A Special Visit
I mostly hung out with Israel during the actual party. A lot of people came. I met what must have been Tor’s entire family but I really didn’t remember any of their names, it went by so fast. Israel and I must have consumed 10 hotdogs each by the time it was over. Gray was over the moon with the turnout and how many people came to wish him luck in his future endeavors. We started to help clean up when everyone except family, the girls, and Gray’s bootcamp friends had cleared out but Tor’s mom shooed us away. “No one who just graduated or is going to college next year should be hanging around cleaning up. Go have some fun, okay?”
We piled into three different cars and went to an ice cream place that had outdoor seating. We ate and laughed and talked until the place closed and they started turning the lights out.
“Gray, want to spend the night?” Tor asked. “Rocco is coming over.”
“Sorry,” Gray said, gesturing to his bootcamp friends. “Some of them are staying at my house tonight.”
“Make that all of us,” Israel said. “It’s too late to drive home now.”
Rocco, Tor, Akita, and Meghan piled into one car and left. Tor lived close enough for it to be convenient for him to drop the girls off. Holly took Pax and Deven in her car, and Gray, Kelsey, Amoni, Israel, and I got in Gray’s car.
“You know, there would have been more space if one of us had just gone with Holly,” Israel said.
“Who needs Holly? This is the party car,” Gray said. He had me put on music, and we all jammed the whole ride home. Usually I felt awkward singing in front of people my age that I didn’t know, but since everyone was singing, it was a lot of fun. Israel was very excited when I played a song from Hamilton, and even though neither Kelsey or Amoni knew it, Israel and I knew it by heart and Gray joined in on the parts he remembered.
When we got back to the house, our family was already home and in bed. We hung out in the living room talking for a bit before we blew up an air mattress for Gray’s friends to fight over and gathered blankets and pillows for the rest of them.
There wasn’t enough floor space in the family room for all of them. Kelsey got the air mattress and Amoni set up camp next to him. Pax, Deven, and Israel decided to sleep in Gray’s room, so when I went to bed, I was all alone. While it was something of a relief, I also briefly felt a pang of loneliness, longing for the air mattresses at the Parkers’ house.
Before I knew it, I was at the Parkers’ house again. Jed had met my dad and I at our house the night before we set out for Minnesota, so we all got to ride together. My dad, Jed, and I had all managed to get a week off of work, and we were committed to making the most of our time.
The Parkers had informed Jed and I that, at the beginning of June, they had taken in a new little girl. She was six, and even though Annelies was older now, she was delighted. Terin said that the little girl, Isadora, was adorable, and that he was sad that he had to leave her when he went to college.
“I’m really excited to meet her,” I told Jed and my dad.
“It’ll be fun,” Jed agreed.
“Is the little girl okay?” Dad asked.
“Seems fine,” I said. “The Parkers said that she was born on the streets to her mother, who they’re not sure was an American citizen. They were both near starving when they met them, and they really aren’t sure what the mom’s plans were, but she refused to come live with the Parkers.”
“It’s honestly kind of like Annelies,” Jed said. “Except the mom stuck around long enough to know her daughter was being helped by someone.”
“Yeah,” I said. In the backseat, my dad looked concerned. I turned to face him the best I could. “Look, Dad. It’s okay. The Parkers take care of everyone. They took care of me and Jed, who were both out on the streets. Just because people are homeless doesn’t mean they’re bad or dangerous or something.”
“I know,” he said, “this is all just so new to me. I’ve never… I don’t know.”
“They’re all really nice,” I said. “You’ll see.”
We stopped for lunch at a drive through. Dad switched Jed for driving and we kept going. I fell asleep for a while, and when I woke up, we were stopping for gas and to go to the bathroom.
I walked inside with Jed as my dad pumped the gas. We both went into the men’s restroom, and as I closed the door to the stall, I wished that I could just use the urinal like Jed was. As we were washing our hands, an older man walked in. He looked at us, looked away, and then looked again, right at me. My heart skipped a beat. I thought he was going to say something, but he just turned towards the urinals and did his business.
When Jed and I were back in the car and my dad went inside, Jed looked at me. “Sorry for the way that guy looked at you. I was ready to say something if he talked.”
“Thanks,” I said, giving him a weak smile. I really needed to get on testosterone so that I could stop looking like some baby trying to be a man.
“Hey,” Jed said. “It’ll be okay. At least he didn’t actually say anything.”
“Yeah,” I said. I spotted my dad coming towards the car, and Jed must have too, because he stopped talking.
I brooded for most of the rest of the car ride, but when things started looking familiar, I started brightening and pointing things out to my dad.
“We’ll have to show you when you’re not driving,” Jed said. “We can even go to Cam’s museum.”
“It’s not my museum,” I said, and Jed smiled. “We can go anyway.”
When we got to the Parkers’ house, it was later in the day than when Jed and I had come last time, so everyone was home. They all flooded out to the driveway. Terin grinning, Jerico and Melodie holding hands, Annelies bouncing on her toes, Mr. Parker with a hand on Terin’s shoulder, and Mrs. Parker holding a very small Chinese girl on her hip. I smiled and waved at everyone, and so did Jed.
When we got out, Terin hit me with a hug first, so Annelies ran to Jed. We all traded hugs and everyone met my dad. When I side hugged Mrs. Parker, I smiled at the little girl.
“Are you Isadora?” I asked.
She hid her face in Mrs. Parker’s shoulder.
“It’s okay,” I said, smiling at Mrs. Parker. “I’m shy too.”
“She’ll warm up quick,” Mrs. Parker said. She smiled at me. “You look so good, Cam.”
“I’ve been working out. Got a new haircut, new wardrobe. The works,” I said, smiling.
“It’s all working very well for you. Those college boys will be blown away.”
“The gay ones, at least,” I joked, not at all feeling that it was true.
We headed inside, where I smelled something cooking.
“Mom’s making a roast,” Terin told me.
“Dad,” I said, looking over my shoulder. He stood next to Mr. Parker, who was pointing at the map on the wall in the front room.
“Yes, son?” Dad said, looking at me.
“Do you want a tour?”
Mr. Parker, Terin, Annelies, Jed, and I took my dad on a tour while Mrs. Parker worked on dinner and Melodie and Jerico played with Isadora in the living room. We showed my dad the kitchen first, where he spotted a picture of Terin and I on the fridge. “Do we have this?” he asked.
“Yeah, I have them on the computer,” I said. Mrs. Parker smiled at him. “They were so cute, weren’t they?”
He nodded, and I could feel his regret.
“I’ll show them all to you sometime, Dad. I promise.”
We moved on to the living room and then the basement, where all of the balls and the roller skates were in a plastic bin at the bottom of the stairs, just like they had always been.
“This was basically our backyard,” I explained.
“And our science and math classroom,” Terin said. We showed him the whiteboard and explained how Roderick and Oliver used to teach us down here.
We moved back upstairs. I decided to show him everything before I showed him the room I had shared with Terin, Jed, Jerico, and others over the years. He was very impressed by Terin’s paintings, which were now hanging in various places around the house, and Terin couldn’t stop blushing. When we finally got to show him our room, I felt that I couldn’t convey why I chose to save this room for last.
“We hung out here a lot,” I said. Terin and Jed agreed, but when we looked at each other, I knew they felt the same way I did.
“Pretty small,” Dad said.
“Yeah, luckily it’s just me, Jerico, and my art now,” Terin said. “When there were five of us it was a lot worse.”
“Five?” Dad said, his jaw dropping. “You can’t fit five beds in here.”
“You can, but it’s not fun,” I said.
“It was pretty fun,” Jed said, and Terin and I laughed, knowing he hated it the most of all of us.
We went downstairs just in time for dinner to be ready. Melodie and Jerico had helped set the table, so we got to sit right down and eat. Mrs. Parker put Isadora in a booster seat, because otherwise she was too short to sit at the table and eat easily.
Mr. and Mrs. Parker told stories about me and my dad listened avidly. Terin, Jed, Jerico, and I pitched in when we thought it was necessary. I had worried that it was going to be weird having my dad here with everyone because we basically all knew each other, but it really wasn’t.
After dinner, everyone except Mr. and Mrs. Parker and Isadora went for a walk to the park. I pointed out all the important landmarks to my dad. At the park, I told him how Mrs. Parker had found Oliver and I. He teared up, but he never quite cried. Terin and I told him about finding Lavender, and Terin and Jerico talked about finding Jed.
“I honestly hardly remember anything from that night,” Jed said.
“Yeah, you were pretty out of it,” Terin agreed. “He ate half our food,” he told my dad, and he laughed.
Annelies and I got on the swings after a while, racing to see who could get higher faster. I won, but Annelies didn’t seem to care. Dad, Terin, Jed, Jerico, and Melodie sat on the benches and talked. The one family at the playground looked at us curiously, but I ignored them.
When we finally went home, it was nearly dark. Terin and I told Dad how we used to love astronomy and about the first time we took Jerico on a walk and he screamed. Jerico laughed and laughed, and so did Melodie. Annelies held Jed’s hand as we walked, and I couldn’t help but be thankful that my dad got to see how much we all liked each other.