About a month ago, the Giant announced that he needed $10 to enter a 3-on-3 tournament with some of his friends from school. Naturally, my ears perked up with this unexpected news; at 15, the Giant had never once expressed any interest in organized sports, and had only taken up weightlifting in the last year as a means to "get buff."
The prospect of watching him play ball with a bunch of other guys was exciting. And who knows? Maybe this would be the beginning of something pretty cool for the Giant, and for me as well. I mean, hell - I used to play, back in the day. And maybe I could sit in the stands and cheer for him, you know, the way that parents do.
"So Giant - when is this tournament?"
"I dunno, in a couple of weeks," he said. His voice already has a seasoned-man depth, making him sound a decade older. "You probably have to work, and that's okay - you don't have to go."
"What if your Mom and I want to watch you play?"
"I guess that'd be okay. But you don't have to, all right?"
"Right, okay - I'll keep that in mind." I was already pushing work deadlines around in my head, mentally clearing spaces for the tournament. "So who else is on the team?"
"A couple of guys from the basketball team asked me if I would play on their team," he said, gazing at the ceiling. At about 6'2", his head always looks like it's close to the ceiling. "I guess they saw me shooting around in the gym while I was waiting for the weight room, and thought I was okay."
"Yeah, that makes sense, they would want someone who can keep up with their level of play."
I was thinking about the last time I'd seen him shooting a ball, a few weeks ago. I was thinking about who I would have chosen back in the days of running up and down the parquet floor. I mentally shrugged - he must be doing something right on court.
"So, Giant, when do you need the money by, and isn't there some kind of permission slip that your Mom will need to sign?"
"I need it by Thursday, and I'll bring the permission slip home tomorrow night. Or the next night. You don't have to go, you know?"
"We'll see, Giant, we'll see. The fact is, I'd like to go, if I can. It would be cool to see you play."
"Yeah, okay. Well, I'm going to bed. I worked out hard today." He put his hands behind his head and stretch-flexed, exhaling dramatically for emphasis, then trudged gracefully down the hall to his room.
Flash forward to the signing of the permission slip. He pulled the worn 2"x2" folded square out of the back pocket, and tossed in on the counter where Raven was sitting. She unfolded it slowly.
"So, Giant, when is the big day?" I asked, trying to keep my swelling chest from showing.
"I dunno - it's probably on the permission slip."
Getting specific information from the Giant has always been a little like panning for gold - you have to sift through a lot of "I dunno," and likely call the school to find out anything of value. Nonetheless, he doesn't miss important deadlines. I have always found this curious, but I have always been that way too; despite the fact that we do not share any DNA, he consistently reminds me of . . . me.
"Says here . . .," Raven paused.
"Look, it doesn't matter," the Giant interrupted. "Nothing personal, but I don't want either one of you to go to the tournament. Seriously."
"Dude, the other day you said . . ."
"Yeah, I know that's what I said, but I changed my mind."
I could feel the blood rushing to my ears, but kept an even tone.
"Giant, why should your Mom sign a permission slip, and why should we give you $10 to enter a tournament that we're not even 'allowed' to attend - what's the point for us?"
"Fine. If you're going to show up, then I'm not playing."
"Dude, what about the team?"
"I'll explain to them tomorrow that something came up, and I can't do it. I'm sure they can find someone to take my place - it's not like I'm definitely playing, because they're already working on finding a 4th player to rotate in. If you come to the thing, I'm not playing. I'm serious." The Giant was keeping an even tone also, even though I could see he was upset.
" . . . "
" . . . "
I took a deep breath, looking for bargaining chips.
"Look man, you know how much I have tried to stay invisible when it comes to you and school. I can more or less blend in with a crowd, and I don't have to be obvious that I even know you."
"Tia, it's not that - I don't care about that, you're fine. I'm saying I don't want you OR Mom to go. It's not about you. I want to try this, and see how it goes. I don't want you guys there watching!"
I took another deep breath. My ears were on fire. I looked out the window so that he couldn't see me willing the lump in my throat to pass peacefully. Another breath, exhaling slowly. I could hear a mower running from three yards over. I turned to face him.
"Okay, Giant, I will not come to watch. I think you understand why this is hard for me - we've talked about it before. But it is more important to me that you play. I think you have a point, that it could be something you enjoy, and I appreciate that you're trying to expand your interests.
Now, for the moment, I would like you to go to your room so that I don't say a whole bunch of shit that is probably unrelated to this situation, and will only make both of us feel like hell. Give me about an hour, so that I don't knock your head off needlessly, okay?"
"God, Tia, it's not that big a deal . . . and it's not just you, it's you AND Mom, why do I have to . . . "
"Look - I'm really trying to be cool here. I'm not going to succeed with you standing here. Go. Now."
I didn't watch him as his footsteps echoed down the hall. Instead, I went to the cabinet, grabbed my favorite highball glass, and poured myself a couple of fingers of Cuervo. I sipped quietly, focusing on the scent of fresh cut grass and mower fumes that wafted faintly.
Raven was watching me out of the corner of her eye. She finally spoke.
"Remember when we were teaching him to ride a bike?"
"Yeah," I said, swirling the drink in my glass.
"Remember why we couldn't teach him on the sidewalk, or on the street, like most people?"
I sighed, but didn't meet her gaze.
"Yes," I absorbed myself in the way the light played through the golden tequila.
"Remember what a perfectionist he was?"
"Yes - and I know you have a point here, but just draw me the picture. What am I missing in this situation?" My tone was much sharper than she deserved, but I couldn't help it. I took another sip, because I knew she was going to answer.
"Look. He's probably telling the truth. He's not ready to be seen playing ball, in case he's not good at it. It's his thing, now, if he plays basketball."
"So he's not quite ready to meet Coach Tia Owl."
"Right. That's what it is. That's gotta be it," I said it angrily. "It couldn't be that when you and I are in the same vicinity, people automatically know we're a couple - everyone says it, so it must be true - hell, even you say it . . . "
"That's not what it is, honey . . . that's not it," Raven said. She got off the the stool and took a step toward me. I kept looking out the window over the sink, abstractly noting the dripping faucet. She slowly stroked from the base of my neck to my shoulders. "He loves his Tia. He's just . . . growing up."
"Well, I hate it, and it's not fair, anyway."
"I know, honey, it's not fair," she breathed into my ear, and folded her arms around me. I turned around so I could bury my face in her neck.
"It's not fair, baby, but it's okay," Raven said. And I broke, finally, leaking the weight and sorrow from my eyes to her shirt, quietly, with ragged breath. "It's gonna be okay, honey . . . it is."
"How do you know?"
"Because, I know him, and I know you. It's gonna be okay," she said, patting my back.
I'll be honest with you - I'll never know for sure what made the Giant decide he didn't want us there. The point ended up being moot, since one of his teammates didn't get around to paying his part of the entrance fee. I know what I choose to believe.
I also know that we've come a long way. 40 years ago, this post wouldn't have existed, not just because the technology didn't exist, but because I wouldn't have dared write that I'm a lesbian, and that I consider the Giant my son. We've come a long way, and there are still miles to go before we sleep.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (widely considered the first public protest for GLBT rights) several OSers have posted excellent pieces. Though my list is most likely incomplete, please take a moment to visit the following (if you haven't already):
From Tijo: Barack Talks the Talk
From FingerLakesWanderer: 40 Years and Counting
From Robin Sneed: Celebrating Stonewall
Blessings, all . . . it's not fair . . . but hopefully, it'll be okay. Together, we can make it happen.