Today’s prompt by Angela Ackerman is shame. Although the prompt focused on an action that makes the character feel shame, but I’ve always associated shame less with a single action and more as a collection of actions or thoughts (internal or external) that create the feeling.
He was the good son. He was not supposed to be like this. He was supposed to be successful and settle down and have a family and be the kid his parents talked about first when people asked how their kids were doing.
Hiding gave him an ulcer. He feared being found out and losing the most important people in his life. He feared not being found out, and the most important people in his life never truly knowing him.
His cure for fear was found at the bottom of a bottle, and when that didn’t do enough, in varying kinds of illicit substances. Anything to dull reality’s sharp edges. The self-medicating took a toll. He’d been fired, twice. His savings dried up. His plans and dreams and hopes withered.
The “I’ll tell them when it’s time” finally confronted him as a lie. He sat at his favorite barstool in his favorite bar, downing drink number four. His pain washed away after four drinks, and his instincts focused only on getting more drinks. A friend offered him some white pill procured with puppy dog eyes, a sad story, and a willing doctor. It went down easy with the rest of the gin and tonic.
He went to take a leak and woke up in the hospital. Bandages over veins where blood had been taken and a diaper where his underwear should have been. Brain still fuzzy, he had no idea what was going on. How had he gotten here?
A nurse came in, checked him over silently, and then said he could get dressed and go home. His confused look made her point to his pile of clothes on the chair next to him. “Don’t drink so much. You are wasting our time.” Her Irish accent scolding him about alcohol would have made him laugh if he wasn’t so close to tears.
The ride home was awful. He wanted to throw up the entire half hour but made it home and to the bathroom just in time. He crawled into bed and sobbed himself to sleep in the pillow. He couldn’t do this anymore.
The next morning, he barely ate, staring at his phone. He pushed aside the planning part of his brain and jumped in head first.
“Mom? Is Dad there? I need to talk to both of you.” He was already crying.
“Jake, is everything okay? Dad’s coming. Are you alright? What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I… Please don’t hate me. I have to tell you something, and I’m so scared.”
“We’re here. It’s okay. What is it?”
“…” He took a breath to calm himself down just enough. “I’m gay.”
The line was so silent he checked to make sure they were still connected. He couldn’t handle the silence and just cried over and over and over into the phone “Please don’t hate me. Please don’t hate me.”
“We don’t hate you, son.”
“We could never hate you. We’re just … sad.”
“But it’ll be okay. We love you.”
“Are you seeing someone?”
“No. I just have … I needed you to know. I’ve been running for so long, it’ll kill me to keep running. Please, just please don’t hate me. I know so many people that have lost their families. Please don’t make me lose you.”
“No. No no no never. Never, son. Look, we’re going to look for flights and come up there. Okay? We can talk and figure this all out together. Okay?”
“I love you.”
“We both love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“We’ll call you when we have our flight details.”
“Okay.” His last word sobbed out, fear and shame bubbling up and out of his body. He thought about his friends with good coming out stories and flipped through his contacts.
“Lace, I just came out to my parents, and they are coming to visit and I think it’s going to be okay but I really can’t be alone right now.” He raced out the words, just beating a new wave of tears.
“I’m coming over. It’s gonna be okay. You did it! Jake, you… I am so proud of you. I will be there in like 15 minutes.” He could hear her smile through the phone and allowed himself his own as he hung up. Tension he had gotten so used to suddenly left him, and he sprawled out on the couch, exhausted but suddenly somehow happy.