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Peter Jung (peterus7) wrote,
@ 2005-01-21 15:08:00
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    Current mood: creative
    Current music:A perfect circle


    You know, for someone who wants to get into politics, I was amazed at the dichotomy of people that exist in America, even in the same town. It was in my early college years that I became rather forcefully thrust into realizing this, in the December of my sophomore year.

    But before I go into all that, perhaps I should go into myself a bit, so you understand my point of reference and where I’m coming from.

    My name is Laura Taylor, and I’m currently about to finish my political science degree at Smitherson City College, a public liberal arts college. I live in Smitherson, a medium sized city on the West Coast. I am currently 22 years old, and people describe me as being a skinny girl with wide eyes. I always carry a camera around, as photography is my hobby, but where my passion lies is Politics. I love rock groups like Evanescence and Linkin Park. I have always been a huge fan of progressive candidates, and was involved in practically every Democratic party club there is on campus. I’m really laid back, in a lot of ways, and it can take a lot to phase me.

    I guess starting from my childhood would be best to tell who I am. I was born out of wedlock, and about two years later my parents got married in a drive through wedding in Vegas. My mom was a teacher, and my dad was a librarian. Both were very liberal, and often they forgot I was their daughter, and I forgot they were my parents: our relationship was of deep mutual friendship and respect. They never told me what to do, I learned the hard way… But their arms were always open if I needed love and care.

    They were good parents. Hippies, yeah, but good parents. I was their only child, and while money was always tight, they made sure I had whatever I needed. Raised on this type of love, I became very active and independent. They never asked what I did after dark, and I rarely told them. They respected me and let me make my own decisions, and I did.

    I was always the popular girl in school… But I was also the girl who was sort of unpopular by being a bit weird. I never gave into fashion trends and Barbie, but people naturally gravitated towards me. I guess I just had a way of understanding people or something that made them like me. In High School I left that and got involved with a Clique of nerds and political liberals, and that became my life. I would go to rallies, protest anything the Republicans did, and get abortions. Actually, I never had any abortions, but I told people I did, just to piss them off. I was pretty sexually active though, both with others, and myself and I tried a few drugs, just out of curiosity. Still, it was just experimentation: I’ll try anything once, and usually I leave it at that.

    High School ended, my three closest friends, Deb, Eric, Simon, and me, left for Smitherson City College, and we became inseparable. Deb was my best friend, and we made the news several times by protesting the Republican Party is doing to our country. The college Republicans have an unofficial hit list, and we’re at the top. She’s even crazier than me, and a few times she’s gotten in trouble for it. She flashed a republican senator as he was speaking to the college just to mess him up, she vandalized a NikeTown, and beat up Mickey Mouse at Disneyland to protest immigrant worker abuse. She’s great, but probably clinically insane. Eric is a MENSA level Genius, but also a total hedonistic philosopher. He is always trying some new drug to understand the experience, and yet his papers on Philosophy have been acclaimed by his professors and sent to Philosophical journals. It’s probably all the drugs. Simon is… Well, Simon. He’s a bit of a pothead, and hangs out with Eric all the time. Even so, he’s a real sweetheart, and is a very talented photographer. He is also a total star wars nerd, which seems weird, but works out somehow. He’s probably one of the most artistic people I know.

    The four of us are pretty inseparable, and even though we’ve agreed to not be in a relationship with each other, the relationship between us is one of pure love. It’s not uncommon for someone to ask us if we’re on a double date, because often we end up cuddling and holding hands. It’s very… unstructured, but nice. Not a lot of people have a group that they can talk to about anything, outside of livejournal.

    So, that was the setting of my life. I had some really great friends who were open minded. We were all individuals, and thought for ourselves. Our political affiliation was pretty liberal, although with Eric it was all over the place, ranging from Fascist one week to Anarchist the next. We really didn’t care about anything, and we all appreciated our individual differences. Life was really good.

    I was looking over my finances, and I came to the realization that I couldn’t afford to live in the dorms anymore. I didn’t care really, I just decided I’d go into one of the nearby apartments, or live back with my parents. Either way was good, although I figured my parents wanted some alone time.

    So, I managed to get a part time job working at a book store, and found an apartment for cheap with a guy who needed a roommate. I wasn’t really interested in relationships at that time, as I had just gotten over a pretty heavy break up with Daniel, a Jewish sociology major who broke up with me because I wouldn’t commit, and I didn’t need the stress of any more romantic attention. I made that very clear over the phone, and my new roommate understood, so the deal was sealed: I would pay 175 a month and he would pay 200 a month, and I’d handle the extra chores.

    So I met him at the apartment. My first impression was pretty obvious: gay.

    I don’t know how I have it, but I can just sense when someone is gay. Maybe it’s because a lot of the kids who were still in the closet gravitated towards me in school, but I can just tell.

    His name was Alex Woodworth. He was a skinny kid with short bleached hair and a tucked in polo. He looked like something out of the Brady Bunch gone horribly wrong, and yet he was really nice. He helped me unpacked, and we hit it off immediately. I invited my friends over, and he was a little freaked out at first, but he grew to accept them. We grew to be very close friends, and would often talk for hours about things. He was pretty conservative, and it soon became apparent that he was still in the closet.

    It was so painful for me to watch such a nice guy lie to the world and himself about who he really was. Finally, one night I brought it up.

    We stayed up till 6AM the next morning, and he told me his story… Not the story of his family, of his life as a proper kid, as a good student, but as the person he hid underneath, the person who fell in love with other boys. For a good portion of the night he was in my lap, sobbing like a little kid, and I simply stayed up with him, working him through the barriers he had created in his mind.

    By the end of the week, I had gotten him interested in a local gay bar, the Fire Place. He was enthusiastic, and Deb and I helped him find some nice clothes to wear, and sent him on his way. He was the happiest I had ever seen him as he left for the club, and I remember feeling like I had done good.

    I was getting ready to go watch some special edition screening of Turkish Star Wars that Simon had invited everybody to when I got a call.

    I had never heard much about Alex’s parents. I knew he had two younger brothers, and lived in the suburbs, and that his dad sold real estate. Other than that, he usually kept his phone conversations with his parents to himself, and didn’t tell me much. I had never even gotten a chance to say more than “Oh, he’s over here…” or “He’s not home now.”

    Tonight was different.

    I picked up the phone. “Hello?”
    “Hello Laura, is Alex around?” Alex’s mom said in her annoying high volume phone.
    “No, not at the moment, he’s at a club.”
    “Oh, what club?”
    “He’s at Fire Place…”
    “Oh, he hasn’t mentioned that one to us… Is it a campus book club?” She asked, probing my soul from the other side of the overly loud receiver.
    “Uhhh… Sure.” I said, deciding that her mind had decided what she wanted to hear. She was silent for a second, then perked up.
    “Okay, tell him when he comes back that I called. Oh, and Christmas is coming up…” She said.
    “Oh yeah, and so are finals…” I said, sighing. She laughed, and then continued.
    “Well, just in case you want some nice food over break, you’re invited to our place for Christmas dinner. You’re Alex’s roommate, so you’re practically family.” She said, spreading warmth in a way I didn’t understand.
    “Uhh, I’ll think about it.” I said.
    “Okay, well I need to go, tell Alex I called, okay? Bye!” She said.

    I let the phone click down, and sat back. She had invited me to Christmas with them, and called me ‘practically family.’ I guess that was a little weird, because I didn’t even consider my family to be family, but people I lived with. As for Christmas, at age 16 Christmas became a couple dinner at a fancy Vegan restaurant, as I had decided I preferred to have dinner with people who had big turkeys instead of vegan tofubird. My parents didn’t take it personally, instead they welcomed the idea of me eating elsewhere, so I wouldn’t bitch about the flavor, or lack thereof, of their strange diet.

    So, I decided I would go. Still, the there was another thing bugging me; the silence after I said he was at Fire Place. Did she know what Fire Place was? The way she was silent for a second after I hesitated when talking about Fire Place. I prayed that she didn’t know, because Alex didn’t need the stress of his parents getting on him.

    So I went to the Turkish Star Wars showing that Simon was having at the campus theater. It was one of the most surreal movies I had ever seen, and probably one of the funniest. Simon was running throughout the theater the whole time, taking pictures of the patron’s expressions, and at some point Eric popped open a bottle of Absinthe. It was great fun, but I still had that one worry in the back of my mind.

    Afterwards, I got home, and just a few minutes later, Alex did, with a huge grin on his face.

    “So, how was it? Did you meet anyone?” I asked smiling.
    “Oh and did I! I met a dreamy guy named Tom… Tall, dark eyes, long hair… And to make matters better, I got his number, and he gave me a ride home. He’s really great, and he understood my story about just coming out. We spent 10 minutes in his car after we got here, just talking…” Alex said, love struck like a little schoolgirl.
    “Is that all you did?” I asked grinning.
    “Well, when I was about to leave he gave me a little kiss… Ohhh, I think I’m in love…” Alex said, grinning and swooning about. He babbled for at least 20 more minutes till I told him I needed to study, and even then he wouldn’t shut up.

    Suddenly I remembered.

    “Oh, and Alex…” I started, looking up from my studying.
    “Ohh, and there was this guy there named Bill…” He said, propped on the corner of my bed with a happy look on his face.
    “Alex!” I snapped.
    “Yes?” He said, suddenly looking at me.
    “Your mom called.”

    His mood dropped like a lead weight.

    “What did she say?” He asked, his voice sounding frail. I was beginning to suspect some serious anti-gay sentiment in his family.
    “Well, I told her you were out at a club called Fire Place, and she asked if it was a book club, and I told her it was… Then she invited me to Christmas, because I’m apparently part of your family now.” I said, rolling my eyes.
    “Oh great… Well… Did she buy it?” He asked.
    “Did she think it was a book club?” He asked anxiously.
    “I think so… She was quiet for a second, but she seemed to shake it off… Look, something’s up… Do you wanna talk about it?” I asked.
    “No… But hey… Can you come to Christmas?” He asked, getting up and heading towards his room. He took a sad glance back at me, and in his eyes I saw a glimpse of so many emotions, mostly fearful, that I almost recoiled.
    “Hey… Sure.” I said, smiling.
    “Thanks,” He said in a sort of hollow voice before trudging to his room.

    Part II

    My parents had no qualms with me being elsewhere for Christmas, so long as I spent some time off with them. Thus, I found myself standing in front of the Woodworth household, on the 23rd of December.

    The ride to the suburbs of Smitherson was surprisingly long, and this area was deep in the urban sprawl. To make matters worse, Alex said nothing. Finally, we stopped, and before I could take a look at the house he spoke very slowly.

    “We’re here.” He said quietly, taking the key out of the ignition.
    “Do… Do you plan to tell them?” I said quietly.
    “I… I don’t know. Just… Act natural, and… They might seem a bit different to you, but try to be open. They are my family, and I love them with all my heart. They… They’re good people.” He said, before opening the door.

    I stepped outside the car and took in the spectacle of his house. The lawn: perfect. Two-car garage. Giant Sports Utility Vehicle in the driveway with a ‘Freedom isn’t free’ bumper sticker and a ‘Pray for America’ sticker on the window. The house was covered with Christmas lights, and a large American Flag graced the entrance like some sort of totem to warn all those who entered, this house is guarded by Patriots.

    Suddenly the door opened, and the entire family came out onto the porch, forming an almost perfect Kodak moment. I had left my camera back at the apartment, but the image stuck to my head.

    The father, who I later found out, was named Rick. He was a large husky man with a gray streak and a chipper smile. The wife was Sally, and she looked like the wife from those penis pill commercials: Skinny, with a big smile and lots of make up. The twins, Frank and Owen were almost inseparable, with greased up bleached hair and matching GAP Winter catalog clothes. They looked like they were in middle school, and had the sort of strained look that middle schoolers usually have as they struggle with adolescent life.

    “Hello son, it’s good to see you!” Rick said, giving Alex a big hug, and the rest of the family followed suit.
    “It’s good to be back… Hey… I’ve missed you all so much…” Alex said, and said lots of other pleasantries. I simply stood there, until this interesting ritual had been completed, then he turned to me.

    “Guys, this is Laura, my roommate. Laura, my family.” Alex said. In that time I had managed to hide my ‘Republicans for Voldemort’ button on my bag, and they all swarmed me, all giving me a big hug. I hugged them back, feeling a bit unreal, receiving all these hugs from people I had never met.

    Even so, I felt a lot of warmth coming from these people. Like Alex had said, these were good people, and they were welcoming me with all their heart.

    Thus they welcomed me into their house. It was all decked out in Christmas decorations, with a rather large manger scene in the middle of the table. There were a lot of crosses, and a gun locker in the living room. The house was kept very clean, and I felt like by simply being there I was soiling it. In fact, I felt terrified sitting on the couch, afraid that I might somehow upset the order of it with my liberal aura.

    This house didn’t feel real… It didn’t feel alive. Instead, it felt like they had set it up to be viewed, not lived in. Shrugging, I simply went along with the house tour that Rick administered, finally ending in the guest room, where they let me unpack.

    After a while, Sally came into my room.

    “So, Laura, it’s just so nice to meet you.” She said, smiling hugely.
    “Thanks… Yeah, it’s good to meet the face behind the phone.” I said, laughing a bit loosely.
    “So, how do you like our household?” She said, tilting her head.
    “It’s very clean… Much cleaner than I could ever hope to be, and your family… It’s so… Nice.” I said, carefully choosing my words, and trying not to say ‘plastic’.
    “Well, we hold together with the word of God.” She said, patting a bible that had been placed by my bed before I arrived.
    “That’s cool…” I said, smiling awkwardly.
    “Anyway… It’s dinnertime, so please come down and we’ll tell you about what we have planned… You know, you’re the guest of honor, our newest family member!” She said, smiling.
    “Okay, can I get dressed first?” I asked, feeling a bit insecure in my t-shirt and jeans.
    “Oh, please do, we’ll be waiting by the table.” She said, smiling and leaving myself to my lonesome.

    After getting dressed in a nice dress that I hated but knew they’d love, I walked downstairs. As I did, a flash blinded me, and when my eyes adjusted I realized that Rick had just taken a picture of me. He then began taking more pictures of the family, the nativity scene, and the like. Finally, they ushered me into the dining room, and had me sit by Alex and the twins.

    The dinner laid out there looked delicious, it was some pork dish that I had never even heard of, and some country potato salad. They said grace, while I stood there silently and respectfully, then we dug in. It was damn good, and I tried to eat it slowly so it didn’t look like I was malnourished as I was, but I could barely contain myself.

    “You like it?” Sally said, smiling at me.
    “Mmhmm… Yeah, I’ve been living on the college cafeteria food for the last few months, and this is really great…” I said, before cramming my mouth full again.
    “Well, that’s good that you can get some good food in you.” Rick said, grinning.
    “Laura?” I heard a voice from beside me. I looked over to see Owen looking up at me.
    “Yeah?” I said, smiling.
    “I didn’t hear you say Amen after grace… Why?” he asked. I saw a pained look on Rick and Sally’s face, but they managed to grin.
    “You shouldn’t ask that…” Sally whispered.
    “No, it’s okay…” I said, swallowing some potatoes, “you see, I’m not used to saying grace, I didn’t do it at home.”
    “What do you mean?” Owen asked, “You don’t believe in God? Do you go to church?”
    “I don’t go to Church… I’ve been in a few times, but I’m just not one of those people who goes to church very often.” I said.
    “So you don’t believe in God?” Frank asked from the other side of me.
    “No, that’s wrong… I do believe in God.” I said, smiling.
    “But how can you believe in God without going to church?” Owen asked me.
    “It’s easy… You don’t need to go to church to believe in God… I believe in God a lot, but I don’t really go to any church. I’m just my own person, and I believe in God.” I said, smiling.
    “Well, what about Jesus then?” Frank asked.
    “Let’s not ask too many questions boys.” Sally interjected, saving me to some extent. I smiled at her, and yet I saw a glimpse of confusion in her eyes. Taking a quick side-glance at Alex, he was staring at the far wall, blinking awkwardly.

    The rest of dinner was spent in small talk about school and stuff like that, and at one point Rick went on a rant on politics. I simply kept my mouth shut, and didn’t really say anything that would incriminate me, although under the table, I was digging my nails into the flesh of my palm as he ranted off lies about the democrats.

    Finally, he got off his tangent, and then lit up again.

    “Oh, we have to tell you about our plans for Christmas…” Rick said, smiling.
    “Sure.” I said, nodding.
    “Sally, will you tell her the schedule?” Rick asked.
    Sally sat back, and recited it from memory with a sort of robotic efficiency like she had planned it herself and worked it through every year.
    “Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and we all go to the Christmas service at our church. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to, Laura…”
    “No, I’ll go,” I said, hoping to feel a bit more accepted with these people.
    “That’s good. Next, we go caroling with some of our neighbors, and then we head back to our house for a Christmas eve hot cocoa party. Following that, it’s bedtime for the kids at 11, and then Christmas day is spent with opening presents and a luncheon, then a big neighborhood gathering. Then the day after Christmas, well, Laura, we’ll let you get back to your family.” Sally said, smiling.
    “Ahh, that sounds great.” I said, again smiling.
    “Well, who has room for dessert?” Rick said, smiling.

    I returned to the room, tired, annoyed, and confused. Alex had barely said anything normal, but instead it was all small talk. In a lot of ways, they seemed more interested in me than him, and Rick’s power trip about how the Democrats were a bunch of harlots and crazy women trying to destroy America… Well, that set me off on the wrong end. Sighing, I undressed and got into bed.

    Still, I got no sleep that night. I kept on staring at the ceiling, feeling uncomfortable, until I heard some footsteps outside my door. From the sound of it, Frank and Owen were prowling around. I heard the door creak open, and I glanced up from my bed, keeping the sheet over my body. I saw two sets of eyes peep at me, then the door slammed shut, and the footsteps scampered off.

    “Middle schoolers…” I said with a sigh, but it didn’t help me get any more sleep.

    I finally dozed off at around 5AM, and was promptly awaken at 9 by Sally, who knocked loudly on the door. I spent the morning with her, fixing up the house and making small talk about school. I found myself rather amazed at how she just didn’t talk about anything deep, but instead seemed content to talk about the weather, where the nice China came from, and the neighbors. Still, I put up with it, not asking anything that would make me seem in any way deep or philosophical.

    Alex and the rest of the guys had gone on some sort of trip in the morning, but I wasn’t able to get many of the details between Sally babbling about how she needed to get new upholstery and the hobby fair where she got the fountain in the back. Finally, I heard the Behemoth SUV pulling into the driveway, and I looked out the window to see all of them getting out, in hunting gear, carrying rifles in gray sleeves. Rick emerged from the SUV with a huge grin on his face as he waved a mangled duck, and Alex looked positively sordid. His expression was one of boredom, cynicism, and depression. Even so, nobody else seemed to be picking up on it, and the four victorious hunters returned to the homestead with freshly killed meat, where there was a great upheaval of excitement that made me feel greatly… Alienated.

    So, Christmas dinner had been killed, and it was the duty of the women to prepare it. Sally invited me to go with her into the den, where they had some butchering equipment. I kindly declined, and instead checked on Alex, who had since wandered to his room while the rest of the guys watched football.

    “Hey, Alex… What’s up?” I said, peering into the room, where he was sitting back reading a magazine, although his eyes weren’t moving; it was obvious that it was just for show, like most of the things in this house.
    “Ohh…” He threw the magazine aside, “It’s my dad. He thinks you’re my girlfriend… I tried to tell him that you weren’t, but apparently the entire family is under that impression. They nagged me the whole trip, asking me how far I had gotten with you, and what you kissed like… This is going to be a lot harder than I thought…” Alex said, placing a heavy hand on his face.
    “Well… What should I do? Should I act like I’m with you, or… Are you going to tell them?” I asked nervously, looking around to make sure nobody was around.
    “You just tell them you’re my roommate, and we’re friends. It’s the truth… And the sad thing is, at the moment, you’re my only ally.” He said quietly from under his hand, but I could tell he was on the verge of tears.
    “You just hang in there, and it’ll work out.” I said, walking over to his bed and placing a hand on his shoulder.
    “No… I’m so afraid of what they’ll say… My dad is a huge republican, and my mom is a Baptist fundamentalist… But I have to tell them, and yet I’m so afraid to…” He said quietly.
    “I’ll stand with you.” I said, then got up, and walked out of the room.

    I spent the next hour in the guest room, thinking things over until Sally knocked loudly on the door again.
    “Time to go to church.”

    Thus I went to their church service. It was a large church with at least several hundred members and there were no expenses spared. Still, for a Christmas sermon, this one was one of the most radical. I don’t know how it happened, but the preacher managed to bash gays four times, bash sex five times, and declare that minorities were steeped in sin. All of these things got resounding ‘Amen’s from the audience.

    Just standing there, listening to the fire and brimstone for fags coming from the pulpit, I felt the need to take a very long shower. I’ve been to good church services, with rational and kind pastors, and those leave me with a feeling like I should learn more about Jesus and try to be kind to my neighbor… But this man was an insane sociopath that had warped the word of a benevolent god and the kindest man in history to advance his republican agenda. I felt nauseated, cursed, and disgusted, and yet the congregation praised the demon on the pulpit.

    Thankfully it was over quicker than I had expected, and I didn’t get a chance to take that long shower to cleanse myself, as we went caroling.

    Now, normal caroling is a few people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols in exchange for a bite of food. It’s probably a great way for those afflicted with a cash shortage to have something to do Christmas Eve, but this was nothing like it. Instead, it was a neighborhood event where practically the entire neighborhood gathered in the central square and sung Christmas carols, discussed politics, and showed off their families. I can’t remember how many times I was introduced and people shook my hands and gave me hugs, but after a while I was a bit shell-shocked from it all. Still, Alex stayed by my side through the chaos, and although people had the impression that I was his girlfriend, I was glad for it.

    Finally, Sally told everybody to head to the Woodworth household for hot cocoa, and we all began herding ourselves towards the house.

    Soon it became crowded, painfully so, with people chatting. Hot cocoa? Well, that’s an understatement. Within no time, Rick couldn’t resist the urge to light up the gas powered BBQ and start cooking beef patties, and shortly after that it became a full-blown barbeque party. The more I learned, this was a pretty regular tradition, and while I was rather shocked by the sheer volume of people and whatnot, Alex assured me that I would be safe.

    When it was over, the last guest had left, it was almost 11PM, and Alex had succumbed to exhaustion, along with most everybody else. I was sitting up, about to go to bed with Rick approached me with that big smile of his.

    “Hi.” I said, rubbing my eyes a bit. He sat beside me in a way a father would to a daughter, but a way my father never did.
    “Hi… So, how about Alex?” He said, grinning, “It’s okay, you can tell me anything…”
    “Well, what’s there to say? We’re roommates. He needed a roommate, and I was willing to room with him for the price he wanted me to pay.” I said neutrally.
    “Price?” He said, grinning again.
    “175 a month, and chores like garbage, dishes, that stuff.” I said, again neutrally.
    “But surely you’re together by now… I mean, you’re a pretty girl, and he’s a fairly handsome guy…” He said, seeming confused.
    “Nope. I’m not interested in a relationship right now, and he knows it. We just live in the same apartment, and that’s all there is to it.” I said, my voice calm and rational.
    “Well, haven’t you at least at some point considered…?” He said, grinning again. I was beginning to smell the alcohol on his breath.
    “No.” I said, and walked away.

    I can’t say I really slept too well that night either. I probably got about three hours of sleep, but I kept on waking up in a cold sweat as I had nightmares about Rick, the church, the people, and all the other things I had seen. How could these people have such twisted views? I just felt sorry for Alex, because he would have to suffer so much when he finally came out.

    I was awoken again at 9 when Sally hammered on the door. Struggling out of bed, she opened the door to see me only wearing my underwear, and then shut the door immediately.

    “Oh! I’m so sorry!” She said, “I just wanted to tell you it’s time to get up… I’ll see you downstairs…” I heard her running downstairs embarrassedly, and I simply put my tired head in my hands, sighing several times.

    “It’ll all be over in a day… Just get through today…” I told myself, knowing the upcoming 24 hours would be probably as taxing as yesterday, if not more.

    So I got dressed and headed downstairs. The entire table had been decked out with Christmas decorations, even down to the silverware. There was a nice breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hash browns waiting for us, and I ate quietly, trying not to really make eye contact or do anything that would attract attention. If someone addressed me, I made polite small talk, but other than that, I wrapped myself inside a force field and stayed to myself.

    Then Rick stood up and declared that it was time to unwrap gifts. The two kids rushed to the tree and began tearing apart their gifts, and dear lord were there a lot of them. I can’t remember seeing so much crap, and yet I managed to keep a fake grin on my face, although I imagine it began to look like a grimace after a while. Rick then gave Alex an envelope that I later learned had several thousand dollars in it, and then Sally gave Rick an expensive golf club, and Rick gave Sally a coupon book to a local spa. I simply stood there, looking at the chaos, remember what happened during Christmas at our house: a few books, maybe a DVD, and that was all. Nothing extravagant, and usually kept under 50 bucks.

    Sally then turned to me and smiled.

    “I have a special gift for you…” She said, giving me a package.
    “Wow, thank you…” I said, feeling awkward, as I hadn’t even thought about buying gifts. I opened it to find a black bound bible with my name inscribed in gold letters on it. I stared at it for a moment, then smiled.
    “Thanks, this means a lot…” I said, smiling again, glad that they had not spent a lot of money on me. We then spent the rest of the morning playing with our gifts, and while I was taking the bible back to my room, Sally caught up with me.

    “Laura, I am so sorry for walking in on you like that…” She said, putting a gentle hand on my shoulder.
    “Oh, don’t worry about it.” I said, smiling.
    “No, I shouldn’t have barged in while you were indecent…” Sally said, looking glum.
    “It’s really no big deal. You would’ve seen the same amount of skin if I were at a swimming pool, so don’t feel so bad.” I said, rather bluntly. She was taken back a bit by this, but regained her composure.
    “Well, please don’t hold my actions against Alex… I know you two are close…” She said, slipping me something. I looked down to see a crisp 50 dollar bill.
    “No, I can’t take that… Trust me, you didn’t offend me, and what you do has no bearing on my opinion with Alex… And by the way, he’s just my roommate, nothing more.” I said, handing it back, and walking back to the guest room.

    She simply stood there.

    I must have dozed off in that little sanctuary, because I was awoken by Sally hammering on the door once again. Dragging myself off the bed, I managed to shake off the lethargic feeling enough to walk down to lunch.

    That duck was laid out on the table, along with a bunch of other Christmas foods. Again came the grace where I remembered to say ‘Amen’ to avoid awkwardness, and then came the food. I must say, it was really good. I had no idea how Sally maintained cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the family, but she juggled it well. Her skill at cooking was better than most of the chefs I had met during my interviews for the food union, and I found myself wondering what she would be doing if she hadn’t gotten married… She could have been a professional chef.

    So, small talk commenced during dinner, and I participated, keeping it as small as possible, while keeping an eye on Alex. Something about the way he was acting told me that he was determined to tell the truth. He kept on sweating, and I could tell he was physically nervous. Still, he waited till we were all done with the meal and had all seated ourselves on the couch.

    I could tell what was going to happen as he stepped up from the couch. His steps were leaden, and his knees were shaking. The family, however, had a happy expression. Judging from their faces, he must have seemed like he was going to profess my love for me and ask for their permission to marry. Oh, if only they could have had their reality…

    “Mom, Dad, guys… I have some news.” He said nervously. I have to say I had never seen him so anxious. His eyes were pleading, and he was slightly twitching.
    “Yes, what is it son?” Rick said, smiling, seeming so much like the dad from the Brady Bunch.
    “I… I don’t know how to say this… I… I’m… I…I… I’m…gay.” He said, closing his eyes while tears ran down his cheek. I could barely sit there and watch him in his agony.

    Rick laughed, then Sally followed suit.

    “I’m serious. I’m… gay.” Alex said.

    There was a silence, then Sally dropped her cup, and let out a groan. Rick glared at him, and the two kids looked aghast. Alex had dropped to the floor and was groveling, apologizing to anything and everything. Suddenly, Rick turned his gaze to me. His eyes were bloodshot and his face was red.

    “You… You knew about this, didn’t you! You… You fucking liberal, you poisoned his mind!” He said, shaking. He started at me, but Sally held him back.

    “Fucking liberal whore!” He shouted.
    “Hey! Watch it!” I snapped, and I felt my blood pressure rising.
    “She is, she is dad! Look what I found in her suitcase!” Frank said, as he pulled out several of my liberal pins: ‘equal rights for all,’ ‘republicans for Voldemort,’ and ‘compassionate conservative is an oxi-moron.’ The way he held them was as though they were criminal evidence, and yet I felt something swell up, as I realized something.
    “What were you two doing in my underwear? I was keeping those with my panties!” I snapped, glowering at them. Suddenly, they dropped the pins.
    “I swear, we didn’t touch them!” Owen said, squealing.
    “I kept those pins at the very bottom, so you must have gone through a lot of my panties, which I haven’t washed… And I hope you didn’t touch my vibrator…” I said, grinning a bit, while I noticed Alex cracking up. I’ve learned a bit of pointed humor can help, but this time I feared I was in a bit too deep. Not like it could get any worse, though…
    “Oh my babies! You’re so dirty! I’ve raised dirty children!” Sally screamed.
    “You fucking panty sniffers! Get out of here!” Rick said before slugging each one and sending them away. I was taken aback by this sudden rash of violence, and then he glared at me.
    “You… You’re to blame for this, aren’t you!” Rick said, slobbering a bit.
    “My children, monsters…” Sally sobbed.
    “Sorry… I’m so sorry…” Alex moaned.
    “I assure you, he was gay from the get go. All I did was notice it, and he told me.” I said, trying to keep a cool head.
    “How can you be so calm! He’s gay! He’s a sinner! He’s going to go to hell! God hates all fags…” Sally moaned.
    “Sorry! So sorry!” Alex moaned again.
    “How can you be so sure about what God wants? God wants a lot of things, and in the end we’re all sinners, so get off your high horse and realize that you should love others instead of hating your own son for who he is!” I snapped, finally beginning to let loose.
    “You keep on saying gays are sinners, and yet you don’t realize that they’re perfectly normal people, like you or me. Sure, they like to do men, but does that make them evil? Why would a kind god who died for our sins and told us to love one another declare that gays are evil! If you want evil, look at the Nazis! Look at the atrocities of war! Look at torture and murder! Look at rape! Look at the crusades and the Spanish Inquisition! Look at all the true evils of the world, and you’ll see that two guys falling in love with each other then talking about hairstyling cream really isn’t that big of a problem! Get over yourself! He’s still your son!” I screamed, feeling the liberalness that had been contained and suppressed escape through my mouth.

    Rick looked up at me, glaring with tear stained cheeks.

    “Get out.”

    I walked upstairs, went to the guest room, packed up everything quickly, and left that house. Several minutes later, Alex joined me, and drove me home.

    He was totally silent through the trip, and I didn’t say anything either. The silence wasn’t awkward though, it was just… there. Still, as he was dropping me off at my parents house, he looked to me.

    “Thank you.” He said.
    “So… What now?” I asked.
    “Well… I don’t know. I still have Tom’s number, I think I might go see what he’s doing.” He said quietly.
    “What about the apartment?” I asked.
    “I don’t know… Do you have anywhere else you can live?” He said quietly.
    “Deb has an apartment, and she’s been asking me to stay with her.” I said.
    “Good… Well… Thank you… And god bless.” He said, looking at me with teary eyes.
    “No matter what anyone says, you’re a good person. Remember that.” I said, and he looked down, then drove off.

    I walked up the pathway to my small dingy house, and opened the door.

    “Hi, Mom, Dad, I’m home.”

    Well, I ended up living with Deb, and lost touch with Alex, although I heard he pretty much became part of Tom’s family, and has been doing a lot better, although his family refuses to talk to him. I don’t let it bug me too much, because I hear he’s finally found so much happiness with Tom, and I see them around campus a lot, holding hands.

    I feel that even though sometimes these things can be the most painful things in the world, it’s best to get out and live, and Alex has done just that. He looks a lot more alive, and a lot happier, even though he has these scars. The truth is, sometimes you have to get hurt to escape from a vise, but when you do, it feels so good.

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