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The Way We Do It

When we choose to do this, we seek the best of situations to drop the bomb. We try to find the most opportune, happiest moments to ruin because it is safer that way. Sometimes we choose to do it in public in case they want to murder us. Sometimes in private so everyone can break down and cry (perhaps one of the few moments where we live up to the stereotype of being emotionally prone to cry). It’s all highly calculated to be a successful mission, but it’s scary as hell.

It is brothers who are last to know. Moms and sisters are always sympathetic and probably figured it out, anyway. Dads may have a sneaking suspicion. Maybe they knew deep down inside but ignored it with high hopes. But it shatters their dreams when they find out. But coming out to our brothers is the hardest. Brothers are our frenemies. They hang out with us and can be the best pal in the world with the undermining goal of ruining our lives. We love them for it.

Some of us choose Thanksgiving dinner. Tell the whole damn family at once. Everyone is happy (miserable) having a good time (breaking out the wine) and hopes the evening is long and close (wanting to get away ASAP). It’s a good idea to tell them right as the meal is beginning in case someone may want to vomit. Dessert is way too late. You want them to wriggle awkwardly in their seats, realizing your best friend from college wasn’t just a bud, a bro, study mate. You want them to eat their vegetables, nervous that their new gay relative is probably a fashion freak who is constantly judging them by their waist now, since we are all shallow like that.

Some of us leave traces for them to find. At home, we don’t have easy access to porn or hookup sites, because that’s what we all want. Instead, we resort to our health class books that have the sketch of naked men. Some of us use the men’s underwear section in the Sears catalog. We collect magazine clippings of shirtless men from magazine articles, maybe a pic on our phones of our dream boy at school. If we are really daring, we might buy and sneak home a muscle mag from the grocery store. Like a squirrel, we hoard our nuts buried under the bed, in our books or our diary (because we all have sappy, pink or purple diaries). Your mother will find these, and knowing the lack of girlfriends that you kiss, but the abundance of girls with which you bake and bedazzle bags with means her son is gay. Maybe your mother is understanding, realizing in high hopes that her son is not asexual; maybe he’ll still adopt a grandchild like she always wanted. Your dad finds out soon too. Your mom probably talks in her sleep, or just talks a lot. Maybe she looks up on Google all the arguments for and against homosexuality. At first she may be proud, telling you at night that it’s genetic, can’t be helped. Then she’ll read the other side. God made all men to love women. You might be confused, in a phase, in need of a role model. Then she mellows and concludes that God made you as you are, and loves people loving. But all of this leaves traces, clues that your father, like a bear, can sniff out and find.

Meanwhile, your brother is busy playing sports, making lots and lots of friends, being popular, and dating a lot compared to us because we are quiet, friendless and hide away in choir. He is too busy fighting you or having a life to care. Maybe you care too much and don’t want him to know, or anyone to know at school so he can live his happy high school years without stress, or struggle or dealing with any warranted emotions. God forbid the real men in the family struggle with feelings they don’t want.

So sometimes we wait. We put it off. What’s the harm? We wait until we are both in college, visiting home on vacation. Once again, it’s a happy time, so it’s the best time. Our parents are struggling with boredom. An empty house that now only has half the chance of grandchildren visiting. So maybe we decide we should get them a puppy. Our first dog died and left Mom and Dad without a guard and something to do. So we drive from Alabama to Tennessee to pick up the puppy we picked out from the animal shelter. Your brother, being a dog fan, a die-hard puppy lover is elated. You sit in his car as he drives along the highway. Puppy in hand you decide to tell him. He wouldn’t hit a gay holding a puppy, you think. After you say it, you realize that the puppy was helpful, but not while he was driving. He swerves a little, getting close to a car, then the hill off the road. He is silent, not saying a word. Mission accomplished. You made him uncomfortable, ruined his summer and changed his whole world. You make him feel stupid, you can see it running through his brain that he should have seen the clues. You tell him that your “best friend” Dan that you brought home so many times was a little more that a best bud. He slowly realizes that you never dated a girl, you never talked about girls, you never did a lot of things. How could he have played board games, the Play Station and watch movies with Dan and not know.

But it’s all good. You’re leaving for an internship in a few days. After that you’ll go right to school, you won’t have to see him, won’t have to look at his disappointed face.

We all run away. That’s what we do. When the going gets tough, the weak get going. So it was natural that I would leave. The family decides that they would go a little of the way with you, stop in Atlanta to visit your father where he’s on a business trip. So everyone packs up, board the puppy and stop for lunch at a pizza place before hitting the road. You sit at the booth with your brother and mother and look out the window. You see an old gray sedan pull into the parking lot fast. You watch it drive towards the parking spot right outside the window and you watch it accelerate. It drives into the wall, shattering the glass all over you and the family. The car doesn’t stop, the driver, a confused old man inside keeps hitting the gas. He keeps revving, driving and crushing your brother who is pinned between the table and buffet. Your mother is thrown to the hard tile floor, knocking a few tables along the way. You instantly cry over seeing your brother crushed and your mother crawling on her knees and hands over broken glass. You hide, trapped in the newly formed corner of wall.

Finally it stops. The old mad sits in his car, not sure what happened. You crawl out; pull the table away from your brother, who is pissed. Being a football player, he was used to pain, and then tackling. So he runs around the wreck and buffet, shouting to the old man and ready to murder him. You do the straightest thing you can think of and tackle your brother to calm him down. You both go help your mother up and notice that everyone else was just staring. You decide to call 911 yourself because no one else did. You call your father. Watch your brother vomit, and there is blood. You’re not sure where it is coming from, but there is blood. And vomit. Two things that gay men are surely repulsed by. Then you call your brother’s girlfriend and stutter while explaining what happened. Didn’t work very well, so hang up. The ambulance comes and takes your brother. You and mother follow in the car. You insist on driving, because your mother is shaking. So you follow the ambulance to the ER where you wait, and wait. You call his girlfriend again on your mother’s phone and tell her where you are and what happened. She comes with her parents. She lies and says she is our sister, so she can see him when the time comes.

Finally you see your brother. He’s all right. He’s had much worse playing football. You and your mother cry. You realize that you did not lose your brother, which means that you could have. After a few minutes, your mother needs to get more tissues, so she leaves. She leaves you and your brother alone. And he speaks to you and the very first thing he says to you is a question.

Did you let Dan know you are okay?

Instantly you realize several things. First being that you didn’t let Dan, your boyfriend of three years, know. Second being, that it was impressive that your brother was paying attention to you and remembered something you said, and third, he cared and approved. You realize you told him last not because you want to not have him worry or struggle in high school with having a gay brother; you didn’t tell him because you didn’t want to disappoint him, because you loved him and the way things were and were afraid that if he knew, it would all go away. But he cared. He cared for you and for Dan. He was worried for you, accepted you and loved you still. You want to hug him, but he was not in the position to have much touching, so you cry. And you see that he cried too.

That’s how some of us do it. 

Recommended2 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Coming of Age, Drama, LGBTQ+, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Personal Narrative, True Story, Young Adult (YA)

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