The Year We Grew Up – Chapter Ten.



I moved in with Zack the following week, we talked about it of course, but there wasn’t much talking. Zack grabbed me Sunday night and pulled me back to his place, his arm around my shoulder, it was very cute. Monday evening I had all my stuff over there and I told Josh he had the room to himself for a while, until Aaron and him could find someone to move in.

I could tell you that Zack and I spent the whole week making mad passionate love, but we didn’t, sure we had sex, but we also spent loads of time talking. Talking about him, about me, our friends, about everything. I think when you’re in love you have a desire to know as much as possible about each other’s lives before you met, it’s like you want to catch up with the years you missed out. Maybe it’s not the same for everyone, I don’t know, how could I, Zack is the first, one and only boy I’ve been in love with.

There was some important stuff going on in the world at large and being tucked up in our little attic would not stop some of those things impinging on our lives. I thought it was great that the law was about to be changed to allow gay marriage, not that we were planning on that just yet. Then there was the other major law change which was about employment rights and more flexibility for businesses to bring in extra staff when needed, but to be able to lay them off as well.

The change to the employment law was essentially about flexibility, but if you listened to my father, you would come away thinking it was the end of workers rights and complete power in the hands of the bosses. He would be out on the streets demonstrating and right up there at the head of the march, planned for Saturday. I needed to see him before then, so I thought I would to go over there on Thursday or Friday. Zack asked me if I would tell my dad about being gay, moving in with him, sharing Zack’s attic.

I didn’t know what to say to Zack, I knew I had at least to tell my dad I’d changed addresses, but no way was I telling him I’m gay and I’ve moved in with my boyfriend. Jesus, if I told him that, I don’t know what he would do, but it wouldn’t be good, that much I did know. Zack was nice about it, he tried to be supportive, but I think deep down he felt a little hurt that I couldn’t be honest about living together. I understand how Zack felt, he was a person who had been through things himself and who needed reassurance. I don’t mean he was clinging on to me, but he needed to know that he wasn’t a nobody who I kept in the shadows.

Knowing how he felt made everything a hundred times harder, until meeting Zack I’d just lied to everybody about myself. Oh, you could say, exactly like I used to tell myself, I didn’t lie I just didn’t tell, but it comes down to the same thing, I lived with a huge secret and that secret was only halfway out of the bag. It would be very easy to leave it like that, but I think I knew that if I did that it wouldn’t be good, not for me, and not for me and Zack.

I didn’t know what to do, but if I told my dad and he blew up over it and Zack never got to meet him, then that would be down to my dad. If I carried on the lie with my dad then Zack would still never get to meet him or worse I would find myself lying to my dad about Zack. This was going to be something I had to confront alone, Zack wouldn’t be next to me holding my hand, but I didn’t see how it could be avoided, there just was no way out.

* * * * * *

It was the middle of the week, Wednesday night, when we were all together at the old apart, that’s what I called it now that I was living with Zack. Aaron had just got back from visiting his grandparents, usually his visits would happen at the weekend, but this time was different. This was the confrontation with his grandfather about his adoption, the thing his mother just refused to talk about, the big family secret, and his grandparents were the only other people who had the answers.

We were all together to support him, it was the least we could do, we couldn’t be there with him, although Josh had suggested that. He could really be stupid at times, of course he meant well, but Josh has this habit of opening his mouth before considering what he is saying, he does it all the time. So we were all together waiting for Aaron to get back and tell us how things went.

When the front door opened and Aaron came up stairs Josh went out to meet him, I guess he couldn’t wait to find out how it went. A few minutes later they came into the lounge together, Aaron had a beer in his hand, Josh followed him into the room. Zack and I were on the sofa, Aaron took the armchair and Josh sat on the floor propped up against the wall by the window.

I looked at Zack, I’m sure he was thinking exactly the same as me, wondering who and how to start the conversation. I glanced across at Josh, saw he was about to say something and decided to jump in before he got the chance. “Aaron,” I started. “Do you want to tell us what happened?”

He looked like he was contemplating what to say, there was a brief pause. “Yes, of course,” he replied. “That I am sure is why you are here and I appreciate it.” Another pause and then he launched into a summary of the evening at his grandparents, a dialogue nobody wanted to interrupt.

“You know, it was all very friendly to start off. The folks were pleased to see me, my grandmother had cooked a great dinner for us and we all sat down to eat.” He took a swig of beer, we just looked on, a bit apprehensive about what was coming next. “They asked me the usual stuff, how I was getting on and what I had been doing. It kind of turned a bit difficult when I mentioned Sammy. My grandparents are very Jewish and of course they were not too happy that the girl I’d met wasn’t Jewish, my grandmother even hushed up my grandad saying it’s not a problem Hayym she can convert.”

At this point I looked at Zack and at Josh, Zack squeezed my hand, I had the distinct impression this wasn’t going to be too good. “Well I didn’t want to start a debate and certainly not an argument about having a non-Jewish girlfriend, but that’s more or less what happened. I didn’t even want to talk about Sammy that much, because I wanted to find out about who my birth parents were, that’s why I was there.”

Another pause, another swig of beer, Aaron scratched his head. “I suppose I didn’t make it clear why I was there,” he continued. “That was my fault, they just felt I was being nice in paying them a visit, but maybe not, I’m not sure, I mean if it was just a visit with no purpose then it wouldn’t have been tonight, no I think they were playing things a bit. Never under estimate old folk, they can be just as clever and manipulative as any of us, maybe more so, at least they had a lot more practice.”

Josh’s phone rang and interupted things, but he quickly shut it off without I think even looking at who it was. Aaron carried on. “So after getting side tracked about Sammy, I just didn’t respond to their comments on being non-Jewish, converting or anything, but I did get a bit annoyed about it and we got into a discussion and argueing over dinner about what it means to be Jewish and religion and responsibilities.”

I think all three of us were intensely focused on Aaron, as they say you could hear a pin drop. “We were on desert by the time Hayym had got on to lecturing about responsibilities and that’s when I took the opportunity to come straight out with it and hit him, verbally that is. I said, look what I need to know from you is whatever you can tell me about who my actual parents were before I got adopted into this family. I think that stuned him a bit, but not enough that he was going to suddenly divulge everything he knew. I jumped in before he could reply and told him that mum wouldn’t talk about it, so it was all down to him to tell me.”

He must have finished his beer because he was getting up and had the bottle in his hand. At that moment Josh leaped up, took the empty bottle from Aaron, told him to sit down and he would get him another beer. He asked if we wanted one and Zack and I nodded, I don’t know since when the two of us had started to be so in unison, it was like being twins.

With refreshments in hand Aaron continued his story. “He wasn’t very pleased, my grandfather, and he said so, he didn’t see why all that needed to be dragged up, it wasn’t good to go over the past. He did exactly the same routine as my mum and that was when I got mad at him. I actually hit the table with my fist, I apologised for that later, but I was so annoyed and frustrated. Anyway, I said I was an adult now, that I had a right to know and nothing would change the way I felt about them or about my mum. I told them that I loved them, that I probably loved them more for adopting me than if they were my real parents. I probably laid it on a bit thick, but I was determined to get the message across.”

Now I was thinking would Hayym actually give Aaron any information, how much would he even know, Aaron seemed to think his grandparents knew everything.

“Eventually and I don’t know what or why he decided to say something,” Aaron was talking again. “But he let loose a bomb shell and it really stuned me so that I was virtually speechless and that was the only information I came away with. For the past couple of hours, all the way back here, I’ve being turning it over and over in my head.”

It was Josh who spoke now, but we all wanted to know. “What did he say then?”

“He said that I wasn’t adopted from strangers, I was born into this family.”

“What does that mean?” Josh asked, Zack and I were silent.

“I don’t know Josh, that’s what I keep thinking about. The only family I thought I had was my mum, my dad who died when I was too young to really know him and my grandparents.”

After that revelation we thought it best to excuse ourselves and told Aaron we were here if he needed us, if he wanted to talk, but there was no point us trying to second guess what his grandfather meant. When we were leaving I told Josh he should give Aaron some space and not get into posing loads of questions. On the way back with Zack I couldn’t help thinking this family history was like one of those magazine real life stories that you read intrigued but finding it difficult to believe.

* * * * * *

Friday evening I decided to call back home and see my dad. I had no idea how I was going to talk to him about me and Zack, he would want to know why I’d moved out of the apartment, but I had no plan figured out as to what to say.

The family home was not far away, I could have walked there, but took the bus anyway. Zack wasn’t back from college so I left him a note, but he already knew I’d planned this visit home. I still had a key so I let myself in and called out to let them know I was here. “Mum, dad, the prodigal son has returned!”

I heard mum in the kitchen at the end of the hall, by the sound of things she was making dad’s tea. “Michael,” my mum called out. “Come on through, your dad’s in the lounge, but let me see you first and hear all the news.”

I walked down the hall and was acutely aware that I was about to change my world forever. I had that feeling of butterflies in the stomach, I think I was starting to sweat. It wasn’t facing my mum that was causing this, but I would have to confront my dad, that was the big problem.

In the kitchen the kettle had just finished boiling, steam escaped the curved spout. A tray was on the kitchen worktop, with a plate of sandwiches, a piece of cake and a hot mug of tea. The typical worker’s tea time I thought to myself, always the same ritual, a tray on the little table next to my dad’s armchair so he could eat whilst watching the news on TV.

“So how are you Michael? Everything going as planned?” My mum had a certain knack for posing the expected trivial questions, but with a twist. She knew I was fine, apart from the nervous knots in my stomach that were now at war with the butterflies or were the butterflies simply on the rampage! No, it was the ‘everything going to plan’ bit that she added on that was a hundred questions all rolled into four little words.

She didn’t wait for me to reply, but picked up the tray saying, “Come on into the lounge, I’ll make you something to eat in a minute, let me just give your father his tea.”

I followed her through thinking that the timing was all wrong, I’d missed my opportunity to talk to mum alone and I would have to talk to them both together, but not before the news was finished.

“Hi dad,” I said, looking over to him sitting there in his armchair.

“How’s it going Mikey?” He replied, but I knew him well enough to know he didn’t want an answer immediately, he never wanted anyone to interupt the news that was just about to start. I stayed quiet and sat down in my usual position on the sofa. Just as the the news came on my mum was back with a mug of tea and another plate of sandwiches.

She sat down next to me on the sofa and in a low voice whispered, “Your favourite, egg mayonnaise.”

At the same moment the news reader was announcing the headlines. “New employment law, we hear from both sides. The route of the march tomorrow and the reaction of the businesses effected. Heavy policing is the order of the day. Other news, the Catholic Church comes out strongly against same sex marriage… and abroad, more problems with refugees in Calais.”

I couldn’t help thinking why would gay marriage cause a problem to Catholics, or anybody for that matter, but especially Catholics, because no one was asking to get married in a church. I drank my tea and made an effort to eat the sandwiches, because mum had made my favourite, but I didn’t really feel too much like eating anything.

We sat in silence until the news was finished, it was another ritual in our house, never disturb dad during the evening news. “Well I don’t know what they’ll want next,” dad said. “Bloody homos getting married, they already make a spectacle with their… what’s it called Marge, their march thing?”

“Gay pride dad,” I chipped in before mum could reply.

“Yeah, that’s it, gay bloody pride, Jesus, what the hell is wrong with people?” He was going off on one, but I wasn’t about to let it go. This was really getting to me, how much of a bigot my dad was.

“So it’s all right for you to march with your union, but not OK for gay people to have their parade?” I said.

“Yeah, you got it right there Mikey, a bloody Disney parade with a load of fairies.”

“Well dear,” my mother interupted, like she always did, to keep the peace when things were about to explode. “Let’s listen to what Michael’s been doing.” And so things calmed down before they went too far, but I was furious and frustrated, the next couple of hours passed in trivial conversation before I excused myself and escaped.

That’s why I had to leave home as soon as I’d left school, to escape. I hadn’t come out to my parents, I hadn’t even told them I moved out of the apartment. What a waste of time! I was so glad to find Zack at home when I got back and I more or less fell into his arms and started sobbing. He held me close and stroked my hair and somehow all the tension dissipated. I told him how everything had gone wrong and he listened, which was what my dad never did, listen.


next – the boys meet Tom!

Chapter Eleven – Clubbing