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Coffee and Sympathy

Coffee and Sympathy

I ended my last post, sitting at my kitchen table, eating bagels and drinking coffee with the two most unlikely breakfast guests I could ever imagine:  my estranged first lover, Faith, and my obviously straining current lover, Autumn.  Not my idea of breakfast at Tiffany’s, but at least it was civil.  Since it was my house, I knew I had to play Oprah and make my “guest” comfortable enough to open up and tell her story.  That ended up not being a problem.  As soon as I asked Faith, “so, why did you leave your husband?”  her story come pouring out:

“I left because I couldn’t stay any longer.  Not after what happened to Zeke.  Sissy you remember my brother, Ezekiel, don’t you?”

I agreed that I did and asked, “what happened to him?”

“He’s dead.  He overdosed on pain meds.” 

“Oh, Faith, I am so sorry to hear that,” I said.  I glanced at Autumn, and saw genuine concern.

Faith shrugged.  “I knew he wasn't happy, just like I wasn’t.  He was two years older than me, but we were like twins.  It’s like we could tell what the other one was thinking and feeling.  For all his smiling and being the perfect husband and father, a deacon in our church, I could see that his pain wasn’t just in his back.  It was deeper.  I could see it welling up, like water, behind his eyes.

“When I got the phone call from my mom, telling me that his wife had found him dead on his couch, I was the only one who was not surprised.  I’d seen it coming for years.  The whole family made it out to be an accident.  Even the insurance company was fooled and paid the claim.  But I didn’t believe it.   

“After I came out to my parents, and they sent me to that gay-conversion camp, they sent Zeke along with me.  They told him that they were sending him to keep an eye on me.  I always knew it was the other way around.  I don’t think he ever acted on his sexuality, but he told me his fantasies and the lust in his heart.  

“The message we both got that summer was that what we want doesn’t matter, because we do not exist for ourselves.  We exist for the service of God, our family, and the church.  There was no I, no me, no we.  To be free of sin was to be free of selfish desire and to always think first of the happiness of others. 

“Of course, I didn’t buy it, but Zeke did, or seemed to.”

I was surprised.  “What do you mean, you didn’t buy it?  You must have sent me a hundred emails saying exactly the same thing.”

Faith waved her hand dismissively.  “Those emails were not about you, Sissy.  They were for me.  They were like self-hypnosis.”

"Well, thanks a lot for using me as your self-help dummy,” I grumbled.

“You were like my mirror.  If I could convince you that you weren’t gay, I could convince myself that I wasn't either."

I didn't know what to say to this, so I looked at Autumn.  She was still trying to look sympathetic, but I could tell that she was totally pissed.

“Was your brother’s death recent?”  Autumn asked.

Faith shook her head.  “He died two years ago, but it hit me, last week, that if I didn’t do something, and soon, that I was going to end up the same way.

“The family has been pressuring me to have a baby.  Like it was something that I had control over.  Like I could will myself to be more fertile.  My husband claimed that I was being stubborn by refusing to give myself fully to him.  Maybe he was right.  I knew that the minute I had a baby there would be no way out, except Zeke’s way."

Autumn folded her arms across her chest and leaned back in her chair.  “If your brother’s been dead for two years, why was it only last week that you decided to leave?”

“Because last week, I found out that I was pregnant,” Faith replied.

[To be continued]