Losing Home

by Meghan Minihan, http://neovox.cortland.edu, November 4, 2010

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I opened the back door with my hands laden with cups, brie, grapes and crackers. As I unloaded my bounty on the plastic table I notice Carl and Jared bunching up pieces of newspaper and placing them between damp pieces of wood that they have stacked in the form of a tee pee in the fire pit.

I look at Jared's feet. They are pale white on the black blue of the slate of the patio.
"Jared, aren't you cold?" I said, laughing. "Wait, I have booties."

I hustle through the back door, run into my room and grab two pairs of thick booties and then make my way to the kitchen where I find a butter knife, plates and more newspaper.

"Here," I said as I handed Jared a pair of white and gray striped booties with two white puff balls hanging from the tops of them.
"Meg, can you grab more paper?" Carl asked
When I returned, I saw Jared's feet and smiled.
"Can we just say how cute my boyfriend looks right now?" Carl asked with his lips pulled into an unbridled smile.

I opened up the crackers and Jared went inside to start pouring whiskey sours. I arranged the crackers on a plate and admired how they fell on top of each other.

"When I do this I feel like a housewife and some tiny part of me loves it." I said

Carl laughed and then the screen door crashed. Jared appeared with three glasses in his hands.

Carl and Jared went back to trying to start the fire and my sister appeared from behind the house.
"So why didn't you open the door for me?" she teased.
"I didn't hear it, I was inside. Oh whatever." I said.

Jacqueline appeared with a bottle of champagne and walked to the edge of the patio and pointed the bottle into the sky.
"I hate the noise it makes when it pops." she said.

I watched her as she began to open the top and I stopped swallowing the cracker I was eating. I held my breath. Pop!

Jared and Carl sat down and Amanda began to mess with the fire. As she rearranged twigs and paper the flame began to flicker. It engulfed the paper and then moved to attacking weak twigs and finally began to leap and palpitate.

As the fire grew strong, night fell quickly. The docile blue gave way to a dark navy. The fire hissed and the wood fractured under its heat.

We sat with our chairs arranged around the table close to the fire.

"So, Jacqueline, when Jared, Carl and I went to the Tavern a while ago, they were awful. I don't get it."

"Honey, they were like that because I am gay." Carl said. The words came out in a rush. His hands beat the air as he spoke.

We entered through the side door. The screen door is light and I feel the thin wire as I push my hand against it to hold it open for those who follow after me.

No music is playing and the lights are dim. There is a short wooden bar with stools with high backs lined against it. Several pale blue cans are littered along the bar to be used as ashtrays.

The place smells of stale smoke, wood and sweat.

A sole woman sits at the bar in a salmon-colored sweater and jeans that hang loose and bunch, prattling with the bartender. The bartender looks at us with a long and penetrating stare. The woman on the chair turns her body until she is angled toward us; her legs crossed. They both glare.

My limbs grow tense and hard under their gaze. I stand taller and play with my gold, quilted wallet. I continuously open and close the clasp with my thumb. I press my fingers into the material until they leave small imprints in the wallet.

I smile at Jared and Carl and shrug my shoulders. Jared, Carl and I are all wearing black. Both look better than I do.

"Can I see your licenses?" the bartender asks.

She is stout with her dirty blonde hair parted down the middle and pulled into a loose bun that hangs at the nape of her neck.

Her lips are thin and lack color. They are pulled into a mean and unyielding line.

Jared throws his license on the counter and we all follow. She picks up his license and holds it close to her face for a long time. We each wait for our IDs to be examined, fidgeting and smiling at each other.

"What do you want?" She asks.

We order. She takes our money and when we utter our "thank yous," our cheerful and cherubic faces are greeted by a churlish one.

Jared and I find a table in a dark corner behind the pool table. Carl stands close to us, talking and rolling his eyes at his cousin, Damien who has just entered in his work clothes that are smeared with dirt. His heavy work boots clank on the floor and a few guys walk in behind him. Heads high, chests out and eyes scouring.

Courtney and Ashley have moved close to the jukebox. They lean against a wooden island that juts out from the wall. All assets pointed in the direction of those entering. We repel each other, each group stays with who they are accustomed too. Ashley flits between each group trying to find balance.

Brandon is followed closely by his dog. Ashley, Courtney and a girl they met there squeal with delight. Jared and I roll our eyes. He needs a dog to pump up his game.

I sit across from Jared, pulling on my shirt and running my left hand through my hair. The table is square and sticky.

"You guys want to play pool?" Carl asks.
"Sure," I said while shrugging my shoulders.
"You and me are on a team and we will play Ashley and Courtney, alright?"
"Yeah, that's fine." I said

Carl, with his black jeans tight and his brown hair perfectly flipped saunters over to the pool table and deposits a few quarters in the slot. I pick up my glass and take a long swallow of Blue Moon. My hand shakes a little as I lift the glass to my lips.

Carl places the rack on the table and begins placing a few balls in it. Then he walks over to Jared and I who are watching and drinking, letting our bodies become quiet and loosened by the booze.

"You ready?" he asks
"Yeah, sure. I'll come, whatever." I respond and smile back at him.

When he turns to go back to the pool table, there is a thin but solid blond man in his early twenties hunched over the pool table, finishing the job Carl had already begun.

"Hey, we were going to play." Carl said

The blond slowly stands straight and holds the black, plastic triangle lightly, bouncing it with his fingers.
"We were going to play. I put the quarters in already." Carl tried again.

When he finally spoke it was quick and callous.
"Do you want to go now or what?" he asked.

"No, it's okay, you guys can go first, we'll just go next. "said Carl.

He made his way back to our table. Carl stood in front of us for a moment and looked around the bar and watched Ashley and Courtney play with the jukebox.

Jared held a cigarette loosely between his fingers and the smoke undulated in front of his face. He hunched his shoulders and leaned his body forward. His leg was crossed over the other and he held his right ankle with his free hand.

"You know that it is not going to work, Carl." he said
"Yeah, it will." Carl said

Carl looked at me and I shrugged. Bars, pool, and guys in general, were not my forte.

"There is an order established once they start playing." Jared said
"No, we'll play." Carl said.

Jared looked at me and smirked; his eyes were shining.

The game finished and Carl grabbed a pool stick from the rack on the wall.
"Guys, let's go," he shouted.

Ashley and Courtney tore themselves from their corner. I remained seated.

"You can't play now." The blonde said.

"But...you're done. I put the money in." Carl said.

"You can't." he said.

Carl stood erect. His lips pursed and I could feel, rather than see, a trembling rocking his insides.
"I told you, Carl." Jared said.
"He did, Carl, he told you." I said.
Carl towered above us and dove into his anger. His quiet anger.

"Do you really want to play, Meg?" Carl asked.
"No, really I don't care. It's no big." I said.
"Ash do you?" He asked.
"Yeah, dude. I want to."

Carl turned in the direction of the group of guys and began to walk slowly and purposefully toward them.

"Carl, hey! Let's go to the stadium. They have better drinks. C'mon, Jared is bitching about his being watered down." I said.

"No, Ashley and Courtney want to stay." Carl said
"Carl..alright well Jared and I are going to discuss what I am going to do about Dan." I said

The screen door slams and bounces back as it hits its frame. I examine the worn, red paint on the door. The beer in my hand is cold and I cradle it.

The street is empty and streetlamps cast pools of yellow light in the center of the darkness. The three of us stand huddled in a group, looking at each other.

I start to dance. I close my eyes and hold my arms out horizontally from my body and let them find their own rhythm. I sway and let my hips roll. My torso twists and I feel my lips curl into a grin. I let the night find me and exhilarate me. There is silence except for the sound of Carl and Jared's breathing and the scuffing and cracking of rocks under my feet.

"Meg, you brought your beer outside." Carl said.
"So," I said.
"So you're going to get a ticket." Carl said laughing.
"Stop flailing that can around." Jared said.
I stop dancing, the night's rhythm dies. I throw the can in the garbage and we walk away; the bar bleak and cold behind us.

The smell of burning wood, the roar of the fire and the black night enveloped us. Carl's words "Honey, they we're like that because I am gay," swirled in my mind.

I felt an understanding creep into my consciousness. The cold stares, the curt responses and the rigid stances taken by those at the OT all worked to create a mosaic. Carl's explanation had slammed the pieces together. I felt waves of anger wash over me and pound the walls of my stomach leaving me red, mad and full of hate.

I wanted to hurt them for pushing Carl into a box and stamping it with the word Gay. Being gay was a part of Carl, but there was more, so much more. I wanted to hit those in the bar and pound on their chests with my fists. I wanted to scream until my throat was red and ripped and raw.

Discrimination and hate had hit me in the face. I realized for the first time that it was no longer a dark and brooding cloud that lurked somewhere out there to be strived against. It was here, in my hometown affecting my best friend and it tasted foul.

Jacqueline opened the screen door with her hip and walked out with a bowl of potatoes and cabbage and a plate piled high with corned beef.

I lit a few candles and the pale light danced over the faces of those I loved; gay and straight. We sat at that table eating and laughing. The sky was dark, ominous even but I was in the company of those who knew me, knew my secrets, wants and desires and fuckups and they still loved me.

The waves of anger I had felt at those in the OT calmed and were replaced by a ballooning sense of pity. They would never have love or acceptance like this. They would inhabit the bars and walk around growling at one another and slapping each other on that back for punishing those who had found love. They would try to soil something beautiful. They had never had it and when they see it they rips to shreds, stomp and spit on it.

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