(c) Kimberly Glover, 2016
Andrew wanted to turn the car around and forget this trip. What had he been thinking? He took another sip of his Made-For-Giants-Or-Very-Fat-Americans-Big-Gulp-Diet-Coke from 7-11, knowing that he would have to stop at the next opportunity. He would pee in the tiny, dusty town called Antionum which consisted of several run down trailers, a post office and a gas station that served as a laundromat and Taco Bell. The bathroom would be filthy.
He passed the giant red-brown rock formations that signaled his progress: The Fat Lady, Giant’s Foot, The Triplets, and Lipstick Rock (which had looked to his young self entirely like a penis and not much like lipstick at all, but he hadn’t said so to his Grandma). The closer he got the more he felt his body tighten. He clenched his jaw so tight it hurt, the small muscles in his cheeks screaming at him to stop. Every fiber in his body fought, warning him to turn his rental car around and forget this errand. He passed Caboose Rock. He was almost there. His mind wandered to the obituary.
1972-2016. John Esplin, husband, father, brother, uncle and friend died February 9, 2016 after unexpected heart failure. John was born to goodly parents in Jershon, Utah. He excelled at sports, most notably football and track. He attended Jershon High School where he met his sweetheart, Jennifer Leavitt. He served an honorable Mormon mission…
Sweetheart. He felt his stomach lurch. He remembered John. John, his childhood friend. Red dirt, bonfires, sagebrush. Electric Company and Charlie’s Angels on Grandma’s old tv with the rabbit ears. GI Joe, Smurfs, Brady Bunch. John, his first crush. John, who had held him and cried with him and hugged him with his strong football arms. John. John, who spit hideous, painful words at him with his football friends at school: Fag. Queer. Pussy. Who taunted him with the girly, high-pitched, lispy stereotypes of Three’s Company and Revenge of The Nerds. John, who kissed him passionately and hated himself for it. Hated Andrew for it. John, who cried himself to sleep. John.
He hadn’t given it any thought before he had jumped on the first flight he could find to Salt Lake City, rented a ridiculously overpriced Volvo, and started the hours-long journey to the small, stifling place he had once called home. If he would have thought, he would have talked himself out of this errand. And here it was. Jershon. Just in time for the funeral. He fought the tears threatening to spill out of his haunted eyes. He still needed to pee.
He passed the familiar buildings as he slowed through town: The pizza place where he and John had worked together in high school. Andrew had relished the times they closed together, just the two of them. Depeche Mode or Metalica turned up to eleven, they had felt free. They laughed, and cried, and talked, and eventually they finished the cleaning and stocking listed on the to-do list. He passed the elementary school, built at the beginning of time with ancient, hand-made brick. The Sinclair gas station with a new addition—a Wendy’s. The city park with its antique tractors and monument to the Mormon Pioneers. He turned and crawled to a stop in the large church parking lot. Wiped the tears that already betrayed him. Tried to smooth the travel wrinkles from his clothes. Knew immediately he should have worn something less City Boy. He did not want to stand out in the congregation today. He wanted to disappear.
Shaking, he found his way to the back of the chapel and sat. Alone, he felt conspicuous. He willed himself to be invisible. His mouth tasted of bile and metal. His eyes found the casket, and tears welled again. There, John’s kids. Kids! A magical mix of John and Jennifer. Scrubbed, polished, shocked. Betrayed.
And Jennifer. She looked back, red eyes boring holes in him. Did she know? How well, he wondered, had she known her high school sweetheart? The football star? The Mormon missionary? The husband? The father? The bishop of his congregation? He had sacrificed everything for her. For his church. For his Mormon Macho Rancher of a Dad.
Andrew felt the bile rise again. Felt the room closing in on him, black edges of his vision growing into a pinprick. He couldn’t breathe here.
And then she waved, tilted her pretty head and smiled. Her tired eyes said everything. She knew. Her face held pain, but also love. And compassion. He was glad she knew. Glad John had been loved for who he was, even a little bit. He smiled, blew her a little kiss and looked at her for what seemed like forever. She looked back. Did not blink.
He quietly stood and walked back to his rental car. Back to his life.
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Kimberly Glover is an educator in Eastern Utah, who has rediscovered that writing is like breathing to her. She’s working on making time for words.
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