Remember the Silence

When my aunt proclaimed that it was such a shame, my cheeks turned red–but maybe it was just the Southern heat. When my mom nodded in agreement, my stomach twisted.

Before I could open my mouth, they were onto the next picture. A picture of a house in San Francisco, where my mother had lived in luxury for ten days with my dad and another couple, drinking wine and chasing sunsets. And then a picture of the vineyards they had visited, of the barrels housing wine that stretched on for a mile in a warehouse too enormous to fathom. And then a picture of my mother and my dad. And my aunt cooed something about how nice they all looked.

And while they drifted on with the pictures, their conversation curbed by scenes on my mother’s phone, I was stuck on that one picture from two seconds ago, five minutes ago, ten hours ago, now three months ago.

“This one is gay,” my mother had said, pointing to my classically pretty roommate, as if her sexuality said anything about her personality.

“That’s a shame.”

I swear, those words are burned behind my eyelids and in my bloodstream, and my heart is allergic to those words because it stops beating when I think of them, and my throat closes up and I wish for all the world that I knew they were coming so I could prepare something to say, some defense that would stop them cold and make them realize.

But my cheeks turned red and my fingernails bit into my palm and I was in another room, in another universe, where it doesn’t really matter who someone loves or likes or dreams about or fucks in their spare time.

That’s a shame–

Was it because she expected lesbians only to be ugly? Or masculine? Buzzed heads and tattoos, nose and eyebrow piercings, a smug smile and unmanicured nails? That’s the stereotype, right? Because being a lesbian is a death sentence, right?

I want to go back in time and smack my aunt and my mother and let fire the words that I know could change their minds, change their culture, erase their upbringing, shine the light in their eyes and clear the cobwebs away from their ears so they could know what I know. I want to tell them that I’ve gotten better sex advise from her than I ever could’ve gotten from my mother, that when I say her girlfriend I mean lover not acquaintance, and that their hatred or fear is not getting them anywhere, love is love and it is not a shame if she find someone who appreciates her.

This is supposed to ease my guilt. This writing, this crucifixion of my aunt and mother, this lament. But it will not ease my guilt, it will not stave the hurt I feel when I realize, again, that I did not say anything. I remember my silence most of all. It was the heaviest thing in the room that night.

That’s what’s shameful.


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