Eighteen years ago, today, I walked across the stage at the Mabee Center, at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa, OK, shook the hand of some random old man, had a picture snapped which somehow managed to make my nose and chin look 18 inches larger (each) than their already gargantuan proportions and walked down the steps on the other side with a diploma in my hand. I could tell you more about the evening, but, well, I really don’t remember anything else about that day. It was much too stressful and busy and overwhelming.
Fourteen hours ago, today, Laura walked across a stage somewhere, and shook hands with some old person (probably) and walked back off the stage with a diploma in her hands. My graduation was from high school; her’s was from college. I’m very proud of her and her achievement, even if I don’t really know her all that well.
A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail invitation from Laura’s mother inviting me to an open house at her home in celebration of Laura’s graduation and I confirmed my attendance. My assumptions about tonight’s event were slightly off, but only slightly. This was not a party of Laura’s peers. Maybe I should have realized that her peers would all have their own family gatherings to attend on this important day and that it wouldn’t be a bunch of 22 year-olds hanging out with the “old guy”. Instead it was a bunch of Laura’s extended family and friends and former teachers and coaches. I was still the odd man out, but I wasn’t the oldest person there, by far. It’s OK. I anticipated it and didn’t expect anything different. Laura actually apologized to me– well, Me and Micah and Judy, for not spending more time with us. I told her, “Don’t be sorry. This is your day and all these people were here for you. Most of them have known you longer than I have. No one could expect you to spend very much time with them. You have nothing to feel bad about.”
When I decided, I was ready to leave, Micah decided he was ready to leave too. Apparently that thing about him understanding he had to find his own way home was not so much with the correct. I asked him where he expected me to take him. I didn’t really plan on taking him home since it was out of my way. He mumbled something about friends in The City and I told him, “I’M NOT TAKING YOU TO SAN FRANCISCO!” He laughed and told me he had said he needed to find out if they were there and I could just drop him at a BART station or something.
I told him I could drop him at the Fruitvale BART station which is right by my house and he said that would be fine. On the ride toward Oakland, he made some phone calls and found out what he needed to know and just as I was about to take the interchange from Highway 24 to Highway 13, toward my home, Micah said, “Um, you can just stay in this lane” in a tone that suggested he was innocently giving me directions how to get somewhere I hadn’t been before.
“I can?” I asked as I turned my blinker off. “Where am I taking you now?” Micah kind of hemmed and hawed before telling me he guessed I could just take him home. “I can?” I asked again. “Is that what would be most convenient for you?” We both laughed. It was sort of an inside joke, as he and I had discussed my issue with Judy earlier in the day. I decided to go ahead and take him all the way home because we were in the middle of a conversation that I deemed worth finishing.
Judy, apparently, had some issues in her attempt to take public transportation and she ended up choosing to go ahead and drive herself to the party. She arrived, under her own steam, shortly before 7:00 and immediately launched into her “Woe is me” story of trials and tribulations trying to get there. I acknowledge that is fairly normal human behavior given what she’d been through. I also acknowledge that I was already on edge with her and that I may have been predisposed to not like what she had to say.
I noticed something tonight, that I’ve never noticed before, though how I could miss it I do not know. Judy has to make everything about her. Every conversation, every story, every interaction, everything, Has. To be. About. Her. I would start to talk to Micah about something and she’d turn it around to be about her. I talked briefly to Laura about her day and Judy turned it around to be about her. Somehow I managed to walk through the house and into the back yard without noticing the photo gallery inside. As I was ready to leave I noticed some striking photographs of the San Francisco sky line, asked Laura’s mother who the photographer was, and found out that her mother is a professional photographer. Judy managed to make it about her.
As I pulled away from Laura’s mother’s house with Micah in my passenger seat, he ruminated about whether “we all” would really hang out together now that we are approaching the final week of the EMT class. I confided in Micah, “I know this is a terrible thing for me to say, but I’m going to say it anyway, because I’m a terrible person. I really like you and would like to keep hanging out with you. And I really like Laura and would like to get to know her better. But I don’t really enjoy hanging out with Judy all that much and I’m kind of afraid it’s an all or nothing kind of package deal.” I would hate to have my feelings about Judy get in the way of friendships with other people; on the other hand, I could see Judy getting in the way of being able to develop those friendships in the first place. I don’t know what’s going to come of that.
Toward the end of that conversation I told Micah that there was something specific that Judy had said in the past that gave me great concern about being friends with her. Judy has a tattoo on her leg of a rainbow-colored ichthus which one night before class Laura asked her about. Judy told her that it was an ichthus because it’s a symbol of God, and she wanted it rainbow-colored because it represented God’s covenant with Noah and his promise never to flood the earth again. Laura, just as innocently and endearingly as can be asked, “Is that why it’s used for gay pride?
Judy, rather indignantly in my opinion, said, “No! They stole it.” Her tone and demeanor actually reminded me of my mother and I was not impressed.
I told Micah this story… And I told him that I am gay. And in spite of my best intentions of not caring what other people think or whether they approve, I was nervous; cold and shaking. Micah, for his part said, “OK,” and moved on with the conversation. He still wants to hang out and be friends.
I’ve thought of telling him, all three of them, more than once, but I didn’t. First because I’m just not comfortable talking about it face to face with people, and I don’t know if I ever will be.
But the thing is, as dumb as it is, I kind of don’t want Laura to find out. I’m still kind of crushin’ on her. I know it’ll pass. I know it’s all in my head. I know nothing can come of it, but in the back of my mind, the thought keeps coming up that maybe it could and maybe her finding out that “I thought I was gay” will send her away before we get a chance.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just enjoying the fantasy. Lord knows that’s all it is. Maybe it’s just the idea of being in love and being loved AND being in an “acceptable relationship” (acceptable to society, but even more, acceptable to my mother) that’s so bewitching, but I can’t help feeling like Laura finding out will destroy that fantasy and I’m just not ready for that to happen, yet.
It felt good to be open and honest with yet another person though.