My family is trying. I think they’ve realized this gay thing isn’t going away anytime soon.
On my rare weekend trips home, my dad hugs me as I’m getting ready to leave and says, “You should come home more often.” This past Christmas, I arrived just after dinner. The leftovers were still on the table. When I walked in, no one stood up.
“Look who made it home!” dad said.
“Yes, I made it.”
“Your sister made a great dinner tonight.”
Sister looked at me: “I left you a steak in case you wanted it.”
Steak. They never eat steak.
Then I understood. They made it for me, thinking I’d be home in time. My homecoming was now considered a special occasion. I imagined them sitting there in silence before finally deciding to eat.
The floor had been swept. The shame was overwhelming. I wanted to cry. I didn’t realize they were expecting me by a certain time.
As a gay man, I’ve learned how to clean out for sex in the shower.
It’s a ritual of expectation and desire, cleaning one’s ass. As I stepped into my shower from childhood, the one I used in my life before college, I realized I had never cleaned out in that shower before. No need to.
How many showers had I lived in since? How many anonymous trick hotel rooms had I douched in?
This was first shower I jacked off in. I wonder if my parents knew anything about my sex life. If they had any idea. Did they know I douched my ass for sex? Did they know I had to clean out before fucking? Had they ever pictured me bent over, getting fucked up the ass?
I am still so angry at them. The hugs, the steak, everything they do seems like a petty attempt to make me forget the past, and I can’t.
High school was terrible. I was scared and lonely on my own without the trips to church to talk with our pastor about these so-called “urges.” I hated my body without my dad telling me my desires were the work of evil spirits. They thought all of me was wrong — my sexuality, the way I dressed, the way I wanted to dress, the way I spoke — and they weren’t quiet about their feelings.
In the world, you behave a certain way. You are supposed to do certain things if you’re a man. These aren’t so much taught as they are expected. If you veer from that, you’re part of this other class of people: homosexuals, liberals, “artists” — the unsaved, the lost. Growing up, I heard stories about these sorts of people. They lived far away in an evil land called California. They had lost sight of Christ. When I grew up, I realized I was one of them, and I looked westward for California to save me.
When I finally came out of the closet, my father looked at me in my bedroom.”It’s poop, Alex. That’s all gay sex is.”
I’ve never felt so ashamed in my life. I think about that every time I get ready to hook up with a man. I remember my dad in my room. I remember his Bible and his anger. And I hate him.
Sometimes I step back from my gay life and I think to myself, “This is ugly. All this is ugly.”
Are these my thoughts? Or is this a residue of their teaching? Sometimes I feel ugly. Sometimes I can’t get the image of a shitty cock out of my head. And I remember my dad.
In the shower, I got on my hands and knees and put my ear to the floor. My parents’ bathroom was below me on the first floor. I could barely hear them. I listened to the muffled sounds of their privacy as they did for years to mine.
I did this all the time in high school. It was impossible to hear distinctly what they were saying, but occasionally a word or two came through. My name, “tomorrow,” “engine.”
I pictured them in their shower. Did my parents bathe each other? Did they kiss? My mom was probably blow-drying her hair while my dad rinsed off, talking about work through the shower door. I pictured a hurried and tired ritual. Mom would be in her nightgown. I love the smell of her skin cream.
In that moment, I was filled with understanding for them, or something like it. They were given something they didn’t understand. It must have been hard.
They never said sorry, and I never forgave them. But right then, I came close. I dropped down an admission that they were doing a good job, and that I was holding out on them.
Maybe it reached them through the floor, but I doubt it.