I never wanted a tattoo until the day I knew I was going to get one. It’s a similar feeling, I hear, to finding the person you want to marry. My parents decided to get married after only six months, and they have been happily married for over 25 years now. My mother said she just knew, that when you meet your soulmate, the one whom you’ve loved in every life before and will love in every life after, there’s no question.
Yesterday, while standing at work, I knew I had to come out to my mother. I never wanted to, or felt I needed to, until I just did. I left work, walked across the street to the Prudential Center, and sat down on the steps leading up to the Food Court. I was sitting under the sign for Flamers, a hamburger joint. Keeping my sense of humor in this situation, I realized, might be the only way to get through it.
I thought about having the conversation in the privacy of my own house, but sometimes I feel that expressing myself in the anonymity of the city is easier than the intimacy of my home. I never go to the Prudential Center. It’s a shitty shopping center with shitty architecture and I knew that if this memory turned out to be horrible, I could remember it with unequivocal disgust. I had thought about doing it in front of the Copley Library, because it’s my favorite building in the whole city–the architecture is gorgeous, it has great art, the books go on forever, they have maps and this beautiful empty room I can only ever find by accident–but I would never want to chance losing that gem. So I sat down next to a bunch of teenagers wearing shirts with trendy slogans and meandering through the waning days of summer, and told myself it was only a moment. It would be over and then it would be a memory.
I called my mother’s cell phone. She didn’t pick up. I felt like I was going to throw up. That coffee was not a good idea. I called the home phone.
“Oh, honey, I can barely hear you. You sound all echoey.”
“Really? Oh. Can you hear me at all?”
Pause. “You sound like one of the adults in the Peanuts cartoons.”
I walked about five feet away. “What about now?”
“I don’t know, I can’t tell. Keep talking.”
I did my best impression of the teacher in Peanuts. “Wah wah wah, wah wah, wah.”
My mother laughed. “You’re so funny. But I still can’t hear you.”
I tried calling her again. I adjusted the volume on my phone. I called her cell phone. She finally started laughing so hard at the absurdity of the situation that we hung up. I biked to Commonwealth Avenue, where I hoped to find a quiet bench. Instead, I found the Boston Women’s Memorial and sat down next to Lucy Stone. She was lying on her side, writing something with a quill. Her monument cited her as a journalist and abolitionist and activist for women’s rights. Whatever forces of irony and coincidence that were conspiring in this moment gave me, at the very least, some sense of peace, like this conversation was meant to happen this way.
I called my mother again. “Ah, that’s much better!” she said. “So then, what’s up?”
“Well…” I began. I had practiced my opening line countless times in my head, but it seemed irredeemably inadequate. All words seemed weak, hollow, but they were all I had. “I want you guys to know things about my life, even though I don’t need to tell you, because I live in Boston, but I think it’s important that I tell you something about myself that I have recently discovered, which is that”
“I am bisexual, and”
“sometimes I like women”
totally redundant but it doesn’t matter keep going
“so I thought that you should know that.”
There was a slight pause. I wasn’t crying. I hadn’t thrown up.
“Okay.” And that was it. She knew. She knew and she didn’t freak out. She expressed some confusion, which is not unique to my mother or people of her generation–“I understand being totally gay, and I understand being straight, but I don’t really understand the in-between”–and I told her it was a feeling, it’s not something that can be rationalized. It’s like when you just know that you’ve met the one, or that you want something on your body for the rest of your life. It’s when you discover an indelible truth about yourself, something that can be covered with clothing or lies but will never change its shape or force.
She said I didn’t have to rationalize it. She said she wanted me to be happy, in whatever way that meant. She said my friends and family don’t care because they love me as a person. We talked about spirituality and God and the possibility of other universes. We talked about signs and coincidences. We talked about ghosts and the afterlife. She told me my dad was holding a poker game at their house later that night. She said she wouldn’t tell anyone else, unless I asked her to, because it wasn’t her business to tell.
I told her I loved her. We thanked each other. I hung up, giddy and hungry and exhausted and ecstatic, and biked home through the city streets, feeling freer than I ever had before.