Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
Saturday morning Steve’s folks dropped by to pick him up.
“What is that you’re wearing, Steven?” Linda Graff challenged her son as soon as she walked in, without saying hello to Jason’s mother or father or to Steve or Jason or Ron first.
“Jase loaned me some of his clothes that are too small for him.” He looked at his folks and pointed to himself with both hands. “This is how kids dress at Hillcrest High. This is the way I want to dress from now on. Khakis and plaid shirts and saddle shoes are uniforms for a Catholic School, and they aren’t appropriate for public school. They make me look like some sort of nerd or geek. Right, Jase?”
“That’s true. Kids see someone dressed the way Steve’s been dressed as being different, and different means not part of us so stay away from him.”
“Steve looks like he fits in with the rest of the kids at Hillcrest High now,” Ron said, “and before, well, he looked like he didn’t fit in at all.”
“Jase and his mom said I could wear these home. Then what I’d like to do is go shopping downtown with Jase and Ron after church tomorrow and I’ll buy my own clothes like these.”
“Turn around, Steven,” Mark Graff asked his son. Steve did a slow turn, grinning like that cat that caught a canary in the TV cartoons. He could tell that his dad was in charge now.
“Linda, I agree with these boys. Steven does look good. He looks like he’ll fit in at Hillcrest High School. That means he’ll be able to start making friends.”
“I already made some new friends at Jason’s get-together yesterday. Another thing is that I feel a lot better, like I’m part of the Hillcrest student body now. I’m a lot more confident, dressed like this.”
“I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t go shopping for some new clothes,” Mark said.
“I’m not sure,” Linda complained, “jeans always look sloppy to me. But if that’s the look your trying for, I guess I’m outvoted. So, Betty, how was Steven yesterday and last night? Did he behave himself?”
It seemed to Jason that Linda Graff was more interested in trying to control what Steve could and couldn’t do than in what he wanted to do. She was treating him like a little kid.
“Steve was a model guest,” Betty Phillips said, “and he’s welcome back any time.”
“Well, I’m certainly glad to hear that,” Linda Graff responded, “you never know.”
Jason could see that Steve was embarrassed, and apparently so could his father. Mark put his hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Linda, don’t treat Steve like he’s still a little boy. He’s too old for that.”
“I know. It’s just that he’s growing up too fast. Maybe I don’t want to lose that little boy. I guess I need to accept that he’s grown into a mature teenager.”
“I feel good about Jason and Jen,” Betty said. “They are mature teenagers and I’m happy to trust their good judgment. I look at them and I’m proud of who they are becoming.” She noticed Thea roll her eyes. “And I can see that Thea is growing up too. She’ll be a freshman in high school next year. I know I’ll be able to trust her judgment as well.” Thea grinned, pleased that she’d been included.
Jason could have kissed his mom right then and there, but he resisted the impulse. What she said was perfect, and it seemed to have an effect on Steve’s mom because she looked at her son in a different way, more like she was appraising him and beginning to understand him.
“You’re right, Betty. And it’s time for me to trust Steven’s judgment. You have a good time shopping tomorrow, Steven.”
Steve definitely looked happy. “Thanks, Mom. I’m sure you’ll like what I pick with Jase and Ron’s help.”
“So you don’t want me to go with you?” Linda asked, suppressing a grin.
“Sorry, three people trying to tell me what to buy is way too many. I think Jase and Ron will be more than enough distraction.”
“Distraction?” Ron retorted. “Jase and I are definitely not a distraction. We’re guides to the marvelousnesses of teenage apparel. We understand the underpinnings of teen society, and the importance of little things like the color of your socks and exactly how long your jeans need to be so they don’t cover up your Nikes and how to color coordinate your T’s and your shirts, and when to button your shirts and how many buttons to button and when to leave them unbuttoned and how to spike your hair and…”
By now the Phillips kids were in hysterics and the adults were moving from the living room to the family room, shaking their heads either in confusion or a need to escape or both.
“Are they gone yet?” Ron whispered.
“Yes! Your marvelousnesses were magnificent, Ron,” Steve stage-whispered in reply.
Jen shook her head. “You guys are crazy. Especially you, Ron, though you’re a riot. You should audition for a comedy show on TV.”
“I’m outta here,” Thea said. “I’m going to LeeAnne’s. See you guys later. Have fun shopping tomorrow, Steve.”
Jen stood. “And I have homework that I need to get finished before I meet Tom this afternoon. Don’t let these guys lead you too far astray tomorrow, Steve. Remember, you’re the one who’s going to have to pay for and wear what you buy.”
“Come on, Steve, let’s go upstairs,” Jason said. “We can hang out until you have to leave.”
When they got to Jason’s bedroom Jason and Ron sat leaning against the headboard with their legs crossed and Steve flopped across the foot of the bed.
“Well, that went well,” Ron commented. “You know, your mom seemed to change the way she talked to you at the end there, a change for the better in my opinion.”
“I agree,” Jason added.
“I hope it’s not our imaginations,” Steve said, “because I saw the same thing. It’s like she finally realized that I’m not in elementary or middle school anymore.” He started laughing. “I do have one question, though. Where did you get that word you used, Ron. ‘The marvelousnesses of teenage apparel.’ That’s priceless. I love the way that sounds, ‘marvelousnesses, marvelousnesses,’ it seems to come through my front teeth when I say it.”
“I invent words by prying them out of the world around me. Marvelousness is a valid noun, and nouns can almost always have plurals unless they are irregular nouns like air and chess and soccer. But in my opinion there are different kinds of marvelousness, so just add an ‘es’ to the end and it’s a plural.”
“Ron, irregular nouns have a different word for their plurals, like loaf and loaves or mouse and mice,” Jason told him. “Marvelousness would be a regular noun because the way you made its plural is marvelousnesses. But I bet you don’t find it in the dictionary.”
“How about online?” Ron asked.
“I don’t know. There’s a lot of stupid stuff online.” Jason replied.
“Look it up,” Steve suggested.
Jason got up and pulled up Google on his laptop, then keyed in ‘marvelousnesses’. To his amazement he found it. He turned to Ron.
“How do you do it, Ron? Google has approximately ten thousand seven hundred listings for marvelousnesses. It’s a word in the Scrabble dictionaries. But if you use it in a paper for our English class I’ll bet it will be marked with a red check.”
“Just shows that teachers aren’t keeping up with the way the English language is always changing and progressing. Unlike Latin, English is a living language and the three of us are part of the army of people who are changing English every day.”
“This sort of thing really interests you, doesn’t it?” Steve asked.
“Yeah, it does. My dad’s an English teacher, so he’s got lots of books including some on linguistics. He has one that’s about the linguistics of the English Language, How English Works. Lots of it is over my head, but it’s still really interesting to read.”
“Where’s your dad teach English?”
“That’s consorting with the enemy, if you ask me,” Jason joked.
“Yeah, yeah. He teaches at Livingston but we live in the Hillcrest attendance area. I love going to Hillcrest. Where my dad teaches has nothing to do with my ability to be loyal to Hillcrest High.”
“That diatribe was for you, Steve. Ron always has to make excuses for where his father teaches.”
“Okay, so what are we going to do today, besides go to the basketball game?” Ron asked, successfully deflecting the conversation away from where his father worked.
“I don’t know. Do you want to tell us what you’re doing until this afternoon, Steve?”
“Uh… shit. Okay. Kevin asked me if I wanted to go to a movie with him around noon today then after we’ll go to the Hillcrest-Cathedral game.”
“He asked you to go with him, like on a date?” Ron asked, and grinned.
“Uh huh.” Steve smiled. “He’s real handsome. And he’s a nice guy. I like him a lot.”
“You know he’s going to move back to Oregon sometime soon,” Jason advised.
“Yeah, we talked about that a bit. We’re not looking for something long term or, you know, too personal. We agreed there’d probably be no messing around.”
“Probably?” Jason asked with a big grin.
“Hey, we both have needs. We didn’t sign any pledge with our folks about not messing around unlike some people in this room who did.”
“And where are you going to find a safe location to take care of your needs?”
“And not just safe, but private and comfortable,” Ron added.
“Kev and I’ll have to figure it out. Maybe the pool house at Leshawn’s when his folks aren’t around.”
“Yeah, that would work,” Ron said.
“Don’t get too tight with him,” Jason advised. “It could break your hearts if you two fell in love and he moved back to Oregon.”
“I guess what we need to do is to not be exclusive. Kev and I already talked about that.”
“So maybe you need to meet someone who lives here and become friends with him too. Then when Kevin moves back to Oregon you’ll have someone else to talk to and have as a good friend, and then who knows? Maybe more.”
“Well, for now Kev and I are starting with a movie at the Cineplex downtown.”
“What are you seeing?” Ron asked.
“I don’t know. Kev is going to find out what starts around noon. I don’t much care. All I want to do is sit somewhere that lets me hold his hand during a movie. So something not very popular, maybe something that’s dark and moody.”
“I recommend that you see something you’ll enjoy,” Jason said. “If you see something neither of you likes that’s the way you’ll remember your first date. Do your folks know you’re going on a date with Kevin?”
“They know we’re going to see a movie, grab something to eat, then go to the game, but I never used the word ‘date’ when I told them what we’re doing. If they want to think it’s just me and a friend doing some stuff together like we’re two straight guys that’s fine with me. If they want to think it’s a real date like we’re two gay guys that’s fine with me. My mom met Kev and talked a lot to Leshawn’s mom yesterday, so I think she’s comfortable with him being my friend.”
“He’s such a nice guy that I can’t see any parent not liking him,” Ron said.
“I agree,” Jason added. “Once school starts he’s going to have the girls lined up trying to get a date with him. And some of the guys, too.”
“You know, that brings up a question that I wanted to ask last night and never got around to it. What about coming out?”
“Oh, man,” Ron said, “that’s such a personal thing. There are quite a few guys at Hillcrest who are gay and out. There are two ways of being out. One is, you tell people. Now, I don’t mean you wear a big badge that says ‘I’m gay!’ or anything like that. I mean, you tell your friends and if someone asks you tell them if you want to. So, in Kev’s case if a girl begins chatting him up then hints around about a date, he might let her down easy by saying he’s gay. Doing it this way means the word gets around the school pretty quick. Like Doug Lin and Mike Nakamura.”
“I don’t know them,” Steve said.
“Steve, my man, you really gotta get out and around more at school,” Ron commented. “Doug Lin is one of the stars on the varsity basketball team. You’ll see him playing in today’s game. Mike Nakamura is on the varsity baseball team. Word got around about them — what, maybe a month or two ago?” He looked at Jason and raised his eyebrows looking for confirmation.
“Yeah, I’d say that’s about right, maybe two months,” Jason agreed.
“So the whole school was buzzing about that latest rumor. So Doug and Mike simply answered ‘yes’ to anyone who asked any the right questions: ‘are you gay?’ or ‘are you boyfriends?’ and after a while the rumor mill found something or someone else to talk about. No one has bugged them about it, no nasty comments, it’s just one of those things that people get interested about in a high school.”
“A public high school,” Steve added. “Definitely not a Catholic high school.”
“Okay,” Jason said, “Ron covered most of option one, tell it like it is to anyone. There’s a subset where you tell it to anyone you know who asks. Doug and Mike took option one because they are both well-known because they are jocks. Others, like me and Ron, will take option two and tell it to someone we know who asks. But there haven’t been any peeps asking because we’re not big enough news for the rumor mill.”
“And I’m not either, right?” Steve asked.
“Maybe it’s embarrassing, but yes, that’s right,” Ron replied. “None of us, the three of us, are in the A-list at school so we’re not tracked by the rumor mill.”
“There is another option,” Jason said. “You selectively tell people and come off with some flippant answer if others ask you…”
“Unless maybe if it’s a cute guy who asks,” Ron interjected.
Jason continued, “…you just say something like ‘why would you want to know something like that’ or ‘hey, that’s really personal, isn’t it?’ or ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’.
“You can come up with your own responses, and if you have a boyfriend, say it’s Kevin, then the two of you have to figure out which option you’re going to use and what you’re going to say to people so what both of you say is the same.”
Steve asked, “What if when someone asks me if I’m gay I respond, ‘Why would you be asking that question? Are you gay?’ Maybe they might say they are.”
“That might work, but make sure he’s cute,” Jason said, then he and Steve laughed.
“Does that answer your question?” Ron asked.
“Yeah, I guess so. Gives me some things to think about.”
There was a knock at Jason’s door.
“Come on in,” Jason hollered.
It was Jason’s dad. “Steve, your folks are ready to leave.”
“Okay, thanks Mr. Phillips. I’ll get my stuff and be down in a couple minutes,” he replied. He got his gym bag and added the two pair of jeans that were too small for Jason.
“Hey, guys, you’ve been a fantastic help. You answered questions I didn’t know that I had and you’ve made me feel a lot better about myself. I wonder what people at school are going to say when they see me.”
“Hey, hi, Steve!” Ron laughed. “I think what’s going to happen is that kids are going to start saying ‘hi’ to you and they’ll be willing to talk to you. So start chatting up people you think you’d like to be friends with and see if there’s anything there for a friendship, even a casual one.”
“We’ll see you at the game this afternoon,” Jason said. “Say hi to Kev for us, and we’ll see him there too. Then we’ll take you shopping tomorrow after church. We’ll grab something to eat first, then begin searching for stuff for you to wear.”
Steve hugged Ron then hugged Jason. “Man, you two have been great. I love you guys.” He laughed when he saw the other’s expressions. “Like brothers, like brothers!”
“Dufus!” Jason said, lightly punching Steve’s shoulder.
They were all smiling when they went downstairs and met up with the parents. They said their goodbyes and Jason and Ron went back upstairs.
“So, what do you want to do between now and the game, Jase?”
“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. It’s your house, so it’s up to you to choose.”
“Jeez, I hate it when we do this. Can’t we just make suggestions and pick one of them?”
“So, suggest something, Jase.”
“I can’t think of anything!”
“We’re lame. Maybe we should ask your mom and dad what we can do.”
“Be careful, Ron, they’ll have us doing chores in the yard.” Jason yawned and let out a deep breath.
“Your mom would probably suggest that we take a nap.”
“You know, that’s not a half bad idea. I’m tired, I could use a nap. We could set my alarm so it goes off at one o’clock and then we can go down and have lunch.”
Ron yawned. “Now you have me doing it. Why don’t you tell your folks we’re going to take a nap for a couple hours? And you can make sure that one o’clock is good for us to have lunch.”
That’s what they did, and it took less than five minutes and they were both sound asleep, catching up on the sleep that they missed the night before.
Ron used an actual alarm clock, so when Jason’s clock radio came on, loud, with some super irritating rap, he shoved Jason and shouted, “Shut it off Jase, shut the damned rap music off! Please?”
Jason clicked off his clock radio, laid back, and yawned.
“Time to get up, Ron. Mom said she’d have lunch ready at one fifteen. We better get up, get cleaned up a little, and head downstairs.”
“Okay, okay. I’m getting up.” Ron laid there and yawned a few times, then he rolled on his side and kissed Jason on the lips. That led to a kissing marathon and a couple minutes later they staggered into the bathroom to get ready.
While Jason stood at the porcelain throne doing his business, Ron stood at the sink staring at himself in the mirror. “I look like crap. I should take a long, hot shower, but I know we don’t have time.” He combed his hair and rinsed his face using a wet washcloth. “As good as it’s gonna get,” Ron groused. He stepped out of the way so Jason could perform a similar non-miracle on himself, with the same results.
They went downstairs. Betty had two bowls of chicken with wild rice soup and a plate with grilled cheese sandwiches on the table, along with two Cokes. She figured they’d find the small dose of caffeine useful to stay awake.
“Looks great, mom.”
“Yes it does, Mrs. Phillips. Thank you.”
They dug into their lunch.
“Would you guys like me to drive you to the game?”
“I think I’d prefer to walk. I might wake up and that way I won’t fall asleep at the game,” Ron said.
“As if,” Jason groused.
“When will the game be over?” Betty asked.
“It starts at four, so probably around six?” Jason suggested.
“Sounds about right,” Ron agreed.
“We’ll be back around seven. That gives us time to talk to friends before we leave for home. You know, since it ends around dinner time, maybe we’ll grab something to eat after the game with some of our friends. We can go to George’s or someplace downtown. How’s that sound to you, Ron?”
“I like it. Is it okay with you, Mrs. Phillips?”
“Yes, it is. Shouldn’t you phone your mother before you two make that decision?”
“I will, right now.” Ron got up and went into the family room to make the call. He was back in less than a minute.
“Mom’s cool with it, so we’re good to go. Did you want to call anyone and set it up?”
“How about Kev? And maybe Steve?” Jason was pleased with the way he’d finessed the budding relationship between Kevin and Steve so he wouldn’t give any hint about it to his mother. She might say something to Steve’s mom, and that might have a bad result. Steve’s parents might be okay with him being gay, but would they be ready for him to have a boyfriend? After seeing Linda Graff in action he assumed it could create a problem. Especially because Kevin is black. You never could tell what sort of racist ideas adults might have.
“Is Jen going to the game?” Jason asked.
“Yes. Tom’s coming by and they’ll also walk to the game,” Betty replied. “She said they want to be there no later than three thirty. What time are you planning on going?”
“Three sounds good. It only takes us fifteen minutes to get to school, so we should be there in time to get really good seats.”
“This is an important game, and there will be a big crowd,” Ron added.
“Yeah. Cathedral isn’t in the top ten, but they’re close.”
“Remember, we’re not in the top ten either.”
“I know, but we should be. The only team we lost to is California.”
“And California lost their game to Pioneer last night,” Ron said, with a grin.
“You’re kidding! Where did you hear about that?”
“Today’s Times, in the sports section.”
“Mom, do we have today’s Times?”
“It’s in the family room on the coffee table.”
Jason got the paper and pulled out the sports section.
“Check the next to the last page,” Ron suggested.
Jason read the story. “Wow, Pioneer really crushed California, 78 to 67. We beat Pioneer, their only loss, but I don’t remember the score.”
“It’s in the story. I think it was 58 to 56 or something like that. Close game, but we won and that’s all that counts.”
“You’re right on, it was 58 to 56. And we only lost to California by one point. It has that score in the story too. It was 49 to 48. That’s really a low scoring game. We have to win today’s game against Cathedral. I wonder what their record is.”
“Look on page five,” Ron said. “There’s a story about our game today, and it has the won-loss records for both of us.”
“Cathedral has 14 wins and 7 losses, but their league record is 7 wins and 6 losses. We have 25 wins and only 1 loss and we’re 14 and 0 in league. We play Alcosta this coming Friday at home. Then we play our last game, Campo, on Tuesday at Campo. We oughta win both of those games. I wonder what Pioneer’s overall record is. They should be our biggest competitor in the NorCal rankings. But whoever does the rankings doesn’t seem to like us.”
“Maybe it’s our dismal record against Campo. Their teams normally suck, but they tend to win when they play us. We lost to them twice last year.”
“Well, we won the first game against them this year and I think it we pretty much wiped the floor with them,” Jason countered.
“Now we have to do that with both Alcosta and Campo so we have a perfect league record. Sixteen wins and zero losses. If we win against Cathedral today that means our overall record will be twenty-eight wins and only one loss. Then we’ll see how they rank us. Damn well better be first!”
“Who makes these rankings, anyway?” Jason asked.
Ron took the newspaper. “Look, right here under the scores, it says ‘Provided by CalPrep Sports’. Let’s go on their website and see how we rank there.”
They went upstairs and got on the CalPrep Sports website. They searched for ‘Hillcrest’ and selected ‘Hillcrest High School’ from the dropdown list.
“Okay, here it is,” Jason said. “As of this morning at ten a.m. we’re rated number three in Northern California. That’s excellent!”
“Who’s ahead of us?”
“I have to go to a different page to find out... okay, here it is. California is still in first place and Pioneer is in second. Hey, they lost two other games, both in their league, so they’re 24 wins and 3 losses. California only has one loss, the one to Pioneer. Damn, we should be in second place. Why aren’t we?”
“Jase, look at the power rankings of each team. It should be at the right side of each team’s overall ranking.”
“Okay, California’s rating is 485, Pioneer’s is 462, and Hillcrest’s is 460. Why is California so high?”
“Look at the teams they played,” Ron said. “They beat all the best teams except Pioneer. They played and beat Valley Christian, Silesian, Long Beach Poly, and Summersville, Indiana, and us. They’re 14 and zero in their league, same as we are in ours. Looks like they play a schedule loaded with top teams from all over. I guess being in third place is okay. I’m sure glad we beat Pioneer. That makes us look really good. This way we’ll get some respect.”
Jason closed the cover on his laptop, putting it in sleep mode, and stood up and stretched. “So what do you want to do?”
“I think we already went through this, Jase. It’s your day to choose.”
“Okay, I want to do this.” He pulled Ron into a hug and kissed him. It was a soft, long, loving kiss, lips only. He pulled back and stared into Ron’s eyes. “I love you, Ronald Cantham. I love your red hair and your green eyes and the way you smile.”
“I love you, Jason Phillips. I love your messy spiky brown hair and your beautiful brown eyes and the way you smile all the time. But it’s still your day to choose something to do.”
Jason laughed and pushed Ron onto the bed. “Dufus!”
Ron grinned. “Well? Choose something!”
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