Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The Family in the Window- pt 3 Tristan, After the Date
After the date Tristan made his way into his home feeling happy, anxious, and a little bit worried. He was fifteen minutes late for his 11:00 PM curfew and he was worried someone had spotted him in the car. He breathed a little easier when he pushed open the door to be greeted by the family dog’s nose and to see that the first floor was mostly dark. This most likely meant that both of his parents were in bed which meant it was also less likely they saw the car.
“Let me in Barney,” he said to the dog, a St. Bernard, who stepped backwards for his entrance. “Thanks,” he added. He closed the door behind him and the dog was quick to rub its muzzle against the leg of his jeans leaving a deposit of drool. “Aw shit man, you’re worse than Slimer from the Ghost Busters.”
The dog wagged his tail. He patted Barney on the head then stroked his back as he looked up the stairs to see if there were any lights visible from his parents room. There were lights visible. He inhaled and decided to go with his best excuse, but only if they asked.
He started up the steps. Their door was wide open and he could hear them talking. His mother was explaining where to find the extra deodorant which meant his father was headed out on a business trip. He stopped in the doorway and saw his mother in bed with the covers across her lap as she held a puzzle book with her left hand and held the eraser end of a pencil to her lower lip with her right. His father was in the attached, master bathroom with the door closed. She looked to him. Hate the sin but love the sinner, he thought.
“Hi there,” she said. “Tristan is home!”
His father said hello through the door but it was muffled by the sound of the bathroom sink faucet.
“Hi,” Tristan said loud enough so his father might hear. He gripped both sides of the archway and leaned into the room a little on the support of his arms.
“You have fun?” she asked.
She hadn’t known where he had been. He could have lied and said he was with a friend. All he had wanted to do was go to his room, listen to some music, and fall asleep. But she stared at him. Did she really want to know? Better be up front, he thought, that will make it real to them, to her, and to himself.
“It was a date,” he answered.
“Oh,” she said.
He pulled himself back then let himself drop forward again. He wanted to turn away and leave yet he felt obligated to stay as he had not seen his father who was no doubt leaving early in the morning and he didn’t know when he’d return.
There was the sound of his father turning off the faucet. He opened the door and wafts of steam began to escape into the regulated bedroom air. His father stepped from the bathroom dressed in an open robe and a pair of white briefs.
This was not an unusual sight since Tristan had been a boy. His parents were casual about these things all his life even though he eventually grew uncomfortable with it. He used to watch cartoons in a shirt and his underwear when he was little, until the age of seven or eight, then he would never leave his room unless he had on shorts or long pants. He wasn’t sure why.
“Henry,” his mother said. She pointed the end of her pencil towards her husband who quickly closed his robe. “Men.”
“It’s fine,” his father said. “It’s just family right?”
Tristan gestured like it didn’t mean anything. That he wouldn’t know why she might be concerned. It didn’t really matter, he guessed. It wasn’t a sexual thing. Besides wasn’t he supposed to want to kill his father and marry his mother? Nature or nurture? Hadn’t they been in the locker room together? He had been around guys all of his life in various states of undress. It didn’t have to mean anything. Wasn’t nudity just another part of life? Was it supposed to be taboo or did it just feel more risky and exciting if it was?
He spotted an open, partially packed suitcase on the chair at the far end of the room. It was his father’s suitcase which meant he was traveling again. He noticed his mother became uncomfortable after he had seen it.
“Where you traveling to?” he asked.
“Chicago,” his father said, “more recognizable than the state’s name and is the home of deep dish pizza.”
“Now you’re bragging,” Tristan said.
“You’re right I am. But it’s all I can brag about. Will you fly four hours on a jet for me and deal with airport security, lost luggage, and jet lag?”
“You know I would,” Tristan answered.
“Maybe not if you had my job.”
“What’s so bad about your job?” his mother asked.
“All of the flying,” his father said.
“Ask your son here where he was tonight.”
“Where were you?”
Tristan held his breath and it felt like his heart skipped a beat. He felt like he had been ‘out’ to his parents since he was fourteen and some other boys were harassing him for being a ‘fag’. They never questioned him about whether he was or not and his mother went to see the principal several times on his behalf and eventually the boys quit. Even though they couldn’t do much to protect him it was nice to come home. If he was moody then they knew why and they worked to cheer him up.
But he had never officially ‘outed’ himself. He had never had that moment where he sat down with them and said, ‘mom and day I’m gay’ because he felt he didn’t have to. Evan had said it was his secret and that was part of the reason they broke up, but it wasn’t a secret. It was private. There was a difference.
“He was on a date,” she said.
Oh God, he thought, could they not realize? Did they not assume?
“Oh,” his father said. Then he made a face as if he wanted to ask more but then stopped himself and it changed to as if he was slowly working out the questions and answers in his head.
Would he have asked more? Was his mother the one stopping the questions? Somehow between the two his father was the one who seemed most comfortable when he ‘came out’ to them. Tristan suspected it was because he worked with men and women who were ‘out’ in the workforce but his mother was different. She had been the home-maker, the stay-at-home mother and her world had been secluded to church. She worried that he was going to hell.
They looked at each other for a long time. That part of the conversation had ended. He hung in the archway looking at them suddenly unsure of what he had. It was a moment to remember.
“Well, do you want me to wake you before I leave tomorrow morning?”
Tristan shrugged his shoulders. “Naw, that’s okay,” he said. “Unless you want to?”
“No need. Well give me a hug before you go to bed.”
Tristan stepped to his father conscious of his father’s wardrobe and hugged him with as little of his arms as possible.
“Thanks,” his father said.
He stepped back then turned away and began to walk to his room. After he stepped through the archway into the hall he remembered his mother and said aloud a goodnight wish to her which she responded to with similar sentiment. He gritted his teeth and reminded himself to be more conscientious with her next time.
His bedroom was at the end of the hall on the opposite side of the house. That meant there were no awkward nights hearing his parents have sex like friends of his had complained about. No worries about them hearing him while he masturbated. No complaints, no arguments about loud televisions or music through the wall. He opened the door and closed it behind him. He was alone. He had made it and there were no threats of being grounded or a further restricted curfew.
He knew it wasn’t easy for them, his sexuality. They had shown little resistance to it. And little interest. He suspected that his mother felt that sexuality and sin was mostly between him and God but maybe, just maybe, she also worried she was to blame. But his father, his father traveled a lot and worked long hours so when they talked, they didn’t talk about sex.
Things were complicated. He sat on his bed and kicked off his shoes. Life was inexorably going forward and there was a lot to look forward to but there was also a lot to live through. He looked tot he clock on his nightstand and thought about school the next day. Then he remembered where he had just been. He had been on a date with a boy at least a year older, a college boy no less. They had been to a restaurant. They had held hands, held each other, and they had kissed.
He pulled his phone from his pocket and briefly considered updating his profile or sending a text message but the only person who would have been interested, really interested, would also be the one who might be jealous or offended. He set his phone on the night stand. He smiled. It had been a date. The date was over and he wanted another one.