Dancing on a Star
After we got dressed, I walked over to the window and looked across the street. Since it had been over an hour since the ‘intervention’ began, I wondered what was happening inside. I could imagine Mom, Dad, Stephanie, Darren, Mr. and Mrs. Craft and Mr. and Mrs. Munson sitting around the dining room table talking about me. The odds seemed favorable to me. It was six against two. Then again, it could be seven against one- my mother.
After seeing the horrified look on her face when she saw me and Tracy, I tried to imagine what she was feeling. It had to be one of the most shocking things she had ever seen. Her ‘straight’ teenage son locked in an embrace with his ‘gay’ neighbor with his hand stuck inside his pants. From her viewpoint I could understand why she would be upset. My only problem was figuring out how to make her accept what she had seen. And that wasn’t going to be easy.
I remember last year a joke going around school when someone mentioned Hal Compton having a crush on Liz Stamper. Liz is a beautiful cheerleader of the boys’ basketball team. Hal is, how can I say this without sounding extremely rude? I guess he’s what everyone imagines as the school nerd. He’s big and rather heavy. His hair looks like it hasn’t been washed in months, and he could use a rather large dose of underarm deodorant.
Anyway, Jonathan Mercer made a joke about Hal staring at Liz in algebra school. He said that Hal got hard, and he seemed to be playing with himself. Cindy Woods screamed out, “Eye Bleach!” and the table erupted in laughter. Since then, we yell that when we see something that we wish we hadn’t.
I suppose that is what my mother wanted to scream when she looked into Tracy’s room and saw us making out. “Eye Bleach!” she probably screamed all the way back to our house. Now though, I wish there was such a thing to erase the imagine she saw.
Jeff walked up beside me and asked, “Are you okay, Jack?”
I responded, “I wonder what is happening?” I froze when I saw the front door open and Darren walk out. He stopped on the porch and looked up at Tracy’s window. He saw me and Jeff looking down at him. He stepped off the porch and headed across the street.
When the doorbell rang, Tracy left the room to answer it. A minute later, Darren was standing in the doorway. He asked Tracy and Jeff, “Can I speak to Jack alone?”
“Sure,” they responded as they left the room and closed the door behind them.
Darren walked over to the bed and sat down. He patted the bed and asked me to sit beside him. I sat and looked at him worriedly. “What is going on?”
He sighed deeply and attempted a smile. “It’s going to be okay, Jack.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I asked, “Do they hate me?”
He patted my leg and assured me, “No, they don’t hate you.”
I worriedly asked, “So, what’s going to happen now?”
“We talked to them,” he explained. He smiled slightly and said, “Now, I think it is time for you to talk to them.”
I jumped to my feet and asked, “What? Now?”
He rose and faced me. “Jack,” he insisted, “It isn’t going to get any easier if you wait.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the door. “Now is as good a time as any.”
I stopped and replied worriedly, “What do I say?”
“We told them how you’re feeling,” he explained. “We tried to get them to understand what you’re going through. I think it is time for you to let them know.” He reached for my hand and pulled me from the room. This time I didn’t resist.
Tracy and Jeff were waiting downstairs for us. They gave me a worried look when Darren and I left the house. When we stepped out onto the porch, Mr. and Mrs. Craft were returning from across the street. Mrs. Craft approached and hugged me. “Be strong, Jack,” she said softly to me. I nodded my head, took a deep breath and walked across the street with Darren at my side.
When I entered, Jeff’s parents were sitting in the family room with my mother and father. Both looked at me, but I couldn’t really tell from the expression on their faces what they were thinking. Jeff’s father rose and shook my father’s hand. “It was nice meeting you, Stan.” He turned to my mother and hugged her. “You too, Sharon.” Mrs. Munson walked over and hugged my mother and whispered something in her ear. My mother nodded as she glanced over at me. They both hugged me as they left, but they said nothing.
“Yes, well,” said Darren nervously. “I guess I’ll go upstairs and see what Stephanie is doing.” He patted me on my arm and then disappeared upstairs, leaving me alone with my parents. We stood awkwardly looking at each other.
My father laughed slightly and said, “I think I need a beer.” I was surprised when my mother asked him to bring her one. She rarely drinks. She walked over to the sofa and sat down. I looked nervously around the room, and then I sat down in a rocker. We looked at each other but said nothing.
What was there to say? I wasn’t sure what had been discussed earlier. I was still struggling with what I was feeling. I know I am gay, that I’m sure of. But what more is there to say? I’m not sure how I should be feeling.
Besides, I couldn’t understand why this is such a big event. I don’t feel there is anything wrong with me. Yet, eight people had to have an ‘intervention’ to discuss ‘my problem.’ The more I sat in awkward silence with my mother, the more upset I was becoming.
I’m not any different than I was yesterday, other than my parents now knowing about my ‘secret.’ I was becoming angrier with myself because even I had considered it a secret that I felt had to keep to myself.
So that must have meant that I thought being gay was wrong, something that I had kept hidden from everyone- my parents, my sister, Jimmy, my friends and classmates. I had even tried for a while to hide it from two gay friends, Tracy and Jeff. I couldn’t admit to them that I was gay.
My father entered and handed my mother a beer. She took it and remarked, “I really need this.” That angered me even more. My own mother had to have a drink to accept her son.
My father sat down in a chair beside me. He leaned forward and started to speak. “Now, Son…”
I looked him in the eye and said adamantly, “I’m gay.”
“We know you are…” he said before I interrupted him again.
“I’m gay, Dad.” I looked over at the astonished look on my mother’s face and said, “I’m gay, Mom.” I had to hold my hands together because they were trembling. “I’m gay,” I said more forcefully. “It’s who I am. I can’t change that.”
My father just stared at me. I don’t think he knew how to respond. I looked over at my mother as she began to cry. I asked her, “Why are you crying?”
She sobbed, “You can’t be gay.” She wiped tears from her eyes and added, “Tracy is to blame for all this.”
I jumped to my feet and yelled, “What! Leave Tracy out of this. He has nothing to do with this!”
My mother started to say, “But you were okay until…”
“This is bullshit!” I shouted. “You’re just trying to find excuses now.”
“Sit down, Jack!” hollered my father.
Tears started to fall down my face. “Fuck this shit!” I cried. “I knew you’d act like this. You hate me now!” I turned, ran from the room, vaulted up the stairs to my bedroom and slammed the door shut. I fell across my bed and continued to cry.
Minutes later, I heard someone enter my room. I didn’t even look at the door because I figured it was probably Darren. He must have heard the shouting downstairs and he was coming in the check on me.
I then heard my father’s angry voice. “Just what gives you the right to think you can shout at and your mother and me that way?” When I didn’t respond, he sat down beside me. “Look at me, Jack,” he ordered.
I rolled over with tears still running down my face. “You hate me. I know it!” I sobbed.
My father reached down and pulled me into his arms. “Oh, Jack,” his voice began to quiver. “Your mother and I don’t hate you.”
“Yes, you do,” I mumbled into his shoulder. “You hate me because I’m gay.” He continued to rock me as we both wept.
“I love you, Jack,” cried my father. “I could never hate my own son.”
“But Mom does,” I responded tearfully. “I know she does.”
“Your mother still loves you,” he assured me. “She’s just upset by what she saw. We had no idea that you were like that.”
I pulled away. “Like what?” I watched as he fought for an answer. “Well, Dad? Like what? Like something is wrong with me?”
He replied apologetically, “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. Of course, there is nothing wrong with you.”
I rose from the bed, stared down at him and responded, “Then why are we talking about this? Why can’t you just accept that I’m gay?”
“It’s not that easy, Jack,” he replied.
He gave me a puzzled look and said, “I don’t know. It’s just not.”
I looked down at him and asked again, “Why?”
He looked up and replied, “I don’t have an answer for that.”
He rose from the bed, looked sadly at me and left the room.
I went over to the closet where I had thrown my bookbag when I came home from school on Friday. I had a literature assignment to do. I was tired of dealing with the whole situation. Since Friday night when my mother saw me kissing Tracy, I spent every minute dealing with it. Well, except the two times I had sex, once with Jeff, and then the threesome we did earlier. I thought to myself, ‘if gay sex is so bad, then why do I enjoy it so much?’
And I did enjoy it. It didn’t make me feel dirty or perverted. Maybe it was getting a little bit out of hand. It seems like I wanted to do it without any regard to how it might affect me emotionally. But then again, I’m only sixteen. I’m not looking for a guy to marry. I’m just looking for a little fun while I can enjoy it. Later, I know I’ll fall in love and commit myself to just one guy. Right now, I just want to enjoy it while I can.
Of course, I could never admit this to my mother and father. Maybe someday they will accept the fact I’m gay. However, they will never be able to accept the fact I’m having sex with another boy. I guess it is like me not wanting to think about them grinding in bed together. Oh God, I can’t believe I just thought about that!
So, I guess for us to live under the same roof, we’ll just have to forget about the sex aspect of this whole thing. I mean, I’m not going to stop having sex with Tracy and Jeff if I want to. I just won’t throw that aspect up in their face. Mom already saw me kissing Tracy while I had my hands inside his shorts. If she could just get past that image, then maybe things will be alright.
I started reading The Grapes of Wrath. God, talk about boring. I don’t know why teachers assign us to read books that was written about The Great Depression. Teenagers are already dealing with problems of their own; and if they are like me, they get depressed a lot. So, what good is it to read about a family struggling during the Dust Bowl? I know it sounds cruel, and it helps us understand history just a little better- at least that is what teachers try to explain as they assign us boring books to read. But I think they should have us read something that is a little more cheerful. Last year we had to read short stories by Edgar Allen Poe. Before we started on the unit, Mr. Lassiter told us that Poe was an alcoholic, and he occasionally smoked opium. He explained that is why many of Poe’s stories are so dark. I thought it was ironic because he has posters on his wall that warns us to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
And adults wonder why we are so messed up.
I had been reading for about a half hour when someone knocked lightly on my door. I was afraid it might be Dad coming back to ground me for being so rude earlier.
“Come in!” I hollered out. One thing I am glad about is that my parents never enter my room without my permission. Mom even warned me last year that she will only come in my room to clean and change by bedding on Tuesdays. So, if I don’t want her to see something, then I should put it away. My face reddened because I think she was talking about the washcloths I keep under the bed. When they get too stiff, I take them with me when I shower and wash them.
The door opened and Stephanie and Darren entered. I sat up, and they sat down on the bed beside me. Stephanie ran her hand through my hair and asked, “How are you doing?”
I replied, “Okay, I guess.” I held up the book I was reading and added, “Just reading this stupid book.”
Darren took the book from my hand and exclaimed, “Grapes of Wrath! I loved reading this.” When I rolled my eyes, he laughed and said, “Not!”
He gave me a serious look and asked, “Are you okay, Jack?”
I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “I suppose. It hasn’t exactly been the best day of my life.”
He put his hand on my knee, squeezed it and assured me, “It gets better.”
Stephanie grabbed my hand and said, “Are you hungry? Do you want to go get something to eat?” I looked at the clock. It was almost six o’clock. I didn’t realize it was so late.
“Sure, I guess,” I replied. She asked me where I would like to eat, and I suggested going somewhere for pizza. As we were leaving the room, Stephanie gripped my arm and stopped me.
She looked skeptically at me as she asked, “Can I ask Mom and Dad to join us?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. I knew that sooner or later I would have to confront my parents again. Our earlier encounter hadn’t worked out very well. Perhaps it would be better if Stephanie and Darren were present when I did.
“Okay,” I replied nervously. “I guess.”
She smiled and said, “You and Darren go get in the car. I’ll tell Mom and Dad to meet us at the Pizza Shack.” When we got downstairs, Darren put his hand on my back as we left the house and headed to my sister’s car.
The Pizza Shack was crowded when we arrived. We had to wait about twenty minutes for a table. Stephanie, Darren and my father stood beside me, and we would chat occasionally about nothing important. Dad spent most of the time asking Darren questions about his life. I thought it was interesting that his father was an obstetrician and his mother was a radiologist. However, he was majoring in music and theater instead of medicine. My mother stood away from us and talked to another family waiting in line. Occasionally, she would glance over at me and then look away.
I knew that my father wasn’t going to be a problem. A few times he reached out and touched my arm when he was talking to Darren. I was feeling that he was accepting that I was gay, and he was going to treat me like nothing had happened. My mother was going to be more difficult. In fact, watching her glance at me out of the corner of her eye, I wasn’t sure our relationship could ever be normal again.
A young server approached and told Darren that our table was ready. Fortunately, it was in the middle of the restaurant where we would have little privacy. At least we wouldn’t be talking about my ‘problem’ with so many people around us.
I tried to sit between my father and Darren, but Stephanie sat in the seat. I think she did it intentionally so I would have to sit beside my mother. When I hesitated to sit, she nodded her head for me to take my seat. I also noticed that my mother hesitated before sitting down.
We ordered two large pizzas, bread sticks and salads. The server apologized and told us we might have a longer wait time since it was so crowded. She did bring our drinks to the table right away. My father continued to talk to Darren. I was surprised when he asked him about his boyfriend, Clayton. Darren explained how he and Clayton had met their junior year of high school, and they enrolled in college together.
I almost spit out my soda when my sister remarked that perhaps I would find a boyfriend and we could go to the same college. My father seemed at first surprised when she said it, but he quickly gained his composure. He looked over at me, smiled and said, “Well, he’ll have to find a boyfriend first.”
My mother loudly cleared her throat, pushed herself from the table and announced, “I have to go to the bathroom.” My sister rose and followed her down the aisle as she stormed away.
My father shook his head and said, “Give her some time, Jack. She’ll come around.”
I replied sadly, “I’m not sure. She acts like she can’t stand to look at me.”
“You’re going to get that a lot,” remarked Darren. “We’ve come a long way in recent years, but there are still some people who are slow to accept that the world is changing.”
“But I don’t get it,” I responded. “She’s never acted like this before.”
My father looked over and studied me for a minute. I could tell he wanted to tell me something, but he probably didn’t want to do it in a crowded restaurant. Finally, he said, “When we get home, we have to have a talk.” I nodded my head.
My mother returned, but she didn’t say anything to me. In fact, she ate without saying anything to anyone. It was as if she was in a world of her own. She seemed so distant from everyone, and she couldn’t wait for dinner to end.
As we were leaving the restaurant, my father asked if Darren and Stephanie could take my mother home. He said he wanted me to ride with him. I was puzzled why he wanted me to ride alone with him, then I remember that he had told me he had something he wanted to tell me.
“How about some ice cream?” he asked as we drove away.
I replied, “We just ate.” I rubbed my stomach. “I’m full.”
He laughed and said, “There’s always room for Chunky Monkey.” My father is a huge fan of Ben and Jerry’s. He stops often on his way home from work with a couple of cartons of Chunky Monkey ice cream.
We pulled up in front of the ice cream parlor. After entering, I sat down at a table while he went to the counter and ordered. A few minutes later, he sat down and pushed a cup with two scoops ice cream with whipped cream.
I complained, “I’m not hungry.”
“Nonsense,” he replied. “You’re a growing teenage boy.”
I giggled and responded, “Yeah, but I don’t want to end up with a Dad bod like you.”
He smiled and replied, “Smart ass. Just for that, I hope you grow up to be a big, fat man.”
He laughed, looked around and then leaned toward me. “I brought you here so we can talk.”
“Your mother has very maternal instincts,” he started.
“She feels very strongly about being a mother. It’s the most important thing to her. You, Stephanie and Karen have always been her life.”
“Could have fooled me,” I responded sarcastically.
“You have to understand,” he continued. “She was raised by what I call old school.”
“She was raised with the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. They fall in love and have children.” He looked worriedly at me and stated, “In her heart, she really believes that homosexuality is a sin.”
I replied angrily, “But she doesn’t even go to church.”
“You don’t have to be a religious zealot to have the belief that being gay is wrong,” he said.
“So, she’s never going to change?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. I don’t think she quite knows what to think herself. She knows that gay people are around us.” He reached out and gripped my arm. “She just didn’t think it would happen to us.”
“So, what do I do?” I asked worriedly.
He smiled and replied, “Just be yourself, Jack. You’re a great son. She knows that. Give her a little time to adjust. We’ve been married for twenty years, and I have never heard her say anything negative about gay people. I just don’t think she ever considered it would happen in our family.”
I laughed and replied, “Neither did I.”
He gripped my arm tightly. “You have to stop fighting with her,” he pleaded. “If you continue getting upset, you’re going to make it more difficult. Give her time to understand. I think the meeting this morning helped.”
I assured him, “I’ll try, Dad.”
“One other thing,” he began to grin.
“The next time you and Tracy decide to make out, lock the door.”
“Dad!” He rose and I followed him out of the ice cream parlor. He was still laughing when he got in the car.