like he did Ty! He just got his hearing back in his left ear this morning. @@? I don't know where he could be. @@. Yeah, could be. Mom said that too, but I don't know their phone number or last name. @@@."
"Well that's what I'm thinking now. If I don't hear from him by then, I'll drive down there and see if he's there this weekend. @@@. Oh yeah, you mentioned you stayed there. @@@@@@. Ooooohhh, that sounds really good. It's right on the beach? @@. The whole weekend? Your mom won't know we stayed there? @@? I dunno, you know how parents have ways of finding out things. @@@@."
"Cool. Yeah, it's a plan, stud. @? Yeah, you're my stud! @@? You're the studliest stud in the world. @@? Oh, way studlier than Clint Eastwood-- an' I bet you got a bigger gun, heh heh. @@@@@! OHHHHhhh, don't you go and make me cream my jeans right here on my parents bed! @@@@. Stop that! No, don't stop that. @@@@. Ohhh, you promise? @@@. Yeah! @@? Oh yeah, I'm hard too, rock hard. @@@@@. Well you could rip them off my body, y'know. Oh man, I can't wait! Want me to come over after dinner? @@@! Oh, I could do that as soon as I come in the door! Hell, I'd start right there in your front yard, for all of Friendswood to see! @? Yeah, 8:00 would be good. @@@. Well I can't stay the night, cuz it's a school night, y'know. Maybe til like, midnight?"
"@@. What, you still haven't taken a shower after today? @@@@. Oooh, I hadn't thought of that. Sure, the smell of our sex would stay on us, and with all that sweat, huh? That's sexy. I just love how you smell, so manly-- it really turns me on. @@@. Well no, I wouldn't wanna leave it on me for like, days or nothin', but for awhile, yeah. I'd like to bring your jockstrap home after you play basketball and keep it on my pillow. @? Yes, I'm serious! Oh, you can laugh all you want, but I'm totally serious. @@@. Ok, keep the one you wear tomorrow for me. From now on, your jocks come to me before they go to the laundry. We'll do a jockstrap exchange everyday at school-- I want a fresh supply of you every night."
"@@. Oh, you know what I'll be playing with when I rub it in my face! Hell, I'll probably put it on my head and sleep with the crotch covering my face. @@@. Oh God! That would either be funny as hell, or horrifying! I could just imagine the look on Mom's face if she came in to wake me up for school and I had your jock on my head!"
"@@@. I'll soap you up and down later. You'll just have to do it for yourself right now. @@@. Yeah, I'd bend over and pick it up if you dropped it-- even if you dropped it on purpose. @@@. What, on the tiles? It might hurt my knees-- but it'd be worth it. @@. Kneepads? Ha ha ha! Seriously though, you got a pair? @@@@. Oh yeah!"
"@@@@? Hmmm... hottest little thing you do? Hmmmm... I'd have to saaaay, when you bite and lick my neck and tell me I'm yours while you're givin' it to me, like today. @@? Yeah, that gets me so hot I just lose it! @@@@@@. Oh God! You like it when I do that? That gets you hot? I get kinda embarrassed when I beg you like that. @@@@. Well, it just happens, like, it's just what I gotta do, cuz I want it so bad @@@? Cuz you have the sexiest, most perfect body in the whole world! I love running my fingers through your chest hair and working my way down, down, down, to that huge... @@@@! Thanks, but I'm not exactly what anyone would call a hot number-- but you are! I love licking you all over and when I get to your---"
I heard a throat clear and looked up to see my mom in the doorway. BUSTED! I blushed ten shades of crimson and spoke quickly into the phone, "Uhhh, hi Mom. Uh, I'll see you at eight, Jerry. @@@???!!!!! Yeah. @@? Don't know how much. @. `K, I love you too, bye."
I was mortified. I had no idea how much she had heard. She tried to act like she hadn't heard anything, but I could tell she had, at least some, by her awkward movements and how she avoided my eyes as she came on into the room. I stood up nervously and tried to camouflage my tented jeans, starting quickly for the door.
"Uhhh, I'm going over and see `im around 8:00, like Dad suggested, ok?" I kept walking.
"Ok." She paused, then called after me, "But it's a school night, so don't stay late."
"I won't." I figured I'd better wait til tomorrow to tell them about the weekend plans.
After a tense, silent dinner, the folks sat and watched TV, trying to act like nothing had changed. While I was getting ready to go to Jerry's, on a trip to the bathroom in my stocking feet, I overheard them talking in hushed voices,
"...is eighteen now," Mom was saying. "We already know he's been having sex with him. I just don't see how we can expect him not to, Ben."
"I know," he sighed. "It's just... I guess it's just... It's hard to think of him as an `adult' now, already."
There was a pause, as I stood, cheeks burning, not breathing, in the hallway. "Well, if he was in love with a girl... would you be uncomfortable with him having sex?"
There was a long pause. I had to hear his answer. "Honestly... probably not, as long as he was using protection. If I think about it honestly, from a `guy's' point of view, I'd be wishing him all the luck. So I just have to work to try and change my... I need to try like hell to understand this and... He's gonna do it, no matter what I think, so I just have to accept that."
"Ben, if you could have seen how desperately he needed your approval, you would--"
"I did see that, Lyddy. I know all that, and I'm working on it. I know I should have worked on it before now. You've been telling me..."
"The thing to remember here, is he didn't want this anymore than we did, but no one can change it, and it's nobody's fault. We have to learn to live with it. It shouldn't change how much we love him."
"No... it doesn't change that. Of course it doesn't change that. I'll learn to live with it, and accept it. I can handle it." After a short pause, he repeated, "I can handle it." They fell silent.
Mr. Rourke could be heard giving another dose of sage advice to Tattoo in that little 32" fantasy world where love wins everytime. For some reason, I wondered, `What would Mr. Rourke say?'