Unfuck the World
My family was born under the flag of Red Sox Nation. We’re constantly playing baseball. All the guys throw and catch everything perfectly. Cans of beer, pens, glasses full of wine, babies, plants, books, lit blow torches, tools, broken glass, fish, freshly shot game, and everything at the grocery store. When my Dad was a boy, he stood across the 25-foot kitchen in my grandparent’s house as his father tossed him the dinner dishes to put away after they were washed and dried. Four plates, four knives, four forks, each glass – tossed carefully through the air, for my father to catch and put away on the sideboard. Maybe thirty items every night.
My grandmother was furious when the dish tossing began and stood stone faced washing the dishes at the sink, handing them to my grandfather to dry waiting for a dish to drop. 9 years and 65,000 dishes later; my father left home having enlisted in the Navy. He and my grandfather never dropped a dish. My grandmother loved to recount this story to me over and over again with New England family pride. When I came out as gay to my family, it was the dish that hit the floor. They looked at me like I was dropping all 65,000 of them.
Years later, my mother called to invite Toshi and me to Thanksgiving dinner. It had been a few years since I had attended a family event. Mom finally figured out I wasn’t coming home until my boyfriend was included. My dad, a retired WWII veteran, picked up the phone and asked me to explain karma, he seemed bewildered by my explanation but happy we were coming.
Ensconced in my parent’s very Norman Rockwell living room with coffee, my father asked Toshi, “Where are you from?” “Nagoya, Japan,” Toshi replied. “Oh yes, Nagoya,” my father responded. “Oh,” Toshi inquired, “you know Nagoya?” “Yes,” my father said, “Nagoya was the next target for the atomic bomb.”
I felt my self implode. We’ve been in my parent’s house exactly seven minutes with my Japanese boyfriend and we’re at the atomic bomb. My mother, in her red Christmas sweater with little reindeer, sipped her coffee, turned to me, and without skipping a beat said, “This is going well.”
Jamie was blond-haired Italian. We were on our way to his parent’s home in New Rochelle for his sister’s wedding. We arrived to what looked like the wedding scene from The Godfather. Large estate, exceptional wealth, hundreds of people, and obvious surprise in my eyes, to which Jamie replied, “Honey, can we please talk about this later, just don’t be left alone with my father.”
A little later came the red leather chairs, dark woods, ceiling-high bookshelves in the library with glasses of scotch and Jamie’s father. I look around to see that Jamie wasn’t there just then, and everyone else has busied themselves away, so I stood to go introduce myself. “Please, have a seat,” Jamie’s father offers/commands, as he refills my scotch with gentlemanly grace. As I sit down on a handsome couch the color of inquisition, he sits in a high-backed chair across from me. With a coffee table between us, he takes a sip of his scotch, looks at me and says, “So, you’re the guy my son is fucking.”
I was so hurt. It hit me sharp in the chest. Shame, hurt, anger, trapped here, and challenged. I could feel the burn well up inside me as I looked down at my glass. I loved Jamie very much; I treated him like I loved him. I didn’t want to behave inappropriately, and at the same time, I wanted to unfuck the world for or maybe with this guy. I took a measured breath, and a sip of scotch, looked up – right in his eyes and said:
“No, sir, I’m the guy that’s fucking your son.”
Peter went by three names. Ba, his Vietnamese name, but his Mother, who was coming for Christmas to meet me, called him, “Tut.” Peter was his chosen English name to spare himself the hurt of annoying Americans with his real name that doesn’t register in their Christian databank of names like Mary and David. A Christmas Eve visit to my family with Ba went better than the Toshi visit. My Father gave me a table saw this Christmas; I think the idea was to butch me up a little bit. “Thanks Dad, now I can build a dollhouse from scratch!” Ba and I returned home to exchange Christmas gifts before his mother arrived. His gift to me was five new shower curtains he found at the dollar store.
In the morning, as we’re both getting ready for work, we’re in the bathroom together for our morning routine. I like to re-enact Janet Leigh in the shower scene from Psycho. I grab onto the shower curtain with vacant eyes and rip it down - as I collapse to the bottom of the tub, like I’m being stabbed to death. I lay there draped in the shower curtain with the water raining down on my open dead eyes staring at him. The key to really selling it is to keep your eyes open and not blink with the water showering in them. He’s at the sink, naked smooth masculine loving powerful beautiful, brushing his teeth. He glances over at me, rolls his eyes, turns back to the mirror and keeps brushing his teeth unfazed. It’s like the 5th time I’ve done this - he’s so over it.
I climb out of the shower, come in behind him and wrap us together in a big towel, kissing him behind his ear with how much I love him. “John,” he says seriously, “I have to go to work this morning - my mother has never really gotten over the Vietnam War, she doesn’t really like white people, can you pick her up at the train station for me?”
My dad called me after the holidays: “John, I think I got this karma thing,” he said almost excited, “is the fact that I fought in World War II, killed Japanese, and have a son that brought home a Japanese boyfriend…is that karma?”
“You got it dad.”