Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sleep the Clock Around

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Candy, darling.

Jody was asleep on the sofa, her bright, ivory skin looking even brighter in contrast to the deep black upholstery. She didn't hear us walk in to the apartment, us being me and my entire family. We must've looked quite a sight, the seven of us standing in a clump, peering down upon her, as she slowly stirred from my gentle nudging, and turned to see what was going on.

My parents drove up from Arkansas with my four brothers to Chicago to pick me up and drive me to Wisconsin for Christmas. One of my brothers had just enlisted in the armed services, and my mom knew it could be a couple years until we were together again.
After they found my apartment, I drove around with them for a half hour or so, to help them find a parking spot. Even if most of Lincoln Park was torn down and paved over, there still wouldn't be enough parking. My dad was less than thrilled about parking his custom van out of his sight, but I did my best to assure him my neighborhood was safe.

"Look! There's a spot in front of the temple. What could be better than a spot by a temple!" I said, trying to reassure them.
"What's a temple?" My twelve year old brother said.
"A Jewish church." My mother said.
The streets were deserted this cold December morning in 1986, and even though the sun had barely risen, a crazy was lurking in the bushes by the synagogue.
"Can I give you a hug? You look like such nice people."
She wasn't dressed crazy, and had I not seen her sitting on the ground in the bushes, I might've thought she was an early riser, come to welcome us to the congregation. But the eyes. You can always tell by the eyes. Someone was always wandering around the Broadway and Waveland area back then, asking for money or yelling at invisible people, probably due to the seedy hotel down the street. We never walked past it at night.
"No" I said quietly, running in front of my mom, trying to block her from this woman lurching toward her, arms outstretched.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my younger brothers, half asleep from the long car ride, looking for an escape route, and my dad starting to get mad.
As she started asking for just a handshake, then!, or a dollar!, I'm a very sick lady. I should be in the hospital. Can you drive me there? I motioned with my arm behind my back for them to start walking down the sidewalk.
I smiled at her, with a pleading look, please don't freak out on my family! as I said No. I'm sorry. No, I can't.

I walked behind my family, blocking any further contact, speeding them along.
"Hurry! She might come back!"
Great. It's six fucking am, the streets are fucking deserted, and the one freak out here has to find us! Jesus! Can't I ever get a break? I thought to myself as we walked in silence to my building.

In Wisconsin, my parents dropped me and my brothers at my other dad's house, and I immediately called Bryan O.
"Wonderful! You're in town! There's going to be a fun party tonight! I'll pick you up at nine!"
Ugh. That party.
It was at some rich old queen's place, a couple miles from my dad's. I was the life of the party that night, because of my big city cache and reckless youth. I ran to the bar in the den.
"Tequlia shots all around!"
"Jack Daniels shots all around!"
"Let's make martinis!"
What is it with the holidays and booze? We all were trying our damnedest to drink away the clouds of wasted lives and utter disappointment that can hang especially thick over the families of gay men and women.
A little later, Bryan and I were in the bathroom, probably making out. He opened the mirrored cabinet, and in it sat countless prescription bottles.
"Let's take some pills." He said.
We each took one from about, oh, I don't know, five? six? seven? bottles, and went back to the party. Soon everyone wanted to go to a bar, but I knew I had had enough, and wanted to go home. I knew Bryan wouldn't let me, so I snuck out the back door, planning on walking home. I had once walked seven miles in below zero weather, stoned out of my mind, in the late seventies, so I knew I could do it.
I don't remember much of the walk home, but I know I ducked down the side streets, to call less attention to myself, and I do remember the hang-over.
"Oh God, those fucking pills!" I thought to myself as I crawled out of bed.
I could hardly lift my arms, let alone meet my family at the mall for a group picture, but I did, and the ghost of that hang-over still makes me cringe whenever I look at it.
The next day was Christmas Eve, and we all met at the house of friends of my parents, who were out of town, but let us reunite there. The modest home was decorated to the hilt for the holidays, with tons of someone else's presents under the large tree. It was as if they let us borrow their Christmas. A feeling of finality hung in the room; our family was ending. Well, not ending ending, but changing forever. I didn't know families ended. But my mom did.


Kevin said...

Hey. Found you via Dirk. Also an actor ... orig from WI. Just thought I'd say hey. I'll look around when I have the chance if ya don't mind.

Aaron said...

My mom and my aunt came to visit me three years ago, forgetting the key I'd sent them to let themselves in, and had to call me at work from their cell phone, then sit where they'd parked--on Farwell--waiting for me to train it home and let them in. So they got a crash course in crazies that day! :-)

Families don't really end--but they do change forever...I think it's hardest for us gay people, who don't have children of our own, and spend so much of our lives reaching back for our own childhood (that is, once the "brave youth" thing wears off, and we realize that we're NOT going to "change the world" as we'd expected). The hard part is figuring out where to go as we move forward. But knowing that we will is the biggest reassurance...

David said...