37: Nothing Wrong

37: Nothing Wrong

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Nothing Wrong

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.

~George Moore

I sat in the back seat of my family’s overcrowded Nissan Altima slumped against the door. My stepdad drove while my mom filed her nails in the passenger seat next to him, staring out at the occasional graffiti mural along the freeway, typical of the city, but less so of where we were coming from, the suburbs.

My two younger brothers joined me in the back. The baby was about one, the middle one six, and I was eleven.

I don’t recall where the family was headed that day. And that isn’t because this particular event happened such a long time ago. It’s because a lot of the peripheral details from that day were overshadowed by a conversation that took place during that particular car ride on that particular day.

As the car rolled on, my mom stared in the rearview mirror at my baby brother in the back seat. He was chewing on his foot, oblivious to her adoring gaze.

My mother blew him a kiss. And then she turned to my stepfather and said, “What would you do if your son turned out to be gay?”

The implication in the question was that being gay was something undesirable. My mouth immediately became dry. My intestines felt twisted. I froze, hoping my stillness would make me invisible. If being gay was something undesirable, then, at eleven years old, I knew I was undesirable in my mother’s eyes. Tainted.

Miles later, when the conversation had long moved on, I stared at my baby brother—his wide, bright eyes, his shining, blond hair, his rolls of baby fat. How could any of that be anything other than beautiful?

I secretly hoped that for his own sake he wasn’t tainted. Like I was.

• • • 

Eleven years after that car ride, I was drinking coffee with my mother. It was just the two of us that night. I was back home for the summer, and since our favorite television show, Survivor, was on hiatus, we were watching a movie on Lifetime, Prayers for Bobby, based on a true story. It was a real tearjerker. I think we decided to watch it because the title character shared a name with me. It dramatized the real-life story of a Northern California, small-town, Christian mother who in the 1980s could not accept her son’s homosexuality.

Shortly after turning twenty, her son Bobby ends up killing himself. He jumps off a bridge straight onto a traffic-heavy highway one night.

Towards the end of the film there’s a scene where the mother, portrayed quite well by Sigourney Weaver, is speaking to a pastor at a church in complete and utter desperation. She’s trying to come to terms with the possibility of her son not having made it into heaven because he had sinned. She still cannot allow herself to properly grieve, even though it has been many months since her son’s passing.

That’s when I heard my own mother grumble something underneath her breath. I looked over and saw she was speaking directly to Sigourney Weaver portraying this character inside the television. My mom was clearly overwhelmed by the woman’s hardheadedness. Soon enough my mother was not speaking softly. She was downright yelling at the television, saying, “C’mon, lady. Don’t be stupid. Get over it. There was never anything wrong with your son to begin with!”

~Bobby Bermúdas

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