Dancing on a Star
Tracy and Jeff noticed Jimmy’s reaction when we drove by. Tracy asked, “Who was that?”
“Jimmy Taylor,” replied Jeff. “He’s a jerk. You better stay away from him.”
I tried to defend Jimmy by insisting he wasn’t a jerk, but by now I wasn’t sure myself. It had been days since we last spoke; and the last time we did, he called me a fag. I hadn’t decided yet if he still wanted to be my friend. I was hoping that he would soon come around to the fact that Tracy and Jeff weren’t bad guys, even though they were gay.
“He’s still a jerk,” huffed Jeff.
My sister turned and asked what was going on. She had been listening to our conversation, and she couldn’t understand why Jimmy was upset with me.
I was stunned when Tracy blurted out, “Probably because we’re gay.” Darren had a surprised look when he turned toward the back seat.
Stephanie cleared her throat and replied, “Yes, well.” I could hear the tension in her voice as she tried to speak. “That still doesn’t give him the right to treat you mean.”
“He’s not treating us mean,” I insisted. Suddenly, I realized what I had just said. I had included myself with Tracy and Jeff. I looked for a reaction from my sister, but she continued to drive. I wasn’t sure if she understood what I said, or if she just decided to ignore it.
Darren looked back at Tracy and asked, “So you’re gay?”
“Sure am,” replied Tracy proudly.
“Me, too,” offered Jeff. I think he was trying to admit he was gay so he could test to see if Darren was.
“Cool,” responded Darren. “I guess since we’re all coming out, I will, too.” All three of us looked at each other with stunned faces. I giggled when Tracy held his hand out, wanting the ten dollars from Jeff.
Tracy and Jeff looked over at me. I know they were wanting me to come out, but I couldn’t do it in front of my sister. I still wasn’t sure if she had talked to my mom yet.
Darren asked Tracy and Jeff if they were boyfriends. I started blushing when they replied that they were friends with benefits. I was afraid that Jeff would tell him that I was too. Darren laughed and said, “Well, you can’t have too many of them.” He then high-fived Tracy and Jeff.
As we drove, Tracy leaned over and told Jeff he owed him ten dollars. I laughed when Jeff responded that he could ‘take it out in trade.’ Tracy called him a lying bitch.
Stephanie turned and asked, “How does Bob Evans sound?”
“Yuck,” replied Jeff. “Dad loves the place. We eat there about once a week. Can’t we go someplace else?”
“Like where?” asked Stephanie. “You decide.”
Jeff looked at Tracy and me. “How about Mexican?” I shrugged my shoulders.
Darren turned, looked at Jeff and said, “Mexican sounds good to me.” I giggled when Jeff looked at Tracy and stuck out his tongue.
Stephanie suggested, “We’ll go to the Fiesta Palace for tacos.”
“Yummy,” remarked Jeff as he rubbed his stomach.
Ten minutes later we pulled up in front of the restaurant. I had eaten here a few times and liked their food. They serve the best tacos in town.
Jeff trailed closely behind Darren when we walked through the restaurant. I knew what he was doing. He wanted to sit beside him when he took a seat. And I was right. When Darren sat down at a booth, Jeff scooted in beside him. I shook my head and sat down next to Jeff. Stephanie and Tracy sat opposite us.
A waiter named Javier came over to our booth and took our order. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties. He seemed friendly, but I had a feeling he didn’t feel comfortable serving a table full of gay guys. Jeff and Tracy can sometimes act very flirty. I think because of Darren, they were really turning it on. I noticed Javier wince when Jeff called Tracy a girl.
After taking our orders, I asked Stephanie how her and Darren became friends. I was curious why she was friends with a gay guy. It wasn’t because I didn’t think my sister didn’t like gay people, I just never imagined her having a close gay friend like Darren.
Darren began to explain. “We actually met the first day on campus. We were supposed to register, and I couldn’t find where we were to go.” He looked at my sister and smiled. “Your sister sat down beside me and helped me.”
Stephanie giggled and said, “I was actually trying to hit on you.”
Darren laughed and replied, “Girl, I knew that. You wouldn’t be the first female whose heart I’ve broken.”
Jeff piped up and asked, “I bet you’ve broken a few guys’ hearts, too. Huh?”
Tracy and I laughed when Darren looked over at Jeff and replied, “Yes, Honey. And if you don’t quit fawning all over me, you’re going to get your heart broken, too.”
“What?” shrieked Jeff. “I’m not fawning over you.” His face reddened as he added, “I don’t even know what that means.”
I giggled, leaned over and whispered in Jeff’s ear, “It means you’re a perv.”
Jeff’s face blushed and he replied, “I can’t help it. He is hot.”
“Okay, Guys,” admonished Stephanie. “Leave Darren alone. Besides, he already has a boyfriend at school.”
I giggled again when Jeff muttered, “Shit! The cute ones are always taken.”
Javier brought our order to the table and we began to eat. As we did, I asked Stephanie why she had come to visit. She responded, “Can’t I come home to visit my favorite brother?”
I laughed and replied, “I’m your only brother. But seriously, why did you come home? I didn’t think you’d be here before Thanksgiving.”
A sullen look appeared on her face when she said, “Mom called.”
“Oh,” I replied. I knew what that meant. Mom must have called her and told her about Tracy.
She looked across the table and suggested, “Let’s talk about this later.” I nodded and took a bite of my taco.
We talked as we ate our meal. Tracy wanted to learn more about Darren’s interest in music. They seemed to really connect as they talked. Both had become interested in performing when they were very young. Darren’s father had bought him a guitar at a garage sale when he was five. By the time he was six, he could already play proficiently. When he turned eight, his family bought a piano for the family room. It took him about another year until he could play it.
“Now, you,” said Darren. “Steph told me you like to dance ballet.”
“Yeah,” interrupted Jeff. “You should see him. He’s good!” He looked over at Tracy and said, “He’s going to dance in the Nutcracker.” Naturally, Darren was very interested in Tracy’s interest in ballet. They began to talk, and it was as if the rest of us weren’t even at the table. I could sense that Jeff was getting very jealous.
Tracy told him how he had been dancing since he was five. “The hardest part,” he said, “was everyone just assuming I am gay because I like to dance.”
“I get the same thing, too,” remarked Darren. “When people find out I’m a music major, I can see a look appear on their face.” He raised his fingers, made a quotation sign and said, “Gay.”
“Nonsense,” said Stephanie. “Not everyone thinks that.”
Darren laughed and replied, “You did.”
“Did not,” denied my sister.
“You did, too,” laughed Darren. “I saw the change in you as soon as I told you I was a music major.”
“I did not,” huffed Stephanie.
“Did, too,” laughed Darren. “You were hitting on me until then. I saw the alarm bells go off in your head when I told you.” I looked over at my sister and laughed. She was blushing brightly.
“Okay,” she agreed. “Maybe I did. But it didn’t stop us from being friends.”
Darren reached across the table, gripped her hand and said, “Best friends.” Stephanie smiled and nodded.
I found Stephanie and Darren’s relationship interesting. I knew growing up with her that she was open-minded. All through high school, her best friend was a black girl named Monica. They did everything together. Stephanie never had a permanent boyfriend, but when a guy did ask her out to a movie, it was naturally assumed that Monica would join them. I was always afraid people would think they were lesbians. There were times I also wondered if it was true.
We never talked about sex, but when I began to think I was gay, I never thought that Stephanie would reject me. I somehow knew she would support me. A few months before she was to leave for college, I considered telling her I thought I might be gay. However, the right moment never came. She left for school without knowing my secret.
Now she knew. I could tell by the way she would stare at me, that she wanted us to talk about it. I still hadn’t really confessed to her that I was gay. Even when Darren, Jeff and Tracy admitted they were gay, I couldn’t. My first instinct was that she would be disappointed. Now, I think she would be more disappointed that I hadn’t come out to her earlier.
After dinner, Stephanie dropped Jeff off at home first. Naturally, he had to give Darren a hug before getting out of the car. As he crawled over me to get out, he mouthed, “God, I think I’m going to die.” I was seeing a new side to Jeff I had never seen before. At school, he seemed to ignore everyone and go about his business without much attention. In private, he was humorous and a tease. I was beginning to enjoy our new friendship. Unfortunately, it was a friendship that would have to exist behind closed doors.
Next, we drove to Tracy’s house. He looked over and asked if I was coming in with him. I asked, “Can I talk to Stephanie first?”
“Yeah, sure,” he replied as he got out of the car. He didn’t hug Darren as Jeff had. He told him he was glad to meet him, and he hoped that everyone could get together again before he and my sister returned to school.
He smiled when Darren replied, “It’s a date.”
After Tracy entered the house, Darren opened the door and got out. “Why don’t you sit in the front seat while I head across the street. I’ll catch up with you guys later.” I nodded, got out and sat beside Stephanie.
“Yeah, well,” giggled Stephanie nervously. “Where do we begin?”
I asked, “Are you mad at me.”
“Oh, God no!” she replied as she leaned over and hugged me tightly. Both our eyes were rapidly filling with tears. “I love you more today, Jack, than ever.”
I pulled away and asked, “Even if I’m gay?”
She wiped away tears that were falling down my face. “Even if you’re gay.” She smiled and kissed me on my cheek. “Now, tell me what happened. Mom didn’t say much when she called. She was too upset.”
“She hates me,” I cried. “She saw me kissing Tracy.”
“I got that much,” she replied. “So, you haven’t come out to mom and dad yet?”
I chuckled and said, “I guess I have now.” Tears welled up inside my eyes as I asked, “Do they hate me?”
Stephanie replied, “I don’t know about Dad. He really hasn’t said anything. Mom is pretty upset. I guess she can’t get over what she saw.” She frowned and asked, “Why weren’t you more careful?”
“I don’t know,” I said sadly. “We were in his room, and one thing led to another. He was showing me how he dances, and it just happened. We didn’t hear his mother coming up the stairs. When she came into his room, Mom was behind her.”
“Did she say anything to you?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I really haven’t given her a chance. I was too upset, so I left. I spent the night at Jeff’s.”
Stephanie gripped my hand and asked, “Are you going to be okay?”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied with a nervous laugh. “Why shouldn’t I be after Mom and Dad kick me out of the house.”
“They’re not going to kick you out of the house,” my sister insisted.
I gave her a puzzled look. “Why are you here, anyway. Shouldn’t you be in school?
She spent the next few minutes explaining how Mom had called her. She was hysterical on the phone. Stephanie wouldn’t tell me exactly what she said, but I could tell by the tone of her voice that my mother was very upset when she found out I was gay. Looking back, I guess she had every right to be upset. I really hadn’t prepared her that I might be gay. I had tried so hard to protect my secret ever since I realized that I might be gay. Even my best friend, Jimmy, didn’t have a clue.
But how do you prepare someone when you don’t want them to know? Are there little clues that you are supposed to drop into conversations to give them hints? Should you wear certain clothes or act in a manner that starts them to wonder about your sexuality? Do you expose just enough so that when the truth does emerge, they will realize what they were beginning to assume would counter the shock of actually knowing?
Maybe if I had said or done something that would have made Mom and Dad have evening talks in bed late at night wondering if their son was gay would have avoided what I was going through now. “Did you see the way that Jack throws around his hands when he talks?” They could then compare it to the actions of a gay character on television. Or, “That shirt Jack had on today made him look rather feminine. You don’t think he’s trying to tell us something, do you?”
But I never gave my parents any clues. My sister had no idea until Mom called her crying with the news. And until just a few hours ago, she had no idea that she had a gay brother. Perhaps, I had hidden my secret too well.
“Why did you bring Darren?” I asked after she finished telling me about the call she received from Mom.
“We were studying together in his room,” she explained. She laughed when I raised an eyebrow.
“I thought he’s gay?” I remarked with a laugh.
“He is,” she replied. “I’m taking a class with his boyfriend, and we were preparing for a test.”
“So, he does have a boyfriend? I thought he just told Jeff that to stop him from flirting with him.”
“Yes,” replied my sister. “He has a wonderful boyfriend named Clayton. They met in high school, and they decided to go to the same university together. They live in a dorm because they have to as freshmen. Next year, they are going to get an apartment.” I gave her an astonished look when she added, “They want me to room with them.”
“You’re going to room with a gay couple!”
“Sure,” she laughed, “Why not? They’ll be perfect roomies. They’re not messy like my roommate now. And,” she added, “Clayton is a great cook.”
“What will Mom and Dad say?” I couldn’t imagine that they would let Stephanie live with two guys, even if they are gay.
She replied, “I think once they get used to Darren, they won’t care. That’s why he insisted coming with me. He thought that he could talk to them and make them understand what you’re going through.”
I responded sadly, “Maybe he needs to talk to me. I don’t understand what I’m going through.”
She patted my hand and replied, “That’s the main reason he came home with me. He figured you might need someone to talk to. From what he told me, I guess he went through the same thing with his parents when he came out.”
I sighed and said, “This is going to be hard.”
Stephanie gripped my hands and replied, “Life is hard, Jack. After you get through this fight, there will be another, and another and another.”
“Just great,” I responded as I rolled my eyes. “I thought you were here to help me.”
“I am,” she giggled as she kissed my cheek. She started the car and backed out of the Craft driveway. “Let’s go get this over with.” I looked up at Tracy’s window. He had the curtain pulled back and was looking down at me.
The house was quiet when we entered. Usually, Mom, Dad and Karen would be watching television in the family room. Instead, all the lights were out. “Where is everyone?” I asked Stephanie.
“They must be in their rooms,” responded my sister as she walked over and turned on a lamp. She pointed to a chair and said, “Go sit down, and I’ll see where Darren is.”
I sat quietly for several minutes. I looked around the room and wondered if it might be for the last time. I wasn’t getting good vibes. I was afraid that my parents may have already decided to put me out of the house. They wouldn’t just kick me out into the streets. I was still in high school, and they may go to jail if they just abandon me. However, they could send me to live with my grandparents or an aunt or uncle.
My Dad’s parents lived across town. My grandfather is a strict man. Dad said when he was growing up that he was very demanding. He insisted that he become involved in sports so he wouldn’t get into trouble. He was also checking on how he was doing in school. If a teacher reported that he was slacking off in class, he would make him do his homework in the evenings at the kitchen table until his grade improved. When he visited, he was loud and annoying. I thought it was because he was getting hard of hearing, but Dad said that is the way he has always been.
My grandmother, on the other hand, is just the opposite. She’s very quiet and shy. She says very little. I guess over the years after living with my grandfather, she let him do most of the talking, and she disappeared into the background. My mother once commented that I had inherited my grandmother’s personality.
My mother’s parents lived in Florida. They live in Tampa, and we have visited them a few times. They appear very rich. They live in a big house near the ocean, and they have a big pool in the backyard. When we visited, Stephanie and I spent most of the time swimming in the pool or the ocean.
I also considered who else they might ask to take me in. It would be difficult because most of them probably wouldn’t want a gay family member dropped off on them. I know if one of my cousins was gay, and my aunt or uncle asked Mom and Dad if they could stay with us, they would refuse. Besides, my father only has a brother, and my mother has an older brother and a younger sister. The options are limited.
Then I began to panic that they might send me someplace else, like a foster home, or worse yet, a group home. I had heard about them. A boy at school lives in a group home because the court had sent him to one when he got in trouble and his parents didn’t want him in their house anymore. Everyone in school tries to avoid him. I have seen him in the hall a few times, and he doesn’t seem to me like someone who is a troublemaker. Maybe his parents are like mine and just don’t want him around anymore because he is an embarrassment.
I jumped when Stephanie and Darren entered the family room. My sister gave me a worried look and asked if I was alright. “I’m fine,” I tried to assure her. She glanced quickly at Darren, nodded her head and announced she was going to the kitchen to get us something to drink.
Darren came over to the sofa and sat down beside me. “I know you’re telling everyone you’re okay,” he said, “but I’ve been down this road before. It’s not easy.”
Tears formed in my eyes as I asked, “How did you handle it? I feel like I’m losing everything.”
He patted my thigh and assured me things aren’t always as bad as they first seem. He turned toward me and said, “When I first came out, I felt the same way you do now. I thought my life was over.” I attempted to smile and nodded my head. “And it was for a while.” I looked at him and frowned.
I laughed nervously, “I thought you were going to try and make me feel better. You know, that ‘it gets better’ thing I read about.”
He smiled and sat back. “I know from where you are right now, it seems hopeless.”
“You got that right,” I responded.
He sat back up and looked into my eyes. “But it does,” he stated emphatically. “I know.” He sat back and rested his head. “It’s not us,” he said. “It’s them. We know that being gay isn’t a bad thing, it’s just the way we are.”
“That’s just it!” I said excitedly. “I don’t feel anything is wrong with me.”
“And there’s not,” he replied as he patted my hand. “You’re perfectly normal.”
“But how do I make my parents realize that?”
He sighed and replied, “I don’t know.”
“Thanks,” I chuckled nervously. “That’s good advice.”
“Seriously, Jack,” he said as he sat up and once again stared at me. “It’s different for all of us. We’re not like cookies that have been shaped by a cookie cutter. We have different parents, grandparents, family and friends. What works for one person may not work for another.”
I asked, “But how will I know what to do? Right now, I feel like I’m losing everything. My parents hate me, and my friends have turned against me.”
“How do you know your parents hate you?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know,” I replied. “They just do.”
“Have they told you that?”
“No,” I confessed.
“Does Stephanie hate you?”
Tears welled up in my eyes. “No,” I replied. “I don’t think she does.”
“She doesn’t,” assured Darren. “I’ve known your sister only a short while, but she’s one of the most understanding people I know. That’s why she’s my best friend.”
“No,” I replied. “She doesn’t hate me.”
Darren reached out and gripped my hand. “Let me and Stephanie help you through this. Okay? It’s too big to handle by yourself.”
Tears started to fall onto my cheeks. “Okay,” I replied as I fell against his chest and started to cry.