It was an ordinary enough day. On Sundays we usually went to the early service at church, then everybody did what they wanted until suppertime. I'd sat out on the porch with the Sunday paper, but it wasn't quite warm enough to stay long, so I went into the kitchen and read it there. Ray was in the driveway fiddling with his car, the girls were watching TV, Lucy went grocery shopping and Mike took off with his buddy Jack. The day just passed like that.
Around four o'clock Mike came in. I heard him talking to Ray in the other room, though I only heard voices and not what they were saying. At that time I was in the living room with Melissa, reading and watching TV at the same time. Mike came in and got my attention. I looked up to see his always happy face.
"Dad, I just talked to Ray and he said I should tell you. I'm gay ... uh, queer."
It didn't register at first, then when it did I was taken over by something I'll never understand or be able to describe properly. Something primal, like when your worst fears come to you in a nightmare. It bubbled up so fast inside me that I didn't think, didn't get a chance to think. I looked at him and he was just looking at me expectantly. I jumped out of my chair and grabbed him by the collar. I think I lifted him off the floor. I wanted him out of there! I started shaking him and saw fear come into his eyes. That made me madder than I already was.
I boiled over. 'GET OUT OF HERE! GET THE HELL OUT! AND DON"T COME BACK!" I pushed him down onto the sofa and stormed out of the room into the kitchen. I leaned my hands against the counter and started crying. There were only black thoughts of nothing going through my head. It was probably only a minute or two, then my brain started to think again. Like what the hell did I just do? Mike came to me with something and I treated him worse than a deranged criminal. I wanted to call out to him, but couldn't find my voice. I went back into the living room. Melissa was on the floor with a horrified look on her face and tears in her eyes. I think she thought she was next, but I guess she decided I was looking for Mike and she pointed towards the back porch. I ran outside calling after him, but he was long gone. I didn't know what to do.
I sat down on the muddy grass and tried to think. How could I hurt Mike? What the fuck am I, anyhow? I'd always thought I was doing a good job as a parent, especially with Mike. Lucy and I had talked about the chance that one or another of the kids might turn out gay, and how we'd handle it if it ever came up. My reaction was not what we had discussed, and I couldn't fathom where it had come from.
Mike was always such an open book. I only remember one time when he tried to lie to me, and he only got halfway through it before he gave up. It just wasn't in him to be devious. And he's such a delight just as a person. He gets just as excited when it's raining as when it's beautiful out. I think he likes everybody - he's never said anything bad about anyone that I've heard. He kind of expected that back, too, and he always got it. He was the neighborhood snoop, but everybody liked him. He wanted to know what everyone had for breakfast, but he kept it to himself. He'd go house to house, talking to whoever was there, but never tell anyone what was said at the last place. He loved the outdoors, and he shared my love of fishing. He was my idea of the perfect kid.
And I'd just thrown him away.
I sent Ray and the girls around the neighborhood to look for him. He didn't take his bike, so he couldn't have gotten very far. When Lucy got home I had to tell her what happened, and she was furious with me. The other kids were furious with me too, especially Raymond. He'd told Mike to tell me, after all. Then Ray and the other kids went back out looking for Mike, while Lucy started calling his friends. I became physically ill. It was as if I had the flu or something. I'd be freezing and sweating at the same time. I started to vomit. I spent most of the night and the next day in the bathroom. Lucy called the police, but they told her that if we didn't think he'd been abducted, that is if he left on his own, there was a forty-eight hour waiting period before they'd do anything. If we gave them a description they'd keep an eye out for him.
Andy's already told you most of the rest, so I'll skip forward to the next time I saw Mike.
When Andy took off that night to find Mike, he told me to go look like a father. We have a full length mirror in the front hall, and I saw what he meant. I hadn't done anything except puke since Sunday. I still had the same clothes on, I hadn't shaved - I was a mess. I took a quick tour of the bathroom and put on some clean clothes. Andy came back and said he was taking me to see Mikey. I went to get into his car, but he just started walking down the street. Of course! Surdiak's! Where all the kids ended up. Why Lucy and I never thought of them I'll never know.
They only lived four houses down and across the street, but Andy gave me a quick take on Mike's situation and feelings. When we got there I was actually afraid. Of my own son. Of what I'd done to him. Andy, bless his soul forever, told me to let Mike tell me how to fix things.
"Just tell him that you're sorry and that you love him. Let him take it from there."
When I saw him I was devastated. What had I done? I felt like I'd sent him to the pit of Hell.
"Mike? Mike, I'm sorry ... so very sorry. I don't know what happened to me. You've got to believe that. I never wanted to hurt you, and now look at what I've done. If you never forgive me, I'll understand. But I hope you'll try to let me make it up to you." I was trying not to cry, but it wasn't working very well. My eyes were leaking like faucets and I was wracked by a sudden wrenching sob.
Mike looked down at his hands. "You don't hate me?"
"Oh God, Mike! Who could ever hate you? I love you so much. Love you, love you."
His voice seemed to get smaller. "How about ... what I said?"
"Mike ... it doesn't matter. It doesn't make any difference. You're my son and I love you."
He finally looked up at me. "Then why the hell'd you do that? You scared me. I never saw you like that. You wanted to kill me!"
I reached to put my hand on his shoulder, but he pulled back, shaking his head no, and started to cry.
"Mike, I just don't know. It just came out of me. I don't know from where - I mean, I never blew up like that in my life. Whatever it was, it was me. It wasn't you. I came back looking for you in about two minutes, but you were already gone."
"You looked for me? I couldn't be too hard to find."
"Mike, I can't explain it. Your Mom thought she called everybody, but she never even called Andy, either. Our brains weren't working very well, I guess. Everybody's been looking for you. Jack's about worn out his bike trying to find you."
"Jack? Oh, my God! I should'a called him. He must be worried sick." He started to cry again.
Something suddenly clicked for me. "Mike ... is it Jack? I mean, is he the one?"
He nodded, still crying. I moved over next to him and put my hand on his shoulder. It felt so good just to touch him again, but he shook me off. I had to find something - the right thing to say. I knew I deeply deserved it, but I could not stand the rejection.
"Mike, I just want to say one more thing."
He looked up at me with tears streaming out of his still fearful eyes.
"You guys have good taste. Both of you. Very good taste. I love you, Mike."
It took a second for that to register, but suddenly his expression changed. The fear left his eyes and he buried his face in my chest. I wrapped my arms around him and waited for him to settle down. "Come home with me Mike?" He nodded.
We walked down into the living room. I tried to thank Bob and Karen, but they just shushed us out of the house, telling me to take good care of my son. It was awkward for a second when we got home.
Mike just stood in the hall and looked at the floor. Lucy gave me a questioning look and I tried to smile. Then everyone ran to Mike and started hugging him. I was just standing there watching them all when Mike's hand somehow got free and grabbed mine, pulling me in with the rest of my family.
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