by Ethan Seavey
You know this feeling. The formation of words to open the conversation, the gravity of this dull walk with your father. The deals you make with the devil inside yourself: tell him by the time you reach the end of this street, the middle of this bridge, and definitely before you reach Sainte-Chapelle.
You’re coming out, because you’ll collapse if you don’t. And when the words are about to boil over on your tongue, you’re cut off by your own voice pointing out a French bus with the word «Toot» on it.
You’ve done this before. It’s harder, now.
A few years ago you went on walks like this one all the time. You’d structure the beginning of the conversation over and over, memorize it, say, “Dad, I need to tell you something important: I’m gay.” Even in your mind the last word would come out as a raspy quietness.
Today, these are the words you rehearse like a pop song echoing in your head: “Dad, I think I need to get help. I don’t know how to manage my mental health anymore. I deal with daily anxiety, and I’m really struggling with the idea of spending the next year across the world from everything I know.”
The parks are bigger here. And the people speak too quickly a language you can just barely understand. And their crows are blacker; and street smart like your pigeons. The fathers here smile wider as they run, pushing their children on scooters. The hot is mild and so is the cold, and the rain is only falling dew.
It is beautiful, but so wrong. These days, you’re riding a merry-go-round and putting together your new home from the flashes of color and shapes you see. You’re dizzy and you cannot sleep; you cry every morning and at night climb into a bed full of dread. And he needs to know, because you’re losing your grip on the plastic horse you’re riding.
Like every one of your coming-out walks, it ends only with your own devastation. You reach the end of the block and there’s Sainte-Chapelle, there’s the line to buy tickets and you’ve waited too long. Your father is unaware. Deaf to the words you scream into your skull. You’re in line and you soak in disappointment but you’ll do it later. Over a meal, maybe. Or on another walk.
You find stillness in the apocalyptic rose window of Sainte-Chapelle but when you step outside, you’re filled with fresh panic. You don’t get the chance to start this conversation on your own terms. You’re subjected to your tears, to heavy breathing and hair-twirling and cracking knuckles.
He asks what’s wrong and I tell him my words, and they’re all choked up and poorly delivered; they have none of the natural tone I had included in my script. Tears behind sunglasses and tears on my cheeks and now my hands.
And just like years ago, you knew before the coming out happened that he would be the easiest person to tell. You knew he’d understand and never waver in being the wind behind your sail; he would listen and he would speak only to be able to listen more.
By the time you’re back at the hotel, the hard part’s over. You understand each other more; and you’ll fight this beast together.