“Samuel! Simon! Dinner’s ready!”
“Oh, joy. I missed mother’s cooking.” The sarcasm in Sam’s voice was accompanied by the cheeky smile that he flashed me. “Come on, Simon. They’re going to get pissed if we don’t hurry.”
With a groan and a sigh–I was still in a bit of a pout due to the whole party issue–I lifted myself from Sam’s mattress and followed him to the door. Through the hall and down the stairs, Sam in front and me behind. The third step on the descent creaked just like always. The stairs led down into the living room. The TV was still on, mostly to provide Dad with some kind of distraction as the television could easily be seen from his seat at the dinner table.
Mom was placing the last of the evening’s meal on the table, offering Sam and me a warm and exhilarated smile as we came down the steps. Of the two parents, Mom was obviously the more accepting of Sam’s homosexuality. That is not to say that she approved; if she had the chance to change that one aspect of Samuel’s persona, I honestly think that she would. When Dad had made the decision to send Sam away she had argued against it vehemently. Sam and I had been hiding at the top of the stairs listening to them scream. There were a few reasons why Mom didn’t want Sam to go. It wasn’t just because she did not want to be separated from Sam, but because she did not think it conducive to Sam’s “recovery” to send him away to a school in which the temptation to sin with another male was at every turn.
I kind of agreed with Mom. It was all rather contradictory. How do you cure a boy that is gay? Send him into insolation with a bunch of other boys. Right. It all makes perfect sense when you think about it logically. Mom had argued for keeping him home, keeping him in the public school where they sent us before. At least that way they could keep tabs on him, they could watch him, and they themselves could beat this phase that Sam was going through. It was so unfair to leave the Sam on his own, to have him fighting a curse that was surely far too much for him to handle according to Mom. But it was all right; Sam was home now, and mother was there to fix everything. Just a little time with Mom and an introduction or two to some nice young ladies that Mom had met while Sam was away would be just the remedy for their predicament.
I did not understand why my parents were so against Sam’s sexual preferences. Probably had something to do with our Catholic roots, but I still didn’t see why it mattered so much. The Bible was just one huge metaphor anyway. Nothing was wrong with gay people. Why couldn’t Mom and Dad see that?
“Samuel, it’s so nice to have you home,” Mom said gently, giving him a soft smile that would seem nervous to someone who did not know the woman. Any other mother probably would have moved to hug her son after such a long separation, but Mom did no such thing. Hugging her sons, while typically motherly, was not something that she did. Mom liked to neither touch nor be touched, and for that reason she had barely laid a hand on us since we had been old enough to cross the street on our own. It wasn’t that Mom was a bad mother, an evil mother, nothing like that. She was merely distant. She loved us as any mother would but she just couldn’t get herself to express her love in a way that was seen as normal. There was an icy barrier between us all that she made little effort to melt away.
Didn’t matter much. Neither Sam nor I was really complaining.
“Nice to see you too, Mom. Thanks.” The seat that had been empty since Sam’s departure was now filled. I think that Sam felt uncomfortable eating with his family, his real family, after getting used to spending time with his classmates in the cafeteria.
I moved to sit across from my brother, noting that Mom said nothing to me. True, I had been home this whole time, she saw me every day, but still a small acknowledgment of my presence would have been appreciated. Never mind that now. I did not feel that right then was the time to concentrate on my mommy issues.
The beginning of the meal was filled with an awkward silence. Everyone could feel it lingering over the table in a thick hazy fog that could have been chewed through if anyone had made the effort. Sam and I chewed silently on our dry meat, stealing glances at one another from across the table while Dad directed his attention towards the moving pictures on the television screen. Among the four members of the Marzo family was a feeling that something needed to be talked about, but no one wanted to be the one to bring it up. That feeling of, “Oh fuck. Someone should say it. Someone say it. DEAR FUCKING GOD SOMEONE SAY SOMETHING.”
But, really? Our family was not one made up of particularly adventurous conversationalists.
The sound of Dad’s voice seemed to bulldoze through the stuffy silence, a surprise to the rest of us who usually expected Mom to speak first being the quasi-peacekeeper that she was.
“Simon, you doin’ good in school, eh?”
“Your teachers like you, yeah?”
“Not doin’ anything sinful, are you?”
“No, sir.” I tilted his head in Sam’s direction and looked at him. Sam’s hand was clenched tightly around the handle of his fork and his hazel eyes where traveling around his plate as if they had some sort of destination they just couldn’t reach. It wasn’t that Sam was actually angry with Dad’s not so inconspicuous allusion to Sam’s homosexuality, but more so at the fact that our father was using me to take a stab at him. It made me feel insanely guilty. I hated my father for making me do that to Sam.
“Don’t worry, sir, Simon isn’t as into the cock as I am. Fellatio and sodomy, while extremely fun whether you are giving or receiving, simply isn’t for everyone. It’s okay, I forgive you, Simon.”
Well. That was certainly unexpected.
My eyes were wide, Mom’s lips were parted in a silent gasp and the vein in Dad’s forehead was throbbing. Each member of the family reverted to their own version of shock at Sam’s statement. I felt his ears throb in the silence, the ticktocking of the clock boring into my skull. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick–
“So, boys, how would you feel about getting a cat?”
Sam and I looked at our mother. Without missing a beat, we sighed and shook our heads. “That’d be awesome, Mom.”