A Good Walk Gone Better

I was a little scared to go back.

Someone with that much anger could go ballistic. I’ve experienced a person at the negative tipping point who’s tipped himself right into a psych ward. Society, formatively early bad experiences, the culture–too much can overwhelm one’s coping mechanisms. But not everybody snaps. I took solace in that.

Michael was nice, after our Good Walk Gone Bad no-on-8 klatch; but he could just be luring me in. Maybe he was one of those misogynists who, no matter what, hate women. Charlie pointed out, when we went to gay revues in the 90s, that the boys doing the beauty pageants and the talent shows were making fun of females, they really hated women, but I said, no, look, look at their meticulous costumes and makeup, and damn if I could look that good in a bikini, ever. They care, but they’ve internalized the deep antifeminine vein that runs through our macho-poisoned culture like many females do, and they’re objectifying themselves and the whole scene, unawares. Hey, I mock beauty pageants, too, without the deeply sarcastic, and yet hopeful, vein of trying to be in one. And I’m not even sure these men are gay–more like female-identified males, poor souls, trapped in male bodies and male sociology, a double-whammie for confusion.

Michael was a tire-biter. A full-blown all-testosterone gay male, out of my ken. He drove a man truck and he was going to kick ass on any plump mom republican suburban bitch yes-on-eighter who dared traverse the canyon on his property. Such haters trampled his universe.

The thing that gave me comfort was, while Michael and I were talking, sharing stories, another man came up, a neighbor, and gave me a hug. So his friends were warm. He was part of a larger community. That would keep him grounded. Yet I was still a woman belonging in the uber-hetero community, even if a progressive liberal-demo.

I don’t know what it’s like to grow up gay in a society that tears you down from the moment of birth. I’ve only observed this wrenching reality in people close to me. Besides those survivors who are strong and prevail, there are some who want to turn and fight, strike out, pay back. And who wouldn’t?

Refusing to be bullied, yet always nevertheless reaching out, I walked up the carport and rang Michael’s door bell. His door was ajar. It took a while for him to come to the door.

Odd allies, he and I. A bit late, he thought I wasn’t coming. His partner couldn’t join us, a parlayed Sorry.

They have a big, beautiful home, with a little yip-yip dog, and a wood deck overlooking my coveted mountain, tall, muscular Mt. San Miguel, that was dwarfed in flames this past wildfire. We hiked down the canyon together. It was a little awkward. We hardly knew each other. He handed me an embossed card, inviting us to the December gay-men’s chorus, with whom his partner sang. It’d been a few years since charlie and I’d been to the Chorus. We knew a few people there.

Megan, waiting with her teacher and hoards of classmates, saw us and blanched.

I waved her over and said, “Megan, this is my friend, Michael. We had a misunderstanding but everything’s ok. Really, it’s ok.”

Michael said to her, “Megan, I am really sorry about this morning. Sometimes grownups make mistakes. I want you to know that I am truly sorry for scaring you and being so mean.” He reached into his pocket and handed her an envelope. Inside was thick linen cardstock with an etched drawing, a handwritten note on the flipped side. A gift card for Coldstone Ice Cream slipped into her hands.

Safely off school grounds, the three of us headed up the canyon trail. Megan was speechless. I tried to explain.

“Megan, you know how we walked with Ace and how we hated all those giant Yes on 8 signs on the way to school? How I wanted Ace to pee on all those signs? How rude those were?”

Megan. “Yeah.”

“Well, Michael thought we might be one of the families who were like that, trying to hurt him.”

Megan immediately turned to Michael and said, “Oh my god. We have friends who had people in their neighborhood bothering them! My mom does yoga with this guy who had people write chalk things from the Bible on their sidewalk in front of their house and they wrote bad things on their signs and even put Yes-on-8 bumper stickers on their [his and his partner’s] car!”

For once I was glad I talk to my children about reality–not the worst, but things I was currently fighting.

At the top of the trail, we three parted ways, after chatting a little longer. As Megan and I headed up Grandview, Megan vented a huge sigh of relief.

“What?” I asked.

“When I saw you with that man at school, I was really scared. I was afraid you’d get in a fight in front of everybody. Then, when you said you were friends, I was afraid he had a crush on you. It wasn’t until we were on the trail, when you said he was gay, that I finally relaxed. He couldn’t crush on you! It was safe!”

Ah, poor Meggie. Negotiating this strange adult world. Brave, brave girl.

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