Chapter 7 – Home Safe
The ride home was quiet. Dennis was driving, Barry was sitting in the passenger seat, and Kyle was in the back, slumped against the window, not quite sure whether he should be angry or terrified. Barry wasn’t quite sure what Dennis had in mind with this whole thing–was he really going to out the kid to his asshole father, just for wanting to get into a gay club? It seemed…cruel, but then, Dennis had always had a bit of a cruel streak in him. Barry had largely been able to avoid it, but his husband had never had much sympathy for gays who fell outside of the normal range of behavior that his rather conservative upbringing could tolerate. Assimilation or scorn were the choices, and Barry had chosen the first. He regretted it at times, but at least he was comfortable.
It took about half an hour to get out of the city and into the suburb where the three of them lived. It was an older subdivision, built in the early 90’s. The lots still had yards in the front and the back, rather than the strips of grass that passed for outdoor space in more modern construction, with your neighbor’s prying eyes six feet away from you next door. Barry expected him to drop Kyle off at his house, but they drove past it and arrived at their own, pulling into the driveway.
“So, do your parents know you were out tonight, or did you sneak out?”
“I…I told them I was over at a friend’s house for the evening. They don’t mind if I get back home late.”
“Look, I’m doing this for your own good, alright?” Dennis said, “I know that places like that seem fun, but trust me when I say, they’re dangerous–”
There was a light scoff that came from Barry at that, but Dennis ignored it, aside from a little pause.
“–Guys do a lot of drugs in places like that, and there are guys who will take advantage of you, alright?”
“I’m not a virgin, you know,” Kyle said, “I know what sex is, you don’t have to treat me like a kid.”
“You are a fucking kid though, and I know you don’t see that, but when you’re grown up, and have a job, you’ll understand that this was for the best, and I expect a thank you note when you get there.”
Kyle looked away at the window. “Are you gonna tell my dad?”
“Of course we won’t.”
Dennis looked over at Barry, who was glaring at him from the passenger seat. “We’re not going to tell his dad, that’s fucking awful to even suggest it,” Barry said.
“Alright, I’m not going to tell your dad, this time, but you know what Kyle? You need to tell him. I know it’s scary, alright? My parents weren’t exactly the…most supportive people, of the lifestyle.”
“You didn’t come out to them until you were thirty, Dennis, stop making it sound like you’re some brave soul,” Barry said, and flipped around, “I don’t think there was anything wrong with you being there, I think you were right to get out of from under your parents thumb, and I don’t really think you should listen to Dennis on this one. Live your fucking life while you still can, alright Kyle? And if you go out again, and you get in trouble, then call us and we’ll come pick you up, alright?”
“Let it go, Dennis, I think you got your little snitch high from this already, he’s scared enough. Go home Kyle.”
Sensing an opportunity to get away from this uncomfortable situation at last, Kyle nodded, thanked them for the ride home, and took off down the sidewalk at a quick stroll, leaving Barry and Dennis in the car, silent. Barry got out first, and went into the house, with Dennis following close behind. “Is there something you want to say to me?” he asked, “It seems like there’s something you’d like to talk about.”
“I can’t fucking believe you sometimes, you know that?” Barry said.
“What! He’s underage! He shouldn’t be in a place like that, and you know it.”
“Just because you were immature, and too scared to do anything fun when you were younger, doesn’t mean the rest of us weren’t willing to take a risk now and then. And threatening to out him to his father! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“He’ll have to tell him at some point, he might as well rip the bandaid off now.”
“Brave words from you. Why didn’t you tell your parents, huh?”
“That was different, and you know it.”
“Why weren’t you brave, Dennis? Just rip the bandaid off, you know, it’s easy!” Barry said, cooing at him. “We both know full well why you didn’t, and you were right to not tell them until when you did. And Kyle is right for not telling them too! Why the fuck are you like this? Why are you such a fucking hypocrite?”
“You think you know exactly what’s best for everyone else, all the fucking time, and you dole out all of this mealy-mouthed advice, which everyone knows you would never do in a million years. You’re a fucking coward, Dennis, and you want everyone else to do the work so you don’t have to change.”
“It’s called being an adult, Barry, maybe you should try it sometime. You act like a child, you know that? You’re almost forty for fuck’s sake, why can’t you act like it? You have a good time tonight, pretending you’re a cool kid again? Make you feel better about getting turned down for that amazing promotion yet again?”
“You know damn well why I got turned down.”
“It’s not because you’re gay, Barry. It’s because you’re unserious. Because you’re immature. You think you can go out and party and still be treated like an adult, well at some point, you’re going to have to grow the fuck up.”
“I can’t fucking deal with you sometimes!”
“Well we both know you’ll never leave, because as much as you want to be a little party whore, you want the nice house and the respectable life more, and you’re lucky I’m willing to put up with your shit to give it to you. We both know who pays the fucking mortgage, after all.”
Barry gave up at that point–as soon as Dennis brought up the bills, he knew he’d lost. It was his husband’s favorite point of leverage. Barry made good money, but he didn’t make money like Dennis did, and as much as Barry might resent him for it, he did like it. He liked being taken care of, he liked the comfort. He went upstairs to the bedroom, Dennis stayed down in the living room after getting a beer out of the fridge–most likely, he’d end up sleeping on the couch, which is what usually happened after one of their arguments. Come morning, neither of them would apologize, and they would just move on with their life together, pasting over their frustrations again, and again, because usually, things were fine. Usually. Barry found himself peeling back layers, unable to help himself, wondering how many times you could cover something up before it just came apart anyway.
He got out of his clothes and into bed without a shower, closed his eyes and thought about that pounding bass on the dance floor again, thought about being swept away. Thought about how he’d been too scared to do it, too old. He was getting old, he was getting fucking old! He hated that, he hated how it felt like he had wasted his youth trying to be a good gay, trying to be a smart, clever, business gay, and now here he was, stuck in a job he hated, with the ladder rapidly getting pulled up away from him. He’d been passed over for a promotion again, for someone younger than him, a good little straight boy, twenty-eight, with a wife and a kid on the way. He knew the reasoning. He had a family to support, after all. But Barry didn’t want a family, Barry just wanted to be respected. He wanted his work to be seen and appreciated. He wanted the money too, of course. But why had he worked so hard, and missed so much, if all he got for it was a boring office job as he just kept getting older, and older, and older.
He got up again, dug around in the pocket of his pants, and pulled the card out Hugh had given him. None of what Hugh had told him seemed possible. None of it had even made sense. If he told Dennis about it he would scoff at the fantasy, but after the argument, that just made it more appealing. Mostly he was tired. Tired of things being safe, tired of being bored. It couldn’t hurt to ask, right?