“You never look happy to see anyone. You don’t go outside, and when you do, you don’t talk to anyone. You’re always shut up in that room. You swear, you wear the same clothes multiple days in a row, you’re always playing that god-awful music. Why on earth would anyone want anything to do with you?”
Moses grimaced as his mother carried on her angry tirade, “what the fuck is this?!” She held up the necklace he had tried so hard to hide. He’d usually wear it tucked under his shirt, but he’d forgotten to put it on that day. She held it loosely in her hands as if she were clutching the most disgusting thing on earth.
“Where did you get this? Huh? Where did this come from?! You will not bring this goddamn filth in my house! This is why everyone in town thinks you’re a queer!”
His mother’s eyes were full of hatred. Disdain to the person she had brought into this world, and Moses hated it. She’d never been a kind person, and he had never really lived up to her expectations. She’d always seen her son as a chore and a problem to overcome, in his mind, at least. At least she’s consistent. He felt the sharp pain in his cheek as she swung her hand across it, but he didn’t flinch. He’d never flinched, not when he was 7 years old, and not now, at 17, either. He knew he’d have a mark where she’d struck him, and for some reason, that made him smile. Her brow furrowed further, a scoff emerging from her pursed lips.
“I did the best I could, ya know. With everything I had! And here you are, lookin’ like a fag, dressin’ like a damn bum and embarrasin’ me. What did I do to get a son like you, huh?”
She smacked him again in the same place.
“Don’t fuckin’ smirk at me, ya little shit! Who the fuck do you think you are?!”
Moses looked down at his shoes, trying his best to stay composed. He took a deep breath in, returning the hostile gaze his mother currently possessed.
“Does hittin’ on a kid make you feel good about yourself? I have nothing to say to you. Send me to military school, send me to the fuckin’ moon if you have to, I’m not gonna stop being who I am.”
Her fists balled up, her face twisted with rage, but his mother did not strike him again. Instead, she pocketed the necklace, huffing sharply.
“You’re goin’ back to your dad’s. I can’t handle you no more, an’ no son ‘a mine’s gonna be a smart mouthed sodomite.”
Moses shrugged, grabbing his backpack in order to pack up whatever he could. His mother shook her head and left the room, presumably to call his father and break the news to him. He heard her raised voice, but couldn’t make out what she was saying. Figures. He quickly packed all his things, which took him about 20 minutes, and elected to wait on the front porch for his dad to arrive in order to avoid his mom’s wrath once more. As Moses sat on the porch, he heaved a great sigh. He was being displaced. Once again. It seemed he was always yo-yoing back and forth between his mother and father every few years, and neither of them seemed particularly interested in taking care of him. To them, Moses was a blemish. A mistake that they had made some 17 years ago when 2 people decided to hook up and one of them got knocked up. At least at his dad’s, he wouldn’t be getting homophobic slurs spewed at him every day, but that wasn’t much of an upgrade. He often wondered how 2 people could be his own flesh and blood, and yet be so very unkind to him. What he’d done to deserve their cruelty. It was a little too late, in his mind, to be having these thoughts, and yet here he was, wishing once again that things were different. He heard the rumbling of an old Station Wagon. I thought he drove a Ford. Who the hell is that. Moses saw an unfamiliar young man pull up to their driveway. He was around his age, his handsome face had an air of intensity to it. It must’ve been his eyes, they were as dark as midnight, and hidden behind a pair of glasses that suited his face. He looked like an actor, or at least someone far more important than Moses. But what was he doing in the driveway? The boy rolled down the window of his car, eyeing Moses up and down, as if analyzing every detail about him.
“You’re Moses, right?”
“Cool. I’m here to get you. Hop in.”
Moses shook his head slightly in disbelief, jarred by the boy’s bluntness. He should’ve been used to it given his upbringing, but he was taken aback by how forward the boy was in spite of himself. He got into the old car, and found the inside was pristine, almost too clean, a stark contrast to any vehicle he’d ridden in up until that point. The boy looked at him expectantly, his thick eyebrows slightly creased.
“Your seatbelt. Buckle it when you’re in my car.”
Moses obediently obliged, huffing slightly at being told what to do by someone his age.
“Ya got a name? Ya know mine, but I have no clue who you are.”
“That’s not important.”
“It kinda is, considering how I’m in your car and you could potentially be kidnapping me.”
The boy shrugged, turning his keys in the ignition. The car rumbled to a start.
“That short for somethin’?”
“I do. Who are you? Did my dad send you here? Where am I gonna go?”
“Slow down, pretty boy. It’s all good.”
Moses glared at Mal, shoving his fists into the pockets of his sweatshirt.
“No one fuckin’ tells me anything! Ya wanna play the secrets game, fine. I don’t give a shit anymore! Just take me wherever I’m supposed to go!”
Mal softened his gaze, but said nothing in return. He started along the road, and it was quiet in the car for a while, except for the rumble of the engine and the sounds of their breathing. Once they stopped at a red light, Mal peered at Moses.
“Gonna sulk the whole trip?”
“What do you think, fucknuts.”
“High praise from a guy wearin’ eyeliner.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
Mal smirked, turning a corner.
“Nothin’. It looks good on you.”
Moses felt a slight blush on his cheeks. He wasn’t used to getting compliments, especially not from handsome men.
They were both quiet again the rest of the way, but before long, Mal parked in front of a decently sized house in a seemingly nice neighborhood. Moses felt unfamiliar with this area of town, he hadn’t even seen his father in 3 years. The old man really must’ve stepped up. Damn. He had no idea what his father was doing with his life at this point, or how long it would be until he saw his mother again, but he learned fairly quickly not to care. The unrest he felt in his life was something he’d always been familiar with. Not knowing where he was going to end up next, not knowing where his life was going, not knowing anything except his own personhood, and even that was ambiguous most of the time. Mal reached over him, pressing his muscular body against him, which startled Moses. He quickly realized that Mal had unbuckled his seatbelt and opened the car door for him. Embarrassed, Moses apologized sheepishly. Mal grinned, shaking his head as if to say it was alright. As they got out of the car, Moses saw the familiar figure of his father approaching to greet the boys. He looked at the man who was in front of him, and he looked completely different from when he saw him last. His face looked kinder, he was a lot less scruffy, Moses could tell that he had been working out and he had a smile on his face.
“Welcome home, son.”
Moses felt a lump at the back of his throat, but pushed his underlying feelings down. He didn’t know the permanence of this situation, after all, and everything could be displaced again in the blink of an eye. His father nodded agreeably, offering a hand to take Moses’ things, which he accepted.
“You’re so tall now! The long hair looks good.”
“You like it?”
“Sure I do. Have you been well?”
“Sure,” Moses lied through his teeth, “things have been good.”
Mal greeted his father cordially, then excused himself to study in his room.
“Ok. Well, I know you’ve met Malcolm here already. He’s the kid brother of a friend of mine. He’s been stayin’ here, so you’ll see a lot of him for a while. Y’all are gonna get to be good friends, I hope. Let’s go inside and I can show ya around.”
His father led them to the living room, and gave Moses a small tour of the place. It was quite a bit larger than the old apartment his father was staying at. Cleaner too. When he was done showing Moses around, his father led him to the kitchen area.
“Want some coffee? I was gonna make some for myself.”
Moses leaned against the countertop as his dad assembled everything for the coffee.
“It’s been too long since I saw you last.”
“Why were you gone so long this time? I mean, you usually at least call me, or visit me or something.”
His father let out a shaky sigh, placing two mugs on the stove.
“I got clean. For good this time.”
Moses scoffed before he could stop himself. He didn’t remember a time his father was ever sober, not even when he was looking after his own child.
“So, what, ya come back after this long to tell me you’re better?”
“Yeah, actually, I did. You don’t have to believe me, I know I’ve messed up. A lot. And you don’t have to forgive me. But I’m clean. I’ve been sober for a year and a half now.”
His father gave him the mug of coffee he’d just brewed, offering a gentle smile. This expression was unfamiliar. Sure, this man was his father. But he looked brighter, somehow. Happier. More full of life than he’d ever seen him.
“I’m workin’ in construction now. It’s hard work, but it pays good. Finally bought my first house.”
Moses set down his mug, blinking back any tears that threatened to spill.
“You don’t have to go back there. You’re 18 in 2 months, and you can live here as long as you need to. I know I should’ve been there, and I’m gonna regret that for the rest of my life.”
“How do I know you’re not lyin’ to me?”
“You don’t. Ya have to trust me. I know you need time, and I know you’re goin’ through so much right now, but I’m not the same man I was. I’m better. And I’m gonna spend the rest of my life bein’ better.”
“Can I be alone? I need to think.”
“Spend however long ya need. We’re havin’ dinner at 7, and there’s a bedroom across the hall for you. You can go unpack and stuff.”
Moses wandered into the bedroom that didn’t feel like his in the house he didn’t feel at home in with the man that he didn’t feel like was his father.