THIS STORY IS . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTION FOR COMMERCIAL GAIN, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, POSTING ON SITES OR NEWSGROUPS, DISTRIBUTION AS PARTS OR IN BOOK FORM (EITHER AS A WHOLE OR PART OF A COMPILATION) WITH OR WITHOUT A FEE, OR DISTRIBUTION ON CD, DVD, OR ANY OTHER ELECTRONIC MEDIA WITH OR WITHOUT A FEE, IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED WITHOUT THE AUTHOR'S WRITTEN CONSENT. YOU MAY DOWNLOAD ONE (1) COPY OF THIS STORY FOR PERSONAL USE; ANY AND ALL COMMERCIAL USE EXCEPTING EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS REQUIRES THE AUTHORS WRITTEN CONSENT. THE AUTHOR MAY BE CONTACTED AT:Rocco Paperiello
This is a story about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Find a different story. Or perhaps read on; you may be persuaded to think differently.
If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence four. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.
Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution.
Note that an author welcomes any feedback. Constructive criticism is appreciated, and all e-mails will be answered.
Note: The time frame for this story extends from about 2005 to about 2015. You can think of it as a 'future historical fiction' if you like.
Thinking back on it, I find it amazing, the consequences that a single idea can have. I’m currently sitting in my now vacant classroom -- I teach high school -- thinking back to my own high school days. And what started my reminiscence about this ‘idea’ was the letter I held in my hand -- yes, an old fashioned, put-a-stamp-on-the-envelope, letter. Also within the envelope was a not so old fashioned wedding invitation, on a CD, together with messages from the prospective bride and groom, their smiling faces, and even photos of where the wedding is to take place with erupting geysers in the background -- yes geysers! The invitation was from an old friend, Mike Cabot, and Mike has been living in Yellowstone National Park -- year round -- for the past 4 years. We had been best friends all through high school and beyond. (Though lately our friendship has been more ‘electronic’ and long distance). The wedding invitation had come as a bit of surprise. If Mike were married to anything I would have thought it was that park and especially its 1000 or more geysers. (He keeps e-mailing me digital photos of some new or spectacular geyser he’s seen erupt).
As I left the school grounds driving our family minivan, and thinking about Mike’s upcoming wedding, I was wondering how thrilled our three kids would be to fly out west (for the wedding) and to include a nice vacation to Yellowstone Park and surrounding mountains. Now that all our kids are old enough to be reasonably self-sufficient and responsible -- meaning that they can usually go an entire hour without supervision -- maybe we could even spend sometime showing them the country where their dad grew up.
While waiting for the traffic over Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit River, an errant thought just bounded around in my skull and landed on one of my romance neurons. Maybe I can use this to broach the subject of marriage again with my own love of my life. We’ve been together since high school and we both plan on being together for forever. We were currently raising three kids, were ’pillars’ of the community, and I even taught in one of the numerous private high schools across the river in Detroit. (Please don‘t ask how come we now live in suburb of Windsor, Ontario while I work in the states. That will come later in this story). And Detroit is not such a bad place so long as you can commute easily from a suburb.
As I pulled up to our modest home just off Front Road, I suddenly realized what a fantastic life I had right now, and how it was my friend Mike and his own family, together with this ‘idea’ I had been reminiscing about, which had been so pivotal in my life. When this idea first came to me I had thought it to be brilliant. A week later I thought it calamitous. A week after that, I tried not to think about it at all, desperately struggling to get back my ‘normal’ life. You’re probably wondering how come, at this long vantage point of ten years, I now think the idea “amazing.”
Now that I’ve introduced the story, let me go back a number of years, back to when I was a Junior in High School. The story might properly start about a week or so before the germination of this “amazing idea” that changed the direction of my life.
At the time I was living in one of the most beautiful spots on god’s earth -- Livingston, Montana. (And after living in Detroit and environs for several years, if those of you still living in Livingston do not fully and completely appreciate where you live, then you don’t deserve to live there). Of course you might now guess how come my best friend, Mike Cabot, eventually became a habitué of Yellowstone Park and became an avid ‘geyser gazer.’ Livingston happens to be located on the Yellowstone River, in a notch between the Crazy Mountains to the north, the Bridger Mountains to the west, and the Absarokee Mountains to the south. And is less than two hours drive to Old Faithful Geyser. (And for you fly fishing fanatics -- whom I know as a fact are even more fanatical than geyser fanatics -- I used to fish in the Smith River all the time when I was a kid not appreciating the fact that it was, and still is, is one of the prized trout streams in the country. Ooops, I‘m digressing).
Well anyway, Mike Cabot was raised in a somewhat liberal thinking family, as opposed to my own ‘Catholic’, and thus more religiously fundamentalist family. Fundamentalist from the point of view that my parents were steeped -- I would say brainwashed -- in ‘dogma.’ And it is important here to understand what exactly made both myself and Mike tick. I guess you could say that we were a study in extremes. Mike was at one end of the ‘extreme’ and I was peddling for all I was worth to catch up. To say that I had a high regard for Mike was definitely an understatement. Don’t get me wrong. I knew he had faults. But they simply did not matter. The only time I remember Mike being really pissed at me was when we were playing ping-pong, one of the few things in which I was finally able to beat Mike at. To say that Mike was competitive let’s just say that he would give Tiger Woods a run for the title. Mike wanted to win ALL the time, and he just worked that much harder at something when necessary to get on top. If you beat him it just made him even more competitive. But this one time I was just having a REALLY good game going and started making all these underhand slams, and boy did he get pissed when I started laughing. I have to admit I was a bit shocked at his reaction. He’d never shown me his temper before. I finally realized that he thought I was deliberately trying to make him look bad. But honest. I don’t do those things. Not deliberately anyway. Especially to my best friend. I was just having fun. I just made sure not to push that particular button again. I valued his friendship too much. (And ok I will admit it. I wasn’t the most popular guy in school and perhaps our friendship meant more to me that it did to him). Well anyway, Mike HAD to be the best at everything. OK, that’s being a little unfair. He ‘strove’ to be the best. A subtle but important distinction. He was at the top of our class in school too. His memory was phenomenal. The only subject that I had a bit on him was math. But even there he always got the second best grade. But what was Mike’s really important quality as far as this story is concerned, Mike was probably several years ahead of the rest of us in his maturity. Not to say he wasn’t a kid at heart when he wanted to be. But he cared about people. And this was quite a positive influence on me since I tended to think of myself first and then everyone else last. He truly made me a better person. (Of course I only fully realized much of this in hindsight). There were several other kids we paled around with, but it was Mike and his family that really make this the story it is. And of course my own family.
So I guess I should introduce myself and my own family. I was one of four kids. My two sisters were already out of high school, so I didn’t see them very much. Montana being a place where good jobs were scarce at the time, especially for college students and even graduates, it was not the greatest place to live if you wanted a career. My oldest sister, Elise, at the time lived six hours away in a Salt Lake suburb, and Dorothy, only 2 years older, was in college just outside of Spokane, Washington. Oh, and my name is Paul, as in “slave’s obey your masters” Paul.
As I said I was raised in a fairly strict Catholic household, and therefore frequently struggled with my parent’s firmly held beliefs which to me at the time seemed to ignore both reality and common sense. So my parents and I frequently ‘fought.’ And although our fights were verbal, they nonetheless left me emotionally frustrated and a sometimes emotionally exhausted. And no matter who ‘won’ I always lost. Looking back on it from a 10 years’ perspective I have to admit that my own arguments were not always models of reason and labored research but heck, I was a Junior in high school, and at the time thought my wisdom was just short of omnipotent. Occasionally I even wondered if I should ask for a DNA test to see if I really came from my parent’s gene pool. Please don’t think I had a bad home life. I was general a happy kid, and my parents were ‘infinitely patient’ with my ‘rebellions’. And they never really reacted very harshly even when I ‘raised my voice’ sometimes. (Ok, so I was an excitable teenagers). They had their own certainty, that by their ‘good example’ and ever unwearied explanations of their brand of ‘truth’, that I would eventually be won back into the ‘fold’. And I would have to admit, that except for our arguments that were usually more academic than life-engaging, we generally got along pretty well. I guess compared to the other kids that I grew up with, my life was well above average. And probably in the top 20% if compared with other youths around the country.
Mike on the other hand was a somewhat spoiled single kid. That was until the week just before my ’idea’ was to do its ‘pivotal’ thing in my life. I can almost remember that conversation verbatim. (Please note: Reproductions of conversations herein will only be approximate -- so sue me. I do not have Mike‘s memory).
We were on my way to school when Mike lobbed the first bomb. Out of the clear blue he said: “I guess I should tell you, my cousin is coming to live with us.”
I was puzzled, and worried that something bad had happened to his favorite aunt and uncle. “You mean Laurie? How come?”
“No. Another cousin. His name is Alex, and he is, or was, my Aunt Margie’s kid. Since she and Uncle Tom moved away from here years ago we had almost nothing to do with them. To say that my Dad and his brother Tom didn’t get along, is to say that Cain didn’t care too much for Abel. My Dad said that he remembers not a single important issue on which they ever agreed.”
I was wondering if maybe this Tom was my parent’s real son, and not me. (Ok so the ages don‘t quite match up. Stop quibbling).
“Wow. So what’s happening?”
“Well, Aunt Marge died few years ago and boy is my Dad pissed. He never even knew about that until just a few days ago. Uncle Tom never informed us. But anyway, Child Protective Services, way down in Irving, California, called up a couple days ago and explained what had happened. And asked my folks if they would care to take Alex in at least temporarily.”
By the time we got to school and to our lockers I had the most of the story (Reader’s Digest version). It seems Alex wasn’t even related to Mike’s Uncle Tom. Alex was his aunt’s first kid and sort of an ’accident.’ The family only knew that the boy’s father was from one of the reservations and being how prejudiced some people are in Montana against Native Americans, this caused some kind of family scandal. I guess the kid’s father was Cheyenne, and his Aunt Marge had met him while in college in Billings. (And apparently they got to know each other in the ‘biblical’ sense).
I was wondering just how this Alex would be feeling to come back to Montana after living most of his life in a ‘foreign country.’ (Many Montanans considered Southern California a separate country).
I was curious. “But how come he’s being sent all the way up here?”
Mike answered: “He has almost no other relatives, and besides, my folks were the only one’s willing to take him in under the circumstances.
I was a bit incredulous. “Just because he’s a half-breed?”
(OK, this will now be the SECOND time my best friend REALLY would get pissed at me).
“Damn it Paul. Don’t ever use that term near me again. I hate bigots.” His look of disdain hurt me worse than his words.
I tried to reassure Mike that I definitely WAS NOT a bigot and the phrase just accidentally popped out. There were a few Crow Indians and even a Blackfoot in our class and I always thought we got along reasonably well.
Make continued explaining as we made our way to our lockers. “The real problem that led up to all this, Alex was literally thrown out of his home by Uncle Tom when he caught him and a friend having sex in his bedroom.”
“Well shit,” I thought, “I wish I could get as lucky with my girlfriend Marcie.” What I did say was: “Gees. What’s so terrible about that, that he would toss the kid out?”
And that was when the second bomb hit just as I was opening my locker.
“Well, his friend was another boy!”
I could see Mike looking at me intently to watch my reaction. My initial reaction was just a very slight aversion. But that was merely reflexive because of the propaganda we hear all the time. When I allowed my brain to engage, I was merely surprised and then even pissed that kids were still being thrown away by their parents these days just because they were gay. I said as much. I guess I passed Mike’s scrutiny.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about this poor kid off and on all day. Half Cheyenne in Montana wasn’t all that great. Never quite accepted by either side. Of course things were a lot better nowadays especially with our generation. But still there could be friction at times. But being gay to boot? Wow, was this kid in trouble if the other kids found out! And then I realized that Mike went a good ways to trust me with this information.
Later that day we even talked about this exact problem. And among other half-connected thoughts, I realized that Alex wasn’t even a blood relative of the Cabot’s. Well maybe placing a gay sixteen year old half Native American could be difficult. Then we started talking about Alex’s possible problems moving to Livingston, Montana.
I was saying: “Maybe in some high schools he’d be ok, but not here. Look how that Schmidt kid keeps getting hassled! Of course he throws it in your face so much with his hair and ear ring and all.”
Mike replied: “Well, we will have to clue Alex in when he gets here. He’s supposed to fly in today. My Dad’s already in Belgrade by now to pick him up. The pass was OK this morning so there shouldn’t be any problem. Crud, I don’t even know what he looks like.”
To get from Livingston to the airport in Belgrade, you had to drive 37 miles and go over Bozeman Pass. Less than a half hour trip in good weather, but close to impossible if a storm comes through. And we had a pretty good blizzard two days ago. And that got me thinking.
“How about clothes? Especially a good coat and stuff? Does he even remember what snow looks like?” Livingston not only was COLD at times, but was also in the Guinness Book of records for being the windiest city or town in the country. In fact it was just outside town where all the new electrical generating windmill designs were tested. If they could survive here, they could survive anywhere.
Mike then got into one of his thoughtful modes. (It was almost like he was several years older). He smiled. “You had me worried at first with that ‘breed’ remark. I’m glad I judged you right that you’d be OK with this and all.”
Strangely, praise like this from Mike meant even more to me than from my own parents. And that thought got me worried again. I replied: “Just we better make sure my parents don’t find out. You know how they can be!” Mike agreed.
The current Pope said that parents of gay kids should love them in spite of their ‘condition’. But then it seems this is contradicted by everything else he’s said. Homosexuals were ‘inherently disordered’. (Who cares what psychiatrists now say)? Of course they never really explain what type of ‘disorder’ this is. Just that they were “inclined toward evil.” What a horrible thing to say about anybody. And anyone openly gay should necessarily be discriminated against. How is that loving them? Of course I knew better than to argue the point with my parents. (At least on this issue I knew better).
So Mike and I made plans to make sure that nobody else found out why Alex was now living with Mike’s family. It was two day’s later when that plan became moot. It turned out that Alex did not agree to it. Something we failed to take into account.
I had been invited for dinner the second day Alex was here since Mike wanted us to be friends. My first impression when I saw Alex was that nobody would believe he was even part white. He could play in the reenactment of the Battle of the Little Bighorn they have in Crow Agency every summer. And damn, if his father was this good looking, no wonder Aunt Marge ‘strayed’. It was after dinner when Mike, his parents, and Alex, (and I) were all sitting at the table with homemade apple pie, when the topic came up about Alex, his going to our school the next day, and what should and should not be said about his now being here. Of course one of the reasons that Mike seems so mature at times, is that, at times like this, his parents spoke to him as if he were capable of mature thinking. First we talked about the weather of course. If you’ve never lived in a place like Livingston in February, you might not understand. It could be 35 degrees when you go to school in the morning, and be 20 below with a 20 mile an hour wind 8 hours later. (Ok, so that would be a bit unusual even here, but I’ve seen it happen). But it is not an exaggeration to say that this area of the country can have some mighty weather changes. Just a year before when my family was camping and hiking up on the Beartooth (one of the most scenic places in the world) it was 26 degrees when we awoke at 8 a.m., and 96 degrees just 8 hours later! (I guess I’m digressing again). Oh yes, we were talking about the weather.
Alex asked: “Is it always this cold outside?”
We all looked at each other and laughed. It was 28 above zero with just a light breeze at news time (we watched it just before dinner). That for us in February is somewhat balmy.
Mike replied: “The record cold for this date was minus 46 in 1935.” Everyone knew not to even question that. He no doubt remembered that from only seeing it once.
Fortunately, Mike’s Dad bought Alex a good coat and hat and gloves in Bozeman, stopping off from the airport. And no half measures. The coat was expedition weight goose down and better than any I’ve even owned. (But don’t let a down coat get wet. I was content with my holo-fill).
We eventually got to the important stuff. Mike had told Alex that he and I knew he was gay and made sure he knew that it didn’t matter. (And thinking about that later I was wondering how come we even had to say it didn’t matter? Isn‘t it a bit insulting since it implied there WAS something wrong with it to begin with? Mike and I would have to talk about this later).
Mike’s parents mentioned that it would probably be easier for Alex if nobody knew he was gay. That was the first time I’d seen Alex even close to being agitated. He was remarkably phlegmatic considering all the recent upheaval in his life.
“Hell no! I am NOT going to live a lie again! I had too much of that with my stepfather. No more! I don’t care what the fuck anyone else thinks. If someone asks how come I don’t care if some girl has size quadruple-D boobs, or why I don’t have a date for the dance, I tell them the truth.” Then he got this amazingly devilish smile and added: “Of course unless there’s some cute boy who would want to go to the dance.”
Then he also started wondering if Mike and his family didn’t want it known for their sakes -- that they had a ‘sodomite’ living with them. He will learn not to play the religion card at Mike’s house. I wondered if Mike’s parents had deliberately boned up on this stuff. But they went back and forth about what different religions said and what they exactly thought of it all.
It ended with Mike’s Mom trying to solicit from Alex if HE felt OK about what all the religions said about being gay. I never knew ‘til then, but apparently many Cheyenne were even Catholic. That blew me away. But it turned out that Alex was sort of nothing religion wise.
Mike tried reason, while I tried pragmatism. Why invite trouble. Alex seemed like a pretty good kid, just too bull-headed for his own good.
It was two days after that when everyone in school found out there were now TWO openly gay kids that went there. Of course this second one was quite a surprise. He definitely did not fit the usual stereotype. It happened in History class of all places. And Alex did it deliberately!
Of course fate would have us covering something about civil rights just at the wrong moment. It happened that Alex was our age and so was in our same class. I thought it ironic that a couple Indians in the class had made it a point to make Alex feel at home, and even had him sit with them. The teacher, Mr. Glod, actually made the course, American History, pretty interesting even for high school kids. He kept bringing in excerpts from very old newspapers and magazines which I found not only interesting, but at times even disturbing. How could people think and act that way back then?
Mr. Glod, after talking about the Civil War which of course then led into civil rights, and then of course (in OUR school at least) into civil rights specifically concerning the Native American. Then of course came just the WRONG question which Mr. Glod aimed at Alex.
“Well, Alex, we don’t seem to have heard from you today. What do you think we still need to do for your minority to help insure your civil rights?”
Alex smiled. Then after a couple false starts said: “Well, for one thing, it would be pretty nice if Montana could repeal that Constitutional Amendment they recently passed making us all second class citizens.”
Mike almost tackled him to the floor trying to make him shut up. (Ok he grabbed his arm trying to pull him into his seat). I just sat there with my brain misfiring. Shit! The rest of the class was justly mystified about what he could be talking about.
Mr. Glod didn’t even see what was about to happen. He asked him: “I don’t seem to recall any such amendment to OUR state constitution. What are you talking about?”
Alex did it deliberately. He must have had this all rehearsed. He even started off with a quote. He had everyone’s attention. “Well, in 1967, the US Supreme Court stated the following in its decision in the case of Loving vs. Virginia when addressing interracial marriage. ‘The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.’ In 2003 the Massachusetts Supreme Court extended this right to marry the person of one’s choice to all minorities -- at least in their state. However, just last year, Montana passed an amendment specifically telling us that we were forever to be second class citizens. We no longer were to have that right.”
Only because most everybody was either in shock, or did not yet figure just what he was getting at, was he even able to finish saying all that.
“Mr. Glod now led with his chin: “What has this to do with your being a Native American? You surely have the right to marry whomever you choose.”
Alex couldn’t have asked for better lead in. I think I even moaned out loud. Even Mike, who sometimes would call himself ‘Stupendousman,’ was at a loss. (OK, another of his minor faults, he had a slight ego problem).
“Well, amendments, such as recently passed in this state, defining marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, ignore the fact that 5 to 10 percent of its citizens are gay, and thus take away their full right of citizenship -- their right to marry the person of their choice. I‘m not only Native American, I’m also gay. How about THAT for a minority?”
There was bedlam. The two Indian students sitting next to him got up and found seats elsewhere. So much for solidarity of minorities. After Mr. Glod finally got everyone back in their seats and things calmed down, and his own composure back, he tried to explain, that legally, gays were not defined as a class of people, and thus could not be referred to as a minority. He forgot two things. Most high school student could care less about legal technicalities or about who can be legally declared a minority. Second, most of the students in this class never really understood most of Alex’s argument anyway. Well, I guess there were three things. Nobody was even paying any real attention except to his last two sentences. They were all thinking one thing. We got a faggot in our class. (OK, I’m probably being unfair to at least those few kids who would NOT think this way). But hell, besides Mike and I, and maybe one or two who were gay and nobody knew it, there couldn’t have been many more on Alex‘s side. Fortunately most kids were not openly hostile -- yet. But DAMN!
OK, so I was little pessimistic. It turned out that the majority of the school either could care less about another gay student, or at least never did anything overt. But he sure didn’t gain any friends. And Mike and I were caught in the middle.
Of course I forgot about Mike’s unassailable self-image. He was made of sterner stuff than I was. Mike later said: “I don’t care enough about any so-called friend who won’t stand by me just because Alex lives with me, or I don’t choose to stop being his friend. This is the 21st century. Being openly gay is no big deal.” (Well, in Livingston, Montana it was). Mike reconstructs reality sometimes to suit his pleasure.
Mike conveniently forgot what he said just two days ago. And I was glad that I had Mike as a friend. I would like to think that I would have stayed on personal terms with Alex even at school, but that made my decision easier. Fortunately for Alex, the worst he got the next day were a few vulgar remarks, and a large number of people deliberately avoiding him. But words CAN hurt. And I think what hurt his the most was that the few Native Americans in our school held him in open contempt. Strangely, because of that, I was now even more determined to make sure that I wasn’t concerned about associating with Alex at school. That I had some perversity in my character was made pretty evident the next week. And so now we are only a day away from when this ‘idea‘ would come in a moment of inspiration.
When I finally got home from school the next day, I was already in a bad mood because Marcie had broken off our date for the next day. We had also been planning to go to the school dance the next week, and I was wondering if that too was off since she kept changing the topic when I brought it up. What was especially bad, she refused to give any real explanation. So when my parents said those magic words “we need to have a talk” right after dinner, I was already in a mood to balk at whatever they had on their minds. But the fact that I was for once truly blindsided, had me reeling.
My Dad started it out, and that was a very bad sign. “Paul, your mother and I have heard a vicious rumor and wondered if you could enlighten us.”
Shit! The ’formal approach.’ This was really going to be heavy. But naive that I was I still had no clue. “What’s this all about?”
Now Mom stepped in. (Bad cop, worse cop). “Well, Janet Engleman said that her boy said that you were associating with a known pervert.”
Shit! My parents considered all gay people to be de facto ‘perverts’. There was no distinction in their minds between gay, rapist, or pedophile. They were all in the same class. And I never really got along with Steve (Janet Engleman’s boy). He was a typical red-neck cowboy. Just being a ‘townie‘ was a mark against me in his book. (OK, so now I’m stereotyping).
When I’m really annoyed with my parents’ parochial attitude, I get the intentional ‘stupids‘.
With as innocent an expression I could muster I replied: “You mean I’m in the same class as a pervert?”
I think both the innuendo and the double entendre went right over their heads.
“My Dad asked: “What do you know about this Alex Barnes?”
I feigned ignorance: “I don’t KNOW any Alex Barnes.”
Alex had switched back to using his Mom’s maiden name Travec.
Mom losing patience: “That kid now staying with the Cabot’s.”
There was no intimation that Mike has been my best friend for over three years. And that he’d eaten here just last week. Now it was ‘the Cabot’s’.
“I don’t know of any Alex Barnes staying at the Cabot’s. Perhaps if you‘d specify which Cabot’s you are talking about.” We also had friends by that name near Bozeman.
Dad getting impatient: “Stop this tomfoolery. You know exactly who we mean.”
Me getting impatient: “I still don’t know what you are talking about. You should trust me to know better than associate with any pervert.”
Mom pretending to be reasonable: “Look Paul, we can’t get anywhere bandying words. Alex, whatever his last name is, who is now staying at Mike’s house, is a pervert. And we don’t want you associating with him.”
Me trying not to explode: “First of all. Alex is definitely is NOT a pervert. To even hint that is at best unchristian, and at worst, slander. He’s gay. Saying someone is a pervert just because he’s gay flies in the face of all modern understanding of sexual orientation.”
Dad tried to interrupt me and I guess I ‘raised my voice.’
I persevered: “You’re born gay. It’s not a perversion.” And now I got dirty: “Now Uncle Phil, now HE’s perverted.”
Uncle Phil recently divorced his wife of thirty years and married his secretary. Who barely turned ‘legal’ a week before the wedding. We all know what he had been doing way before then.
Dad now angry: “Don’t you dare talk about your family like that. I will not have it. And we want you to stay from this Alex. We know what’s best for you.”
I was now angry and frustrated. I had known the outcome as soon as I knew it was about Alex. I was just starting to get up when my Mom got me all the way to incredulous and then back to foaming at the mouth.
“And stay away from the Cabot’s too. They should have known better than to take in a pervert.”
Fortunately I was momentarily so speechless that I only said the third thing that came to my mind.
“You mean just like that, I have to tell Mike that I can’t go over to his house?”’
Oh what a naive idiot that I am sometimes. I still didn’t really understand. My Dad corrected that.
“What your mother means is that we don’t want you associating with Mike either.”
I went white. It had never occurred to me that I was going to be forbidden to see my best friend anymore. And for the first time in my life I deliberately resolved to defy my parents. I got up and paced about and finally went to the hall closet to get my good coat. It was now below zero outside.
“Where are you going?” my Mom asked.
Now I can not claim never to have lied to my Mom. But never before with such deliberate zeal.
“I need to think about all this. I’m going out for some air.”
Where I was really going you would probably have guessed. I don’t think I’d ever been more upset in my entire life up to then. I kept trying to figure out how to ’fix’ things, and came up blank. I even despaired at Mike being able to help. I passed the school on the way to Mike’s house. (OK, so I deliberately went eight blocks out of my way in below zero weather without gloves or hat, just to make sure my parents didn’t see me headed the other way). I noted in passing a message on the sign board that reminded me of the upcoming dance the next Saturday in the gym -- a dance to which Marcie was possibly no longer my date. And that was the moment of inspiration. The moment when the ‘idea’ flashed into my brain.
This time the disagreement with my parents HAD become ’life-engaging’ and I thought at the time even ‘life-threatening.’ That is, it threatened to totally upset my relationship with my ‘best friend’. The ‘idea’ had as its aim to get ‘even’ with my parents by REALLY pissing them off. (Please don’t ask me now how pissing off my parents would get me ’even’ because the logic now completely escapes me. However, at the time, I thought it to be, as I said, ’brilliant’. And thinking of my current problems I was having with my girlfriend Marcie added even more incentive. This would really REALLY piss her off. Of course I had nothing to get ‘even’ for with her. It’s just well, . . . look, I considered myself your average teenager. And our last date cost me almost 50 bucks, and she wouldn’t even let me get passed first base. And now she wouldn’t even confirm our date to go to the upcoming dance. Now is that fair? (OK, so I was a bit immature back then).
When I arrived at ’the Cabot’s’ (I will never be able to think of them again without hearing the disdain in my parent’s voice mouthing their name), I must have looked as bad as I felt.
Mrs. Cabot had me sit in the kitchen and even brought out an old space heater to try to thaw me out. Mike even lost his usual air of superiority and let his true concern show through.
“Shit Paul, what’s wrong?” I never said Mike was telepathic.
But Alex must have been. “It’s about me isn’t it?” he asked.
For about two seconds I really resented him even being in our lives and toyed with the idea of downright hatred.
Fortunately, Mike saved me. “Look Paul, no matter what it is, you know I’m always there for you.”
At that exact moment he showed me what true loving concern was all about and I decided that I wanted to be that kind of person too.
“Thanks Mike.” He will never know how much I meant that, nor for what reasons.
And I know that I am frequently clueless sometimes, but it wasn’t until that night, when both Mike and his parents sort of became my second step-parents, that I realized how Mike got to be the person he was. His parents were the same way. Caring, and confident in their own world view. And for the first time in my own life I started wondering about my own beliefs and wondered how shallow they might be.
But to get back to the issue at hand. I explained everything that had just transpired. They were as appalled as I was but had more experience and could also understand how my parents thought. I was not going to be so forgiving.
But it was just before I left, however, when my ‘idea’ was planted. Alex came outside with me for a few moments and even tried to apologize.
“I guess I’ve caused a lot of people trouble again. I’m sorry; I was only thinking about myself when I did that in class.”
“Where the hell did you get all that quote and stuff?”
“Well, I wrote a paper back in my old school on that topic. Believe it or not, I never really planned to do that. It just seemed right at the time. I really am sorry. I hope you don’t get into trouble on my account.”
It took only a surprisingly small amount of courage to say what was coming next. Well being really pissed off helped.
“Alex. Can I ask you something personal?”
“I guess.” And he smiled. “As long as you don’t ask me to blow you.”
I went red at that suggestion, but was surprised I was not entirely turned off by the idea.
“Well, how much of a statement do you really want to make?”
I could see that little impishness in his expression that I had seen in class that day. Somehow it really drew me on.
“Well I had an idea on my way over here this evening. There’s a dance next Saturday at school. Would you like to go?”
I took real delight in the look of surprise on his face.
“You’re asking me out?! As on a date?!”
Alex looked concerned as he replied: “Damn. I would never have guessed. No wonder you’re pissed.”
Now I suddenly realized what he must have been thinking.
“NO! Sorry to burst your bubble, but no, I am definitely not gay. I am just angry enough to start defying both convention and people, and especially my parents.” And I added on impulse: “Just remember, I don't let any boy kiss me on the first date.”
Alex laughed. He really wanted to go to the dance with me, but he tried earnestly to talk me out of it.
“You can not know all the grief you may be borrowing. No one will ever again believe that you are not gay. You can’t know how much all that hassle I constantly get really hurts.”
I was adamant. “I guess I’ll find out.”
“But you can’t do this. You can’t REALLY know what you will be doing to yourself!”
“Maybe you’re right. But I will always have Mike. That’s enough.”
“And you will have me too,” he replied with a smile.
I smiled too. I felt closer to Alex in just one week that I felt to most people ever. I replied to his last remark: “Yes, I guess I will.”
And I swore Alex to secrecy. Even not to tell Mike. Especially not Mike. Mike was smart enough, and knew me well enough, I knew he would be able to talk me out of doing this. And I didn’t want to be talked out of it.
On the way home I was fantasizing about Marcie’s reaction when she saw me at the dance with Alex instead of her. When I got home, frozen again because it was now both well below zero and windy, Mom made me a cup of cocoa. She surprised me by not even asking where I’d been all this time. I would have lied and maybe she realized that. I also wondered if she really believed I could throw away a three year friendship. Especially with my best friend.
A week later I would reap the whirlwind. As Alex warned me, I could not have known.
But that weekend I quickly realized exactly how my parent’s proclamation (as I called it) was already interfering with my life. There was an old car that I bought and was fixing up, and I worked weekends at a farm dealership in town to help pay for expenses and save up for insurance. Usually if I needed to go somewhere Mike drove me in his Toyota Tundra. (Nice having rich parents). But now, how could I ask my parents if I could go fishing on the Smith without telling them whose car I was going in? Or to Bozeman to see the Bobcats play, or even to see many of my classmates who lived on ranches 10 miles away. In Montana you went almost everywhere in a vehicle. And Mike and I had such plans for this summer. The first one where one of us had both license and transportation. It looked like my summer of ‘freedom’ suddenly depended on my more seriously working at getting that old car running.
All the next week I was trying to figure out just how I could convince my parents about just how wrong they were. I found a lot of stuff on the Internet, and even printed some of it out. But the few times I tried to get my Mom to just read it, it found its way to the circular file. And there were no advocacy groups in the entire state except at UM in Missoula. It may as well have been in Texas.
I wound up listening to my i-pod all week to drown out recurring thoughts of committing mass murder. And I wondered how long before my parents would decide that they had to make sure I wasn’t IM-ing Mike on the internet. (Our cell phones were strictly, and I mean strictly, for emergency only. Besides they didn’t even work over a lot of the state yet).
By the time the day of the dance arrived I was having SERIOUS second thoughts. And only because by this time Alex was so absolutely thrilled about our upcoming ‘adventure,’ was I able to finally go through with it. I couldn’t disappoint him like that.
When I left for the dance with a small corsage in my hand, I allowed my parents to believe that I was headed to pick up Marcie since she lived next to the school. On my way to Mike's (and Alex’s) house I separated two of the carnations plus some of the green stuff, and made two boutonnières out of it. (Our school dances were still very conservative affairs, and suits or sport jackets were still de rigor).
When I got to Mike’s house Alex was ready. Mike had been surprised when Alex told him in school earlier that day that he too was going to the dance. He had been even more surprised when I said that I was not taking Marcie. His own date, a girl he was dating for the first time, lived across town and he said he would only be driving us to the dance if it were exceptionally cold. So by the time I got to their house Mike was already gone.
I guess I was not sneaky enough when I pinned the flower onto Alex’s lapel. I was startled when I heard Mike’s mom say from the next room: “What’s happening Paul? Are you two cooking up something?”
I didn’t know how to answer. I didn’t even know how to feel at her discovery. It was Alex who replied. “Paul is my date for the dance. We decided to make a statement.”
Mrs. Cabot tried to talk us out of doing this. And if you listened objectively, one might even realize that she was right. But we had come a long way from being ‘reasonable.’ She almost convinced me when she mentioned how my own Mom would react. And if I would now be branding myself gay not only to the entire school, but to my own parents too. I should have listened. It never occurred to me that my own parents would not quite believe me when I told them later I had only done this as a way of rebelling against their bigoted proclamation. (I didn’t use those exact words. I wasn’t suicidal even if Mike later said I was).
We finally ignored the ‘wisdom’ of adults and relied on the implicit belief that what we were doing was the ’right’ thing. Nobody gave us much notice when we entered the school gym. The few people there who recognized Alex in the dim light I suppose were either those not especially bothered by his being gay, or who were on their better behavior since they had dates. It was when we started dancing together when the proverbial shit hit the fan. Especially since when we were noticed it was during a slow dance. (I even surprised myself when the idea of dancing with Alex this close disturbed me not at all).
Almost immediately we were confronted by the three biggest bigots of Livingston High. (By biggest I mean that they all seemed to be close to 200 pounds). They were using the usual rhetoric. But before anything serious occurred, the school principal and another teacher came up to us and inquired as to what was happening.
Big guy number one spoke up: “Mr. Patterson, these two queers were dancing together. We don’t need that kind of thing in our school.” He smirked as if proud of his so-obvious intelligent reply.
Big guy number two spoke next: “That’s right.”
Before anyone else could respond Alex spoke up: “Sir, we were doing exactly what many other people came here to do -- to enjoy the music and the dancing.”
Mr. Patterson was clearly pissed. He first turned to the three larger students and told them to excuse themselves, that ‘rightful authority’ would take control. (At least that is the shortened version of what transpired). Then we were ‘requested’ by the principal to follow him to where “we could talk in more private circumstances.” (In other words it was assumed automatically that it was Alex and I who were ‘guilty’ of ‘causing a disruption’ at the dance. (Or guilty of being gay). It never occurred to me until that moment that being called a faggot would hurt so much -- even if I weren't gay. And it did. I heard it and other unkind epithets as we were escorted to the principal’s office.
Mr. Patterson didn’t mince words; he right away asked: “Is what those students said true; you two were dancing together?”
Alex even smiled at the prospect of bandying words: “Yes. Exactly like half the other people there at the time.”
Mr. Patterson seemed uncomfortable. I suspected he just wanted the ‘problem’ to go away. He then stated: “Well, we do not allow your kind of behavior at our school.”
I was getting hot but Alex was made of sterner stuff. And revving up for a good challenge. He asked: “And just exactly what behavior are you talking about, sir? Paul and I were simply doing exactly what a hundred other students were doing -- dancing.”
Mr. Patterson clearly did not like being challenged. “You know exactly what I am talking about. We don’t allow two boys to dance together.”
Alex shot back: “But you DO allow two GIRLS to dance together. At least I assume that you do since there is quite a lot of that going on out there right now. So again I respectfully ask. Exactly what behavior are you talking about?”
Mr. Patterson seemed to get somewhat peeved, but then did something curious -- he stopped speaking in 'administration-ese.' “OK, let’s cut out the bullshit. Alex and Paul, I will be blunt if you want blunt. We can not countenance homosexual behavior here at this school. It simply will not be permitted.”
I tried to protest that I wasn’t even gay. But Alex was faster: “Good. I certainly do not wish to engage in any homosexual behavior, especially in public at this school. You can be sure this will never happen. May we go back to the dance now?”
I thought Mr. Patterson was going to completely loose it. “Why you insufferable punk. You think you can move into this God fearing community and shove your life style into our faces? Well I for one will not permit it. For now you two are suspended and I will petition the school board on Monday to have you expelled.”
Now I was thoroughly scared. It never occurred to me that something like this could happen. I was just trying to stir things up. Shit, there was a kid just a year or so ago in Belfry who showed up at his Senior Prom with another boy and no one was expelled.
I tried get out of trouble. “Mr. Patterson, I didn’t do anything at least 50 other kids out there were doing. If you don’t believe me let’s go out there and I will show you.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Only you two were engaging in homosexual behavior. You even admitted it.“
Alex tried to reply but I was now at the edge of my temper and I yelled back: “What behavior? I’m not even gay. I was just dancing. If you are objecting that we are of the same sex, then how come you never objected when two girls dance together? How come then what they are doing is not considered 'homosexual behavior'?”
“I will not argue this point. You heard me.”
Alex made a parting shot. “So what you are saying two girls dancing together is not gay, but two guys is gay?”
“Get out. I will inform your parents tomorrow.”
I was trembling when Alex and I left the building. When I got outside and realized all the trouble I was now in, and thinking how my parents will react, I started loosing it. I started crying and Alex took me into his arms and tried to tell me that everything would be OK.
It wasn’t until I was in bed that night when I remembered Alex’s arms around me and realized that I derived quite a lot of comfort from that one act.
Alex and I talked about this all the way to his house. I was so afraid to go home. How the hell can I tell my parents what happened? Especially since I deliberately not only associated with a 'pervert’ but got myself expelled because of it. I was not quite thinking rationally. I started vacillating back and forth from intense anger to numbing fear.
At the Cabot’s house I was surprised to see Mike’s truck in the driveway, and further surprised to see him sitting on the front porch waiting for us.
He greeted us with: “You two have got to be the stupidest kids in the entire state. Sure you're not secretly North Dakota residents? I couldn’t believe what I heard at the dance, but when I called home my Mom told me about what you two had planned. And Paul, why didn’t you come to me first before you did this? I would have talked you out of it. Now you two have not only ruined things for yourselves, but made things a lot harder for me too.”
I couldn’t quite understand why he was saying I’d ruined things for him; he was my best friend. I would never do anything like that. And I said so.
“Well Paul, how do you think I will be greeted in school when they find out that I support you two? I will be an outcast to at least half the school.”
I finally realized just what Mike was alluding to and suddenly felt so guilty. Mike would not budge even when I told him that he shouldn't make himself a target too.
“Paul, I do NOT abandon my friends. Even when they exhibit a negative IQ. Besides, I guess I will find out who my real friends are. And it‘s already started anyway, just because I’ve kept supporting my own brother.”
Alex was startled at this statement. “Brother?”
“Yeah. My parents have decided to petition the courts to adopt you.”
Now Alex had tears in HIS eyes.
Just then the porch light went on and Mike’s Mom appeared in the door. “Come inside out of the cold. We need to talk.” Then she looked at me and said: “You especially Paul.”
Both Mike’s parents were there and we talked about the entire thing for over an hour. It was getting late and I was thinking I needed to get home. But quaked at the prospect. There were a few things decided. Mike’s parents said that they were going to consult a lawyer and would fight the school if they tried to follow up on the threat to expel us. They also believed that the school board, especially in light of a few other court cases already in the state, could not afford to expel us on what happened.
“What you two stated is very germane to the problem. One, what constitutes homosexual behavior. And two, if what you did is considered to be homosexual behavior then any two girls dancing has to be held to the same scrutiny.”
Alex had to add fuel to the fire. "Why the hell should we be discriminated against even if it IS homosexual behavior?"
I finally got in my say, although for some reason I felt slightly guilty about it. Like I was being a traitor to Alex somehow.
“Look. I’m not gay. I was just dancing. How can that be construed as homosexual behavior?”
Mr. Cabot replied: “To any rational person it can not. But most people are not rational about homosexuality. Especially around this community.”
Then before I could reply Mrs. Cabot jumped in: “We are all forgetting one of the most important issues. Let’s forget about this threat of expulsion. The school board would have to agree and I don’t believe they would. I know most of the members and most of them are reasonable people. And I happen to know that Mr. Collins is gay himself.”
Now I was shocked. He was the head of the school board, or the oldest member or something. Shit. But I thought he had a couple of grown kids.
“I must stress that no one is to even hint at this to anyone. I only mentioned it to help alleviate your fears.” Mrs. Cabot looked right at me. “Alex and Mike, you both know that we will be behind you all the way. What is important right now is how Paul is going to handle this.”
She had to remind me.
It was Mr. Cabot who tossed the next bomb. “Paul, if you find that things at your house get so that you can not live there any more, you will always be welcome here.” He saw my reaction and hastily added: “That does not mean that I expect that to happen. But just in case it does, I had to say that."
In a way it gave me some degree of security. But wow, I simply quaked at the idea of telling my parents ANYTHING. I was so unprepared to confront them. I so NEEDED their approval. And love. But at the same time couldn't even think about not living there. Yet I suddenly realized it was just this kind of thing that had Alex here to begin with. Shit! What the hell must he be going through?
“Paul,” Mrs. Cabot added: “We will be there tomorrow if you want when you confront your parents. But call us tonight if. . .”
She never finished. There was pounding on their front door. It turned out to be my father. Apparently someone called my parents about this whole thing. I didn‘t find out who until after midnight. How my parents did respond surprised the hell out of me. At least after the initial explosion and being grounded for life.
Mrs. Cabot opened the door, and my Dad showed his face. His anger was so obvious. And seemed to be directed at everyone.
“Paul you are coming home now!” He didn’t even greet the Cabot’s.
Mr. Cabot approached him and tried to invite my Dad in. What he did say must have been quite insulting to the Cabot’s. “Your Mom told you not to associate with these people. Now you are suffering the consequences.”
When I stood frozen almost in shock, my Dad yelled: “Paul, you are already in big trouble. If you don’t want to get in worse, come now.”
I did. Dad didn’t say a thing all the way home. I’d never seen him this angry. I was scared to death. When we got home he immediately asked me why I let that pervert talk me into doing what I did.
I couldn’t answer right away. I was so surprised by the question. I expected to be blasted by the possible threat of expulsion.
I was saved from finding an answer when my Mom jumped in: “Paul, we need to ask. Has this pervert done anything to you?”
“No. What do you mean?”
Dad replied: “You know exactly what she means. Has he forced himself on you?”
“Of course not. Honest. I was just mad about how you and Mom reacted and impulsively went to the dance with him just to make a statement.”
My Mom reentered the fray. I was even surprised that she seemed more distraught than angry. “Look Paul, we know that you are a good kid. But these perverts will try to corrupt everyone around them. That was why we told you not to associate with them. Only to protect you. You are not mature enough to understand and that is why we had to be so strict about this.”
How the hell could I answer that? But I went into ‘coward’ mode, and started saying what I thought they wanted to hear. I felt like a traitor the entire time. It took me a while but I finally convinced them that NOTHING (sexual was implied) happened between Alex and myself. Hell, I was not even gay. (I resolved right then to patch things up with Marcie as soon as possible. Wow, was I in for a surprise).
Somehow they never did get to the expulsion thing for the entire first hour. It took that long to convince them that: a) I was NOT gay; b) Alex wasn't TURNING me gay; c) Alex didn't do any 'gay stuff' with or to me; d) Alex did NOT try to molest me; e) I wasn't being 'brainwashed' by Alex (or anyone else); f) etc. (Being 'brainwashed' mostly meant being convinced that something our church taught might possibly be wrong). It was well after midnight when the expulsion threat was first mentioned.
It was my Dad who broached the subject. “When your principal called this evening (DAMN, he couldn't wait 'til tomorrow?) and explained why he was going to the school board to approve your expulsion, you can’t believe how shocked your mother and I were. And when he explained exactly why, well, I guess I blew up. I finally convinced him of two things. First, that it had to be that Cabot pervert that coerced you into this and that you were doing it only as a sort of teen rebellion because we had been so strict about your associating with him.”
I thought wow. But then I wondered how come all this worry about me being or turning gay? Ironically they even had that rebellion part half right. I was a bit surprised that so far I had not even been castigated that much yet. And here was my Dad even defending me.
“Do you think they can do that? I mean expel me?” I was still very worried about that.
“They better not even try. I know a good lawyer, and I told Mr. Patterson that you were always a good boy, and were not gay. And if necessary, we’d prove in court it was all that pervert's fault.”
I again felt like a traitor. But what could I say? That it was all MY idea? Right now I wanted to say that but I was too far into my ’coward’ mode.
I sort of just nodded.
But then we finally got to the castigation stage. Some of the comments were like this: “What the hell were you thinking? We know you are smarter than that.” That was my Dad. My Mom was on a different tack: “Paul, I am quite disappointed in you. You know we always taught you right but now you not only deliberately disobeyed us, but put your very soul in danger.”
Eventually it got to the punishment stage. There were even ultimatums. “Grounded until you can show us you are again responsible enough to have some privileges again. No working on that car, no going anywhere after school, or the weekends. No Internet. No phone except in an emergency or for school. No . . .”
I lost track of all the “no’s.” Just say that except for going to school, (and Church of course), I was in solitary confinement until hell froze over. (Of course in Livingston this was a real possibility).
It was Tuesday the next week before I finally got to talk to Marcie in private. We snuck out of school instead of going to some stupid assembly. I really never did this kind of thing but I was desperate, and I thought the chance of being caught was nil. And besides, how could my parents punish me any more?
A block from the school Marcie asked me a question I was not prepared for. My reply was not exactly an actual answer.
She persisted: “It was a simple question Paul. Are you gay?”
I could not understand Marcie’s sudden change. Last week I could barely get her to tell me anything. But now she seemed all solicitous. It was even she who practically insisted on this walk down along the Yellowstone River. (We even saw a bald eagle which distracted us for a few minutes). Fortunately the temperature was above zero again. And the snow wasn't too deep. And there was no wind which was another miracle.
“Of course not. I already explained all that at school. I only asked Alex to the dance to get back at my parents for being so bigoted.” I even decided to confess. (I don‘t know where I got the courage -- desperation probably). “And to get back at you for breaking our last date and not responding when I asked you about the dance.” I couldn't face her as I admitted this.
Strangely Marcie seemed not the slightest bit angry about that. In fact I was thinking she seemed to be secretly laughing. Well it must have been a VERY private joke.
I started trying to apologize when she interrupted. And I found out years ago that the girl was always allowed to interrupt. But the way she was acting I finally had good hope that she would agree to continue dating. She really turned me on. (My libido was showing. Ok genius, stop thinking about sex right now).
“Paul, I need to tell you something. But first I want to ask a question. How come, if you are not gay, you are friends with Alex?”
“Why not? He’s a nice guy. I really like him. I don’t care about that gay stuff. I guess you can call me liberated.” It was strange, two weeks ago I'm not sure how I would have answered questions about gay kids.
Marcie seemed satisfied with my answer. She even smiled. “Well thanks for being a nice guy yourself.”
I was suddenly a very happy boy. I really liked Marcie and did not want to ’lose’ her. But her next question had me wondering.
“Paul, did you ever wonder just why I started getting distant with you?”
“No. Why?” But I suddenly thought I DID know both when and why. It happened right after I tried to feel up her boobs. Shit!
“It was right after you tried to touch me.” Wow, how about that for ESP?
“I’m sorry Marcie. I shouldn’t have without your … well you know.”
I was very embarrassed.
“I went out with you because I liked you and also because I knew you were Catholic.”
Now I was puzzled again. Marcie wasn’t anything as far as I knew.
“I knew that Catholics say that sex should wait ‘til after marriage. So I thought you’d be safe.”
Wow was I quite literate.
Marcie laughed. “Look I think I can trust you. Especially after seeing how you’ve reacted to everything this week.” She stopped me from interrupting. “Look most girls want romance, while most boys want sex. I thought you’d be different.”
“Shit, I really fucked up.” I was thinking.
Before I could give any reply Marcie added: “Well, I guess I will want sex sometime, but it will be with another girl.”
It took me a few moments to get over my shock. I was still being monosyllabic: “What?”
“You heard me. I’m a lesbian. Sorry for using you. As I said, I’d thought you’d be safe. I‘m really sorry Paul. I will understand if you are mad at me."
I was too shocked to be mad. I realized though that I was very disappointed. Damn!
“I’m sorry too, Marcie. I really liked you. I still do.”
“So you forgive me?”
“Hell. You’re still a nice person. I’m just disappointed that we will never get serious or anything.”
We parted on a very friendly note.
So that was last month. Things FINALLY settled down. Well almost. There were still some kids at school who still thought I was gay. My parents said that if I kept doing as they expected, I’d only be grounded ‘til Easter. I was suspended but nothing happened about the expulsion threat. The school board DID meet and talk about it since the principal made it into such a big thing, but they voted against the expulsion. Mrs. Cabot said that the vote was 5 to 2. For some reason I never got the urge to find another girl and even dated Marcie a few times. She and her friends were fun to be with. Our dates usually involved a few other friends. It didn’t hurt how my parents saw things. I was their dutiful HETEROSEXUAL son. Alex got a lot of grief for a while but somehow he became a sort of hero to a lot of the other students. I still ‘associated’ with Mike and Alex at school, and when I could ‘sneak away.’ I sure hope my parents do not suspect. Alex was hassled now and then but nothing serious. (Nobody was killed). He still was pissed that none of the Native Americans would associate with him. Alex said that it didn't help that he was Cheyenne and that they were Crow. We talked about this at times.
“Alex. It seems that the smaller the minority someone is a part of, the more they are likely to hate gays.”
Alex didn't agree. “I think you are trying to simplify things too much.”
We never did get to understand that or figure out if it was really true.
Mike took some flack too, and even lost one of his ’good’ friends’ but nothing bothers him for long. I even talk with Mr. and Mrs. Cabot once in a while. They seem more like parents now than my real parents. I don’t seem to be able to talk to my Mom or Dad at all now.
And that is one thing that I regret about this whole thing. I can’t seem to be as close to my parents anymore. I still really resent their bigoted attitude. What is most frustrating they can’t believe they are doing anything wrong! I tried one last time to talk to my Mom about this thing. (I knew my Dad was hopeless).
“Mom, even our church says that parents should love their gay sons and daughters.”
“But love doesn’t mean you let them do things that are immoral. They need to make sure that their kids get the help they need.”
"But Mom, everyone today knows that being gay is not a choice.”
“But you CAN choose to live a moral life. And most gay people flaunt God and the church. And as for being normal, well just look at all those pedophiles out there. You hear it on the news all the time.”
“But statistics show that homosexuals are no more inclined to abuse kids than heterosexuals.”
“You must be wrong about that. You know how some people try to twist facts like that. Look, I know you are just trying to be a good person, but don’t let them fool you. They are only gay because they let their lust control them. We need to pray for them. That’s what the church means by saying we must love them. But just like other immorality, we can’t condone it.”
“But Mom many theologians, and even some Catholic ones, say that homosexuality is not a sin. Gay people can love someone just as much as straight people can.” (Actually the Catholic ones like Father Curran, who had been the head of the Theology Department at Catholic University, had been banned from teaching by the Catholic Church, partly for his stand on homosexuality. I got that info from the Internet).
“Look Paul, I’m sure you want to do what is right. It’s how we raised you. But you need to be careful. As soon as you drop your guard, they will try to seduce you. It’s they way they think. They only think about sex.”
"Shit," I thought. "All teenagers think about sex all the time." I never brought up the subject again. It was difficult but I did get to be with Mike and Alex sometimes over the Summer. I just hated the idea that I had to keep lying to my parents.
By Senior year, it was mostly forgotten. I had a good year, dated some, but never did find anyone I really liked. Because both Mike and I had running vehicles by then we were able to get together a lot without my parents finding out. And Alex was usually included. We got to be very close friends too. In fact the few times Alex DIDN'T come with Mike, I sort of felt disappointed. I was pretty much involved in school trying to get a scholarship my Senior year that I never did get much time for dating. And I did get a scholarship. My parents were ecstatic since they were worried about affording tuition. I went to Eastern Washington University majoring in Social Science, but soon changed to Engineering since I wanted a job at the end of school. (I eventually added a major in Education because I started to think maybe that'd be a good career too).
And then fate also took a hand. Halfway through my Freshman year, Alex transferred from MSU in Bozeman to EWU. He said that the atmosphere on the Bozeman campus was too homophobic. Later I was to wonder how come then not UofM in Missoula since it was so much more liberal there. But I was happy enough to have this friendship back, I never questioned him. The friendship we started in Livingston sort of grew and got a lot stronger. Alex and I gradually started doing more and more stuff together especially over the next Summer. We both got jobs in Spokane and I seemed not to miss my own family and friends too much. I was having too much fun. When our Sophomore year started we got a dorm room together. And I soon found myself wanting to be with him all the time.
It was the weekend following Thanksgiving, when Mike visited us. Since I had been feeling progressively so alienated now when at home, I opted to stay in Cheney (EWU) for the holidays. Some of this had been caused by the fact that my parents and I never DID quite get back to 'normal' after that 'situation' as they now called it, during my Junior year. But a lot more of it had to do with how my parent's view of moral issues, and mine, diverged. As I came to understand the true consequences of what my 'religion' was teaching, I could no longer believe a lot of what they claimed to be 'true.' The occasional 'arguments' I had now with my parents WERE 'life-engaging' -- and VERY frustrating. It frequently felt like they could not make moral decisions based on a modern understanding of reality and consequences, but on an unreasoned 'dogma' based on false understandings of a thousand or more years ago.
Well anyway, it was something Mike said to me that Saturday that triggered thoughts that I suppose I had been hiding from my own consciousness. Only minutes after Alex had left to get some fresh bread and rolls from the bakery in town, Mike confronted me: "OK Paul, how come every time Alex e-mails me, it always 'Paul and I' this and 'Paul and I' that? Alex is my brother. I don't want to see him hurt. So I have to say something. I see that way he talks about you and acts around you. Don't you realize that Alex is in love with you?"
The first thought that came to me was shock at suddenly realizing that Mike was right. But it was my very next thought that was the real shocker. I also realized that I was in love with Alex. Then all kinds of thoughts and memories cascaded through my brain, and they all seemed to corroborate what my brain did not want to admit. My emotions ran the gamut from wonder, to joy, and to sudden fright. I CAN'T be gay! But a part of my brain would not let me deny how I felt about Alex. I was suddenly seeing how some of my reactions to, and feelings for Alex, supported the fact that not only was I in love with him, but I was also sexually attracted to him. Our minds I have since realized, are amazing 'filter-feeders.' We seem so very able to 'filter out' all those facts that do not support our current comfortable world view. (And 'self-view'). But suddenly I was forced to confront all sorts of information I had been 'filtering-out' and my world was now in major upheaval. But one thing I simply could no longer deny -- I was in love with Alex. Shit! Now what? And what the hell would my parents do if they ever found out? I collapsed onto our couch and started trembling.
It was then when Alex returned unexpectedly -- he'd forgotten his wallet -- and he asked Mike what just happened. I guess my dazed expression said something big had occurred.
Mike took on his usual superior expressions and said to Alex: "I just told him that you were in love with him."
Alex's usually happy demeanor suddenly changed to fiery anger. "Damn it Mike, I told you not to interfere. It's MY life!"
Then he looked at me and his expression turned just as suddenly to fright. "Sorry Paul. I didn't want you to find out that a gay boy was in love with you. I didn't want you to hate me."
I hated seeing that fear in Alex's eyes. But before I could respond, it was Mike who smiled his superior smile and stated: "Not to worry Alex, Paul's in love with you too even if he doesn't realize it yet!" Mike would never admit to being wrong about anything but this time he didn't have to.
Alex anxiously looked back and forth and finally kept his eyes on me seeming to silently plead that Mike could be possibly right. I could see tears coming to his eyes. I turned to Mike and said: "Mike, please give us a few minutes alone." Amazingly he did just that.
Alex started to say: "Paul, I'm so sorry that ..."
I didn't let him finish. I simply could not let him hurt any longer. With great resolve I stood, put my hand on his arm, and said (or croaked): "Alex, Mike was right. I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you too."
Fortunately Mike stayed away the rest of the afternoon. (Later I found out that he had planned this entire confrontation). Alex and I spent the entire time talking about how we felt and how we thought about each other and everything else. One thing that Alex did not understand was about how I felt toward him on a physical level.
"But Paul, I definitely remember you dating girls and even describing how you enjoyed having sex with them. And believe me, some of the details I definitely could have done without."
"Alex, I don't know exactly how to explain. I almost don't understand it myself. I guess all along I had felt attractions to guys too but kept dismissing them or explaining them away. And since I was attracted to girls I was easily able to do this. I so much kept denying that I was gay. Or I suppose bi-sexual. But believe me. Now that I can allow myself to think about it without 'explaining it away' you definitely turn me on."
As I now explored this new understanding of my feelings I became more comfortable with them. The joy concomitant with my realization of being in love with Alex sure made this so much easier. And looking back on my friendship with Mike, I saw that I even had had a 'crush' on my best friend for a while.
After exhausting the topic of how we felt about each other, we realized that we needed to talk about how any future relationship we would have together would impact our lives. And I was especially worried about how my parents would react.
You might be surprised that we did not immediately jump into bed together. It was more a gradual thing. Perhaps I was still a little afraid of my how I was physically reacting. But it eventually felt so natural that I was starting to wonder how come people called homosexual sex 'unnatural' at all.
By the Christmas holidays both Alex and I had not only become romantically and intimately involved, we had decided to 'commit' to each other exclusively. I was never so happy in all my life. I was mature enough to realize that no relationship is without problems, but at this time I could not conceive of that ever happening. And later looking back on our lives together I realize that we really were fortunate not to have had any seriously bad moments or even major disagreements.
It was during that Christmas vacation while at home, when another crises occurred. And this time it wasn't MY fault. Or at least not directly. OK, maybe almost directly, but it was more my parents' fault because of how they reacted. I'd gotten Alex a special present for Christmas, but was still at home by noon on Christmas day with my family. They insisted on following tradition by placing all presents under the tree until Christmas. So it was about noon of Christmas Day when my life as I had previously come to be so complacent about, changed. (I was going to say 'ended' but it wasn't quite as melodramatic as that. Or perhaps I was old enough to 'survive' more or less emotionally intact).
Just as I was getting on my heavy coat to go out it was my sister Dorothy, visiting from Seattle, who asked me: "Going to see Mike? How's he doing these days? See him much now that you go to different schools?"
The entire tableau froze in my mind. I never did explain to her what had happened several years ago and I guess neither had my parents.
It was my Dad who answered: "They don't associate with each other any more."
Dorothy persisted: "What are you talking about? I thought Mike and Paul here were best friends. At least the last time I checked."
Before I could think of a way to avert disaster, my Mom replied: "You could not know but the Cabot's took into their house a kid who, well let's just say how the blessed Pope John Paul put it, 'has a strong inclination towards evil'."
When my sister looked at Mom still somewhat perplexed I explained: "The boy's name is Alex, he is now Mike's adopted brother, and he's gay."
Dorothy then added more fuel: "Oh, I know who Alex is. I was just starting to wonder if it were something really serious like drugs or something."
Before I could change the subject Mom added: "This is more than serious. Paul knows better than to associate with any of those people."
I didn't see it coming. And I only found out later how my sister even knew. But my pleasantly ordered life was well on its way to the shredders with her next reply: "But there's something here I don't get. How come then Alex is his roommate at EWU?"
My Mom went white. "Alex is whose roommate?"
"Alex is Paul's roommate. At least as of the last time I tried to call him; it was Alex who answered."
By now my Dad had gotten quite agitated: "Paul, please explain. Do you mean to tell me that you've been living with this pervert?"
SHIT! But I suddenly decided that I may as well get everything out in the open. When my parents now focused on me I said: "We are actually more than just roommates. We are in love with each other, and we intend to live the rest of our lives together."
OK so I'm stupid sometimes. I know I should have prepared my parents more gradually before I came out with this. I even shocked my sister. But too late now. There was quite a fight -- fortunately all verbal. I was, however, much older this time and was able to function enough afterwards to make my way over to Alex's house and ask for refuge. I only had one suitcase and my laptop to pack. I did not know it then, but I would not step back into that house for almost five years. And good thing I had my scholarship.
I did, however, talk to my Mom on the phone on occasion. She DID love me and wasn't like my Dad who refused to allow me back into 'his house' until I decided not to be gay anymore. I thought it ironic that in my case it was sort of possible. I actually COULD have had a relationship with a girl and gotten married etc. But I loved Alex and he loved me and I would NOT hurt either one of us by ending our relationship. And besides, when I told him I was committed for the rest of our lives, I meant it. I was eventually able to convince my Mom to read a couple of books I'd come across which had helped me to be a lot more comfortable with myself. They were written by a former Jesuit priest, John McNeil, the first entitled: Homosexuality and the Church.* (The Catholic Church). I was pretty insistent that she read them. Eventually my Mom and I were at least able to get along even if she still was having trouble accepting my relationship with Alex. She then started reading all kinds of literature on the subject, and was finally able to understand that being gay (or bi-sexual) was not tantamount to being a pedophile or worse. She even once mentioned to me that all this trial had even strengthened her faith by forcing her to obtain a more mature understanding what it was all about.
A few months after graduating from EWU, Alex and I moved to Detroit of all places. But it was where my future job was located. Alex explained that this job was so perfect for me that this is where we should go. He was both a journalism and history major and claimed that there were all kinds of prospects for him out there also. My parents were somewhat incredulous about our decision -- well my Mom was. Dad and I were still not speaking to each other. (A dull pain that unfortunately I had to learn to live with). Strangely I seemed now to converse (ok e-mail) with my two sisters fairly regularly. A month later, Alex got a job working for a gay newspaper just across the river in Windsor, Canada, and we wound up moving there. And though the High School I taught at was in Detroit, I hated living there. And it was an easier drive from Windsor than from many of the decent Detroit suburb anyway. We liked it there immediately. And the atmosphere there was much more gay friendly. We could live there openly.
And if you are wondering about my school, it was a brand new idea.** And in spite of the school barely being able to continue financially most years, it is still bucking the odds, and running. And to get my job there it really helped when I brought Alex with me to the interview. It just so happens that the school was started with the idea of taking ‘at risk’ kids. Quite a percentage of the student population is gay. Along with much of the administration and faculty.
So now, five years, and three foster kids later, we have made a very good life for ourselves. My Mom, though still a bit not quite 'sure' about the morality of our relationship herself, is at least content to allow OUR believing it is right to be enough. And after she visited and interacted with our kids that first time, she stopped having misgivings about their being raised in a 'gay-two-man' environment. She even surprised me one time on her next visit when she commented on that something the current Pope had written. (It surprised me that she even knew of it).
"Alex and Paul, I simply can no longer understand when Benedict (the current pope) says that kids being raised by a gay couple 'does violence to them.' All I see are three kids being raised in a loving home. When I think of all those single parent families these days, or even those with 'work-aholic' dads who practically never interact with their own kids, I realize that being raised by TWO loving attentive parents has to be better."
I was quite surprised she had even read that horrendous document written by Benedict explaining just why 'good Catholics' must actively discriminate against openly gay couples, even those legally married and raising kids.*** He had a strange concept of Christian love.
It pained me that my Dad still would not accept either myself or my relationship with Alex, but I will take what I had. I was quite happy and content. Well not TOTALLY content. A while back Canada had passed a same sex marriage law and I wanted Alex and me to get married. I had enlisted the help of our three foster kids to work on Alex for me, but so far he's been resisting getting formally married.
So that brings this story up to date. And when I called my Mom saying that I’d be going to Mike’s wedding in a few weeks, she shocked the hell out of me.
“And Paul, we’d really like to see our grandkids.”
Did I hear right? “We?”
Then I heard a voice I hadn’t heard in over seven years. I was crying in two seconds flat. My Dad came on the line and said: “Yes Paul, both of us. And I assume Alex is also coming.”
That evening, when Alex got home from work, I had a fancy dinner all prepared. Jack, Marge, and Dane, our three kids, were farmed out to our neighbor for the evening. I didn’t even need to bribe them too much. I mean our kids. I told them that I was once again going to twist their other Dad’s arm about getting married.
It was the oldest, Dane, who asked: “But Pop keeps saying that he wasn’t going to get married since it would mean admitting that his living with you all these years was then somehow not right.”
Dane was a very bright 10 year old. When we started fostering him four years ago, he had been very traumatized by the sudden death of his parents. It took a couple years, but he's finally responded well to our loving him. Marge and Jack are twins. They are seven going on twenty. They already know more than their Dads. (This is actually true if you are talking about all the new electronic gizmos we have these days). We took them in when the social worker begged us to three years ago. They were bi-racial, Korean and Native American, and almost nobody really wanted them. After a couple other foster homes, they came to us. (It also helped that Alex was part Native American too). They almost immediately warmed up to him. They also kept asking how come I was a man. They automatically put Alex in the role of the Dad. I was sort of an enigma to them at first.
That evening I decided to play my one Ace. After dessert Alex finally decided that the suspense was enough.
“OK Paul. I suppose you are going to explain all this.”
I looked over at my partner and sighed. (A good sigh). His dark smoldering good looks seemed not to have changed since I'd known him. “Yes.” I even took out a ring case that had two wedding bands in it. I continued: "As you know my parents are strict Catholics. And I want to make sure when we and the kids visit them in a few weeks, that I can tell them that we are no longer living in sin. That we are married.”
Taking a second to understand the implication of what I had just said, Alex started smiling. “It’s finally true? They both finally accept us?”
After explaining about my parent's call earlier that day, Alex and I rearranged our planned visit back to Montana to include a longer stay in Livingston.
We saw my parents, however, before our planned trip to Mike's wedding. Two weeks later, in fact, my parents and my two sisters, along with Mr. and Mrs. Cabot, and Mike and his fiancée, came to OUR wedding in Windsor, Canada. Marcie and her partner were there too. She said she wouldn’t miss it even though they had to travel all the way from California. Dane, Marge, and Jack were there and proved that even gay Dads could raise holy terrors.
We also got married in a church. Alex didn’t even object when I arranged to be married by a Catholic priest at the Dignity Chapter there in Windsor. But that sure did surprise my parents! My father had never realized that there was such a group.
When we kissed after we exchanged our vows, Alex said: “Amazing.”
And I thought back to that crazy idea I had all those years ago and said: “Yes, it sure was!”
* The Church and the Homosexual, and Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else, both by John J. McNeill, probably had such a profound effect on me since they were the first books of their kind that I read.
** See: http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/07/28/gay.school.ap/, or http://gaylife.about.com/b/a/024628.htm for articles on such a school in New York. I had also recently read of a similar private school opening in Detroit but can no longer find the reference.
*** An excellent book, that includes a commentary on the homophobic and hateful statements by Pope Benedict and others, is Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism by Mark Jordan.