Thursday, August 9, 2012
“Look I don’t know what kind of fooling around you were doing yesterday but it didn’t go over too well with your mother and your little brother was there. I don’t think he knew what was going on but you can’t be doing that stuff. It’s all politics now. I told you about being PC when you are out with the guys or doing anything. You can’t have people coming out later saying that, ‘oh he did this or oh he said that’ and it’s insensitive. It could ruin a career or at the very least make you apologize for something that you didn’t really mean.”
His father squinted at him. Maybe he had really thought it was a joke, Mark thought, some kind of stunt but it wasn’t. It was an attempt. Or maybe his father was giving him a way out? He could apologize, deny, and go about the rest of his life but then he thought about Tristan, their dates and Tristan’s parents.
“But what if I meant it?” Mark asked.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He inhaled deeply then said, “Dad, I’m gay.”
His father gulped and for a moment he worried that his father would act out in some way, slap him or grab at him, try to shake the truth or maybe even a lie out of him for the sake of being right, being moral, being Christian. He gritted his teeth at the thought because he felt like he might fight back. It had been years since he felt his father could best him in a fight, even longer since his father had beat him with a belt.
“Don’t say that if you don’t mean it,” his father said. “It’s all very PC now. You hear these terms but you don’t really know what they mean.”
Butt sex, Mark thought, you mean butt sex, just say it dad, sodomy.
“Look you’re young. It’s different these days with it being on the television and all but it’s not actually like that. It’s not all dancing. There’s more to it.”
Sodomy, Mark thought, his father was worried about sex.
“I want you to think about it. You can’t be gay.”
Mark was stunned. His father had just denied to him the thing he just admitted, the truth he felt in every part of him. The truth that once said felt like a burden taken from his chest and shoulders but his father denied it, denied how he felt.
His father clinched down harder with his crossed arms.
“How would you know? I mean you’re a regular guy in sports and everything. You’ve dated girls, some pretty ones too.”
“Dad,” Mark said. He sighed at the frustration of having to explain himself much less telling the truth about those dates he had been on, dates he had largely made up.
“I didn’t really date anyone. I was just, I just wanted to get out of the house.”
“You can’t be gay. You know what that means right? You know about what the Bible says.”
“Yeah dad I know,” Mark said. “I hear it all of the time.”
His father stared him in the eye and for a moment he thought the man was going to come loose and strike him for being so sarcastic in what felt like a crisis.
“You can’t be joking about this kind of stuff. I mean we’re talking about hell and no one is going to respect it. Think about your teammates. You wouldn’t know. You’re too young.”
“Dad I’m dating someone,” Mark said.
His father tightened his grip on his own biceps then and Mark thought for sure if he had truly had his way the man would have tried to strangle him then or else hit him but he was struggling to not act. It wasn’t a struggle against his own moral sensibility but culture, a society where he wasn’t supposed to hit people much less his son.
“It’s been going on for over a month now,” Mark said. “He’s kind of my boyfriend.”
His father opened his mouth but didn’t speak and instead reeled back and turned away slightly and let go of his arms then brought his hands up to his own face. Mark worried for a moment that his father might begin to cry but instead he turned back to Mark and looked him in the eye.
“I can’t deal with this right now,” his father said. The man turned on him and walked to the doorway. He looked back with a confusion of anger and sadness in his eyes as if he had been betrayed. “Don’t say anything to your mother and don’t say anything to your brother. I don’t want him to get confused.”
His father closed the door with a thud that jolted Mark from the focus of their conversation to a panic of confusion. He had lost control of the situation. He needed to get out and he needed to talk to someone. He reached for his phone and called Tristan.