Probably the only regular… no, routine dynamic of me and my father’s relationship is his denial of my queerness coupled with my distaste over his religiosity and blind dogma. Also, the text message updates letting me know where abouts the US his truck is headed next.
This morning, the text message reads: “Long Beach Ca to Athens Tn. And then to Mount sterling Oh.”
I don’t respond as I imagine his trip through Long Beach will not involve a stop or he would have mentioned such. Besides, I have plans today. I am talking to GCA about the thesis process at 4:30 and have work from 6pm to 10:30pm. Also, I will need a nap at some point today.
At 3:27pm the next text message reads: “I’m parked at walmart in long beach going to do a little shopping.”
I am confused. I respond that I have a meeting and work and he notifies that he is having my brother bring him to my shop for them to hang out while I work. I guess I get to see him. I go to my meeting.
The dialogue is mediocre. Half interested faces strive to stay awake and engaged while I discuss the thesis process. Those who have opted, already, for comprehensive exams tune out. Two grad students are giggling about something in the corner while I revisit my defense. My colleague, who just passed his comp defense, is now speaking and those who have tuned out during my mini-talk are now invigorated and seeking answers to their laziness: “What if I get the answer wrong?” I think to myself, “just don’t. You’re a master level student.” I lack patience I am told. Three excuse themselves so that they might make it to their class on time. The allotted time goes over and we are excused. I rush to my car, not to see my father, but to get home and change and to grab some food prior to my shift.
I get home and switch into my trademark denim pants. I am thinking about Aaron. I smile imagining seeing him open the door to his place. The way he kind of looks down and to the right and tilts his head slightly up in my direction welcoming me in with his nonverbals before his verbals can catch up. Tomorrow. I will see him tomorrow.
The love of my life. My favorite person.
I swallow two pieces of pizza in whole. I run out of the door. My shift begins in less than 10 minutes. I text my brother, who is allegedly with my father already, and tell him that I am 2 minutes away. I swerve into the parking lot and park my car. I turn of the engine of my car, note that I will need gas after my shift. I look at my eyes in my rear view mirror. It is dark out and the only thing lit up is the mild glow of the store, alive with bodily silhouettes. Still, I can make out my eyes as I take a deep breath in. I hold it. I exhale slowly, unwilling to fully engage my father. I step out of my car and look inside of the store to see him at the register with my brother and, his girlfriend.
Three of them. Stand at the register. I walk up to dad from behind and tap him on the shoulder. He turns and smiles. We embrace. I cannot look him in the eye. I smile and try to be present. Just present.
My dad. When I see him
I get anxiety.
No matter how hard I try
I cannot let it be.
His face is rounder. His belly fuller. And yet, he is thinner. His familiar smile attempts to calm me. The smell of cheap, stale cigarettes flirts with my memories. I grab a cup from the counter and fill it half way with coffee.
I sit with them at their selected table filling the two minutes I have prior to the start of my shift. I try and remain focused. But the time has slipped away and I run to the back of the store. I put my apron on and punch my numbers into the computer. I straighten my apron on my flabby body. I look up and stare at my father who is talking with my brother and my brother’s girlfriend.
They discuss the future. I am not present. I am not in their future. I am not there now, nor later. I watch it develop. Grow. Become.
Become. New Beginning.
I wipe the milk from the counter top. I take orders. I watch them smile and laugh. They occasionally look at me.
He will never ask about my relationship. He cannot know about Aaron. Never will Aaron and I and my father sit like this. In public. Never can this be. For me. But maybe it’s for the better. But it is not. This man who has had no actual baring in my life still demands, in some way, my unconscious attention and devotion. I await for the chance for change and I do not know why.
I grow angrier and resentful that if I bring this up to my brother, I will be slumped off as too sensitive or as reading into things. He has never had to silence any part of his being for the sake of maintaining family. Therein beckons the demands of heterosexual privilege–here the simple ability to discuss the prospect of the future. To be recognized as present. To have a language that is shared. To be seen, both you and your partner. To not be silenced by your sibling and pushed away as complaining. As, again, sensitive.
I learned my lesson a while back that I do not bring these things up to my brother because they are minimal issues and personal problems to deal with. Dead ends. A round about dialogue. In I go and out I leave, alone still. No direction.
I see my brother and his girlfriend with my father. They have no idea the pain that such a picture brings to me. And yet the expectation of me: to be happy. For them. For us. For our family. No problems here. Well, beside my own issues. I am angry. I am frustrated. I am defeated.
I want Aaron in my arms now. To hold me. To comfort me. To wipe my tears off of my cheeks. To kiss my forehead. To have someone love me!
I get home after work. My mother contacts me and already knows. She has “a feeling.” And I love her for it. Only she does get it. She has finally stopped trying to encourage me to respect the man she once called husband. She finally sees the systemic way in which I have been historically excluded through inclusive ways.
She simply asks, “Benjamin, how are you feeling?”
I tear up and tell her that I am fine. I then retract my statement and tell her that it hurts to watch my brother simply be with his girlfriend without a thought in the world that I have been, once again, harmed.
Will it ever get better, I wonder.
No. The only thing I can hope for is that he gets use to me. To Aaron.
He will not be allowed into OUR home unless he give US the full respect that we demand and deserve.
For you I continue
the fight to be
With a love as deep
as the distance that tears
me from family
For you I will try
to make it happen
To one day be embraced
to be held and loved