X- was doing well. Half of a trendy, socially alert shop in a neighborhood that was molting rapidly out of its blue-collar hibernation belonged to him. Before that he worked as an object in advertising because people couldn’t resist the planes of his face and the lean muscle of his body. I was just getting to know him. He was there for dinner at my place for the first time. More than the visual pleasure of sitting opposite him, which could not honestly be ignored, X- had a quiet, soft, manner that was particularly disarming. It was actually surprising. Many people born with beauty turn it into a weapon that pummels others into an uneasy sense of inferiority. I overheard on a park bench one afternoon sometime after my dinner with X- one beauty relate to another of similar quality how it has been necessary to bluntly tell a slobbery admirer the previous evening that “charity fucks” was not something he offered. As I said X- had none of that attitude about him. If anything he tipped the scale at the other end. He did use more frequently than I liked my least favorite popular expression “It’s all good”.
Towards the end of dinner and with the wine bottle still half full the conversation left the city where we were both living at the time and traveled in the direction of childhoods. Mine, I offered, involved a small, rural community that I was happy to escape. I gave a couple of examples of my life there that usually entertained and gained points at the same time. “And where was Home Sweet Home for X-,” I asked.
“St Louis,” was his brief reply. He seemed to quiet into himself a bit. I lumbered on, however, asking if his family was still back there ignoring, not catching the cloud that had passed over the clear blue eyes.
He took a quick, small breath. “I don’t know where they are,” he said. “I haven’t seen them since I was twelve.” Being a child from a family that unless death had intervened were still present and reachable in any number of ways I was shocked. A grinding crash on a country road, or a flood, or maybe a tornado all popped into my mind as possible explanations. “No,” he said flatly. “They are probably still alive, but I don’t know where. They left when I was twelve.”
“They left without you?”
“Yes.” He didn’t hesitate. He was 38 years old and that was not the first time he was remembering that afternoon. He had come from school and walked up the street from where the bus had let him off. When he got to his house, there was a note scotch-taped to the middle of the door, which was partly open.
The note began ‘X-‘. There was no ‘dear’ to soften what came next. “We realize that you have the sin of the homosexual on you and the Lord has told us take your brother and sister and flee this pestilence.” That is all it said. There was no indication of where they had gone. Inside were empty rooms with only the impersonal scraps of paper and the dirt that outlined where the sofa had sat. Everything else has been removed.