Conflict brewed within me as I stared at the ceiling, the same one my padre stared at when he was my age.
My phone felt heavy in my hand displaying the picture of the boy who was turning my world upside down. It was a battle between my head and my heart...and another part of me. I had always known I’d liked girls and I had an amazing girlfriend and body count to prove it, though my dads didn’t need to know about the last part, but then him…
He’d thrown a wrench into everything I’d ever known.
My phone vibrated in my hand and I lazy lifted my head that was heavy with a whirlwind of thoughts to see a text from my girl, Kyra. We’d been dating for almost two years since eighth grade. She was beautiful and extremely caring. She was smart but fun and she gave the best hugs and knew how to run her fingers through my hair just right when we kissed. My dads adored her too. She was perfect.
So why did I find myself imagining what his hands would feel like running through my hair?
The message preview banner that flashed across the top of my screen read:
Babygirl 😍: Hey babe. I miss u and wanted to check in. Love you
Instead of texting back, I found myself looking at his picture again. His name was Tyler. I’d met him in my first hour this year and instantly there was just something about him that drew me in. Maybe it was his physique or maybe the smooth way my name slid from his lips. I didn’t know and I really didn't want to. I wanted to distance myself and focus on Kyra, but every time he asked to hang out or simply be my partner in class, I couldn’t help but accept.
It didn’t help that we were on the football team together.
As I looked at the picture he’s recently posted that showed him fresh out of the pool with water clinging to him in all the right places and a smile that would make anyone swoon, I felt a rush move through me before I started experiencing “self growth”.
I lowly cursed as I quickly exited out of the picture and closed my eyes, pictures of my Nona taking a dump in a landfill filling my head and instantly calming me down.
Once I was certain that I was safe, I opened my eyes and let out a shaky breath.
Yeah, I was definitely in trouble.
I swallowed as I grabbed my phone and opened my messages app.
Me [to Babygirl 😍]: Miss u 2. Nothing’s happening rn. Love you 2
I hit send before I started staring at the ceiling as I tried to rationalize what I was feeling. It was very rare for the children of a gay couple to turn out gay as well...wait, no I wasn’t gay. I was...I didn’t know what I was. But what I did know was that I had a beautiful amazing girlfriend that had been there for me who I loved very much...and a boy who made me question everything I thought I knew.
My thoughts were thankfully cut off by the door opening, revealing my sister, Azalea. In a non-creepy-incest way, my sister was beautiful. Her dark skin was virtually flawless and her hazel eyes were breathtaking. Her hair was thick and curly and fun to style when she let me. She was also insanely smart as well, it was crazy knowing that she was younger than me.
“Hey,” she said as she walked into the room.
“Hey,” I replied as I sat up. “What’s up?”
“Nona and I finally got the little Devils to sleep, which we totally could’ve used your help with by the way. Did you not hear them screaming?” She asked as she punched my shoulder, causing me to chuckle and rub my arm.
“I’m sorry, I have a lot on my mind. I didn’t hear.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you will be sorry when you have to put them down yourself.”
I groaned and she laughed.
Emerson and Adryan were the youngest additions to the family and they were crazy, and full of energy until Azzy and I when we were their age. It was like they were always hyped up on crack or something. It was insane.
Suddenly, there was a low vibration and Azzy pulled her phone out of her pocket and read the message. After a few moments she said, “Padre and Papa said to get ready because they’ll be here soon.” I nodded as I grabbed my phone, earbuds, and keys and shoved them into my pocket before I followed Azzy out of the room and into the living room where Nona was sitting in her rocking chair watching TV. Nona has aged well and was still very mobile for her age. She credits it to her water aerobics class.
“Ciao, Nona. Papà e papà stanno arrivando. Ti amo e ci vediamo quando torniamo (Bye, Nona. Dad and dad are coming. I love you and see you when we come back),” Azalea said as she kissed Nona’s cheek.
“Ciao, Nona (Bye Nona),” I said as I kissed her cheek as well.
“Bye you two, and Addison, the next time those maniacs need to go to sleep, you’re doing it alone.”
I sighed. “I’ve already been made aware.”
She chuckled. “Alright, be gone with you!” She said as a car honked outside, letting us know it was time to go.
They’d gone to visit Mr. Williams last week and I could tell it took a toll on Papa, but they’d gone back to visit him nearly everyday. Now it was our turn, and if I was being completely honest, I would rather circumcise myself with a spoon than see that man. I hated him for what he’d done to our family and I would never not hate him. He’d done too much.
“Hey,” Papa greeted as we settled into the backseat.
I was so glad we didn’t call him “daddy” anymore because in this day and age...no.
“Hi,” I said as Padre turned to us.
“You didn’t wear your Nona out too badly, did you?” He joked.
“We didn’t, but Emmy and Adryan did,” Azalea said as we backed out of the driveway.
Papa chuckled. “Of course they did.”
“They take after you,” Padre said, causing them both to chuckle before a heavy silence filled the car.
As we rode, Azzy silently nudged me before giving me the “You okay?” look to which I gave the “I’m fine” nod. She raised her eyebrow, obviously not satisfied and I gave her the look to tell her to drop it. And she did, at least for a while.
All too soon we were in the parking lot. Padre killed the engine before they both looked back at us. “This is going to be awkward,” he bluntly stated. “Just remember that if he makes you uncomfortable or says anything, we’re leaving, okay?”
We both nodded.
“And look, I know you two don’t want to see him because frankly I don’t want you two seeing him, but we’re doing this as a courtesy. And he won’t stop asking to meet you,” Papa said, his voice tight as he spoke of his father.
We both nodded once more.
Papa gave us a curt nod before we were all got out and started walking toward the entrance. The journey to the room was silent and the ascent up the elevator felt heavy and taunt. As we rode, Azalea gave Papa a kiss on the cheek and squeezed his hand as if to remind him that we were here. He relaxed a bit and pulled her into him before placing a soft kiss into her hair.
I looked at Padre and saw his jaw clenched. He really hated Mr. Williams. I wrapped my arm around him in a quick side hug. He hugged me back just as the doors slid open. We all stepped out in an eerie synchronization and we followed Papa and Padre to the room.
Azzy and I exchanged worried looks, though our thoughts didn’t audibly manifest themselves.
All too soon we were in front of the hospital room that had “Brandon Williams” written on the identification plate. My heart was racing, though I didn’t know why.
“Remember what we talked about in the car,” Papa lowly said before he softly knocked on the door.
A soft, breathy “come in” came from the other side, though it was so faint that you’d miss it if you weren’t listening in for it.
Papa slowly opened the door and walked in followed by Azzy then me then finally Padre.
When I saw him, I had to keep the audible gasp that was climbing up my throat at bay. He was sickly thin and fragile. His skin had lost its color and his eyes looked sunken in. All of his hair was gone and so was the expression in his eyes. He was a breathing skeleton.
Conflict raged in my mind. On one hand, he was the vicious monster that could’ve gotten my dads killed with his hate and intolerance and the man who’d indirectly gotten me in trouble when I was young for punching Tommy for saying that my fathers deserved what happened to them. He was the one who broke them. But on the other hand, he was dying.
I could hear the life slipping from him with each noisy breath he took.
“Hey,” Papa said, though he made no attempt to move closer to the man.
“Hey,” the man said back, his voice scratchy and lifeless as his eyes traveled to Azzy and I. His lips pulled into a smile, and I could almost see each muscle in his face struggling to work together to form such a simple expression. “Come, come. Let me see you two.”
I looked at Papa and he silently nodded, telling me that it was okay. I stepped forward a bit as did Azzy, but I made sure that she was a bit further behind me.
“Oh come on, I don’t bite,” the man said.
“I’m fine here,” I politely yet sternly said.
He sadly nodded, his body too weak to mask his emotions. “Well, I’m your nonno (grandpa), but I wouldn’t expect you two to call me that just yet,” he said with a slight chuckle before he fell into a wet coughing fit. He started waving his hand around motioning for something. My eyebrows knit but Papa pushes forward and quickly handed his a plastic bucket just as he spit out a nasty glob of mucus. I cringed as I looked away, unable to handle it as did Azzy.
After a few moments, he cleared his throat and said, “Thanks, son.” Papa didn’t respond as he took his place back by Padre’s side.
I cleared my throat. “Well, um, I’m Addison and this is my sister Azalea.” At her name, Azzy waved though she made no move to speak.
He nodded. “I know. Azalea, I’ve heard you’re a smart one.”
“Yes sir,” she respectfully answered though I could tell she was uncomfortable.
But if the man knew, he didn’t let onto it as he looked to me and said, “And you, Addison, I’ve heard you’re a real football star.”
“American or European?”
“American, sir,” I responded. It killed me to be so respectful to him, but my dads raised me too well.
He nodded. “Bene, bene (good, good).” He paused. “Are they teaching you two the language?”
“Good. Keeping the roots alive,” he said, impressed.
A heavy silence filled the room that made my insides crawl. After a while, he spoke again. “I’m not going to keep you here any longer, but kids, I hope that one day before it’s my time, you two will see me as a grandpa like figure and not the man I used to be.” His words caused conflict to brew within me once more. On one hand it sounded like he was trying to use guilt to get us to do what he wanted, but on the other, he sounded almost genuine. Hopeful. It was all so confusing.
All I could do was nod as Papa started leading us away. “We’ll be back later, Brandon. Make sure you call a nurse to clean you out,” he said as we began walking out.
He nodded. “It was nice to meet you.”
Instead of lying and saying “you too”, I mutely nodded and waved and with that, we were on our way back to the elevator.
Papa let out a tired breath, causing Padre to take his hand in his own before he kissed the back of it. “Stai andando così bene, mio principe. Sono così orgoglioso. Ti amo (You're doing so well, my prince. I'm so proud. I love you).”
Papa offered him a weary grin before he kissed him. Azzy’s nose wrinkled. “Ew!” She sarcastically said. “Addy, look! They’re kissing.”
Deciding to play along, I moved away from them and closer to Azzy, wrinkling my nose and covering my eyes with my hands. “Make them stoooppp.”
I heard them laugh before I felt a punch to the shoulder, causing me to remove my hands and see Papa laughing as the elevator doors opened revealing a family with “get well soon” balloons and a bear. They looked at us as if to say “why are you laughing so loud? You do know you’re in a hospital right?”
As we walked to the parking lot, Papa wrapped his arms around us. “You know what cheers me up when I’m put into awkward situations I don’t wanna be in?”
“Madison, you just want an excuse to get more ice cream.”
“You’re right,” he admitted. “But studies have shown that ice cream makes everything better.”
“Madison you better stop lying in front of our children,” Padre laughed.
“No, I think Papa’s right,” I said, tapping my chin in mock thought. “Remember when I got in trouble for punching Tommy and we got ice cream?”
“Or that did I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle and we got ice cream?” Azzy added.
“Or the time when-”
“Okay, okay, I get it. Ice cream it is,” Padre relented, causing Papa to punch the air in victory before he offered Azzy and me his fists.
“It was an honor fighting with you soldiers.”
Padre rolled his eyes as we got into the car. I loved my family dynamic. They always seemed to make me calm when my emotions were a whirlwind.
But, as if the universe saw my balance and wanted to disrupt it, my phone vibrated in my pocket.
Tyler: hey man. I know ur out of town, but when u get back, wanna c the new Disruptor movie??
My heart involuntarily skipped a beat as I typed out my message. I needed to put this all to rest. I needed to put him behind me. I quickly finished the message before I clicked send and turned off my phone.
Me [to Tyler]: of course :)