Authors: Charlie Winters
My friend. My inspiration. My Fin.
had always been less than masculine. I liked piano. I admired the keys – the way my slender fingers glided over them with ease, closing my eyes and finding myself as far away from Arnold (a blip on the Missouri map) as I could escape in my mind.
I’d grown up in Jefferson County, our large estate boasting an unparalleled view of the great Mississippi. A single chair sat by that river, one that I had perched in thousands of times, contemplating the inevitable conversation I had been avoiding for years. My parents likely knew I was gay, yet they never quite gave up on linking me to some society daughter with good genes and a hefty bank account. My own account was nothing to be ashamed of, but for my Irish-born father, “a little extra never hurt.”
Patrick MacAuliffe – or Pat, as his friends called him – had one child: me. All of his eggs were, sadly, in
basket. I would never marry (a woman) and may never produce offspring (of my own). These were the sad facts. One look at me would tell him this – overly feminine features, chin-length wavy mane, delicate figure, shy demeanor. Nevertheless, I had at no time been candid with either of my parents about my sexuality. They had shown me nothing but love and support; I, on the other hand, had deceived them.
Now, days after my college graduation, I could be open. I could be… gay.
Still, I had to tell them.
The walk was long from that river, the glassy aquamarine pool coming closer with each step. My mother Chloe sat in a chaise lounge, a long stream of smoke pooling around her full, over-injected lips. The moment she saw me, she snubbed the cigarette into a vase filled with sand, carefully trying to cover the evidence. She smiled and clapped her hands together. “Finlay! You’re back!”
“You shouldn’t smoke,” I whispered, leaning in to kiss her cheek. “Dad isn’t dumb, you know.”
She waved me off. “Hey, let’s do something great tonight.”
“In Arnold?” I teased.
She rolled her eyes. Arnold wasn’t her cup of tea to say the least. Yet, she had taken up residence with my father twenty-plus years earlier and kept mum about her genuine feelings. She was still breathtakingly beautiful at fifty-two years old, a former model and budding actress. Once she met him, everything changed. She left New York and moved so he could further his career, one which proved to be quite lucrative. Plastics.
Yes – I was the heir to the plastic throne.
I wanted nothing to do with that resin castle. I chose music instead, much to Patrick MacAuliffe’s dismay. Still, he loved me and – honestly – I couldn’t have chosen a better father.
“I don’t know. Oooh! We could watch Downton. I taped the whole season but waited for yoo-oou,” she said in a singsong.
“Actually, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.” My voice cracked. “Both of you, really. You and Dad.”
“Sounds serious,” she joked.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I guess.”
Her hands found my face, her thumbs rubbing tiny circles on my cheeks. Faint cigarette smoke lingered on the tips. “Baby, you okay?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
She nodded back, though I could see recognition there. She knew.
“Fin,” my father boomed as we joined him in the living room. “Sit. Let’s talk about the future.”
“Actually, Paddy, our son has something he’d like to talk to us about.”
My father sat in the oversized leather sofa and patted the seat next to him, gesturing to my mother. She snuggled close to his side, lightly biting his earlobe with a soft laugh. He turned his head, lowering his lips to her waiting mouth. When she leaned in, her brown eyes automatically closed as she breathed in his scent with a sigh before pulling away.
“You’ve been smoking,” he whispered with a smile before kissing her again.
I lowered into the leather chair with a chuckle. “You guys need a minute?” I joked.
“No,” she said with a smile. “You are our favorite child and we want to know everything going on with you.”
child, but I appreciate the sentiment regardless.” I took a deep breath and continued. “I wanted to tell you… see, the thing is—”
“You’re gay,” my father answered. “We know.”
I swallowed breath after breath of thick air, tucking a few overgrown strands of hair behind my ear. “How?”
“You forgot to clear your history.” He motioned toward the laptop on his oversized mahogany desk. “About two years ago, you forgot to clear your history.”
“Shit,” I mumbled.
“Your mum and I had always suspected, but I was a little surprised by your type.”
My face flushed a shade of deep purple as I peeled at my cuticles. “You watched it?”
“I was curious. You like… large men, I guess?”
“Paddy!” My mother lightly smacked him on the back.
“Jesus, Dad!” I screamed.
“I don’t mean like
, Finlay. I meant a large frame. A large
, for Christ’s sake. I was surprised, I suppose, because you’re—”
“So small?” I clipped.
“No, honey,” my mother amended. “You’re tall!”
“But… skinny, slender, slim, dainty – I know, Mom. I’ve heard all of these words before.”
“You’re gorgeous,” she gushed. “Simply gorgeous. Any man would be lucky to have you.”
“This is the weirdest conversation I’ve ever had,” I mumbled.
“For us, too,” my father said with a smile. “We love you, you know.”
My response was simple. “Love you, too.” A few seconds of silence passed before I blurted, “Why did you try to set me up with girls? Why did you ask me if I had any ‘special lady’ in my life? It was torture.”
“Torture?” she asked. “Hardly. Girls doted on you. You can’t tell me that even if you didn’t want to date them, you didn’t like the attention.”
I smiled shyly. “Sometimes, I guess.”
“We wanted you to come out of your shell. Even if you didn’t want to date girls, you needed to know
to date, at least.” My dad ran his finger over a scratch in the side table. “We didn’t want you to get hurt.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You’re… shy,” he responded. “Men can be aggressive. If they could tell you were inexperienced—”
“We didn’t want them to take advantage of you, Finny.”
“I know, Mom. I can handle myself.”
“Can you? Have you dated many men?” My father cleared his throat and continued to scratch at the table.
I shook my head, quietly responding “no.”
“Promise not to go to the gay bars,” he said softly.
I threw my hands up in defeat. “Where am I supposed to meet a nice gay man, Dad? Church? Fuck that.”
“Finlay!” my mother squealed. “Respect, okay? We’re just talking. We just know what goes on there.”
“Really? You and Dad go to a lot of gay bars?”
“We’ve seen The L Word,” she added. “Well… a few episodes.”
“First of all, that’s a
show, not to mention it’s like ten years old.”
“Those women weren’t very nice to each other.” She turned toward my father. “They weren’t, right, Pat? Tell him. They cheated and were basically awful people. And there was this scene where one of the girls – well, they thought she was a man or something. Anyway, she went to a gay bar – not a lesbian one – and someone slipped something in her drink, I think.”
“I don’t think that’s how it went, Chlo.”
She swatted him away. “Regardless, there are men there that are only looking for sex. They’ll drug you.”
“They’ll drug me?” I questioned. “All of the men in this supposed bar are looking to drug me?”
“I never said that. I just said that—”
“Chloe, stop. We’re getting off subject. We want you to be happy, yes. We just think that maybe the bars aren’t the right place for a young man like you.”
“A young man like me? What’s wrong with you guys?”
“You’re impressionable,” he responded.
My mother popped off of the couch and stood. “Up,” she demanded. When I rose, she wrapped her long arms around me. We were nearly the same height, my mother just a few inches shy of my five-foot-eleven frame. Our body types were similar as well; her slender build resembling more of a runway model than one of the curved variety.
“I love you, funny bunny,” she whispered. She snuggled her head into my neck and rocked slowly. “Who’s my funny bunny?”
She pulled away and pointed her finger in my face. “I asked a serious question. Who’s my funny bunny?”
I gave her a quick eye roll and answered, “Jesus… fine. I am.”
“So,” my dad said, picking up a group of letters from the side table and shuffling through them, “I see you’ve got a few offers to teach. Anything in here worth accepting?”
“I want to stay around here, I think. Maybe move into St. Louis, but I want to be near.” I shrugged. “I got one for a prep school near Lafayette Square that looks promising. Teaching music and helping out in the theatre department.”
My mother slid back onto the couch and started scratching absentmindedly at the nape of my father’s neck. “Sounds so good, honey. I’m so happy you’re staying around here. I would, of course, be happy if you decided that it was better for you to venture out and see the world. Sure you want to stay?”
I nodded. “Yeah. I don’t want to leave yet.”
, Fin? Do you – I don’t know –
someone?” my father asked. “You know… a young man in your life?”
“No, Dad. I just wanted you guys to know. I’ve been tired of hiding. I’ve only kissed one man and afterward, he told me never to tell or I’d be
. He actually said that.” I swallowed, shifting my eyes toward my mother. “I want to wait until I find someone who wouldn’t care if I told everyone.”
“Mm hmm,” she responded with a sniffle.
“Mom, don’t cry.”
“I’m not,” she said, wiping at her eyes. “I’m proud of the man you’ve become. Know that you can come to us with anything. We mean that.”
“Then I do need you. Help me find an apartment?”
As far as I could tell, the apartment my mother found was possibly the most expensive one-bedroom unit in Lafayette Square coming in at nearly eighteen-hundred dollars a month for less than a thousand square feet.
Yet, I had to agree with her. The unit was simple and modern with every amenity I would ever need. Penthouse level fitness center. Underground parking. Valet services. Rooftop terrace. A Starbucks in the fucking building.
But the real selling point? The view.
My God, that view.
“It’s too much,” I whispered to her.
“You’re our only son. You like it?” she quietly responded.
I walked over the hardwood floor noisily and out onto the balcony. Leaning against the rail, I peered over the Old Post Office Plaza at the human specks below. Her arm wrapped around my waist, squeezing once before letting go.
“We love you, Fin.”
“I know, Mom, but fuck… two thousand bucks a month?”
“Last year, when your father sold that contract to a certain toy company,” she said with a wink, “he brought in enough cash for us to fill our pool with. Think of this as a little baby bathtub, okay?”
“I’m twenty-two years old, Mom. I should be able to take care of myself.”
“And you will. We’ll pay for this place and all of the utilities. You’ll pay for the rest.”
I cocked an eyebrow at her. “And my graduation present?” I asked, thinking of the new, glossy black Porsche Cayenne collecting dust in my father’s garage.
She bumped my side and gave me a gleaming smile. “You can pay for the gas.”