Thursday, July 26, 2012
It wasn’t the usual date, Tristan thought, but he had been able to bring his date, a boy, home for dinner. His family had been quirky but friendly all through dinner. His father tried talking sports but he was out of his element so Mark asked him lots of questions about computers. He was good at keeping the conversation going and he was a good listener. Tristan watched him, studied him, as he became comfortable with the family. He had even seemed to taken a liking to Brandon who insisted on sitting next to their guest and tried a few times to start a wrestling match while they ate. Nothing serious, just a poke in the arm or a verbalized dare which Mark played off with ease.
As she served dessert his mother began to ask Mark about college. She asked if he liked it, what he was studying, if he found it difficult to keep up sports and academics. Mark answered each question easily until she asked the wrong question. A question that raised the hairs on Tristan’s body.
“So are your parents and your teammates accepting you being gay very well? No passive aggressiveness on the field or anything?”
Mark had been looking at his plate as she asked the question and he froze for a moment before he looked to her then to Tristan.
“Mom,” Tristan said.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pried. I know it’s not easy. I mean with... I mean it’s none of my business.”
“No it’s fine,” Mark said. He looked back to his plate and continued to pry at his piece of apple pie with his spoon.
Tristan hadn’t thought he wouldn’t have been out to his team, probably not to his father either, but he didn’t ask because he didn’t want to know. That would have been too cliche to assume because these were changing times. Weren’t they?
“I’m uh, not really out to anyone.” Mark cleared his throat. He looked Tristan in the eye. “Tristan is my first real date. It hadn’t really been an issue before. I mean I never really hid anything. I just haven’t said anything.”
“Your team doesn’t know?” Brandon asked.
He looked to the boy then.
“No, they don’t.”
“It’s okay to be gay,” Brandon said.
Mark smiled and then everyone laughed in a nervous, amused way except Brandon who looked around at them and asked, “What?”.
They shook their heads but they all knew they had shared something that no one wanted to comment on right then. They ate dessert mostly in silence after that. Mark’s heartbeat slowed as they sat together until when Tristan motioned his head out of the room he came alive again. Then when Tristan stood he followed until they were down the hallway. For a moment he thought they would go back to the living room so he was surprised when Tristan indicated they should go up the stairs.
“We’re going up to my room,” Tristan called out. “I want to show it to Mark.”
“Keep the door open,” Kelly called back.
Tristan blushed at the phrase but didn’t falter as he walked. When they reached the top of the stairs he turned on the hallway light. He opened the first door on the right a crack and said, “Barney is in here. We thought it would be too much if he was at the door and always around when you were here. He likes to beg.” Mark peeked into the bathroom where Barney lay spread out on the linoleum.
“Big dog,” he said.
“Yeah, he likes to sleep on the linoleum because its cooler. Come on.”
Mark followed him down the hallway. When he spotted an open doorway Tristan said that was his brother’s room. At the end of the hallway on the right Tristan pushed open his bedroom door and turned on the light. The room was clean and orderly. There was a desk against one wall with a computer tower and flat screen monitor, two dressers littered on top with various papers and knickknacks, one with a mirror, there was a folding door for a built in closet, and when the door closed slightly there was a hanging, plastic shoe holder full of different types of shoes. Tristan’s bed was made, a power cable ran under it to a laptop.
“You have a tower and a laptop? Your family is pretty serious on electronics.”
“Yeah, when your father is in the industry,” Tristan said scratching at the back of his neck. “Look, I mean it’s sick.” He stepped to one of the dressers and pushed aside papers to show an iPad that had been buried. “He likes to stay up to date. I get everything passed on to me.”
“You like this stuff?”
“It’s okay,” Tristan said. “But what I really wanted to show you was these.”
He stepped to the closet door and opened it. Inside on a little rack was a collection of bow-ties. Tristan pulled one out and set it on the dresser with the mirror.
“Did you really like mine?”
“Yeah of course,” Mark said.
“Then I want you to have one. Let’s see.”
Tristan took his time to find the right one, often holding them up to Mark’s shirt, even partially tying them or completely tying them then having him give his opinion as he looked at himself in the mirror. Finally he settled on a dark blue one made of silk.
“Let me show you how to tie it,” Tristan said.
Mark watched then had him do it again before he tried himself but it wasn’t working.
“I’m hopeless,” Mark said.
“Don’t say that. Here.” Tristan showed him again then pulled it loose.
Mark closed his eyes to repeat the steps to himself before he took up the task. In a few quick motions it formed easily in his fingers.
“That’s it,” Tristan said. “Here let me give you a reward.” He stepped close and taking Mark by the shoulders pulled him into a brief kiss. Mark loved the feeling of it yet felt weird about being in the younger man’s bedroom, in his home no less. He pushed back for a small separation.
“Don’t worry, I can hear them if they come up the stairs,” Tristan said.
They kissed again and this time Tristan ran his hand up Mark’s back. Mark felt so excited he decided to do the next thing and reached down to grab at Tristan’s buttocks. He gripped them lightly but enough to make Tristan rise off the back of his feet and into Mark’s kiss.
After a few moments of groping and kissing Tristan pushed away slightly.
“We really should be getting back down there. But I really want to keep this up.”
“They’ll notice we’ve been up here too long. I mean how long does it take to put on a tie?”
Tristan smiled and stepped out of Mark’s hold but took him by the hand and led him downstairs. When they got down to the landing Mark stopped and pulled Tristan back to him. From where they stood he could see that Brandon was at the television playing video games again and Tristan’s parents were still in the dining room.
“I think I should be going,” Mark said.
“Yeah no problem just let me show my parents that we picked out the perfect tie.”
Tristan dragged Mark down the hallway to where his parents were enjoying a glass of Cognac and holding hands on the table.
“Check it out,” Tristan said pointing to Mark’s neck.
“Nice,” Craig said.
“Quite handsome,” Kelly said.
Mark blushed at the compliments.
“Thanks,” he said.
Their fingers had become entwined then.
“I picked it out for him. Something to remember me by.” His parents smiled. “Because Mark said he had to be getting on the road.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty late.” He looked to his watch. It was only quarter after ten but that had to be late to them. “I should get on the road before the snow really comes down. If it hasn’t already.”
“No, I just looked not too long ago and it looked okay still. No blizzard like back in 2003.”
“That was pretty bad stuff,” Mark said.
“You’ve driven in snow at night before? You know about black ice?” Kelly asked.
“Yeah, I know about it.”
“Well, okay then.” And for a moment it seemed too simple then she stood and she walked to the two of them. “We really liked having you here tonight. We want to see you again.”
She reached out to him and took him in her arms and gave him a deep hug. Mark looked over her shoulder to Craig who smiled back and he felt Tristan’s hand squeeze his own and he felt his eyes become watery, just enough to be wet but not enough to cry. A hesitant feeling of sorrow, or was it joy, just at his skin.
She let go of him and he smiled more at her before Tristan led him away and back to the main door where he handed back the sweater and the coat. Then he leaned into the living room and said:
“Hey, say goodnight butt head.”
“Good night butt head,” Brandon called out from the living room.
Tristan looked back to Matt and shrugged his shoulders.
Mark was about to leave when Brandon ran from the living room and stopped at the edge of the foyer.
“You said we’d wrestle. You’d show me some moves.”
“Next time,” Mark said before backing out of the door.
“Yeah, next time,” Tristan said before following him out.
“It’s cold out here,” Mark said as Tristan closed the door.
“Then we better make it quick.” Tristan grabbed him by his coat and pulled him into a kiss.
I don't know the rules to this blogging but I found myself reading a chapter I had written previously that I felt really reflected where I want to go with the story yet it didn't follow with the previous post. In previous times this would have been enough to make me stop my writing for at least a week and really consider how I connected what seemed to be two separate parts but I feel compelled to post.
The following makes sense, though there is the invention of a new character, Tristan's brother, think of him as the sister from Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show except I don't quite have a way of explaining her. If this were a book I would have rewritten chapters before anyone ever saw them.
As this is, I feel, true to the nature of the story I will post this chapter as well as an additional chapter.
Also, I would love to hear back from more readers, just click on the pencil at the end of the post and as long as they are not spam I will post them.
“Would you come over for dinner? I want you to meet my family.”
It wasn’t the date Mark had in mind. He asked if Tristan’s parents knew he was dating someone older, in college and Tristan said that he had told them. “I just couldn’t keep it a secret,” he’d said. “I don’t keep secrets from my family. That’s actually kind of why they want to meet you.”
Mark said he would go right away but as he thought about it he realized it was more out of desperation than interest. He would do anything to keep Tristan interested in him. He needed him. Meeting the family of the boy you are dating? That was something else. They had talked several times over the phone and each time he had played it cool and not said anything that was going on in his own life that week. They talked about television and video games, good movies and bad dining experiences, but when it came to family Mark had only asked the questions.
Tristan answered them all. His father was in computers, some kind of salesman who had been in the business all of his life, since before the five and half floppy disk. His mother was a part-time librarian at the junior high where Tristan had gone to school. That only led to mild embarrassment. He made sure to check out a book once a week even if he didn’t read all of it, he’d said, and nothing too racy. Tristan had said that his brother was into science fiction, specifically Star Wars. He liked all of the movies and he dressed up twice as Luke Skywalker for Halloween. He was also into Ultimate Fighting Championship and was in a youth league. Tristan said it was funny to watch them fight but he was afraid his brother could kick his ass. They had a St. Bernard named Barney. And his whole family knew that he was gay. And they were okay with it. They were inviting him to their home, no doubt to check him out, but still.
“How should I dress?” he had asked.
“Nothing too formal, you know, just uh, semi-casual. Whatever you have from the Gap.”
“Should I not bring flowers or a present?”
“Hah, hah,” Tristan said.
“No I’m serious,” Mark said with laugh.
“Very funny, just yourself is enough.”
He dressed in khaki pants, a light blue button down shirt, no tie, and an auburn vest, black dress shoes. It was the only semi-formal clothes he had in his dorm room. Most of it hidden under his coat as he stood outside Tristan’s home under the glow of the porch light as he stared at the Nativity Scene and waited for someone to answer the door. He lightly touched the spikes in his hair and was surprised they were pointed and hard as if frozen by the cold weather. The wooden door opened and he was comforted to see Tristan there on the other side of the screen door with a large smile on his face, dressed in a button down shirt of his own and a bow tie. He pushed the thin door open and invited Mark inside.
Mark stepped inside and Tristan closed the door. He was glad to find himself in a small foyer with no one else around. He took his hands from his pockets and unzipped his coat which Tristan took and hung on the coat rack.
“You look nice,” Tristan said.
“You too, nice tie,” Mark said.
Then for Mark, Tristan did an unexpected thing by stepping to him for a hug. He let the unfamiliar arms encircle him and he winced as he looked over Tristan’s shoulder for someone who might disapprove. No one was there yet it was still strange, he thought. He hugged back a little just around the waist when Tristan pulled back.
“What’s this?” Tristan asked pointing to the sweater.
“Just a little,” Tristan said.
“Here,” Mark said and he pulled the sweater up over his head.
“Oh,” Tristan said but then Mark offered him the sweater and he fell silent. “I’ll just hang it up with your coat.”
“Thanks,” Mark said. “I wasn’t sure when I put it on.”
“The best fashion tip I ever heard was get dressed for the evening then look away from the mirror and turn back real quick, whatever sticks out to you take it off.”
“Was that on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?”
There was a sudden sound of thudding feet from above then the sound of feet quickly running down the stairs to the right. Mark looked to see what must have been Tristan’s brother coming down the stairs full-throttle. He hit the landing and slid on the small carpet there almost falling to the ground.
“Hi there,” Mark said.
The boy moved to him with an extended hand which Mark shook.
“You want to wrestle?” Brandon asked.
Oh God, Tristan thought, here we go.
“You don’t even say hello?”
“Hello,” Brandon said.
“Do you think you can take me? Your brother says that you’re an Ultimate Fighter or something.”
“UFC Youth League,” Brandon said.
“Pretty tough then?”
“I could kick your ass,” Brandon answered.
“Brandon,” Tristan said in a stern voice. “I told you not to say that.”
“You think it’s funny,” Brandon said.
“Serious guy aren’t you?” Mark looked to Tristan who clearly wanted to move on with the introductions and the tour. “I’ll tell you what. After dinner I’ll show you a few moves.”
“In junior high I came in second at the local championship.”
“Really? You could show me some moves?”
“Yeah, but later,” Mark said and he began to walk.
Tristan was quick to usher him down the hallway away from his brother. One down, Mark thought. Who’s next? He stopped in the entrance to the kitchen when he spotted Tristan’s mother standing at the sink with a colander in her hand washing off the cooked pasta. She looked to him and smiled. Her blonde was cut in a stylish way about her head. She was thin, an athletic build, and she wore silver jewelry, a cross pendant hanged from around her neck.
“I’m Tristan’s mother Kelly.” She set the colander down and moved to shake his hand. He took it easily.
“Mam,” he said.
She smiled as if amused by how he addressed her but it didn’t faze him.
“Tristan’s father is running late so I’m sure you guys can find something to do in the meantime. I’m a little early with the food. I’m always out of synch with him for dinner. But if you guys are hungry I can fix you guys some appetizers. Tristan why don’t you show your friend in to the living room where the video games are and come back for a snack for you guys.”
Mark was about to refuse the offer and plead that he wasn’t hungry but he saw that she wasn’t willing for such a comment so he turned to Tristan who said, “right back this way” with a sweep of his hand. Mark nodded to Kelly then followed after Tristan. He wasn’t surprised when he saw Brandon in the living room already turning on the television and the video game system.
“Do you want to play some video games?”
Tristan looked to Mark who shrugged at the inconvenience of Brandon’s presence and stepped into the room where he took one of the offered controllers. Tristan said he’d be right back before heading to the kitchen.
“So what type of games do you like?”
“All kinds, we got Left for Dead in there right now but we’ve got racing games, sports games, wrestling games, lots of them. What do you like?”
“Whatever you like to play,” Mark said.
“Okay, let’s play this for now.” Brandon sat on the floor leaving plenty of space for Mark to join him so he did.
In the quiet of the game loading Mark cocked his ear to the kitchen where he could hear Tristan talking to his mother.
“What do you think?”
“He’s nice,” Kelly said. “He’s cute too.”
“Mom,” Tristan said.
“I know. But you should have heard what my parents had to say about my first boyfriend.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Tristan said.
“No, he’s nice. Really polite, you should take him a drink too.”
“Would you help get Brandon out of there?”
“But how would I know you two are behaving in there alone?”
“Mom,” Tristan said.
The game menu popped up and Brandon began switching through the submenus with ease. Mark only paid the least amount of attention to it.
“Okay, okay, I’ll give you hand.”
He could hear them walking back together and looked to the entrance where Tristan entered with a plate of appetizers and a drink in hand, his mother close behind him with another drink.
“Come on Brandon, leave them alone for a while. You can come help me in the kitchen--”
“Mom,” Brandon said. Mark realized it was a thing.
“Come on,” she said.
“Just one game.”
“No come on, Mark has been really nice to you so let’s give them some privacy.”
“Okay,” Brandon said. He set the controller down and without looking back he darted from the room.
Kelly stepped to Mark where she handed him the glass then retreated to the kitchen herself. Tristan looked slightly embarrassed at their acts.
“I have a family too,” Mark said. “Don’t worry about it.”
“They can be embarrassing,” Tristan said.
“It’s their job.”
“So did you really want to play video games?”
“Doesn’t matter, I’m pretty good at Left for Dead.”
“Okay then, you’re on.” He sat next to Mark and picked up the abandoned controller. It wasn’t long before they were involved in the game, cheering each other on and giving each other direction. They had become so involved with the game that when the front door opened they both jumped from the sound and looked to each other and began to laugh.
“Hi guys,” Tristan’s father said from the door. “Boy the snow is beginning to fall.” Mark looked back but he couldn’t see the man from where he sat so he looked to Tristan who paused the game and began to stand. Mark watched for a moment. He looked up Tristan’s long legs, his flat stomach as he stretched.
“Come on,” Tristan said snapping him from his reverie.
Mark stood and looked to the archway where Tristan’s father stood. The two of them looked alike only his father had a full beard and wrinkles under the eyes. His thin hair on top of his head was long enough to dance about his head when he moved but was still short enough to be combed back in formal settings.
“Hi there,” Mark said stepping forward and offering his hand.
“Hi, my name is Craig.”
“Nice to meet you sir,” Mark said.
Craig hesitated for a second, holding back what he felt like saying and instead only smiled. They all heard Brandon at the same time yelling from somewhere beyond the kitchen as he ran their way. Craig turned and dropped low ready for his son he caught the boy and lifted him into the air with a spin before setting him down then feigning injury to his back and complaining that the boy was becoming too big or he was getting too old for that kind of entrance. Just how old was he, Mark thought, he couldn’t be more than forty. Could he?
“Beer?” Craig asked. Mark looked to him quizzically. Craig smiled and said that he had just been kidding. “Besides you’re only, what, nineteen.”
“Uh yeah, I mean I just turned twenty in October.”
“And I’m eighteen,” Tristan added.
“Well,” Craig said. “I better go check on dinner. Brandon come help me set the table.”
“But it’s Tristan’s turn.”
“I wasn’t asking and your brother has company.”
“Okay,” Brandon said before following his father back down the hallway to the kitchen. Mark watched as Craig met with his wife and kissed her on the cheek before taking the dish she had in her hands and turning into another room that hid been unlit as Mark walked past it before, a room just beside the living room where Mark realized the rooms connected by two large sliding doors.
“Are you ready for this?”
Mark looked to Tristan. My second date, he thought, a boyfriend maybe or else something else and he wasn’t even out to his family. How much more could happen before it all collapsed around him?
“Yeah,” Mark said.