Hey gang… here’s a little piece featuring Jay from Better Than Chance! Enjoy!
*This guy kinda looks like him, right?
After a couple of months I had to admit my “coming out” fresh start was more of a non-start where my family was concerned. There was no theatrical showdown with tears and ugliness. No one disowned me. They just ignored my revelation entirely. At first I didn’t notice. I was frankly too busy and when you factored in the geographical obstacle of Pittsburgh being over two hundred miles away from DC, it became a matter of out of sight, out of mind. I didn’t begin to clue in until after I found out I’d passed the bar in late October. It was a major milestone and my parents were extremely proud.
“Oh honey! We’re thrilled!” My mom was practically screaming in my ear. I could picture her jumping up and down in elation.
“We’re very proud of you, Matt. When will see the new family lawyer next? Will we have to wait till the holidays?” Dad was on another line and the connection sounded a little weak.
“Probably. I was just assigned to help out on a new government contract one of the partners is preparing.” I smiled into the phone when I heard my mom squeal on the other end. “The thing is… there’s a deadline which may make it difficult for me to come home for Thanksgiving.”
There was a stilted silence on the line for a second longer than normal. My dad filled it in quickly with a comment about not working too hard, but he was obviously trying to avoid any awkwardness. He signed off claiming he had something pressing to take care of in his home office, leaving me to my uncharacteristically silent mother.
“You there, Mom?”
“Yes. If you can’t come home, where will you go for Thanksgiving?”
“Aaron’s parents’, probably.”
And that’s when the proverbial light bulb went on.
I’d noticed in past conversations when I brought up his name in a general sense like “Aaron and I went to…” or “Aaron made dinner and…”, the topic was changed. I figured it was a matter of time and they weren’t ready to hear about Aaron and me in any detail.
The holidays were sacred to my mother…an extremely important traditional season for family gatherings. She wouldn’t be able to ignore Aaron’s presence in my life during this time. If a showdown was imminent, this was most likely when it would occur. I sighed deeply and massaged the bridge of my nose hoping for the best.
“Honey, I understand you’re busy, but… the holidays are for family and since he is a new friend of yours maybe…”
“Mom. This is a weird conversation to have over the phone, but I’m going to try… I…” I stopped and looked out the huge picture window in Aaron’s small apartment. He’d gone out for a run and if I wanted to finish this conversation before he returned I needed to figure out how to firmly but kindly deal with someone I loved and respected without causing unnecessary hurt. I was like a bull in a china shop when it came to important emotional exchanges, so chances were good I’d fuck it up somehow.
“Mom, Aaron is my boyfriend. He isn’t a random friend. I don’t know what the holidays will be like with my work schedule but…”
“Okay, I understand. I have to hang up now. I have something on the stove. I love you Matt and I’m so very proud of you. Bye hon.”
What the fuck? Her “I understand” was definitely code for exactly the opposite, but I didn’t know how to handle it.
I turned at the sound of a soft Southern infused voice. It was Jay, Aaron’s best friend and the look of concern on his handsome face told me he’d heard some of my conversation with my mother.
“Sorry to barge in.” He jiggled a set of keys and then tossed them in the orange bowl on the small kitchen table. “I knocked but you didn’t hear. I told Aaron I’d drop these off. He said you needed a spare and… what’s troublin’ you, honey?”
Jay was a lot like Aaron in many ways. He was an out and proud confident gay man with a joie de vie. He was also smart, funny and really good-looking. If anyone told me he modeled for Ralph Lauren ads, I’d believe them. Jay was a couple of inches taller than me with a slim toned swimmer’s body. He was always friendly and easy company, but he was extremely protective of those he loved, like Aaron. Thank God he liked me.
“Family shit.” I shook my head as I walked over to greet him.
“Matt, I sympathize darling. No disrespect intended here, but you know Peter’s mother’s a shrew… so if you need any advice on how to deal with difficult mommas, I may not have all the answers but believe me, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years.”
I laughed. I’d heard some funny stories about Jay’s long-time partner, Peter’s wacky Italian Catholic mother. No doubt he did have some experience to draw from.
“My mom’s not that bad. She’s just not used to the idea of me being… with a man. I knew this wouldn’t be easy but I have a feeling it’s harder than I thought.”
“It’s difficult. Certainly. But you have to keep your life separate from theirs. Ask yourself if you’d be happier living the life they want for you…”
“That’s just it! No one talks about this shit where I’m from. No one asks what you want out of life unless it’s in a general way… you know, what do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you want to live? The rest… it’s assumed, expected. Me telling my mom about Aaron has upset some kind of balance and I don’t know how to get it back. Or if I ever will.”
Jay nodded solemnly before heading toward the small galley style kitchen. He pulled out a bottle of wine and held it up in question. I smiled wanly and sat at the table while he poured us each a glass of chardonnay.
“Maybe your mom is more like mine… with the big difference being that I came out at eighteen and while I wasn’t overt like someone else we know and love, it wasn’t a giant surprise I was queer either. Your mom needs to meet him, Matt. She needs to see you two together, see how happy you are, but even then… it will take some time.”
“Are things better with Peter’s mom? I mean, has it gotten easier with time?” I took a sip and almost spit it back out. Jay’s expression was comically hysterical.
“She’s a dragon. A five foot two witch. My personal nightmare come to life. Thank God she lives in another state! The truth is I’m never going to win her over. It kills me on one hand because I’m so good at mergers and acquisitions of a friendly nature, but I will never win against her old religious doctrines. So I’m as kind as can be. Occasionally I feel like I can taste blood in my mouth from biting my tongue so hard and other times, I can laugh. But I love Peter. I won’t give him up to make her happy. It’s that simple for me.” Jay stood to take the bottle of wine back to the kitchen.
He and Peter had been together for years now. Both were strikingly handsome and tall, but after that, it was a matter of opposites attract. Where Jay was friendly and open, Peter was intense and serious. I was pondering the many ways Aaron and I were different when I heard a rattling noise.
“What the… Where did you…?”
The conversation candy hearts. Oh. I could feel my face heat at the memory of what we’d done in the kitchen the last time the ubiquitous candy box appeared out of nowhere. Jay’s wide, knowing grin told me no explanations were needed. He took a sip of his wine peering at me over the rim thoughtfully.
“That boy is a hopeless romantic.”
“I know Aaron. I’m thinking he saved these from last Valentine’s Day… that’s all.”
“He said he found them but…”
“No way. He doesn’t save crappy candy from a holiday rendered meaningless if you don’t have someone to share it with. These are a good luck charm.” Jay expression was a touch smug but there was a bit of warning in his eye. He was silently letting me know if I broke Aaron’s heart, candy or otherwise, he’d kick my ass. “I wouldn’t be surprised if these lasted until your first real Valentine Day together.”
Jay quickly changed the subject and although I was grateful for the topic change, I loved the sentiment behind his words. I knew Aaron loved me but was afraid to say the words aloud. Our beginning as a couple was slightly clouded by the specter of my “coming out” and all indications were that until something was resolved with my family, Aaron might not trust that we’d make it in the long run. Maybe Jay was right about the candy hearts being a silly talisman to ward off real life issues. We started seeing each other romantically around Valentine Day, so it oddly made sense that Aaron would superstitiously keep a memento of hope for our future in a heart shaped form. The sweet vulnerability of the thought alone made me love him just a little bit more.