I've known Peggy for coming up on 14 years now. She was a friend of my mother's, originally. Now, this dear woman is friends to us both. If you knew my mother and me well, you'd know what a curse this must be. Add the fact that it was only after I had eventually moved in with this woman and tried planning a life together with her, that I nearly had a nervous breakdown from the realization that I was, in fact, a gay man trying desperately to deny my true nature and subsequently abandoned this wonderful person and broke her heart: well, she's a fucking Saint, in my book. I love her dearly.
We met when I had stopped in at my mother's house one spring day to visit with a relative who was staying with my mother. A relative that I didn't feel close to or, for that matter, particularly like. She was my mother's cousin and had grown up with Mom. My grandmother had taken her in as a teenager and she had lived with Mom's family for a few years, because of some hushed up family problem she was having. I think. No one knows, or is willing to talk about it.
She was four or five years older than my mother. Her name was Juanita, she was called Neetie, and I had always found her to be an incredible pain in the ass.She was one of those bible-thumping, sexually repressed Lambs of God that take it upon themselves to educate anyone within earshot about what exactly God's Plan is. She was an overt flirt with any man she came in contact with, and yet I know for a fact that she hadn't had "relations" with anyone since her husband left her in 1974. She had a nasal voice which, when excited, turned shrill, and when she spoke about someone or something she found offensive, one side of her upper lip would curl into a sneer that reminded me of Elvis singing "Hound Dog". It would have been cool, if she'd just played the guitar.
She was staying with Mom for 2 weeks. I hadn't seen this person in, easily, a decade and I wasn't looking forward to having to hang out with her. But I had to; Mom insisted that I put in an appearance. She was here for 2 weeks and "...surely you could find a few hours to spend some time with Neetie. She's looking forward to seeing you and asks about you all the time!" Now, this was 1991. I still had my long hair and beard, and was deep into "The Motorcycle Years", a period of 3 years where my only mode of transport was a Kawasaki 750. I just knew, pulling into the driveway on my bike that day, that the next few hours were not going to be pleasant.
When I met her at the front door, Neetie seemed, as expected, agitated. She hugged and kissed me quickly, roughly, and then pushed me out at arm's length to inspect me. She nearly bent my arm the wrong way as she tugged my jacket off. She brushed at my shirt, and pulled at my bearded face, and ran her fingers through some hair behind my ear in one spastic motion. Later, Mom told me that she was struck with how much I looked like her late son, Rory, an only child who had died in a car wreck, drugged up out of his mind, some 15 years ago. Neetie very much lived in the past yet, since her son's death, she had given her life over to the Lord and only focused on her future in Heaven. There was no 'present' with Neetie, just what "was" and what "will be".
But there was another reason for her anxiety, as it turns out. Because after the initial greeting at the door, I was led into the livingroom to where Peggy sat. I was introduced to this round little spitfire of a woman wearing bright, bold colors of red, and blue, and yellow. She had a shock of red hair to her shoulders and long, dangley earrings that matched her outfit. Big, oversized eyeglasses sat perched upon a little button nose. Her cheeks were ruddy and there was a real twinkle in her eyes. She wore sandals and her toenails were painted bright red. Mom introduced us and excused herself to make iced teas. I found myself in a chair with Peggy sitting across from me to my left, and Neetie, sitting next to me, and the end of the sofa on my right. Mother had invited me and then abandoned me. This is why I don't do the Family Thing anymore, I said to myself.
It was obvious from the get-go that Neetie did not like Peggy. I was trying to make conversation that included them both, and with each sentence out of Peggy's mouth, The Sneer became more and more evident. It wasn't like Peggy was doing anything wrong, she was being pleasant and social. She did not demand any more attention than anyone else in the room and exhibited no sign of inappropriate behavior or break any rules of etiquette. But Juanita had judged her to be undeserving of any consideration and unwelcome in the conversation. She also displayed a new weapon in her arsenal of rude behavior: a melodramatic rolling of her eyes, as if she couldn't believe she was having to put up with such an Idiot.
I was shocked and embarrassed.But, to my amazement, this did not negatively affect Peggy in the slightest. As a matter of fact, each caustic glance from my relative seemed to egg Peggy on.
At one point, Neetie said something snotty, and when I looked at Peggy she gave me a quick expression that I read immediately. It was, "I'm not afraid of this old bitch" and, "Let's have some fun with this shriveled up prune!" And just that fast the conversation went from talking about Texas weather, to how much she loved to lie in bed during a thunderstorm. I agreed and said that I always found the sound of rain comforting and erotic. She nodded enthusiastically and explained that her second husband had had a cd of storm sounds that she just HAD to put on, every now and then, during the dusty Texas summer while they were married. I asked what happened to husband #2. She said that she had divorced him after he chased her around her house one night with a butcher's knife. I told her that some cowboys consider such an act Foreplay. We were just horsing around...
With each exchange, Neetie became more and more exasperated. You could read her pious face like a book. How dare this fat tart talk about sex! Who does she think she is? How could someone this heavy possibly have ONE husband, let alone TWO? Any woman who hops from man to man like that deserves what she gets! If I have to listen to this much longer, I may stab someone! You could just read it in her face.
I immediately began having a good time.
By the time Mom had made it from the kitchen with the teas, the livingroom was a war zone. With each outrageous remark from Peggy, Neetie's sneer arched higher and higher up her cheekbone. The woman's teeth went all the way up to her eye sockets! And with each grimace from Neetie, Peggy would laugh and kick her feet out in front of her and splay her painted toes. There was no doubt that Peggy was having a blast. I'm sure she had dealt with people like this all her life. She was used to people's prejudice against Obesity. You could tell. She knew how to defend against people's looks of disapproval and disgust, and acts of cruelty and ignorance. She wasn't going to let this pompous, vain prude make her feel uncomfortable or unacceptable. She giggled and laughed and talked in double-entendres and risque metaphors. My mother, unaware of what was going on, laughed along and seemed oblivious to Juanita's manners. I figured she must have been sitting on the Non-Sneer side of Neetie's face. Just for good measure, I made some mention of my crotch. Maybe it was a lightening rod reference, I can't remember. But it went over big. Peggy howled, Mom had a swallow of iced tea go down the wrong pipe, and Neetie stood up, the veins in her neck bulging, and announced that she was tired and wanted to go to bed, marched to the guestroom, and slammed the door.
The dreaded hours of the visit had turned into twenty minutes on a roller coaster.Juanita did not ask to spend anymore time with me during that visit.My mother eventually got over being ticked off with me.I became fast friends with Peggy.
I knew that Peggy had kids from the start, but I wasn't going to let that interfere with my agenda. The Bachelor's Agenda. I wanted to run around with this woman and not have to babysit, police, or in anyway interface with her children. She kept them well hidden early on. I knew that she had four. Two were grown and out of the house. The two others were 9 and 12, I think. I'm not really sure. I was trying hard to not pay attention.
The first time we went out, she invited me to a "Lusty Month Of May" party. Pool party and cook-out out in the hill country. I was hoping for Nudity. Turned out to be a bunch of fully-clothed drunk forty year olds. Seemed like false advertising to me. The host of the party fancied himself a songwriter. He had won some award years back in a competition. Peggy thought he was really talented and asked him to play. He pulled a guitar out and, in my humble estimation, stank the room up. Peg seemed so impressed by him. I made a mental note to be sure and blow her away with some of my stuff later. If she liked this shit, I was going to come off like The Beatles! When we went out, we'd always end up back at her place. Because I had a roommate, and she had a nicer lifestyle (Her first ex-husband was a nuclear physicist. Trust me, her lifestyle was nicer.)
We could always stay out late because we'd only go out when her two boys were sleeping at their father's for the weekend. Which was fine. I can honestly say that I didn't feel I was missing out. We'd sit in her livingroom and light candles, eat strawberries with chocolate sauce, drink wine, and I'd play the guitar and sing for her. (I was right. She thought I was very talented.) We smoked pot and gave each other backrubs. She had a body massager/contraption that was as big as a pommel horse.We took turns buffing each other's butts. But always, ALWAYS, I was out of there before the crack of dawn. Until, that is, the first time we partied a little too hard and long and I fell asleep in her room. And the next morning was the first time I met Chris.
I'm a heavy sleeper. I could sleep through a tornado. I think I have, actually. But put a child anywhere near my vicinity when I'm out, and I'll wake up like I've been electrocuted. All I remember is the giggle, like a cluck of a chicken or the yip of a puppy. Like the purr of a kitten or the chirp of a sparrow. It stopped the Rapid Eye Movement. It tripped a switch in my central nervous system and stopped my breathing. And paralyzed me, I should mention that.
When my ears confirmed the follow up giggle, longer yet softer and seemingly closer, I knew I was in a very serious situation. There was a young boy within a four foot radius of me and Peggy was either asleep, gone, or dead, because I heard no sign of her presence. No one could help me.I wondered how long I could pretend I was sleeping.
There is nothing quite like the panic of knowing that you are in bed and inches from the child of the woman you've just slept with when you're naked under the covers and your pants are in a wad on the floor on the other side of the room. Call it Instinct, but I knew that I was not the one in control or empowered in this scenario. When I finally summoned the courage to open my eyes, I found her youngest son, Christopher, sitting on the edge of the bed with a bowl of grapes in his lap. He beamed when I looked at him.
"Hello!" he said.
I cleared my throat, pulled the covers up to my nose, and tried to make conversation.
"Where's your mother?" I croaked.
"She said she had an appointment to show a house and not to bother you." he replied. "You're Jim, right?"
"Why are you in your mother's room, and on the bed with me, if you're not supposed to bother me?" I asked.
"I figured you'd like some breakfast," he reasoned. "Want a grape?"
I pulled the covers over my head.
"My mom really likes you. Want me to bring you your pants?"
Christopher is now 23 years old. He's a fine young man. A fine young man who knew he was gay, and proudly announced it, when he was about 16 years old. He is a hero of mine. It was because of his self-assurance and bravery that I found the mettle to come out myself.
But, that's another story...