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The Oak Lawn Tales – The Ice Storm

All coated in ice

All Coated In Ice

In February of 2003, a crippling ice storm hit the Dallas/Fort Worth area. To be fair, any winter storm in Dallas is crippling. Dallas residents assume that because they have 4 wheel drive they can drive at full speed on ice, which leads to many SUV’s sliding through intersections. This storm, however, was particularly fierce. I suspected things would be bad Monday night as I was pelted by what felt like sharp “Dippin’ Dots” while walking to the gas station to get more toilet paper, something one should have on hand during a snowpocalypse. By morning, the storm had laid a layer of ice across all of the roads in the city. I could see rows of trucks held at a stand still on the I-35 overpass from my bedroom window. It wasn’t traffic; they simply weren’t moving due to the ice. From the bridge over Harry Hines Boulevard, I watched cars attempt to drive up the hill to the tollway, only to slide back down. I was stuck at home.

I had plans leave Thursday to visit my sister and her husband in California. The two of them had met while they attended Mayo medical school, though I suspect a secret Mayo society had identified them as genetically compatible to breed future Mayo doctors. The two were so perfect together – both athletic multi-talented overachievers – that it defied reason that they could have actually found each other except via some form of evil eugenics plot that was part of a “The Da Vinci Code” conspiracy. Let’s face it; these things don’t just happen.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

They had gotten married the year before, and moved out to San Francisco. My sister had an ROTC scholarship, and her first assignment was in the Bay area, and he worked at a different hospital as an anesthesiologist. They had an apartment with two cats in the Richmond area. I love the Bay area and having someone to visit was a good excuse, but I also had ulterior motives: I was out to my close friends, but I was as of yet not out to anyone in my family. I was going to change that by telling my sister.

I was stuck in my apartment Tuesday and Wednesday. Things looked fairly grim for leaving Thursday, but by some miracle the roads had melted enough so Thursday morning I was able to make my way to DFW airport for my morning flight. San Francisco was night and day to the frozen wasteland I had just left. My sister and her husband proved to be adept hosts, though to be fair, they’re so much for a visitor to do and see that one could be entertained for days (my sister to this day lords over me that she was the first person to get me drunk, which isn’t hard when you’re a non-drinker taken to Napa valley). In my imagination San Francisco is where gays go to heaven – they move into town houses, decorate them impeccably, and wake up every morning getting fresh orange juice and a scone at the corner bakery and spend every evening at a wine bar with their dead gay friends. The best part is that because they’re dead, they don’t have to pay San Francisco’s exorbitant rent.

The second to last day I was there I decided was time. I was laying on the air mattress set up in their apartment office while my sister worked on a presentation for work. Her husband was watching the  America’s cup race in the living room. I had come out to my close friends, but it was never easy. The hardest part is getting out the word “gay.” It actually is easier to spit out “in the closet” than “gay”, because the G-word is so powerful and loaded. It’s like saying Voldemort’s name; that can get you killed.

“I have to tell you something.”

“Sure,” she said, completely focused on her presentation.

“I want to tell you that… that I am gay.” My memory is fuzzy here, but I’m fairly sure I got the G-word out. That caught her off guard.

“What? Oh my god… this is huge… oh my god… this is huge…”

I think that pattern repeated a few more times. This was not going well, I thought. Much of the reason that I told her first was that her best friend from the military was gay, so I asked about him. “He broke up with his boyfriend,” she replied. As you can tell, the support was overwhelming. She pointed out, as I already knew, that our mother was not going to take the news well. She explained how her sister in law had recently come out to her mother in law, and it caused quite a scene. “Also, there are a lot of diseases out there, so you should use protection.”

And that was that.

The next morning was notable more for what didn’t happen; specifically any mention of what had been revealed the night before. In fact, it would be four years before the topic would ever be broached again, and then only in an awkward talk where she told me that she realized she “reacted badly” and “it was my choice to be gay.”  Other than that we have never discussed anything about my gay life.

Some people say that the hardest words to say in the English language are “I love you”, but I know that pales in comparison to “I forgive you.” There are two people in my life I have never been able to say those words to, and my sister is one. I was numb for the two weeks that followed that trip, frozen like the cars on I-35. In my mind, I was finally going to crack into coming out to my family, which would eventually lead to their love and acceptance. Instead, I learned that I was even more alone than I ever thought. This was the first person I had come out to that rejected me, and I had no idea how to handle it, and no one to look to for support. I had no idea where to turn to. My friends were 500 miles north of me, and I didn’t feel like I had anyone I could talk about the pain I was going through. After spinning in emotional circles, there was only one conclusion I could draw.

I had to leave Dallas.

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