A holiday story of sorts.
by Kellan Sparver
For J, Christmas 2012.
“I swear there’s something in the air here which makes me hate myself more than usual,” I say, unlocking the doors on the rental car.
J opens the passenger door and swings inside. “Or maybe it was the death-glare from that clerk,” he says.
“Or maybe it was that,” I allow.
“You didn’t have to pay for both coffees, you know,” he says. He takes my coffee from me and settles it next to his in the cupholders as I start the car.
I shrug candidly. “Whatever. I was paying for gas too — it was just easier. I thought you were in the bathroom.”
J matches my shrug. I put the car in gear, back up, and roar out of the gas station parking lot, kicking up gravel.
A thin layer of wind-blown snow covers the ditch grasses, the corn stubble in the fields, the road, and the occasional tree as we drive. Lit by the cloudy morning sunlight, it gives the feeling of driving through a bleached old photograph.
We drive for a while in silence, the only sounds the sussuruss of the road and the rush of the occasional cars in the oncoming lane.
“It was a good week — all in all,” I say at last.
“Yeah,” J says.
After a moment I ask him, “How was it for you? First Christmas away from your folks, and this—” I incline my head towards the windshield and around, using the blasted landscape outside to stand in for something larger and harder to articulate.
“It was okay,” he says. “It was good to meet your parents again. And some things about you make more sense now.”
I laugh. “Oh? Like what?”
He thinks for a minute, and I let him. “I don’t know. Like, being gay, and growing up in this environment, I see how it would produce someone like you.”
“Okay.” I chuckle, a little self-consciously. “That’s a good thing, I hope.”
“Yeah — a good thing,” he says, looking at me.
He says, “I was surprised how cool people were about it. Except for that clerk — I don’t know, from how you had described it, I was expecting a lot more death-glares.”
“And instead you got a bunch of people awkwardly telling you how okay they were with it all? The ones we told, at least,” I say. “We mostly weren’t around the people I wouldn’t tell.”
“Yeah,” he says. “Well, you show up with a strange guy at church on Christmas Eve and introduce him as a ‘friend,’ and it’s going to be pretty obvious.”
“You would think,” I say. “Though, I don’t know, they’re weirdly oblivious and surface-oriented about things like that, some times. It’s like they don’t want to know.”
We are silent for a while. I switch hands on the wheel and find J’s hand across the center console.
“I’m glad to be going home,” I say.
“Me too,” J says, and squeezes my hand, and we drive on through the frozen fields to the airport.
Copyright Ⓒ 2013 Kellan Sparver. All Rights Reserved.
The cover image is “Graham Farm, Doon,IA 1972” by inkknife_2000, on Flickr, used under the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. The image is used for illustrative purposes only. All persons depicted are models, and no endorsement or association is intended or implied.