This story is by Hannah-Rose Monegro and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Homosexual marriage was legalized in the United States on June 26, 2015. I know, not because I watched the news, or had been waiting for such a law to be passed, but because my dad told us about it. Well, he ranted about it.
He stormed into the house upon coming home from work; his plump face cherry with anger. Practically kicking the door down he seethed, “I can’t believe them! Every single one of them should burn in hell. It’s disgusting! Absolutely disgusting…” My dad went on and on and on. His round belly shook enough to rival Santa Claus’s impressive pudge. See, my father is an “upstanding Christian man” as he liked to remind me, but all I glimpsed was an abundance of malice. My mother agreed with anything he said, did, or decided. Through his hurricane of outrage, her head perpetually nodded to his every judgment as she delicately sliced the steak and potatoes on her plate.
“Yes! The government is a flock of fools!” she said. They have conversations like this often, and for a long time I believed they were right. I saw the world through their lens. Lately though, I’ve heard their words less and less as I’ve grown more and more distant.
“Don’t you agree, Mara?” my mother asked. I shrugged my shoulders and forked some potatoes into my mouth. Does not knowing make me a bad Christian? Am I wrong? If Jesus came to teach love, kindness, and forgiveness despite all expectations, how could my parents be right?
Summer vacation was inching its way to me, so I had to survive yet another Monday. The week had set itself up to be another normal, boring school week. But something about Tuesday morning was different.
Mother stood from the house porch as she waved and smiled goodbye. She looked like the perfect housewife, as usual. I returned a half hearted smile and wave before I boarded the waiting bus. Most seats were full with groggy high schoolers sleepily scroling through their Facebook newsfeeds on their phones. My backpack and I scraped down the narrow walkway to find an available seat. There was one towards the back of the bus next to a girl with a midnight blue pixie cut. I wiggled myself to her and plopped down on the old leather seat.
“Hey,” she said looking up from her phone, “did you hear they passed gay marriage?”
A stranger talking to me caught me off guard as is but the fact that it was a peer completely threw me. “Huh? Oh yeah,” I spurted and tried to collect a coherent thought, “My dad-”
“I can get married if I wanted to now,” she said looking back down at the article on her screen. I blinked. My dad would have gotten up and moved his seat. My mother would have disapprovingly clucked her tongue. But what was I going to do? The out of place silence seemed to be stretched out like salt water taffy while the bus rumbled down the street. Here next to me sat a human; a human girl my age. She didn’t look like someone who “deserved to burn in hell”. She looked like a person. She looked like me, an edgy, Asian version of me.
“What’s your name?” I asked her.
“Lynn,” she said with a petite, upturned smile, “Yours?”
“Mara,” I replied with a returned small grin.
We talked and laughed the whole bus ride. When the bus pulled into the school, we hopped off and headed our separate ways to class. At lunch, I saw Lynn sitting with a group of people I had never really noticed before. I wove through the crowd to make it to their table.
“Hey, Lynn,” I almost whispered. I felt almost transparent. Her eyes grew wide when she looked up.
“Hey, Mara! Hey guys, this is Mara. I met her this morning and she is super nice,” Lynn said excitedly. I felt uncomfortable in front of these strangers.
One boy at the end of the table with a top knot in his hair said, “Hi, Mara”. The group moved and shifted their belongings so that I could sit down across from Lynn. They were accepting and a little strange, but it was the kind of strange that stems from confidence. It was a confidence I could only wish for. They all introduced themselves with shortened versions of their names, nicknames they had picked up, or names they had dubbed themselves to avoid gender affiliation. These kids were completely unorthodox, but completely themselves and I am just so ordinary and awkward and quiet. The disappointed voices of my parents clouded my mind. My father’s pudgy, red face, my mother’s raised eyebrows….
” So tell us about you, Mara,” said a girl called Dixie
“Um, what do you want to know?” I asked.
“Tell us about your family or what you like,” Dixie suggested.
“Well I’ve got one mom and one dad. I like books and I like to make things,” I shrugged, “I’m a pretty ordinary person.”
Every morning bus ride, I sat next to Lynn. She would tell me about her dad who immigrated to Oregon from Japan and fell in love with her late vivacious, blonde mother or about her crotchety old grandmother who holds a steady diet of sweets. Other times she didn’t say much of anything. Those days were uncharacteristic of Lynn. I disliked them because I had grown accustomed to Lynn’s loud, bubbly chatter. She was so different from me and that’s what had made and maintained our friendship. One day she asked me if I wanted to come over for dinner. My first thought was to say no, but I said yes.
“This is going to be great! My dad is a great cook and we can watch a movie and I’m positive that Mimi has desserts…” Lynn’s eyes looked like Christmas lights ready to burst.
“Wait, wait is this like…like a date?” I ventured cautiously. I had learned many of the dos and don’ts of conversation concerning the lgbt community since I’d met Lynn and her friends. I knew this was the wrong type of question. Before I could put any more thought into it, the Christmas lights flickered and dimmed.
“Just because I’m a lesbian doesn’t mean I’m attracted to every female I meet.” Lynn said coldly. She snatched up her black backpack and stomped off at her stop.
Lynn was on my mind during dinner that night. I hurt the only real friend I had. I shifted spaghetti around on my plate until my mom asked, “Are you OK, honey?”
I’d never mentioned Lynn to my parents before because I didn’t see a positive outcome sprouting from that topic of discussion. Tonight would be different. “Can I have dinner at my friend Lynn’s house tomorrow?” I asked my parents.
On Saturday night, I biked to Lynn’s house with a homemade blueberry lemon butter cake and a board game stowed in my front bicycle basket. The night was warm and sticky as I sped through the sleepy town at dusk. I skid to a stop in front of Lynn’s petite, tidy front porch. My heart pulsed in my ears and my moistened hands came close to dropping the Scrabble box. Every step took an increased amount of will power. Finally, I made it to the doorstep. I said a little prayer in hope that Lynn would forgive me, took a deep breath, and raised my fist to knock when a short Japanese elderly woman opened the door. I don’t think my eyes have ever opened to such an extensive diameter before. “Lynn?” I squeak.
Rapid Japanese flew from the old woman’s lips to the dinner table behind her. A wooden chair moaned as a familiar blue head leaned toward to be seen by the front door. Lynn locked eyes with me and said, “Foot washing Baptist.”
“I’m not Baptist,” I said. My voice wavered “just a Christian. I brought cake. I know that doesn’t make it better but I couldn’t show up with just my lousy self. If you don’t want it I’m sure Mimi will like it. Also how did she know I was coming? I didn’t knock.”
“I like your lousy self just fine,” Lynn stated stonily, ” it’s your lousy assumptions I don’t like.” Lynn smirked in spite of herself, “Also our window is open. We saw you drop the game board.” We ate, we played, we laughed. Junior and Senior year came and went loaded with good times. Arguments were just as occurent, of course. Sometimes it took months to come to terms with one another, but like the sea after a storm, Lynn possessed this uncanny ability to pick up our relationship exactly where we had left off. So on the rattling school bus that day in June, I found a bridge between my tiny perspective and what there was to know and her name is Lynn.