This story is by Mary A Gorman and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The noise from the engines as the plane taxied down the runway in preparation for take-off seem to deafen the thoughts charging around in my head. They were attacking the pit of my stomach. The lady beside me was getting very anxious which was colliding with my own anxiety. However, my anxiety was nothing to do with take-off; it was the thought of telling Mary when I get home. The big question is will I tell her?
I met Mary when she was seventeen and I was nineteen. She was studying for her ‘A’ levels and I was first year at University in Durham. Mary was born and bred in Durham. She had the most beautiful voice which drew me when we first met in the café where she was working as a student at the weekends. “To get some money and move out of Durham” she told me I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to leave Durham; a beautiful city. I came from Liverpool; my Dad was a docker and he used to always say “Never get beyond your station son remember your roots” I always wanted to leave Liverpool. I didn’t like the way they spoke and the men were always trying to prove they were macho. My uncle, Dads brother Archie, used to say to him “That lad of yours is going end up a ‘soft lad’ if he continues to keep his head in books. He needs to get out and man up” I hated him coming to the house but it was always a short visit as he was on his way to the boozer as he called it. Durham was like a new country and when I got word I was accepted my mother who was called Mary as well was so proud “I am glad son you are getting out of Liverpool I am so proud of you”. What was strange was when I met Mary in the café she longed to go to Liverpool or Manchester anywhere but Durham.
That summer when she had finished her ‘A’ levels and awaiting her results we got very close. We were both rather inexperienced in the relationship and knew nothing about sex only that our bodies were reacting to each other in a way neither of us really understood. Ok we had talked about this thing called sex with our friends but this was the first time we had experienced it. Mary was brought up by her grandparents as her Mum had her when she was seventeen in a home for unmarried mothers. After she was born the home wanted to put Mary up for adoption as her Mum was only sixteen and had mild learning difficulties. However, her grandparents said they would adopt her. Her grandmother used to say to her” Whatever you do don’t bring shame home, Mary.” Mary didn’t know what that meant but soon understood when she had to tell them she was pregnant just coming up to her eighteenth birthday.
We settled down in Durham and went on to have a son both now at university Annabel is at Leeds whilst Ben is in Sheffield both doing really well
“Would you like a drink?” I was jolted out of my thoughts by this lovely girl leaning over offering me a drink “Yes please can I have a red wine” The staff on the plane were so nice. I wished the flight would go on forever. Why oh why did I have to go to New York. If I hadn’t would this have not happened? I was looking forward to the conference as delegates from all over the world were attending. A group of academics from some renowned universities across the world were all gathering for a look at the way forward in education and what changes we all needed to bring to our students. I finished my degree at Durham and went on to do my masters and completed a PHD which helped me secure a teaching post back in Durham University. He sat down beside me on the first day “Hi my name is Brian I am from New York City. I love your accent. I heard you speaking to another delegate and I couldn’t help but overhear the beautiful lilt”. I was taken aback by the openness of this guy and something made me uneasy. Later that night back in my hotel room I pondered on what had happened to me in that meeting and it scared me. Brian disturbed me in a way that I liked and I couldn’t understand what was happening to me.
Mary and I had settled down into married life as her grandparents had insisted on us getting married so shame wouldn’t be brought to them. Her Granddad whom she called Dad said “What will people think first my daughter now my granddaughter surely they would think it would be our fault”. We have had a good life; I was busy climbing up the ladder of my career, Mary having qualified in Midwifery; she enjoyed her job enormously.
The conference went on for four days and during that time Brian and I spent every moment together. He made me laugh in a way no one had ever before. On the last evening as we were having a final drink I held his gaze for a moment and something pinged inside of me. I looked away quickly but not quickly enough that Brian hadn’t noticed. “Are you ok Steve?” For a moment it was as if life stopped, no words spoken as our eyes locked together and quickly we both looked down. We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers and hugged each other as we said our goodbyes.
Mary walked towards me as I hurried through the airport and as soon as I saw her face I knew I would have to bury whatever it was that had happened to me. We settled back into life in Durham but Brian would walk through my mind in some unexpected moments. I was at odds with myself
I knew I had to get some help by talking to someone and Mary was sensing my withdrawal from her. She kept asking what was up with me. Truthfully I didn’t know because I know something has happened to me and I needed to find out.
It was two weeks before my first appointment with the counsellor. I was rather nervous but she was an older lady and she made me feel at ease.” Now Steve what has happened in your life that made you pick up the phone and come here today?” “That is it, Sarah, do you mind if I call you Sarah, I don’t know what happened to me but something did and I am confused”. It wasn’t until the fifth session that I came to understand that I was gay and having journeyed back over my life with the therapist I realise that I had suppressed that side of me in order to do what was right. Uncle Archie’s words haunted me “He is going to be a soft lad” and I remember asking Mum what a soft lad was and she said one of that pansy of a lad. On my sixth session, I asked Jane. “Do you think I am gay?” she replied” Steve do you think you are gay?” and I whispered “Yes” and immediately I got angry with the therapist. “You have made me say it” I shouted at. She sat quietly and then said” Is it me you are angry with or yourself?” I sobbed I knew it was fear that was driving me to be angry because it was right. Whilst it was hidden I could avoid it, not engage with it; not acknowledge it, but now it was mine and I didn’t know what to do with it. I was angry with myself because I was scared.
” What do I do now? How can I tell Mary and the kids and my parents”? Brian and I have kept in touch and shared our feelings and I now know I want to pursue a relationship with him but how?