the empty seat at the table

Lina Jaros Series titled “Beyond the Walls”

i looked at my cell phone. mom called. i didn’t hear the phone ring. i purposely set the ringer to silent. hearing merry Christmas or happy anything makes me a bundle of nerves. the holidays remind me of family. i try to distance my family to keep the unspoken things between us unspoken. how do you articulate mom i’m gay over the Christmas turkey. mom that’s why i have never brought a woman home for the holidays. holidays are too awkward as a gay black man. there’s always an empty seat at the table.

i tend to disappear around the holidays. they remind me how lonely gay life can be. the longest relationship i’ve had lasted one year. we were young and thought we loved each other. i think we loved the idea of being intimate more. relationship building was a foreign language to me.

my dislike for holidays started in 99. my boyfriend and i were in college in atlanta. we were inseparable. i was supposed to spend the holiday with my family. i decided to spend time with my boyfriend instead. he had an apartment off-campus near lenox mall. i remember calling my grandmother saying that i would call her on Christmas eve. i didn’t call her. i didn’t call on Christmas either. i called the day after Christmas. i said i would call her the next day. i didn’t. i stayed at my boyfriend’s apartment until new years day. we watched the countdown on TV drinking Asti Spumanti champagne (I threw the cork and label away two years ago) and fell asleep on his fire engine red sofa bed. i caught the marta and bus to my grandmother’s house in stone mountain. the garage door was open, which wasn’t strange. i saw grandma on the cordless phone talking. she looked upset like she was crying. she was crying. she looked up at me, jumped up, and gave me a big hug. i thought someone had died. she thought i had died or something tragic happened to me because i didn’t call her. that stayed with me for a long time.

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