I knew something was off from the moment I walked through the door. The house, usually filled with the sounds of some ballgame accompanied by my screaming father, was eerily silent.
"Pops!" I yell to no one. "I'm home!"
"In the kitchen," responds a solemn voice. Drenched in sweat from basketball practice, I trudged to the kitchen.
"Hey, Dad," I say heading to the fridge. Pops leans on the counter with his hands palmed on his face. His phone, dark and quiet, lays face down on the island.
I raise a weary eyebrow and unscrew the water bottle I just snagged by a bowl of washed grapes. "What's up?"
"I know." He doesn't lift his head or move his body from his tense position.
"Pops, what are you talking about? And where's Big Momma? I was hoping I could talk to her about some-"
An invisible wind almost knocks me out of my body. He doesn't say it with conviction in his voice. His tone remained neutral as if he was waiting on my response. My hand shakes as I think of something to say.
"Before you try to think of a lie, I saw the text." He somberly takes a sip from a bottle that I didn't even realize was there. Hennessy.
"I-", He holds up a hand which I take as my hint to shut up.
He swallows a gulp of Hennessy and finally says, "I checked the cameras, too. How long have you been sneaking out?"
Like a deer in headlights I freeze. "Dad, I can explain." My hands are shaking so bad that I have to set the water bottle down.
"You know," he starts again. "I knew something was different about you. You lock yourself in your room all day, and when you come out, it's only because you're leaving. That is, when you aren't sneaking out at 2 o'clock in the morning." He finally sits straight and points "2 o'clock" at me with his eyes.
"Please. I didn't expect it to be so soon," I try again. "I mean, yes, I sent the text to you. It was off this stupid app..."
"Was it lying?" He raises an eyebrow at me.
"Was what lying?"
"So what? You were just going to keep this from me?" He's so mad, steam could be blowing out his ears and it wouldn't make a difference. "For how long!"
"Soon! I was going to tell you eventually when I was ready. I was!" It clicked on my defensive act, and now I'm angry as well.
"Is that what you're going to tell the recruiters when they ask? If they still want you when this comes out. 'Oh, I was going to tell you eventually.' Emmanuel your career is over!" He throws his hands in the air and shakes his head.
"Well, when you're done telling me his dim my future is let me know," I add sarcastically.
"Boy." He charges toward me with fire in his eyes. Before he can get around the island, Big Momma walks in.
"Jared, stand down." Big Momma walks over and takes a seat at the island. Pops just stands breathing hard from his mouth, staring wide eyed at her. "There's no need to get physical when all the boy's tryna do is explain."
Her tired eyes droop as she wipes her forehead. Her bright blue kimono drapes around her like a cape; just like the superhero she was a second ago. She pays the bonnet on her head while saying, "Make me some tea, Jared."
He backs back reluctantly and begins to make Big Momma her tea.
"Emmanuel, tell him about Javier," she says.
A pot clanks in the sink. "You knew about this?" He spins around staring in disbelief at Big Momma.
"Yes," she simply replies.
He looks up at me. "How long?"
"Manny?" she says looking up at me. "How long have you been keeping this secret?"
So far I had been bouncing from Big Momma to Pops like a tennis match. It surprised me I was being brought back into the conversation.
"Um... since um..." I stutter.
"Speak up, Emmanuel. Your father can't hear you." She raised an eyebrow at Pops who's resumed making her tea.
I puff out my chest a little. This is my moment to talk. And thank God, Big Momma walked in when he did otherwise I don't know what would've happened.
"I've been gay since middle school. When I first started playing ball, I knew something was different about me but I couldn't exactly put my finger on what it was until I got a crush in 7th grade. You remember when I told you how my phone broke and I couldn't give you an answer? It was because after I told him how I felt, he smashed my phone right in the middle of the hallway. Everyone laughed and it was humiliating, and I thought it was the end of me. And then I met Javier... my boyfriend."
I could hear Pops loud, long sigh while he watched a now boiling pot on the stove. He can't even look at me.
"Dad, I'm gay. And if you can't even look me in the eye while I say it how fatherly does that make you?" I spit the next words out carefully. "You're the coward, not me."
He finally turns to face me. His eyes sput fire on every word he says next. "Only a coward will hide behind a wall of shame and keep it from the ones who love them most."
"You don't love me though, Dad. You're disappointed that your son is gay. It's written all over your face. Don't lie and say you aren't because even Big Momma can tell you, you're mad."
Big Momma hmpmm'ed along to what I was saying.
He pulls the pot off the fire and grabs a mug from the dishwasher. "World's Best Dad" is what it says. I guess he wasn't paying attention to what mug he pulled out, he doesn't let anyone drink out of that mug.
When I was little Pops took me to pottery class, I couldn't have been more than 8 years old at the time. Mom had just ran away with some other man- although I didn't know at the time, Pops told me she 'just needed to get away for a while' - and he didn't want me to feel alone so he bought two tickets for a pottery class.
It was the best day we've ever had. After I made the mug - big and blue with handprinted white letters - we went to go get fro-yo. He even took me to the park to I could finally slide downthe big slide. I had felt so happy. I haven't felt like that in a while with him.
He pours the water into the mug and grabs a teabag from the cabinet above. Plopping the bag in along with a spoon, he set the mug down in front of Big Momma and walks out without a word.
The only sound I hear is the clinking of Big Momma's spoon as she stirs her tea. "Don't worry, sweetheart. He'll come around," she says.
I look at her to the door he just pushed through. Murmured sounds of a ballgame come from that direction.
I sigh and finally relax my body against the counter. Honestly, I'm not too convinced he will.