My mother spent most of the next week at the hospital, only returning home to sleep. My aunt, Jane, my mother’s older sister, who I hadn’t seen for years, because she lived in Canada, flew in with her husband. I went several times to see my father, once with Zack, but there wasn’t much to do other than wait.
In the middle of the week Josh phoned and said he would like to see us if it was OK, because he needed to talk to some friends who might understand or even help him with his family. He said he understood that with all that was going on we were maybe too preoccupied, but I told him that there was not much I could do about my dad except wait and see, besides the last time I hadn’t really been there for him.
Wednesday Zack and I went over to the old apart we’d arranged to pick up some pizza and share a takeaway, Josh wasn’t that great at cooking and Aaron was out with Sammy. Seemed like the two of them were never out of each others company these days although their relationship was great it had not helped at all with Aaron’s quest for information from his grandparents.
The three of us sat together around the kitchen table, two big red and yellow cardboard pizza boxes in the middle. Josh got some beers from the little fridge, the place was exactly the same as when I’d been living there, nothing had changed, it was only us who’d moved on.
After talking about this and that, but nothing in particular, I guess it’s always difficult to launch straight into things, maybe also because Josh didn’t know Zack very well, not like we knew each other, eventually he got down to telling us why we were there.
“I had a talk with my brother,” he started off. “Told him I was gay.”
Wow, I thought, that was pretty brave and he was on his own not like me. Zack was silent and I didn’t say anything either, better to let Josh explain.
“For him,” he continued. “His reaction was subdued, I mean he didn’t rant and rave, but neither was he like, ‘OK that’s fine.’ No what he came back with was, ‘Have you told dad?'” He paused, got up and went over to the fridge, “You guys want another beer?” he asked opening the door.
“Yeah sure,” we kind of replied in unison.
“Have I told dad,” he opened his beer and took a swig. “Of course I hadn’t bloody told dad, that was why I was talking to him.”
We nodded, didn’t speak, just listened. “He can be pretty dense sometimes, my brother. So I spelled it out for him, that the whole problem was about exactly how I was going to tell dad that I’m gay, plus that I wasn’t interested in pursuing the same career path as him and I couldn’t cope any longer with all the pressure they were putting on me.”
I wondered how Samuel, Josh’s brother, would have reacted to all that, I wondered what he thought about having a gay brother, most of all I wondered if he would come up with a way to help Josh with his dad.
“It was like I said all this to a dummy, to a brick wall,” Josh sipped his beer, he looked like he was angry, at any rate he was scowling. “I had built up to all this, to telling him, to coming out.”
That I could completely understand, of course, it was the same for me. Now I knew what he was going to say next, not exactly, but my hunch was that nothing worked out like he planned.
“His reaction,” Josh continued. “His reaction was nothing, he didn’t really have anything to say. When I pushed him and asked him what he thought, all he said was I don’t know, it’s a big problem, dad will freak, it’s not normal.”
Now I knew Josh was angry. Zack must have felt it too because he spoke for the first time. “It’s OK to be angry Josh,” he said.
“Not fucking normal, Jesus Christ, that’s all he could say. What fucking help was that from an older brother, someone you’d grown up with.”
I leaned over and put my arm round him. “Let’s go sit in the lounge, come on.”
We all got up together, Josh and I went down the hall, Zack cleared the table, then followed. The three of us sat together on the sofa, Josh inbetween me and Zack.
“You’ll never believe what happened after that,” Josh said wiping his eyes. “He actually asked if I was sure, had I done anything with anyone, how did I know. I wasn’t about to dicuss my sex life with him, what there is of it, not with a cretin of a brother, but I honestly felt like saying, yeah I got fucked in the ass and I liked it.”
He was crying now, I had my arm round him, so did Zack, we both understood what he was going through. “Sorry… sorry guys… I didn’t mean to be so gross, but it makes me so angry.” We held him between us, there was nothing to say, just a need for physical contact, to show him we were there, we cared.
“It got worse,” he continued after sniffling a bit. His face was wet with tears, his eyes were red, he was actually shaking. “Dolores arrived, Samuel took her aside and talked to her, must have explained what I’d said. You know what?… I thought she was being nice, she came over and put an arm round me… and what did she say?”
I think Josh was trying to keep it together long enough to finish the whole story. “She said to me, ‘Josh, I’m sure it will be alright, just wait until you meet a nice girl.’ Yeah, sure, that’s how it goes, I’m gay, but everything will be fine I just need a nice girl. I said thanks, looked at my brother, turned around and walked straight out.”
“I’m so sorry Josh,” I told him.
“I know it’s not much, but we’re here for you,” Zack added.
“No, it means a lot to me to have you guys as friends.” Josh had stopped crying, stopped shaking, but I could feel his body, it felt all tight like the strings on a piano or guitar that if you plucked them too hard or played the wrong note, said the wrong thing, the strings would break.
“We’ll help, do whatever we can,” Zack said.
I was thinking all this must have happened a few days ago and he’s been carrying it around with him, alone. I knew he’d had a crush on me and the poor guy was all alone. I wondered if he really had had sex with someone and I don’t know where the thought came from, but Calvin popped into my head. I was thinking this was a very bad situation, imagine if he’d had his first sexual experience and it wasn’t great. He comes out to his brother and it couldn’t have gone much worse. He was attracted to me and I’ve met Zack and moved out.
“Thanks for coming over… and for listening,” Josh said.
“Oh Josh I wish I could make it a perfect world, I wish I could make it alright.” I genuinely felt very sad for him and realised how different things were for me.
We spent the rest of the evening together, a few more beers, listened to some music, didn’t talk much, there wasn’t anything to say, I didn’t want to talk anyway and I don’t think Zack did either. Josh had at least shared his experience with his brother, but I thought there was some other stuff going on here. I don’t know, maybe not, maybe I was wrong.
It was quite late when Zack and I left, we had waited for Aaron to get in, I didn’t want to leave Josh in the apart on his own. Not because I thought something might happen, well I’m not sure why, I just felt I shouldn’t leave him on his own, stuff like that can make someone do irrational things. I made my mind up that I would call him in the morning to check how he was and to sort of reassure him, what a shitty experience.
next – someone from the past turns Up!