We are constantly moving at thousands of miles per hour. We don’t feel it, because of Earth’s gravitational pull and size. If the Earth were to stop moving, rock, buildings, and people would be thrown across the sky. Storms and tsunamis would destroy anything left. When I first saw that fair-haired boy on the corner, my world stopped moving. He was walking on the opposite side of the street, walking against my tide. Minutes later I couldn’t even remember how he looked, just that he passed. And that I couldn’t take my eyes off him. And that was it. He set off a switch in me. I started seeing it everywhere. I couldn’t tell what it was. I couldn’t stop it. So I consulted my personal oracle, Rudder.
“So what do you think it could be. A disease? Condition? I don’t know.” I sat on his couch cross-legged. I was ready for him to sprinkle knowledge on me like glitter.
“Dude… that sounds really gay.” He snorted.
“But that can’t be! Girls are still– great! It can’t be.” I sneered. “Oh fuck you.” I wasn’t surprised, in truth. I spoke quieter. “Is there a like cure? I mean… don’t get me wrong I don’t hate gays, just, with my family and this town…” I faltered again.
“I’m sure it’s something else if you like girls.” He reassured himself. I nodded, skin crawling. I pray every Sunday but that is the one thing I couldn’t imagine bringing up in church.
“Yeah… yeah.” Sometimes silence has more to say that words. Because when I looked at Rudder, I could hear his world stopping.
“Spiked.” He said.
“Shut the fuck up, Spiked will never be a thing you dimwit.”
“Who the fuck says dimwit.”
“I do.” I hissed
Rudder wasn’t my lifelong friend, but it felt like it. We met three years ago when we were in Social Science at the same table. His real name was Brandon, his Mom wasn’t cruel. He just liked the name Rudder because he thought it made him sound ‘grunge’. His wardrobe only consisted of a holographic beanie and an unraveling Christmas sweater. We’d seen each other almost every day for the last three years. Rudder grew up with his mom, Sherry. He loved saying no pun intended when there was no pun in the sentence and had a habit of calling things spiked. He had three cats and a parrot in his apartment. But don’t get me wrong, this apartment was huge. Could have been a house of its own. Sherry was young when she had Rudder, so a lot of people think they’re siblings. Sherry runs a successful liquor store under their apartment called Pick-Me-Up Wines n’ Liquors. She paid Rudder 15% of her earning because he would work in her shop. Another thing the iconic duo would do together is illegal duck hunting. Every weekend they’d strap on guns and homemade camouflage, and disappear for hours. They only hunted out of season because ‘there are better pickin’s’ and there was no competition. Their home was up a steep staircase, the rug torn from the cats. They did their best trying to stop them, even cut a hole in their recliner for them to sleep. Sometimes the cats would tear up one of Sherry’s cardigans and she’d sew it up with colorful thread that never matched the cloth. When Rudder was little he would wake up when the moon was blooming with artistic excitement. The next day when Sherry woke up there were crayon drawings all over the walls. So, naturally, she framed all of them.
The next Saturday was when father made his statement to the local paper about the court’s ruling. “They are not welcome here. Not in my home. Not in our home. I will protect the values of Orlin County, my values, and the values of the lord. We will take this County back.” His favorability went up for the next couple days, the town wheezing back to life.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Walker, you are formally invited to Marissa and Avery Nersha’s Wedding Ceremony! Date to be determined.
Almost every family on the block received an invitation. Only as a gesture, of course, they only wanted friends and family to show.
“Well, we are not going to that.” Mother tore the printed invite in half and tossed it at the trash. She missed. “To think Avery was my friend. Those gays are lurking in the shadows, I tell you. Just waiting when to pounce.” She put her hands on my shoulder, though she was only up to my eyes by then even with her pumps on. “Be careful, okay?”
“What, do you think they’ll be hiding in my closet?” I smirked.
“Aaron, I want you to walk around the other way to school darling. It’s not much longer and certainly less terrifying.” She said, hands on my shoulder. I nodded in time with my heartbeat.
Soon it became common knowledge the controversial wedding would be a couple days time, three weeks before the election. They planned it to be as soon as possible, after waiting so long. Despite Mother’s comments, I continued to walk passed Avery and Marissa’s house on the was to school. It wasn’t rare to see raw eggs smashed on their windows or spray painted messages. No one dared actually face them, treating their love like a virus. Worried they could ‘catch the gay’. Despite all of it, they looked genuinely happy. Out of the dark. They loved each other. I loved that.
Once a month, Mother and Father would get excited about Confession. This was no normal church outing. Mother would tie her hair back with a white hair covering. Father even wore his striped suit he only wore to speeches. This was the one day Mother would let me dress myself for church, so I left early. This made them uneasy, worried I’d skip church. We were supposed to ride up together. I walked down Lexing Boulevard. The street was wide and bare, with plants budding in the cracks and around the edge of the sidewalk. The humid breeze blew strands of hair into my eyes and brushed my toe. Last year I went through a spell of extremely smelly feet. I couldn’t figure out why it was happening, but Rudder convinced me to cut a hole in the side of my shoe for ‘ventilation’. As punishment Mother refused to buy me new shoes. I kicked up dust on the curb until the air was brown. Domesticated dogs sneezed behind trash piles, lying in the sun and flies. The air was cold, but when the sunlight hit you just right your skin would thaw. The church was nearly empty when I arrived.
“Mr. Walker, good morning. No parents today?” I smiled and nodded at Father Elliot, and made my way to the confessional. Closing the door behind me, I sat on the wooden bench. I did not pray, I did not do the sign of the cross.
“Forgive me father, for I have sinned. My last confession was one month ago.” I had always let my problems bleed out when in confession. But this was different. My sin was mortal. How do you lie to the one person you should look up to the most. The answer isn’t as simple as I’d hoped. “Excuse me.” I pulled open the doors of the confessional and walked away. Dear god what the hell was that. Outside the clouds were thin as was Mother’s patience. The chariot had rolled into the gravel parking lot just as I opened the church doors. Father strutted around the shining car over to mother’s door, helping her out. Arm in arm they walked up to me.
“Aaron, do come inside with us. You must make an appearance.” She had reached out a gloved hand. I shook my head.
“I already confessed and prayed, don’t make me go back inside Mother” I pulled away. She grasped my wrist.
“Please dear.” Her lined eyes gave me a Don’t Do This to Your Poor Old Mother look. I twisted my hand out.
“Not today Mom, I need to get more rest.” I began to leave. “Goodbye, I’ll see you at home.”
Mother looked at me with a creased forehead. “Aaron come back here.”
Father joined her. “Aaron, come over here now.” I mouthed I’m sorry as I ran away into the street. Just your friendly neighborhood prince on the run.
Parents, despite not realizing, shape us more than anything. They prune our growing minds like bonsai trees. They will loom in our peripheral, one on each shoulder. Our own pocket-sized angel and devil. Sometimes I feel like both of my shoulders have a devil on them.
We treat animals like we would any other human. Part of our family, our equal, our best friend. Yet somehow we use them as an insult. They are animals. Mother peered out the window shades in her robe. Her hair was wrapped up in a towel. Avery and Marissa walked down the thin sidewalk, eating frozen yogurt. Falling back on the bed she tapped her chin. Whenever she’d get tense she’d sit in silence and move her eyes back and forth. I liked to imagine she was counting sheep. But it was at times like this I worried soon she’d run out of those small lambs and they would collapse in exhaustion. “Mother?”
“Yes, Aaron?” She looked up.
“Do you think you could put this behind you? I mean… they’ll get married no matter what, so why stress so much?” Her eyebrows stitched together. “There’s nothing you can do, I think we should just get over it.” Her face mask began peeling.
“When pigs fly.”