A gentle snowflake falls on the window, slowly melting away from the warmth of the indoor heating. The tinkling sound of ornaments knocking back and forth can be heard, along with the light crackle of the newly lit fireplace.
It’s as good a day as any other to come out, I suppose.
My older sister, Jemma, already knows. My brother Andrew, I believe, has his suspicions, but he is the most polite of the three of us and would never be so presumptuous as to ask.
Mom calls us for dinner. “I’m very excited about this meal,” she says, “I saw this recipe on the computer. Cynthia, go get the cutlery and cups.”
It does look very good. Lobster and cheese as the main dish with sides of salads, fried shrimp, and of course, rice, adorn the table.
My family eats and chats about nothing at all, laughing and joking around. I’m practically squirming in anticipation for my announcement. I haven’t told anybody as important to me as my parents yet, and I could only hope the news would not be too disappointing for them. This kind of thing isn’t really talked about in my family, but I know that my parents’ opinions on the matter aren’t necessarily, well, positive.
My mother tells me that she loves me more than anything else in the world, and that family will always come first. She constantly preaches about how she’ll love me forever, no matter what, whether I’m a homeless starving wreck or making millions as a lawyer.
My father’s not usually one for kind words, but I know that he cares for me just as much. He’s always ready to support me in the ways that he can, and he worries about my wellbeing.
Eventually, the conversation shifts to politics, and my dad starts complaining about the latest controversy on gay marriage. I see my mother make a face of light disdain, but before she even has the chance to open her mouth, I quickly interject with—
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with gay marriage. People should be allowed to like whoever they want.”
My mother freezes. My father looks at me, lecturing face on. “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. I’m just saying that the number of people like that is so low, so they shouldn’t change all the rules like that when most of us aren’t like that.”
“It’s not really that low—”
“It’s also unnatural,” my mother cuts in, “Marriage should only be with a boy and a girl.”
She says these things every so often, but today of all days it just brushes me the wrong way, and I decide to just blurt it out.
“Actually,” I say, my tone casual and light, “I’m gay, myself, and I hope to marry a girl someday.”
My sister’s glaring straight down at her food, and I can only be glad that the look is not directed at me. My brother’s face, as always, is unreadable. He’s not smiling, but he never is, and he’s not outright fuming at me either. There’s nothing but silence from them.
My father is looking at me. His face is slowly turning red, and I’m afraid of what that may mean. His veins are starting to bulge, and his knuckles whiten upon the wine glass he holds.
There’s a pinched expression on my mother’s face, and she just says, “I see.”
My sister stands up and tries to leave the table, but my father barks, “Sit down, Jemma”, so she sits down and continues glaring, but I can see her hands are starting to shake.
My father takes a deep breath. “Cynthia. You can like whoever you want, but you have to understand that it’s not normal to be liking girls like that, so you need to keep it a secret. It’s ok to talk like this in private, but you need to hide that kind of stuff in public.”
Right. I knew they wouldn’t have the best reaction, and this—well, it could be worse, I guess.
My mother chokes on a sob, and I can see her trembling, plate in hand. There’s a loud crash, and shards of ceramic fly across the floor. “What happened to you, Cynthia? I thought we raised you well. Why are you doing this to me?”
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” I say, voice rising, “Lots of people are like this.”
My mother bangs her fist on the table.
“You think there’s nothing wrong, but you’re wrong. You think you’re just so cool, don’t you? This is not cool! You just want attention, huh? Pretending you’re so cool and special and gay? Why are you even calling yourself gay? Stupid girls who like girls are nasty les-lesbians.” She shudders, as if it’s a dirty word.
“Stop yelling,” my father shouts, “You’re always so unreasonable. Always yapping and whining and bitching like you can solve problems this way. You’re so goddamn irritating, ruining Christmas.”
“Ruining?” my mother screams back, “Everytime something wrong happens, you blame it on me. Every tiny inconvenience, it’s always my fault.” Her voice shakes, tears rolling down her face. “I just want my daughter to be good! Normal! But you always come in and start shouting and being—being cruel!”
“Cruel? You started screaming first! Why don’t you ever think before you speak, huh?”
“Stop, please,” I hear my sister say, but they don’t hear her. My brother is still stone faced, quietly eating his food. He pats me on the shoulder, but doesn’t offer any words of support.
My parents are still screaming at each other, and the air is getting thicker around me. Every single one of my muscles is far too tight, and there’s a scream building in my throat but I can’t seem to let it out. It feels like I’m suffocating, melting, as if all of my feelings are pouring into my skin and holding me hostage.
I leave, and they don’t notice.
Photo: Tiffani Revels on Unsplash.com