Three times a week we hash over three repeated themes. Work. The weather. Our family. We’ve unconsciously agreed that these are the safe subjects. The comfortable ones. We do not deviate.
Even she is aware of the repetition. Once she pretended to be a recording. We laughed about it, but by the next call we were back at our old stand-by.
When I came out as a teenager she made it clear that she didn’t want to hear about that part of my life. So I grew accustomed to changing pronouns and omitting big chunks of my history when I related it to her. I’ve edited out half of my life. Romances. Relationships. Heartbreaks. Dreams.
Even now, 15 years later, I don’t know how to talk to her. I can say, “Carlos and I went out for breakfast.” But I can’t say, “Carlos is my boyfriend.”
I’m afraid to go through the pain of rejection I went through when I came out a second time. But I want her to know me. All of me. I want to be able to share with the people who raised me the person I want to spend my life with.
So I made a picture book. I found a company online that allows you to arrange pictures with a story and print it out in a nicely bound, hardcover print with glossy pages. I put together pictures of my odyssey from Los Angeles to Seattle. The coffee shops and restaurants that I frequented. Pictures of my friends. All of the places she’ll never see and the people that she’ll never meet.
I told the story of how Carlos and I met in a coffeehouse. How he was waiting for me at the finish line when I ran the marathon. The two of us eating sushi. Us going out for drinks. Hiking. Our anniversary. The two of us smooching. Sweetly. Eyes closed. Smiling.
I thought if she could see what my life was like, the other half that we don’t speak about, then maybe it wouldn’t be so alien. Maybe we could actually have a real conversation about something meaningful. Maybe she could see me, all of me, and have the opportunity this time to accept me. To love me for who I am, instead of insisting on rejecting all but a portion of me. The bland and inoffensive bit.
I mailed the book to her three weeks ago. I sent it with a handwritten inscription that though it may not seem like it, my life is really full of happiness and beauty, and that I hope someday we’ll be able to talk about those things too.
I waited nervously for her response. Would she think it was sweet? Would she be disgusted? No matter the response, at least it would be a conversation starter. A chance to talk about something real. A door to an authentic relationship.
But every conversation is the same as all the ones that passed before. Work is fine. It’s raining today. How’s dad? Grandma isn’t doing well these days.
I guess I should have been prepared for it, but it never occurred to me that she wouldn’t mention it at all. The book, like my relationships, my hopes and dreams are things that just don’t exist to her. It’s disappointing, but if she can’t accept my sexuality, at least I can accept her limitations. And love her anyway.