5014 – J.E. Reich, “The Places I Have Come Out”

In the school library. My father is away at a conference for a distant summer in Germany. He will be the hardest to tell, I reason, for the missed linguistic cues, the generational gap as precarious as a lion's hinging jaw, or rather, because he just doesn't get it. It's a safe bet. I write him a ten-page email, glancing at the other computer carrels. Due to competing time zones, I receive his response the next morning. Surprised, but not shocked. Love, Dad.

In a vestibular instant messenger window, to the girl who will become my first girlfriend. We will break up eight months later, over a girl from Connecticut she meets in an online forum. Like other lesbians I know, we remain close friends to this day.

On the front porch of my mother's house, coiled on a swing. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. In the spirit of the high holidays, in the spirit of atonement, I confess my predilections to her. These things weren't supposed to happen to her, she says, this isn't what she envisioned for me. You're not gay. She repeats it until the words are kite tassels fluting upwards beyond our heads.      

Sitting at my desk in Dr. F's AP European History course. My friend E is sick of my whining. You need to get laid is the underlying sentiment of her diagnosis. The solution becomes a coming out party. There will be wine, pilfered from the cabinets of a St. Patrick's Day house party, where D snowboarded down the stairs and I accidentally broke a futon bed; where it turned out the host was actually the house-sitter and who got sent to a juvenile detention center the next morning, after she was discovered cradling a jar of peanut butter amidst broken bottles. So wine from that party, and a chocolate fondue fountain. E turns to a classmate of ours, asks if she knows that I'm gay. The classmate is baffled. We're having a party, says E, and you're on the guest list. By the end of the day, we have the venue at H's dad's house – he'll be out of town – but in the end, the party does not occur and now everyone knows.

At my mother's book club. People talk.

On the back couch in Harrison's Cafe, after-hours in the vacant, locked-up shop. I reassure her that it's not an experiment. Afterwards, we cruise around in her father's pick-up, drinking beers named after rocks and ice with a tannic aftertaste. I come home to find I have missed a loop in my re-fastened belt.

In my first college classroom. I fill up my schedule with prerequisites. In my public speaking course, we are asked to bring in three objects and identify what they mean to us. The only rainbow article of clothing I own is striped underwear. In retrospect, I wonder how many times the professor had witnessed similar antics.

Around my uncle's dining room table during Passover seder. My aunt asks when my younger sister, a sophomore in college, will marry her boyfriend. She'll probably wait until after graduation, I say. Besides your other sister, she's our only hope, she replies.

On my girlfriend's graduation day. Her mother knew L would bring her boyfriend, the one that her sisters always mentioned, that person with the apartment in Allston. If her daughter was seeing someone so often – as her daughter had never done – then it had to be serious. On the pavilion by the Boston Harbor, we meet for the first time. I was the best friend she's never heard of. During the celebratory luncheon in Cambridge, she sneaks looks, furtive and observatory, as I push my tuna niçoise around with a fork. So, this is it. Now, I call L's mother by her first name.

On Franklin Avenue, holding hands. We are lucky. The previous Fourth of July in Boston, L and I had our arms around each other while a man with a shaved head made catcalls. I told him to be quiet, shut your f – ing mouth. He replied, and my peripheral vision went ashen. It was only after L had me in her arms again, pulling me away, that I realized I had punched someone for the first time.

In the police precinct. I sit with the officer to file a report as the victim of – as the officer decides – lewd conduct. The man in my apartment building came towards me, pants down, but intent can only go so far. L is next to me as the officer asks me about discernible scars, piercings, tattoos. The officer has seen our apartment bedroom, our connubial bed with the crumpled blue duvet. Still, he calls her my roommate.

In the dark. In the light.

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