Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Year of Sundays, Chapter 7


Chapter 7 - June 12

Part 1 of 1

"Are you taking summer classes, Jo-Jo?"

Elizabeth asked the question over a meal of grocery store fried chicken. Need I mention it was my turn to cook? Caleb was with his father, and Melanie had arrived intoxicated. She was already passed out in her old room, here but not here. At least she didn't bring Travis. I wondered if she did anything but drink when Caleb wasn't around. 

Josie sat next to Jeremy who, as usual, was too busy eating to engage in conversation, and Silas was at the head of the table pretending to ignore Jeremy.


 "I don't know. I was thinking about it, but it feels so good not having classes right now."

"Well, I have an appointment with some credit transfer liaison at UMD. I have to take Statistics, God help me, before I can get into my program. I was hoping we could take it together."

Josie shuddered. "No way. I'm done with that one. Sorry, Liz, you're on your own."

"No classes at all?" Silas raised an eyebrow. "So you two are just going to hang out in this little love nest all summer long, no cares or responsibilities?"

"Stop it, Si," I said, at the same time Jeremy said, "Jealous?" so I gave up and just shook my head. This conversation was already out of my control.

"Jealous?" Silas laughed, but it was malicious, not humorous.

I tensed for the biting words that were sure to follow.

"Jealous of what? I've certainly already had you. Or have you forgotten that one of you is gay?"

"I think you miss me, that's all," Jeremy said.

"No. I. Don't. Miss. You." Silas said the words through clenched teeth. "I'm perfectly fine, thank you very much. And I'm thrilled that the twink I can't get rid of moved into my mother's house with my little sister. That's just what everyone needs."

"I need him," Josie said in a soft voice, sharing a look with Jeremy that I couldn't fathom.

"You hardly know him, Jo-Jo."

"That's not true," she said. "I probably know him better than you. We talk. It's not fair of you to push your pain and anger onto him. Mom's dead. We're all hurting."

That shut Silas up.

I jumped in, hoping to direct the conversation to safer ground.

"What kind of class do you have to take, Liz?"

"Statistics," she groaned. "Otherwise known as torture for math dummies."

"And you can take it at UMD, then transfer the credits?"

"That's the idea. The liaison will help me get registered for the right class."

"Who's the liaison?" Josie asked.

"Something Jones," Elizabeth answered. "Or maybe it's Johnson."

"Dean Johnson?" Josie asked.

"That sounds right. Is Dean his name or his title?"

"First name. Have fun," Jo-Jo laughed. "He's hot, for an old guy."

"Oh, ha-ha, funny," Elizabeth said. "Like that matters to me."

"He's cute enough that it might," Josie said, with a huge grin.

Silas had been glowering at Jeremy this whole time, and now that the conversation tapered off, Jeremy asked, "What?"

"Nothing," Si growled.

"Are you ever going to forgive me?" Jeremy asked.

Silas scowled. "For what?"

"For being young."

"You're being ridiculous," Silas answered, but the scowl smoothed off his face.

"So are you. What can I do to get you back?"

Oops. Too far, too personal. Elizabeth pushed her chair back. "Josie, Jess, why don't you help me with the dishes." 

It was a command, not a question. I almost laughed out loud because we were using paper plates. But I understood what she was going for – giving them some privacy to work out the details of their difficult relationship.

No way. I wasn't missing this.

I left the table with Liz and Josie, but when they actually went through to the kitchen, I didn't. I posted myself in the doorway instead. Not even out of sight, yet still completely out of mind.

"Live a life," Si said. "Get some experience. Go out with someone your own age."  His words were harsh, staccato.

"That would kill you," Jeremy said, his voice matter of fact.

"I'm tougher than you think."

"Why do you think you're not worth it?" Jeremy asked him. "Why are you convinced you're not worth loving?"

That's what I wanted to know, too.

Silas laughed out loud. "It's not that. It's just such a hassle being somebody's boyfriend. Just about anyone in the world would be better at it than me."

"You're learning just fine." Jeremy's voice was still calm.

Yes, I thought, Silas was getting quite an education in fear, loneliness, and avoidance of intimacy. Sure enough.

"It won't work, Jeremy. You can stalk me, leave me a hundred voicemails, live with my sister, and make doe-eyes at me every Sunday, but none of that replaces life experience. Some things you need to learn on your own, and it would be criminal for me to take that away from you."

From my perspective, his eyes said so much more than that.

Want and need like an addict for a drug, call it hurt or call it love, blond hair, bright smile, wet-shine eyes, I'm not yours but you are mine.

Damn. It'd been a while since poetry fell into my brain like that. I was going to have to run for pen and paper, even if it meant I had to risk missing the rest of the conversation.

I found my bag and notebook and jotted down the short verse.

Poetry. I used to be quite a poet, but that particular muse rarely showed itself to me these days. Except this one struck like lightning. There was definitely some kind of electric passion between Silas and Jeremy.

All was normal when I returned to the dining room. Silas had brought the News Tribune to the table and was turning pages. 

Elizabeth served fresh strawberry pie that I'd picked up from Perkins Restaurant. Murmurs and giggles came from Jeremy and Josie's side of the table.

Silas glowered at the newspaper, making it rustle and crinkle as he turned pages.

Josie and Jeremy got louder by degree, until we could make out words... bonfire... parade... float.

Silas must've caught them, too, because he sat up and said, "Making plans for Duluth/Superior PRIDE, are we?"



Jeremy's grin was huge. "Yeah. I guess it's a pretty great PRIDE for a small community. Labor Day weekend. Josie said the Mayor usually gives a speech. How cool is that?"

"I know the Mayor. It's not a big deal."

"But still!" Jeremy's eyes were shining. "Are you going?"

"It's not for months," Silas said. "I'm sure I can pencil something in..."

"Really?" Jeremy said, bouncing on his chair.

"...to keep me away," Silas finished, with a mean little smile. "Of course I'm not going, nitwit. Who I sleep with is nobody's business."

Jeremy stopped smiling and stuck his tongue out at Silas. He was trying to be silly, but I could see he was disappointed.

"I'll go with you," Josie piped up. "I'll be your fag hag."

Elizabeth groaned. "Josie, you are definitely our little progressive one."

I laughed. "Maybe we'll go, too. Annabelle loves parades more than fireworks."

Silas snorted. "Dad would say you're asking for trouble, maybe it's catchy."

I laughed. "He would. Without a doubt. And mom would be properly horrified as well. Especially if we made the news – hey, if we dress in crazy rainbow stuff, you think we'll be on the news?"

"Silas, pencil me into that appointment, would you?" Elizabeth requested with raised eyebrows. "The whole family's gone gay crazy."

Jeremy was trying hard not to pout.

Josie patted his hand. "I saw an ad for a PRIDE fundraiser on one of the local blogs I follow. Two Fridays from now. You want to go? Maybe you'll find a date."

"You should go, Jeremy," Silas said, staring holes through his newspaper. "Meet some boys your own age."

"Whatever."  Jeremy said. "Yeah, I'll go." He was still pouting, but I suspected he'd get over it pretty quickly. He of all people should know how much Silas loved his closet, and that it would take more than a PRIDE celebration to get him to come out. Silas just wasn't comfortable being gay in front of people. If Jeremy refused to see that, he was either purposefully obtuse or completely delusional.
The tide may be turning, but our family has a history of homophobia.

We had a charmed childhood, growing up on the "right" side of town, in this large elegant old house, our moneyed parents brushing elbows with a succession of local celebrities, from the Mayor to frozen food bigwig Gino Palucci. We were Meyerhoffs, damnit, confidants of the legendary Congdon family, as famous locally as the Rockefellers and Kennedys are nationally.

Our men were members of the Gitchi Gammi club, our women the Junior League. We sat on the city council and made close personal friends of a senator or two.

Meyerhoff Construction and Design had a name to uphold; a name and reputation synonymous with propriety. Bucking all that was scary stuff, boys and girls. Silas wouldn't go there lightly. And as much as he seemed tolerant of Jeremy, I felt pretty sure he wasn't going to come out publicly on the whim of a twenty-two year old college kid.

That history is what Silas is facing, what he's avoiding, what makes him ashamed to shout to the world all that he is. I wish it weren't so. I wish being the only son of a Meyerhoff was easier for him. We all grew up with certain expectations, Silas more than the rest of us.

The fact that he didn't join the family investment firm was itself a blow to the family, but at least he redeemed himself by getting an education, and by building a company that was, well, into building.
His company was successful and growing. 

Silas, however, might be stagnating.

I applauded Jeremy's efforts to get Silas to come out, but Silas worked long and hard all his adult life to reach the level of success he now enjoyed. And for so long as he believed he had a lot to lose, he wasn't ever going to be gay anywhere except in a different city or behind closed doors.

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