Marble Eyes (Part 3)Posted: January 21, 2012
“Are you nervous?” I asked. The engine hummed while she thought, and her fingers searched the steering wheel—like its grooves and divots were braille that would silently signal an appropriate answer.
We were stopped under the red of the streetlight on Pennsylvania in her silver, Chevy rental, the one she told me looked just like a Mini-Cooper on the phone the day before, but—in reality—looked nothing like a Mini-Cooper. She had flown into town to speak at a pastoring conference, and—since it was over—had the afternoon free before she headed north again.
“Yeah, yeah, I am,” she said, her voice sneaking an octave higher than normal. “I just, I’m not sure what to expect, I guess.” We were quiet for three blocks.
Ten months earlier, in that storied hotel room where I told my parents everything—that I couldn’t get married, that I was gay, that I’d been depressed for years, that I’d flirted with suicide—my mom said something that made me anxious for a day that I knew—inevitably—would come.
“I just don’t ever want to see you with a man,” she confessed, her head on my shoulder. I didn’t say anything at first, letting her words hang heavily in the recycled, somber air.
“We don’t have to be ready for that, yet,” I assured her. She sighed—the way you do when dreams collapse like punctured lungs—and I felt her eyes close.
The light turned green, and we headed toward 5th while NPR lulled in the background.
“I’m really glad you’re meeting him,” I finally said. “I know it might feel weird, but it means a lot to me.”
“It’s not weird!” she insisted. “Just new, you know?” I reached my hand over the center consul to rest it on her knee, and told her I loved her. We parked under a tree, and I kissed her cheek before opening my door and stepping onto the sidewalk, where he was waiting.
“Hi, Nancy,” he said, arms wide, and they hugged—mother and boyfriend.
We walked up the street to my favorite café in the city, where I’d written papers in college on Amos and Hamlet and feminism, and when he held the door open for us she looked at me, eyes-wide. “Well played,” they whispered. I grinned, and touched the small of his back as I slipped inside.
For an hour, we sat on the patio around a square, wooden-slatted table, and talked. She brought up the church more than usual, I remember thinking, which—she’d tell me later—she did on purpose to, “make sure he didn’t get uncomfortable if I mentioned Jesus.”
“That would make holidays so awkward,” she explained.
She laughed at his jokes, and asked the same kind of questions she would to anyone I wanted her to meet: where he was from, what his parents were like, what he did when he stumbled upon spare time, how he paid rent. When we got back to the car, they hugged again.
“It was really good to meet you,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.”
“You, too,” she said.
“He’s very nice,” she started, once the doors closed and our belts buckled, “and handsome.”
“I’m glad you think so, mom. How’d that feel?” I didn’t have to wait long for her response.
“Normal,” she said, almost immediately. “So normal.” I hardly expected what came next.
“Of course you’re going to marry a man, son. It only makes sense.”
I looked out the window, my eyes chasing the bridge-spanned canyon sliding past our car, and smiled.