Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Year of Sundays, ch 2 pt 2

Chapter 2 – May 8th Mother’s Day
Part 2 of 2

Elizabeth attacked first. "For God's sake, Si, you're thirty-eight years old. You can't be gay. This is ridiculous. How ever did you come up with such a thing?"

He looked more relaxed among us than he had in years. He shook his head and rolled his eyes. "I've always been gay, Liz. You might have noticed I never bring girls around."

"Well, of course not," she answered. "You've been busy with your career, establishing yourself and making money. You haven't had time for screwing around."

"Oh, I've had plenty of time for screwing around."

"You never brought any guys around, either," Melanie pointed out, piecing together the puzzle of his life.

"I've never been that serious about anyone."

"Until now?" I guessed.

He steepled his fingers and bumped his chin against them. "Something like that. Maybe."

I was surprised, but then again not. Mom wasn't the only one who noticed he's been... well, different, for a while now. More talkative. Friendlier. Not scowling all the time. And not hung over from the night before.

Elizabeth was lost in her own worries. "You're going to hell, you know."

"Lay off, Liz," Melanie said. "We don't need this."

Silas held up his hand. "No, it's all right. Elizabeth can say whatever she needs to say." He looked straight into her face. "But let me tell you, hell is living a lie. I don't care if you're angry. Mom said I have to tell you, and now it's done." He winked at me. "It's like I just lost a thousand pounds."

"I'm glad you told us," Josie added in her soft little girl voice. "I'd rather know who you really are than to believe in the person you pretend to be. There are a lot of gays and lesbians at school, it's as normal as anything, to me." She looked at Elizabeth. "I can understand being upset that you never knew, but Sissy, it's silly to get worked up about what is. Silas can't change it."

"He could try," Elizabeth said. "He doesn't have to engage in that lifestyle – he could be celibate – then he could confess his sins and be new again."

Melanie crossed her arms over her chest and slouched in her chair. "You know, it just figures. Mr. God's Gift to Women is gay. I swear, it's damn near impossible to find a decent, eligible, straight guy these days."

"I have a confession to make," I said, and all eyes turn toward me.

"Not you, too!" Elizabeth exclaims, horrified.

I rolled my eyes. I wasn't going to take that bait. "I knew. About Silas, I mean. I've known for a long time."

Melanie glared at me. "He told you, but not the rest of us? Silas!"

"No, no." I backtracked. "We haven't had a conspiracy behind everyone's back about it. I saw him out one night, when I went to a drag show with my co-workers."

"When was this?" Melanie wanted to know. None of us liked being left out of knowing something about the rest of us.

"Long time ago. When I worked at Uniprise. One of the girls on my team was a drag king. Funniest thing you ever saw – she looked exactly the same dressed for the drag show as she always looked at her desk at work."

"He could have been there with friends, like you were." That was Elizabeth, keeping herself in denial as long as possible.

Silas stared at the ceiling. "And that, boys and girls, is why I so rarely go out on the town in either of these twin ports, Duluth or Superior. Too many eyes."

"The rule on serious boyfriends, by the way," said Josie, "is that they're supposed to come to Sundays. I don't see that the rule should be any different for Silas."

Elizabeth looked like she might faint. "Silas doesn't have any boyfriends. I mean look at him, he's what Melanie said, God's gift to women!"

"God's gift to men," I murmured.

"Not helping, Jess," Silas whispered loudly.

Elizabeth continued her denial. "Just because you think you saw something, Jessie, doesn't make it true."

"Oh, it's true," Silas said with a wry grin.

"Shut up, Si," Elizabeth snapped at him. "I refuse to believe that my brother is a pervert."

"He's not a pervert!" Josie exclaimed.

Melanie jumped in, too. "Come on, Elizabeth. It's not the end of the world. I mean, there are much worse things."

"I don't know what," Elizabeth scowled.

Melanie listed a few worse things. "Serial killers, child molesters..." I thought I saw Silas flinch, but maybe he had something in his eye.

"Lots of things are worse," Melanie finished.

"Okay, okay, I give. Since you're all going to gang up on me," Elizabeth said. "Can we just quit talking about it?"

"Amen," Silas quickly agreed.

Josie grinned liked she loved the whole thing. "So Si-si, are you a top, or a bottom?"

Silas turned red. "This topic of discussion is officially closed. It's time for Josie's treasure hunt idea. I'll order pizza."

We split up then, and it really was like a treasure hunt.

I ran into Silas in Mom's room. He was holding one of her journals. "You should take these, Jessie. After all, you're the family secret-keeper."

"I could," I said, "but don't you think everybody should get a chance to read them?"

"No. You should read them first. Then you can tear out anything that might be hurtful."

"You think I should edit Mom's journals?"

"Who better than you?"

It was an idea that felt weird in my gut. "I don't know – it seems kind of wrong."

"It might be kinder than just tossing them out there."

"True. I'll give you that. Speaking of tossing things out there – should I have told you at some point that I knew your big secret? Seems like maybe you could have used some family support."

"Nah. Don't worry about it. I would have been mortified. Was I wasted when you saw me?"

"I don't know. I didn't hang around long enough to judge. I got the hell out of there. You were dancing with some guy, and kissing him. With tongue."

"In other words... wasted."

"You do an awful lot of out-of-town purchasing."

"Yes, I do."

"I bet you're not always purchasing."

He raised an eyebrow. Then winked. "I'll never tell."

"Josie wants you to bring your boyfriend some Sunday."

Without hesitation he said, "That's a terrible idea. Jeremy... well. Jeremy won't make Elizabeth feel any better about my 'lifestyle.' He's younger."

A name. Jeremy. Now my curiosity was peaked. I wondered what else I could get out of him. "How much younger?"

"Closer to Josie's age than to mine."

"Holy shit." Silas was eighteen when Josie was born.

"Like I said, won't help my cause with Elizabeth."

"Ah well, you should bring him anyway. It's only fair. We've always brought ours."

"I don't know. Bringing him to meet the family just screams commitment. And I'm not sure of this whole 'relationship' idea. It's hard to keep a whole relationship in the closet. I keep trying to get rid of him, but he just won't go away."

"That's funny. How long have you known him?"

"Not long. One of my lesbian friends sicced him on me by giving him my phone number. And I just can't seem to shake him. Now the little pain-in-my-ass applied to graduate school up here. Says he's tired of only having me on the weekends."

"You're not going to kill him to get away from him, I hope. I mean, it'd be awful if you turned into serial killer."

"If he moves up here, I might." His grin told me he was joking. "I like having all my friends in Minneapolis. I buzz down there Friday, stay the weekend at my apartment, and then high-tail it back here Sunday morning."

"Wow. That explains why you're so bleary-eyed on Sundays. Jesus, an apartment. Talk about living for the weekends. So you've had what, a million one-night stands?"

He grinned wolfishly. "Some of them two nights. Am I freaking you out?"

"Not really. This feels like the first real conversation we've had in twenty years."

"It probably is."

"So what's he like, this boyfriend of yours?"

He rolled his eyes, but smiled. "Young. Blond. Blue eyes. Full of the beauty and promise of youth. I'm sure everyone will love him." Then under his breath he added softly, "They always do."

I laughed. "Oh, I'm sure plenty of them love you."

"Most of them," he conceded with a grin. "But you know me. I don't have the innocent exuberance thing going for me – I never did."

"I'm sure it's hard to maintain innocent exuberance when you're hiding in the closet. So I guess he's dynamite in bed, hmm?"

"Mum's the word, Sister-mine. I'd tell you, but your ears would bleed, and we can't have that."

He raised his eyebrows at me again, picked up a paper-weight from our mom's bedside table, and cocked an imaginary gun as he exited the room.

End of conversation.

So Silas had the agate paper-weight – the kind where the rock's been cut in half, with the flat side polished smooth to show all the lines and colors of a Lake Superior Agate. The secret beauty nature hides inside a hard, ugly shell of stone.

Elizabeth had our mom's sterling silver brush and mirror vanity set. When we were very small, our mom had long, long hair, and brushed it one hundred strokes every night before she went to bed. She used to brush Elizabeth's hair like that, too.

Melanie's hands were empty, but when my eyes asked the question, she gestured to the a print on the wall by local artist Craig Blacklock. It was a picture of a timber wolf that our mom gave to our dad the Christmas before he died.

I held a travel mug that I'd bought for my mother at Starbucks the first time we went to New York City together. It had been the trip of a lifetime, a magical few days where I didn't have to share my mother with anyone.

Josie had Mom's robe across her lap. "It still smells like her," she whispered to me.

And just like Melanie predicted, none of us had any issues with the items our siblings wanted to take home this first sad Sunday without our mother. Funny, how five children from the same two parents are so completely different from one other.

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