by: Addison Bell
He was home for winter break when he told his mother. He was 21.
His mother said, “I know. I’ve known for a long time. I was just waiting for you to be ready.” They lived on their family’s farm in a small house that had been around for a century.
It was late in the evening. They were driving home and the heat in the car was on high. There was a moment when everything was silent and both of them were staring ahead into the headlights of passing cars.
She then asked him about the boys. She wanted to know which ones she had met. “You’ve brought boys home from school. Which ones were you dating,” she said slyly.
He smirked and said, “Pretty much all of them.”
Her mouth dropped; not from shock or disbelief, but because he did not tell her before.
“All of them?”
“Yeah. No, wait. Except for Rob. We’re just friends.”
“What about Charlie?”
“Really? I couldn’t tell. What about Joel?”
“I could tell.”
“What do you mean?”
“By the way you looked at him. Moms know these things.”
The car grew quiet again. They were almost home.
Then she broke the silence. “Do you need condoms? I can get you condoms. As many as you want.”
“Condoms. Better safe than sorry.”
“Um, no. I’m good.”
“Are you being safe?”
His face was red, but not from the heat coming from the vents.
“Alright. But just let me know if you need any. I’ll mail them to you.”
A few days later he called his father at work.
His father said, “What’s the matter?”
“Um, nothing. I was just calling to see if you wanted to get lunch sometime soon? Or breakfast. Or dinner.” He wanted to tell him in person.
There was silence on the end of the phone. His father was not a talker, nor had he ever been. It was because he was Italian.
“Something is wrong. I can tell,” his father said.
“Dad, I was just asking if you wanted to get lunch.”
His father and his mother divorced when he was a few weeks old. He grew up in his mother’s house and visited his father a few times a week. When he started going to college, he rarely saw his father or talked to him. Italians.
“Yeah, I guess we can get lunch.”
“Okay, when are you—”
“Something is wrong. I know something is wrong.”
“Dad, nothing is wrong.”
“Just tell me what’s wrong.”
“God, I just want to get lunch.”
“Are you on drugs?”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“Jesus Christ, I’m not doing drugs.”
“Oh shit. You’re dropping out of school.”
“No. Why would I drop out of school?”
“You’re failing your classes, aren’t you?”
“Dad. I get A’s. You know that.”
“Then what’s the matter?”
“I know something—”
“Fine! I’m gay! Are you happy? I’m gay!”
“Well, duh. Everyone knows that.”
“What do you mean everyone knows?”
“Everyone has known since you were in junior high.”
“Thanks. Thanks, Dad.”
“You know what I mean. I tried to get you to tell me before.”
“I wasn’t ready.”
“You could have told me.”
“I wasn’t ready.”
His father exhaled loudly and the line went fuzzy. He should have known that this would happen. His father was a detective.
“I’m going to tell you something, but don’t get offended.”
“The other day I was in court and the guy we were trying to get convicted was gay.”
“Listen. So me and my buddy were talking to the prosecutor. And then my buddy said something mean about the gay guy. The prosecutor got really upset. She told him that her son was gay. She was fuckin’ pissed.”
“And what did you say, Dad?”
“I’m getting there. So I told her—don’t get mad—I told her that I thought one of my sons was gay. Well, I told her that I was pretty sure you were gay. I said that I just wanted you to tell me, and that I had tried to get you tell me before. She told me that I can’t force it out of you, that you would tell me when you were ready.”
There were moments when his father could be a complete asshole, but there were more moments when he could be genuinely sincere without sounding like it.
“Buddy, you know that this doesn’t change anything. You’re still you. I’m glad that you are ready to tell me.”
Technically, he wasn’t ready to tell him, but it didn’t matter anymore.
“So, can I ask you a question?”
He didn’t answer right away, because he knew it was going to be personal.
“Why the hell are you still a vegan?”
“We’ve talked about this.”
“I just don’t get it. What do you eat?”
“Well, how do you get your protein?”
“From protein sources.”
“But you don’t eat cheese. Don’t you ever just crave it? Like don’t you just want a grilled…”
They spent a whole ten minutes talking about his sexuality and thirty minutes talking about his veganism.
His father said, “Do you know what would make me happy?”
“I don’t want a grilled cheese.”
“You know you can bring a guy home, over to my house, if you want. I’d want to meet him. Just don’t, you know, like make out in front of me like your brothers do with their girlfriends.”
“Oh my God.”
“Do you know what make me do cartwheels? If you brought a guy home and you let me take you out for steak.”
He hung up the phone.
Addison Bell is a senior at DePaul University where he is studying English Literature. He is the President of Oxfam DePaul and volunteers with Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger, poverty, and social injustice. Follow Jacob on Twitter @boy_1904 and on Tumblr: colourmegreenwich.tumblr.com.