Eddy knew deep down this wasn’t the most fantastic idea. But his mother said it would be okay. She actually pushed him more than usual. And frankly, his mother could be quite annoying about these things.
“You need to show Tom you want him to be a part of your life. What better way than to bring him tonight?”
“Mom. Don’t you think it’s short notice, and… Dad isn’t exactly crazy about me dating a guy.”
“Don’t you worry about your father. He will be so busy saying goodbye to his friends and drinking that he won’t even notice who you brought with you.”
“I don’t know, Mom. It is his special night. Retirement is a big deal to him. What if he notices? I don’t want to ruin this night for him,” Eddy said as forcefully as he could when dealing with his mother.
The arched eyebrow appeared. “Let’s stop this nonsense, Eddy. Invite Tom. I want to get to know him better. How’s that for a reason?”
His head was swimming. Reaching into his back pocket for his cell, he went out on the deck. He listened to the ringtone two times before Tom picked up.
“Hey there. I was just thinking about you.”
Eddy’s heart leaped at those words. “Wow. You must be psychic.”
“No. Just head over heels in love or lust.”
Those words were troubling for some reason, but Eddy pushed the bad vibes out of the way. He was on a mission.
“So, what are you doing tonight?”
“Um… something with you?”
“Yeah. My dad’s retirement party is tonight. Good food, a chance to make fun of the old geezers there, and well… my mother is kind of insisting we’re there together.”
“Go, Mom. I think she must like me.”
“Yup. She said she wants to get to know you better. I guess she thinks this is a wonderful opportunity.”
“So, what should I wear to this thing? What are you wearing? What time are we getting together? Are you picking me up, or should I come over there and go over with your mom and Dad?”
“A lot of questions, sir. In order, wear something dressy—no jeans or t-shirts. My dad hates the look even when it’s not an occasion. I’m wearing some black slacks and a blue polo. I thought about a button-down and a tie but decided to forego that. And how about my mom and I swing by your house around seven-thirty?”
“Forego? Do you think we’re in English class? Do you normally talk that way?”
“Only when I’m thinking about who will be at this thing. My dad works with a lot of ‘good ole boys.’ And you know how they view homosexuals. I can’t believe my mom thinks this is a good idea. And I’m not sure whether we’ll have a good time or not, especially since I think we should definitely eliminate ANY PDA.”
“You sound scared, hon,” whispered Tom.
“Maybe I am. I’ve only been out for a brief time. I’m not sure where my dad’s head is at, and I don’t want to ruin his retirement party. He’s worked really hard for a long time.”
“Just how old is your dad?”
“He’s sixty-five. He and mom got married when he was forty-two, so the whole father thing came at him a little late in life.”
“Wow. I can’t even imagine. My parents had me young. My dad is only thirty-five, and my mom is thirty-three. Their parents made them get married, but they never held that against me. But they do hold the fact that I’m gay.”
“Wait. I thought your parents were cool. Aren’t they?”
“They’re cool about a lot of things. But not about their only chick being gay. I think it’s the whole grandparent thing. That doesn’t look likely.”
“So, I guess we both deal with parental disappointment, huh?”
“No worries. I just live my life. Other people’s expectations are their own to worry about, you know?”
Eddy thought about that for a moment. “I guess they are. I never really thought about it that way.”
The cuckoo downstairs signaled it was six o’clock, and he still needed to shower.
“I better get my ass in gear. I want to look my best. More for you than those old geezers.”
“Oh, you. Such a doll. I’ll look my very best too,” said Tom.
“See you at seven-thirty, okay?”
“See you then, sweetie.”
Tom’s words echoed in Eddy’s mind as he walked toward the bathroom. He felt happy. Happier than he’d felt in a long time. Knowing that someone cared and having the burden of being gay and keeping it to himself taken away, felt good.
And then Eddy ran into his father in the narrow hallway.
“Um, hi, Dad.”
“Hi yourself. I have a question for you.”
“Are you bringing anyone to the party tonight?”
Eddy’s heart crept into his throat. Suddenly, there wasn’t any air in his lungs.
What should I tell him? The truth? Or a lie that would follow me for years?
Be brave, Eddy. Tell him the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
Eddy wasn’t sure whose voice was in his head, but he took its advice.
“I invited my friend, Tom.”
Watching the contortions of his dad’s mouth, along with the deep flush in his face, Eddy knew his mother was wrong, and everything about this whole thing was a horrible mistake.
Finally, his dad sputtered, “What are you trying to do? Are you going to embarrass me in front of all my coworkers and friends?”
“No, Dad. I’m not trying to embarrass you. I’m trying to be me.”
Eddy watched his father’s fists clench and unclench. It was apparent that the man was wrestling with many feelings. And though he wanted to run, Eddy recognized the magnitude of this moment. He’d challenged his father to accept his sexuality, even if he didn’t like it.
The older man’s shoulders slumped. “Eddy, I want you to be at the party. And I also want you to come alone.”
Eddy was bereft. His dad couldn’t or wouldn’t accept him. And it cut him to the core.
And then his father continued, “I don’t think it matters what I want right now, does it?”
Tears stood in both of their eyes. Eddy couldn’t find any words, but his dad did.
Clearing his throat before he spoke the older man spoke, “I think you should bring your friend. I do ask that the two of you don’t hold hands or anything else, though. Is that okay?”
The tightness in Eddy’s chest, along with the lump in his throat, cleared.
“I think we can manage that, Dad.”
His father reached out and ruffled Eddy’s hair. It was the first time that gesture came since Eddy was about ten.
“Thanks, Dad. You know I love you, right?”
“Yeah, I guess I do.”
When Eddy walked into the party with Tom and his mom, he could see his dad at the center of a large group of people. His father looked up and motioned for them to come over.
“Guys, you all know my wife, Lorraine. And this is my son, Eddy, and his, uh, friend, Tom.”
Everyone nodded and went back to their conversation. No explosions or finger-pointing.
And now, Eddy felt that all was right with the world. He was here with both his parents and someone he cared about.
Can life get any better?
And that’s when Tom grabbed him by the shoulders and kissed him passionately.
The audible gasp from someone in the room reached Eddy’s burning ears.
Why did he do that? And at what price?
… and the answer to that came all too soon
To be continued…