Father’s Day

I slice through the New York Strip like butter, revealing a glorious pink medium-rare center. I inhale the aroma wafting from the steak and almost drool just from the combination of garlic and thyme.

Dad lets out a chuckle from across the table. “So what did they say after your thesis defense?” He asks just loud enough for me to hear over the energetic chatter of other customers here in the steakhouse. “They didn’t enjoy all the puns, did they?”

“Oh, they loved the puns.” I say after swallowing a piece of the steak. “Okay, maybe they complained after the third Terminator reference, but it worked out in the end.”

Dad smiles through his thick black mustache. Creases and folds form on his face, which is something that I’ve never noticed before. I guess he’s getting older now. Or maybe it’s because I barely see him anymore, and any changes, big or small, will immediately look foreign to me. He struggles to slice a small piece of his rib-eye, incredibly well-done as usual, and chews meticulously so his dentures wouldn’t fall out of his mouth. He sighs and stares at me, making me stop right before I eat another piece of the steak.

“Thank you.” Dad exhales deeply as if saying those two words managed to take the wind out of him. “Not just for buying me dinner for the first time… Thank you… for still coming to dinner with me.”

I chomp on the next piece of my steak and chew slowly. This is the fifth Father’s Day dinner we’ve had where it was only me and Dad in attendance. Maybe I’m just more forgiving than my other siblings and Mom.

“It’s nothing, really.” I shrug. “I can’t really say no to good food…” I raise my glass of water in the air. “Happy Father’s Day!” I exclaim before placing the glass down a little too quickly.

We both go back to our steaks. Every so often, Dad would break the silence between us with small talk, but I offer short replies in between rounds of chewing my food. All around us were happy diners, smiling and laughing warmly at one another. Each table, like ours, has a father-figure sitting down on it that attracts all the beaming grins and chuckles from their respective families. Seeing Dad just sitting there making polite small talk, however, seems incredibly surreal.

“Is something wrong?” I finally ask. Dad jumps in his seat, taken aback by my question. “Normally you’d be complaining about Auntie Cynthia or doing something embarrassing by now, this is really concerning—–”

“I know you’re gay.”

I freeze mid-sentence. I haven’t heard my dad say that word in decades. His face looks more determined now. This is what he wanted to talk about all along.

“Dad, this isn’t the time—-”

“Your Auntie Cynthia called me on the phone and told me all about it.” He snarls, a chunk of steak flying from his mouth and lands on the edge of my plate. “Do you know how embarrassing that is? Apparently all your aunts and uncles and cousins already knew about it. And it seems like I’m the last to find out… When did you come out?”

I don’t know where to start. I never expected him to bring this up.

“What’s wrong?” He asks. He scans my face for any answers but I continue to stay stoic. “Son, I’m doing the best that I can to be a father here. I’m here if you need to talk about it.”

“Dad,” I start to speak, my voice quivering just a little bit. “There’s nothing to talk about. Now come on, you’re making a scene—-”

Dad drops his cutlery on the table. The clanging of the metal causes dissonance with the vibrant energy around us. His breathing becomes erratic. The façade he had earlier is now gone, revealing the frustration he’s been hiding all along. This is the father that I remember.

“I have every right to know this as your father!” Dad half-screams, slamming his fist near his plate. I could feel the gaze of a few people around us. “I’ve done everything that I could to make sure none of you went hungry. The least you can do is treat me like your –”

Something inside me snaps.

“WHY DO YOU THINK I’M STILL HERE?” I bellow. More diners turn their heads but they eventually return to their tables. Dad tries to speak again but I quickly cut in. “Don’t you think I know that? I get it. You’ve sacrificed so much for us. No matter how much I hate to admit it, I can never say that I’m not your son!”

“Then what’s with all the secrecy?” Dad interrogates. His nostrils flare and his eyes grow wide. I feel inclined to be intimidated, but I’m not a teenager anymore. His hands flail wildly, making him appear larger and threatening. I know his game. As he realizes that I’m not flinching, he switches tactics.“What, do you think I hate gays? You’re my son, I would never reject you for being–”

“Our Florida Vacation, 2007.” I reply with confidence, crossing my arms. A few shades of color drain from Dad’s face. “After we saw Cousin Dylan propose to his boyfriend in Jacksonville, you told me that if you ever find out that I was gay,” All the air vanishes from my lungs, forcing me to inhale sharply. I clear my throat. “… you would break legs, chain me up by my ankles and hang me from the ceiling.” Dad tries to speak but nothing comes out. “Well?” I throw my hands up gesturing for him to say something. “Was I supposed to think you liked gay people after that?”

“I…” Dad stutters, averting eye contact. “I was drunk. That was just a joke—”

I roll my eyes. “You were sober! You spat on Dylan when he tried to hug you. You kept calling them ‘faggots’ as we drove away—” An exasperated sigh manages to sneak its way out of my mouth as I place my hand over my face. “‘I was drunk…’ what kind of fucking sorry excuse is that?”

Dad looks like he just ran out of steam. He sits on his chair with slump shoulders. I have never seen him look so defeated. “I…” he starts softly. “I just want you to tell me. In person. Not through text or on the phone. Not through someone else. I shouldn’t have to hear this from your relatives. This is something that you should be telling me face to face. I’m just… Just trying to be a good father–”

For a moment I feel like I should believe him. His face reverts back to its old, wrinkled self. His furrowed brows soften, and a small frown develops on his lips. I feel the need to forgive him, but something holds me back. I’ve heard him apologize before. I seen him apologize to Mom countless times. I’ve forgiven him so many times myself, and I always end up disappointed in both of us.

“And I’m trying to be a good son.” I add. “This is the least I can do. I can spare an hour or two with you for dinner. I tell you things about my life.”

I can see our waiter walking closer to us. A concerned expression forms on his face for the first time this evening.

“But I’ll choose what I want to tell you.” I declare. “On my own terms… When I’m ready, not when you ask me.” I point at him as he dares to even open his mouth to talk. “This isn’t about you… and it never will be.”

I can’t even tell if I forgave him or not. I don’t feel like I did, and I feel like it was a lukewarm answer. But it seems like Dad’s shoulders relax a bit. He sits back on his chair once again, staring up at the ceiling. I do the same. The ceiling itself isn’t interesting. The long light fixtures that hang from the ceiling and drop to about 4 feet above each tables are nothing to cry home about. I don’t know what Dad is doing, but I just need to make sure the tears welling up from my eyes don’t fall and flow down my face.

Before the waiter could even speak, I hold up a hand to him. “I’m sorry about all that noise, we were just having a moment.” I try my best to fake the happiest grin I could plaster on my face. “Can I also get one of your drink menus? I think my dad just needs something to drink.” I wink at the waiter, who winces immediately. Once he walks away from us, I sigh heavily before returning to my plate.

Dad raises an eyebrow. “You don’t know how to wink. You’re just like your Auntie Cynthia.”

I smile. “There we go. That’s the dad I know and love.”

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On The Other Side

Years ago I wrote a note on here that had a poem about being a spy. It kinda sucked because I sucked at poetry, but I do like the theme of the poem. While I wasn’t directly stating it, it was essentially about how hiding my sexuality felt like I was a spy living among innocent civilians. I’m too lazy to look it up, but I’m pretty sure it had something about wearing a disguise in the presence of my peers, or having a facade or holding a mask in front of my face; something insufferable similar to that, which only my past self could write about.
In any case, being a spy is the most accurate thing I can compare with being in the closet. You really are putting up a disguise, you gotta lie about your true identity because you’re not sure who to trust, and most of the time when your cover is blown, your life could be in danger.
This is why I can confidently say that gay people are great candidates for espionage.
When I finally did come out, most of the fears that I had (rejection, disownment, harassment, assault, etc…) didn’t really happen, save for a few outliers. I was lucky that I had a caring family and supportive friends and attended a university with many people who accepted you for who you are, regardless of your sexuality. Compared to others, my experience with coming out of the closet is quite mild and I’m very thankful for that. While my coming out story may be uneventful, coming out and accepting who I truly am will always be the greatest decision that I’ll make in my life.
So I dedicate this to others who are currently in the closet. No matter what your sexuality is, there will be people who will accept you. Sometimes it feels like the world is completely against you, and it may not be a good idea to come out. That’s fine. Circumstances change, opportunities will arrive, and hatred will always retreat away from love and reason. You have the choice of when you want to come out. You have the power to open those closet doors and tell the world that you love everything about yourself.
And I’ll be one of many who will want to hug you on the other side.

The First Cut

When a friend called me a faggot for the first time and meant it, I discovered something new.

I felt a strange combination of sadness, shame, and intrigue. This was the fifth person I would come out to, so it’s sad to finally have my nightmare of “being rejected by a friend for being gay” brought into reality. Pounding pangs of shame reverberated from my brain and my lungs and my heart and my soul, forcing me to feel every single imperfection on my body. It stunned me, because I thought living for 20 years was enough for a human to feel every possible emotion.

However, I was fascinated with how he said the word. I saw his top incisors bite down on his chapped bottom lip. He began to breathe out of his mouth, which was partially blocked by his teeth. He lowered his jaw, unleashing the pressure in his mouth, and his voice ignited his breath as he articulated each syllable. “Faggot!” He declared, his eyes, once charismatic, now stained with disgust. With just a change in inflections, a word that I’ve previously heard him say in jest sharpened into a blade.

And it made its first cut.

And he knew it. He saw that it struck a terrible chord within me, and it twisted a sneer onto his mouth. He found a momentary weapon to use against me. I had shown cracks on my defensive walls and he aimed to abuse it. I couldn’t let him do that. I stood up from my chair, making the table in front of us shake. I stormed out and drove away from the cacophonous cackling behind me.

I’m incredibly sentimental. Every person I’ve met has value, and losing the ones with a large price on their tag hurts me inside. But I told myself that if someone doesn’t want to be around me after coming out, then so be it.

Good riddance.

I don’t see him anymore, but he still pops up on my Facebook newsfeed. He comments on my friends’ posts. He likes their statuses and pictures. On the side of the page, Facebook even suggests that we should be friends again because we have 125 mutual friends.

If they only knew.