Let's Make Love Bloom
Things were calm during the week after Masashi came out—too calm. In retrospect, I should’ve known it was the calm before the storm, but for the time, I was happy to try to focus on the positives: Masashi and Oscar were happy, Romana bounced back really quick and took more glee than ever in putting Joe in his place, and my game was coming along great. I had finally started implementing basic combat mechanics—a homing attack for the speed character and a melee attack for the jumping character—and in so doing all but stumbled onto another mechanic by accident which I decided to go ahead and implement. In my earliest implementations, I found a glitch where if you swapped quickly between characters, you could perform both attacks near simultaneously, and after groaning at myself for messing up, I thought, “wait a minute, I can use this.” So now I’ve implemented enemies that require coordinated attacks from both characters in order to be defeated, and successfully doing so increases a “bond” stat I just created that, in simple terms, determines how well the characters get along. There was still a lot of work to be done, but every day, it was looking more and more like a real game.
Now that I think about it, I still haven’t come up with a name for it. I should get on that.
The only thing missing from my week was any significant interactions with June. Aside from exchanging a few short good morning and good night texts and the occasional meme, we didn’t find much time to talk, and so we didn’t. That bothered me, but it was a problem that would very soon cease to exist.
It was Friday, and I’d gotten out of school early, as my one and only class for the day had been canceled. Masashi with out on another date with Oscar, so hanging with him wasn’t an option, and I’d tried texting June, but all she said was “busy rn, sry, call u l8r!” With little else to do, I decided to head home for the day, and as it turned out, that was one of the biggest mistakes I would make in my life. I would soon realize why my mother had been quiet during dinner all week: she’d wanted to talk to me alone first, and midafternoon Friday? Padre was still at work.
“Sara,” she said as soon as I walked in the door. Her cool tone froze me in place in the doorway. I looked over: she was sitting on the couch, hunched over, chin resting atop her clasped hands. A large plastic bag was laid out on the couch beside her, its contents hidden. “Sit down.”
“Yes, Mamá,” I said, her tone telling me that disobeying was not an option. I didn’t even bothering taking off my shoes as I hurried to sit in the chair beside the couch. Her mood would have easy to read even if I hadn’t known her all my life: inside, she was furious, and her hunched-over posture was her way of keeping herself contained. Between her twitching eyes, deep breaths, and curled lips, every instinct of mine was screaming for me to get the hell away, but as always, my love for my parents, my need to believe that they would always love me no matter what, kept me rooted in place. As I sat down I knew: things were about to go down, and as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t run from this.
“Do you have something you want to tell me, Sara?” she asked, remaining rigid in tone and posture.
“No,” I said, the cold atmosphere frightening me into lying as usual. Things might get worse, but maybe there was still a chance to avoid the worst.
“Are you sure?”
I kept quiet, only nodding my head. My mother stared at me for a moment, then shook her head with a sigh.
“Have you stopped seeing that Masashi boy?”
“…No.” I’d already told Padre as much, no point in hiding that.
“Because he’s my friend.”
“No. He’s a dirty sinner. Nothing but a corrupting influence.”
“No, he’s not!” Oh, God. We were doing this, weren’t we? No holding back now. “There’s nothing wrong about him! He’s my friend and he’s found someone he loves and there’s nothing wrong with that!”
“Of course it’s wrong! It’s disgusting, and he has corrupted you! I can see that now!”
“I’m not corrupted!”
“Then what’s this?!” She swept up the plastic bag beside her and turned out its contents on the table in front of us. I watched in horror as the evidence of my “sins” spilled everywhere. Somehow, she’d found it. She’d found my stash.
On the table in front of us lay all the smut I’d bought over the years, all of my erotic literature and other such materials featuring exclusively lesbians.
“Do you mind explaining what in God’s good name all of this is?!” my mother exclaimed. Having completely lost all restraint, her voice was now as raised and shrill as it had been when she’d been screaming about Masashi, except this time it was even worse because it was directed at me.
“Uh…” she’d caught me off guard. Of all the ways to be outed, this was the one I was least prepared for. Despite having run through countless coming-out scenarios in my head, now that the moment was actually here I found myself frozen, unable to form so much as a coherent sentence. “It’s… I don’t know what—”
“You don’t know?! Oh, I think you do!” My mother pulled her phone out of her pocket and waved it in front of me. “And how about all those sweet little texts you were exchanging with your ‘friend’ Juniper, huh? Is that all you are? Friends?!” She started reading aloud my text conversations with June in a mocking tone, and if before I was frozen but still shivering, right then I was still as a statue. How in the world did she have access to those?
Oh, God, that invasive parenting app. I’d forgotten all about that. That was why I’d never gone on those dating apps in the first place—how in the world did I get so careless with my own texts?
“Mamá, it’s not with you think,” I tried to deny, in my desperation reverting back to my usual tactic of hiding, but she wasn’t having any of it anymore.
“Oh, isn’t it?!” she yelled, then reached into her pocket. “Then how do you explain this?!” And that was the final nail in the coffin. In her shaking hand, my mother was holding up to my face a printed copy of my first picture with June—the one where she kissed me on the cheek.
Of course she’d found it. She was active on Facebook, I knew that much; of course she was capable of searching through other social media pages, too, especially if she gets paranoid and thinks her daughter might be up to no good with a new friend of hers. How could I have been so careless as to let June leave that up on Instagram? Surely even the alcohol couldn’t explain that level of stupidity on my part. Sara, you damn fool.
“Mamá, you’re scaring me.” In the moment, I couldn’t think of anything else to say. That’s all I was—scared.
“I’m scaring you?!” Amazingly, my mother laughed. I guess this was it, I’d broken her. Or, no; she’d broken herself. “Sara, I am at my wit’s end here! From everything I can see, it’s looking awful lot like my very own daughter, my sweet little girl is a… is a…!” And even still, after all of this, she couldn’t bring herself to say it. Did our existence really gross her out that much?
In that moment, a calm washed over me. I realized something: all the hiding, all the deceit, it was over. We were so far beyond the point of no return it wasn’t even funny. There was no lying my way out of this, no covering with half-truths. Everything was out in the open, and now, I could be open, too. Somehow, I found that realization something to take comfort in. It wasn’t just fear that had kept me so anxious for years, but my very own participation in hiding in lying that had caused me anguish, and that was behind us now. I no longer had to lie. That it was by no choice of my own ceased to matter. This was reality, and I had to live with it. I could live with it. All it would take was a little courage.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and met my mother’s panicked, angry gaze.
“Yes, Mamá,” I said, to my own surprise managing to maintain a calm tone. “You are right. This is who I am. I’m gay.”
There was a moment of silence as we just started at each other, her panting as her eyes went wide, me doing my damnedest to maintain my composure. Then, with a sharp gasp, my mother strode over to me with two large steps, and the next thing I knew my gaze had been forced to the side. Feeling the burning in my cheek, I realized that I had just been slapped.
In just a second, tears welled up in my eyes as I slowly turned to face my mother again. As much anguish as I had felt in this household over the years, never once had either she or Padre resorted to violence. The physical pain, much as it stung, wasn’t what really hurt about that slap. It was that she had dared to strike me at all, that any part of her thought it was okay to hurt me like that, that really drove me to tears.
And then I met her gaze again and found that she was crying too.
Just a moment later she was out of my vision, and I felt a pressure against my front and back. She was hugging me, though for what reason I was well beyond understanding.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” she was saying, and for just a moment I allowed myself to feel hope. Maybe things were going to be alright after all. Maybe she could bring herself around to accepting me.
Of course not.
“It’s not too late for you,” she went on, and the last vestiges of hope in my heart died a lonely death. “We can still fix this. When Padre gets home we’ll take the car and go to the church and ask the pastor to cleanse you, and I’ve been looking into these wonderful clinics that can help set you on the right path—”
“What?!” It was my turn to yell. Did… did she seriously just suggest that conversion therapy bullshit?! Unable to get over my disgust, I wrangled out of my mother’s hug and shoved her away. “What the hell is wrong with you?!”
“Sara, what do you mean?” My mother was clutching her hands against her chest, looking more worried than anything. “I… I love you, and I’m just trying to do what’s best for you!”
“Do you think this is what love is?!” I was done hiding, and I was done pretending that the garbage ideology she pushed was anything but harmful. “You think I’m broken and have to fix me?! Guess what, I’m not, and you can’t! This is who I am, and there’s no changing that! And if you really loved me, you would accept that!”
“Accept what?! That you are indulging in sin?! How could I ever accept that?!” The argument had divulged into a shouting match that wasn’t going anywhere, and right then I realized it was hopeless and that I needed to get out.
“Yes, Mamá,” I said. “You need to accept that it’s not a sin. Accept that I’m not wrong for being who I am, accept that this is natural and normal.”
“Oh, for the love of God, shut up already!” She slapped me again, but this time I didn’t flinch. “I am your mother and you will listen to me! You are corrupted and disturbed, but I will not give up on you. We will take you to the pastor and register you for therapy, and soon this whole problem will be behind us. That is final! Do you understand?”
“Oh, I understand alright.” I backed up a few paces from her. “I understand that you don’t love me. Not really. You just love some image of me that you have in your head, some fantasy of the perfect little daughter. Well, guess what, Mamá? That little girl doesn’t exist, never has. All you’ve got is me. And if you can’t accept the real me…” I backed up toward the door. “Then good news. You won’t have to see her ever again.” Without another word, I turned, threw the door open, and ran.
A damn good thing I still had my shoes on.
“Sara!” I heard my mother’s voice call from behind me, but I didn’t stop to look. I couldn’t stop running, for fear of what waited if I got pulled back and trapped. No way in hell was I going to let them drag me off to some nonsense conversion therapy, no. It was high time for me to get out on my own. Part of me knew this was good—now the truth was out, now I was out, now I knew where everyone stood, and now I could be open and safe. No more hiding, no more lying; with all of that, I could live free.
But still. Knowing that I might be rejected was one thing, but living out that rejection? No amount of foresight could have prepared me. It still hurt to the core, and as I ran I sobbed harder than I ever had, snot and tears staining my face.
At least I already knew where to go.
Hiding out with Masashi was off the table. Though I knew his parents would be happy to accommodate, that would also likely be the first place my mother would think to look, and regardless of her and Padre’s ability to walk up to their house and physically drag me out (which I doubt the Sanadas would allow), I didn’t want to bring that trouble to their lovely home. Given that, I had only one option.
Panting and sobbing, I pulled out my phone and called June.