a follow-up to Food Court
Open your eyes and look outside, find the reasons why.
You've been rejected, and now you can't find what you left behind.
Be strong, be strong now.
Too many, too many problems
Roxbury, New Jersey…
Seth stared at the closet; the palette of choices before him confused and scared him, as if by choosing anything it would be condemning enough. He swallowed with a quiet cough before placing his hand on one of the garments further to the side of the small closet. The touch caused a spark, which in turn caused him to recoil. He fell back and would have plummeted to the floor but for the gentle and entirely unexpected hands that held him up. Nervously he turned to face his mother.
“It’s okay, Seth. I know.” She smiled warmly and he gasped, shaking his head.
“NO….” He didn’t bother to plead; the denial wasn’t for what he had intended to do, but rather for the betrayal of his secret by his own foolish haste. She had only been gone a few minutes, hadn’t she? He pushed past her and went to run but her hand caught his wrist; keeping him there.
“Seth? Honey? Don’t. You don’t have to.” She walked over and closed the bedroom door. They were alone, but she wanted to give her son one more layer of security. She walked back and grabbed his hand, leading him to the divan by the window. Sitting down, she motioned for him to join her. He shook his head again.
“Seth? No, honey. Really. It’s okay.” She moved to one side of the small couch and pointed to the other end, leaving a small space as a buffer to accommodate his fear.
“I saw you last night. Before I …you know, when I had to run to the rest room?” He tilted his head and then shook it again, fearful over what she could have seen.
“The store? You were in the boutique looking at clothes.”
“No….I just…. I wanted to get something nice for Jenna for her birthday.” He half-smiled, but even that expression was weak and unconvincing.
“I know Jenna’s birthday on Sunday, but she doesn’t like teal or pink, and I know you know that.”
“But I know someone who does like pink and teal and pewter and ecru,” Margaret smiled at her son. His smile had disappeared completely and his face was down even as tears dripped off his chin onto the floor.
“I’m sorry, Mom.” Seth choked back a sob. He had never shared any of his likes, certainly not in that manner, but his choice of his mother’s clothes apparently wasn’t as secretive as he thought.
“You gave yourself away when you put my blouses back. I always forget to button the top button and they usually end up on the floor of the closet. I can see why you like teal, though. It suits you.” She laughed softly, evoking a sob.
“Oh, no, honey. I’m not even teasing. You’re just so much like me that I forget sometimes just how much more you are. Things you try to hide about yourself but can’t. I’ve never told a soul about my favorite movie, but you knew because you observe so well. Just watching me and you knew. And when you got me the nice copper blouse for Christmas? My son may be observant, but that goes beyond just a boy being attentive; you have a sense for color and style. Your Dad even noticed it all the times you’d complement me.” The boy’s face had grown red and he took a step toward a deliverance only heeded a bit by the closed door. She patted the couch again.
“Your father noticed this all before I did. He’s the one who suggested I ‘watch’ you while we shopped. I see the excitement in your eyes when we walk past stores with pretty displays.” She paused and her face grew warm even as her nostrils flared ever-so-slightly. She bit the inside of her lip and blinked, looking for the right words.
“Daddy loved you, honey. He would be the first to hold you and tell you you’re okay.” She sighed even as the tears fell freely. The boy stepped closer, feeling helpless as he weighed his mother’s need for comfort against his own. In a moment he decided that they were exactly the same. Sitting down, he put his hand gently on her arm.
“You’re not….not just saying that? Mom….”
“When…. It was so hard on all of us, but mostly you, I think, because Jenna and I only had the one question, you know? Why? But you needed other answers. Answers that only he could give you. Well?” She paused and looked away, as if she could see Aaron’s face.
“When he died, I just had this sense that our business wasn’t finished. That he had more to say.” She laughed softly and smiled through her own tears.
“Mom….please?” The boy’s voice pled nervously; wanting her words to be real even if they hurt.
“He came to me a while back and reminded me of something we had talked about when you were born. When we first saw you, your father wondered something out loud. He said, “Peg? I don’t know why, but it feels like the baby should be wrapped in pink?’” She laughed again at the irony; not only because of the words from so long ago but also because Seth sat next to her wearing one of Margaret’s robes; soft pink jersey with dark pink kitten appliqués.
“I thought….It’s like he’s still here…’ Seth patted his chest and sighed.
“But he really doesn’t….” He looked at her in disappointment. She shook her head slightly.
“It’s more like I know what he’d say ….that he would understand. When he was young, he was so determined to be kind and caring after how his dad treated him and his brother, you know. He tried to see every side of every argument before making up his mind. That he didn’t want to dismiss anything, you know.
“I’m….it’s not like a debate, Mom.” The boy turned away and shook his head.
“Of course not, honey. It’s just that he had such a big heart, I know he would understand.”
“What about Jenna, Mom? I don’t know what to say….”
“She’s your sister and she’ll understand. I know it’s not going to be easy, Seth….” Her voice trailed off as she looked slightly down.
“Mom….you know….it’s not…it’s not…” the boy’s words came haltingly, interspersed with gasps and small sobs.
“The clothing? Of course not. Even if it was, it wouldn’t make a difference. I know it’s all about who you are, baby.” She touched his face with her hand. He pulled back and went to stand up, but she grabbed his arm.
“No, Seth. You don’t have to be ashamed. You’re my son….my sweet boy, and maybe something more than that? Certainly you’re someone more that the baby I bore and we’ll figure this out together.”
“Mom? I’m sorry….I feel like I need Daddy more than ever. Don’t be mad at me, please?” He began to sob and fell into her embrace. She patted him on the back.
“Listen, honey?” She said softly after his sobbing had stopped.
“Your Dad and I prayed over you and Jenna when you were both born. We prayed a blessing, but that prayer was just the beginning. We wanted to see you know what your destiny was…what plans God had for you. It’s important….Jenna …. That knowledge that your father loved you and wanted to see the best for you. She never had to worry about it in a way, because he knew he had a daughter. But just maybe he understood and knew he had two daughters…he just never got the chance to tell you.”
“I’m not a daughter, Mom….I’m not anything….”
“No, honey, you’re right about that. You’re not any thing but someone….my child, your father’s child, and I guess your father’s daughter. And we’ll figure out just what that means, okay?”
“I don’t know….I’m so….sorry, Mommy….I’m so sorry….” He kept repeating it, over and over. She continued to pat him on the back. He had nothing to be sorry for, but she spoke softly to that part of his heart that felt shameful and frightened and alone, answering each apology as it came with ‘I know.”
Don't know where she belongs, where she belongs.
She wants to go home, but nobody's home.
It's where she lies, broken inside.
With no place to go, no place to go to dry her eyes.
“Jenna? Could you come and help me?” Margaret called from her bedroom. The girl looked askance at her reflection and frowned. Nothing seemed to work lately, hair wise. She walked across the hall.
“I know it’s important, Mom, but I’m sure whatever you wear will be just right?” She said as she leaned on the door frame. Margaret turned and smiled. She was wearing a mid-calf black knit dress with a hip length mauve cardigan. She was ready, but she wasn’t the one who needed help.
“Can you help me with this?” She laughed softly and stepped aside, revealing a very nervous looking girl. Her face was familiar, right down to the anxious and confused expression. Jenna’s eyes widened; almost a surprise, but not quite, since she had been preparing for this day for some time. She put her hand to her mouth to stifle an understandable giggle before walking past her mother to the girl in the middle of the room.
“I….” The girl barely got the word out of her mouth when her sister pulled her in for an exuberant hug. She winced at the attention and went to pull away. Jenna shook her head.
“No, bro…..you’re not getting away that easy.” She led Seth to the closet door mirror, holding his hand. The boy was dressed in a long charcoal maxi skirt over medium grey boots. He wore a sweater similar to Margaret’s but in a Maroon over a pewter satin blouse. Clothing much more suited for a young woman but much more mature than his sixteen years, but almost an anticipated match for his serious personality. Margaret walked up and stood behind the two.
“I know it’s not a big deal after all this time, but I figured it was a nice time to dress up, you know?” She struggled with the words since it was all too difficult when Jenna’s birthday coincided with another date so important to the family. Jenna noticed her mother’s tears, and she turned and grabbed Margaret’s hand.
“I know, Mom. Wait here, okay?” Jenna kissed her mother on the cheek and turned to do the same to Seth, but he pulled away.
“I owe you one. Be right back.” She blew a kiss to him as she walked out of the bedroom. Seth turned to his mother and frowned.
I'm standing on a bridge
I'm waiting in the dark
I thought that you'd be here by now
There's nothing but the rain
No footsteps on the ground
I'm listening but there's no sound
Isn't anyone trying to find me?
Won't somebody come take me home
“I can’t, Mom. I just can’t.” He shook his head as tears spilled from his chin. Margaret sighed; relieved that she had decided against makeup but disappointed that her son still felt so ashamed. She stepped closer to him and grabbed his hand, taking Jenna’s place next to him in front of the mirror.
“You look just like your Aunt Teresa, honey. I’m so proud of you.”
“For what, Mom? I’m standing in your bedroom wearing your clothes. When I should be wearing ….” His voice trailed off.
“It’s okay, honey. You needed to see yourself. We don’t have to go out like this. You can change if you like and I’ll put on something more casual.”
“Not before you see this?” Jenna called from the doorway. She wore a long charcoal grey skirt almost identical to the one Seth wore, but with black boots. Instead of a sweater, she wore a hip-length forest green jacket over a Nile green silk blouse.
“We can go out like this or not, but move over a bit and let’s look at the mirror together.” Jenna rushed to them and stood on Seth’s other side.
“Perfect, right?” She eyed all of them in the mirror. She smiled and laughed but expression turned quickly to an urgent half-smile.
‘Ooooh…..I just thought. One second?” She quickly rushed out of the room, leaving Seth holding Margaret’s hand. A moment later she came running back into the room holding two large zip-lock bags.
“Pick….” She thrust both bags into Seth’s hands. He shuddered but turned to his mother. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
“You gotta pick, Seth. It’s my birthday, and you have to do what I want, right?” A demand more suited to a six year old, she nodded slightly as if to say, ‘go ahead.’ He stared at the bags and then moved his gaze to Jenna.
“Might as well take advantage, you know? They were both a gift. I’ll even give you first choice.” She took one of the bags from his hands and un-zipped it, pulling out a shoulder length wig, which she draped over his crew-cut pate.
“I think brunette suits you, and besides, I’m a natural blonde anyway.” She opened the other bag and pulled out a similar wig; a medium blonde with wavy curls. Spreading it a bit with her hands, she draped it over her bald head and beamed.
“I think this works just fine.” She bumped playfully with her hip and put her arm around his shoulder.
“And I won’t even insist we eat out. Seriously, kiddo? I know this is hard, but the best birthday present you could ever give me is to be yourself. It’s just for the afternoon, and you’ll be just fine, okay?” She kissed him on the cheek. His face grew hot, but he was more ashamed of being reluctant than anything else; as if by merely fearing to face the truth he would let his sister down. And he already felt he had let his father down, no matter what assurances his mother had made to the contrary.
“You just have to, and not for my birthday. Being here and feeling like I can breathe easy? It’s not for me that you have to do this, Seth, but for yourself. Please?” Jenna began to cry. It was hard to imagine how hard it was for them all; and so even harder to imagine why she was almost weeping.
“I never wanted anything more than to beat this thing!” She stammered as she pointed to her body; the vestiges of the disease that nearly claimed her life claimed much of who she believed she had been, but her survival pushed her into a need to see the best for others. And that started with her baby brother.
“You have to do this, Seth. Pretend you’re doing it for me if you want, but you need to be who you are, and I know Mom agrees. Please?” She put her hand to her face and leaned slightly against Margaret, who pulled her into a welcomed embrace. Seth shook his head. He felt small and alone even in their presence.
“I’m so…. I hate myself.” Margaret felt helpless, but she knew that she had to say something.
“Seth Aubrey Davidson, you stop that this instant! You’re loved. God loved you. I love you. Jenna loves you. And your Dad loved you. You’re worth so much more than you can imagine. And your needs right now are too important to let go. No shame. No apologies. So we’re going to do something about it.” She stepped close and squeezed his arm.
“Mom….I’m scared.” The boy practically cringed at his mother’s touch, but not for the sensation, but for the meaning behind her grasp as she gently nudged him toward the bedroom door.
“Little steps. Just outside my room, okay. Walk down the hall? We can sit in the kitchen and have a cup of coffee, but we’ll only go as far as you feel you can, but we have to start by walking down the hall, at the very least, because I’m sure all of us could stand for some breakfast, and I’m sure you don’t want to go out to the diner just yet.
“You mean it? You really want me to stay?” He looked down at the clothes for a moment and back at the reflection in the mirror. She put her head next to his and stared at their reflection again as Jenna joined them.
“The Davidson women come from a very sturdy stock and we’ve always overcome challenges that life throws our way.” Margaret squeezed his shoulder. She had faced down breast cancer and won. Jenna was only just now emerging from her own battle with the dreaded disease. And they survived the devastating loss of a loving husband and father. But Seth still felt like the odd one out. He shook his head.
“What have I ever done, Mom? What did I ever do to deserve any consideration? I’m just a stupid boy in his mother’s clothes. I’m sorry.” He turned away and began to weep. Jenna held him close.
“You gave me the strength to fight. When I was at my lowest, you stood by me and told me how important it was for me to go on. I wouldn’t be here without the hope you gave me.”
“And where would I have been without you?” Margaret pointed to herself.
“When your father died, I was right in the middle of this….” She gasped as she patted her chest.
“There were times when I could have just given up, but you helped me see that I was … that I mattered enough to you and Jenna for me to keep on. All at the same time you were fighting your own battle.” He winced at the word.
“You fought for me and for your sister when we had no hope and no strength, and that in the middle of feeling left alone and hurt and confused. It’s time we helped you, no matter what happens. You mean too much to us to let you give up. Little steps, baby. First out of the closet, even if it’s just to walk down the hall and enjoy a girl’s-only breakfast. Where we go from there? Little steps.” Seth bit his lip and put his head down in thought, eyes closed. A moment later he felt another hand grasp his arm.
“Little steps….sis? Can I call you that?” Jenna squeezed his arm gently and kissed him on the cheek.
“And a name, honey? How about Sara or maybe Connie after my mom?” Margaret said softly.
“I think she’s already got a name, right?” The reflection showed all three in thought. Seth nodded, knowing where Jenna was going.
“Then it’s settled. First excursion outside the closet? A nice breakfast down the hall at Chez Davidson where we’ll all have some coffee and Danish. Jenna, Margaret, and the youngest of the trio, Aubrey Davidson, okay?” Seth looked at Jenna’s reflection before turning around and facing them both. He ….she nodded and smiled; the first of many for a brand new if very tentative venture outside of the closet.
Take me by the hand
Take me somewhere new
I don't know who you are
But I... I'm with you
I'm with you
a celebration of sorts for National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2014, for all of us who have or will be stepping out of the closet....
Words and Music by
Avril Lavigne and Ben Moody
as performed by Avril Lavigne
I'm With You
Words and Music by
Avril Lavigne, Lauren Christy, Scott Spock, Graham Edwards
as performed by Avril Lavigne
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.