A true story by Joel C. – as told to Aris Apostolopoulos
July 9, 2011
It was a family dinner –the ones that everybody is bored to death to attend. Pork with apples, garlic, onions, and whatnot. A lot of wine for the parents and juice or a non-alcoholic beer for us, the children. I was fifteen back then, ready to turn sixteen in about two weeks. I would be one step towards becoming one of the 13 adults in the regular invitation list, not one of the bullies disguised as teenagers.
Right after dessert, people in my hometown usually drink. And they drink a lot. That’s when they switch roles. They suddenly turn 15 and we are just standing there, watching men with their whiskeys and cigars while their wives were gossiping over their gin tonics and diet spritzes. There was one time after desert at our traditional home gatherings when one of my father’s business partners told my parents that kids in school called me names. “Gay” was among these names.
July 10, 2011
It was a Sunday morning family breakfast –the ones that teenagers are bored to death to attend. For some reason, important conversations in my hometown and my house always took place over food.
“I had an interesting conversation with Bruce yesterday,” my father said with his mouth full of cereal and milk that he spat after he finished his sentence. This man just can’t keep two things in his mouth at the same time. Too bad he didn’t know his son is an expert at it.
“He told me kids at school call you gay.” Oh, he knew.
Bruce Garden could briefly be described as the devil. Do you know the rich-female stereotype of gossip and make fun of their exes? Garden combines this stereotype with the traditional strong male one who runs a successful business, has a house by the sea and cheats on his wife while he is away on a business trip. However, his information is always accurate.
I just stopped smearing butter on my bread and took a deep breath. My mother pretended she was in shock but I could tell my father had already told her. If I had any siblings, the conversation would have been much more awkward. I just took a deep breath and looked him in the eye. He was so sure I would just say it was a silly joke my friends had started and spread all over the school. I didn’t.
“I guess, if Bruce says it, then it must be true,” I responded.
“Oh, I’m sure the rumor will just fade away, honey. I wouldn’t worry about it,” my mother told me kissing my forehead like she was checking if I had a fever.
“It’s not a rumor. It’s true,” I said. At that point, I was smearing butter on a slice of bread again. I had just done it. They had just heard it but they couldn’t move. ‘Okay, pancakes, guys?” my mother said while my father was just staring –not reading– his newspaper. With 50 pounds off my chest, I walked –not ran– upstairs to my room.
I had done it. I had come out of my f*cking closet. The feeling of not having to lie anymore was just ecstatic. Since I’m part of a real f**ked-up generation, the first thing that crossed my mind was to post a tweet about it. I stayed in that room for four hours talking on the phone with my best friend who congratulated me for my courage. I was finally proud of me!
Later that day, when the family meeting my parents had certainly held, I heard a knock on my door. I was not ready to confront anyone of them so I just stayed there, locked in my room. The knocks stopped. Two hours later I was downstairs in my living room talking about my sexuality with two people that didn’t seem to understand anything. One and a half hour later, my mother hugged me while my father was just sitting there looking at us. I went to sleep. The next day I let the whole school know I was gay. Suddenly, the bullying stopped.
When I went back home, it started again.
“Your father and I are thinking about taking you to a therapist friend of mine,” mother said. I don’t know how but, after some extensive talking, I agreed. In my mind, I believed that the therapist would tell them that this was not a condition that needed to be fixed but my identity. Little did I know.
July 12, 2011 – Evening
The drive to the therapist felt like a century. I was just sitting in the back seat while my father was driving past the city center, the suburbs, the forest out of my town, and parked out of a tiny, wooden house. We got out of the car, headed to the door and rang the bell.
A woman in her forties opened the door. She was wearing a Talisman around her neck and a kimono even though she was not Asian. We entered her house and, as soon as we sat on the couch, I started exploring the place with my eyes. Paintings with dragons, deep red colors, dreamcatchers, feathers, a huge bookcase, chests, and a scent of aromatherapy candles in the air.
I knew I was at a New Age Therapist’s-kind-of-stuff house. But the truth was I was at a witch’s place. And my parents had become part of her coven three years ago. A coven created and run by rich people who believed in money and The Charmed ones, apparently.
They took me to another room. It was dark, lit in candles, spacious, mystic. My parents took a seat in a dark corner of the room and I was in the center of it. The witch was standing in front of me with a big book open, chanting some words. I didn’t stand up. I was curious to see where this thing was going. She burned some sticks and roots and drew some circles in the air with them.
I was expecting someone to laugh or cameramen to come in saying I had been punk’d. For one hour, I stood there on my knees silent like the witch’s spells had worked and they were stopping me from moving. When she finished I said, “Thank you.” THANK YOU! Like she had helped me or something. The words had just slipped out of my mouth.
We went back to the living room and sat on the big, puffy, brown leather couches. The witch said that my situation needed a lot of work and she and my parents should set more appointments. But they wouldn’t have to worry “the Coven would take care of it,” she said meaning the price for these unconventional meetings. I was still speechless. We went back in the car and had a silent drive home. We didn’t say goodnight. I just went to my room and tried to fall asleep. I didn’t sleep a minute that night.
The next morning, my mother had prepared a huge breakfast for me and my father. I guess as a gift to me for helping her make this happen. But, back then, I didn’t know what I was helping her with. “Was it a witch?” I asked. No response. “Did you take me to a witch yesterday?” I continued remaining calm. Still, no answer. “Will anybody tell me what the f*ck happened last night?” I screamed.
“Martha is not a witch. She is a therapist,” my mother finally said.
“A therapist who casts spells,” I said.
“They are mantras,” I heard my father from behind me. “We just recently started hanging out with some people that introduced her to us…”
“But what do I have to do with her?” I interrupted him.
“She is going to fix your situation,” my mother said.
“I need no fixing, mom.”
“Yes, you do, honey,” she said smiling sympathetically.
In some weird way, I felt bad about my parents. My mother always wanted a daughter-in-law and my father always needed a son to work with the law and inherit his successful. In his opinion, I could not be that son and a gay man at the same time. When I came back from school that day, I saw my mother crying. I knew it was about me even though she never admitted it. I went to the witch the next week.
The same ritual. Next week, the same. And all the weeks for the rest two years, the same.
One hundred weeks later and the witch had started giving me herb teas to accelerate the process. My father had lost hope so he had stopped coming with me and my mother. My friends knew absolutely nothing about it and my love life was pretty much non-existent. The 101st week, I fell in love with a guy I met on Grindr, Damien. The 104th week, I told him everything. He was shocked –duh.
The 107th week, I decided to tell them about Damien and that I would stop the weekly meetings – spells. The show was over. My mother cried, my father yelled, I left my house and moved in with my new boyfriend. That was the last time I ever saw my parents.
Today, four years later, Damien and I are just good friends. I work as a waiter and I study to become an actor. I’ve talked on the phone with my mother a couple of times and, from what I hear, my parents are getting a divorce.
Maybe there is a magic ritual to save their marriage too.