After my mom came out, I used to joke, “Both of my parents get more pussy than I do.” Truth was, in the beginning, they were both struggling to even get a date. They hadn’t been single since the 70s. Back then all you had to do was unbutton a couple buttons, head to a drive-in theater, and score some Quaaludes. Now, people were texting and going to chat rooms and shaving everything.
At least my dad had a large circle of friends, office parties, and a lot of bars around the city. My mom’s options were far more limited. Kansas City, you see, wasn’t exactly a hotbed for homosexuals.
Comparing San Francisco’s gay scene at the time to Kansas City’s was like comparing Disney World to one of those mechanical horses in front of a Kmart.
When my mom came out, the city had one gay bar, one dirty nightclub, and a small community center, which was just a room above store selling Native American jewelry.
True, it was less dangerous to be gay than it was in the 70s, but people weren’t exactly breaking out the floats for a parade.
The men and women my mom met were shy, kind, and eccentric. My mom offered to cater one of their poetry readings. Back in the day, my mom used to own her own catering company, and here she used those culinary skills to win the hearts of the LGBT. Her food has that effect on most everyone, save the vegans.
Soon, my mom had a little community of her own. She was giddy. Her life was electric. Most importantly, she no longer felt alone, which is all anyone really wants, isn’t it? It’s why we get married and join softball leagues; why we have kids, go to church, play Dungeons and Dragons, and look at Facebook.
My mom threw herself into this new world. She got back into her art. She started sculpting again.
One day she called and said, “I’m thinking of taking some classes at the community college.”
“Yeah, like what?”
“There’s a ceramics class I want to check out. Oh, and I really want to try welding.”
“Baby steps, Mom.”
A few months later, I flew home. Mom couldn’t wait to show me her new apartment. I brought over a bottle of wine and saw a dozen new sculptures scattered around the cramped living room. Some of the pieces looked like they’d been ripped right from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (which wouldn’t come out for another decade.)
Mom said, “Let’s go out to the patio and open this bottle.”
I opened the screen door and squeezed myself around the little wooden table and took a seat on a metal chair. Mom came out with two glasses. We smoked cigarettes and she launched into the gay scene gossip:
Leonard had apparently fallen off the wagon…again. Marci was cheating on Wanda with Barb, who was only using Marci to get back at Laura. Phillip’s dog had cancer. Diane was making a power grab for The Center’s planning committee. “She just annoys the piss out of everyone. Everything is so negative with her.”
Over the next twenty minutes, my mom rattled off stories and names as though I had any idea who or what she was talking about. I just sat there and listened and polished off the bottle of wine.
“So…” my mom said. “There’s something I need to…”
“Hold that thought.” I got up and went in for another bottle. She followed me in. I poured us each a glass. I could tell there was something weighing on her, but before she could speak, I noticed something in the corner of the room covered by a sheet. I walked over. My mom said it was her newest creation. “But it’s not finished,” she added. Slowly, I pulled off the sheet and saw a three-foot-tall woman standing on this trippy pedestal. The woman’s head was the size of one of those globes from grade school, but her body was almost paper-thin.
“I call her, “She,” my mom said, drawing out “She” like was whispering to nymphs in some enchanted forest. Mom gulped her wine. “Anthony, I…”
A knock at the door.
My mom just stood there, frozen, a little panicked. I feared what was on the other side of the door.
“You, uh, going to answer that?” I said.
“Now, just be nice, okay, Anthony? Please.”
“Carrie’s really excited to meet you. And I should’ve told you before you got here, but I wanted to make–”
Another knock. Mom giggled and ran to the door. And there was Carrie. Almost six-foot-tall, wearing denim from neck to ankle. She had a box of chocolates from Walgreens and a bottle of wine. Mom and Carrie hugged. Carrie went in for a little kiss, but my mom angled to the side and gave her a peck on the cheek.
“Anthony, this is Carrie.”
I stared into that face. It was familiar. Like I’d seen it a thousand times. I couldn’t place where though. Carrie had definitely never been a teacher of mine, and I was sure she wasn’t one of my friend’s mom’s. But I knew this face better than my own.
“Hi there,” Carrie said and sauntered over. Her shoulders were broad. Her jaw strong. She threw out her hand for a shake. And that’s when I realized…this woman…looked like my dad.
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