This is so stupid. I should just go home. Really? You drove all the way down here just to turn around and go back? I don’t need this, okay! I’m going home now! What’s your problem? It’s just a bar! I put my hands to my ears. God damn it, stop it! Just shut the fuck up! Ok Henry, calm down. Relax. Go in, hang out for a bit, then leave. I stop at the corner and stare at myself in the window of a parked car. What the fuck is wrong with you? Breathe. Get a grip!
It was the second time I had walked around the block trying to convince myself it was okay for me to go into Woody’s. I stand at the corner across the street. There’s a short line waiting to get in and a few feet away from them there’s a group of guys huddling. One of them is on the phone. I’m guessing he’s talking to a friend who’s running late. A few others are smoking and chatting, wearing only t-shirts, even though it’s February. Am I really one of them? Go ahead Henry, cross the street, give them a nod, and walk in like you own the place. I mean, it’s just a bar, and it all looks so normal. I’m not sure. I just feel better standing here, not too close.
What the hell are you doing here anyway? Ok, that’s it, you need to get your ass home! Here we go again. You’re fucking 40 years old! You’ve got kids! You have a wife!
It’s winter, 2009. Just a few months earlier everything changed when I acknowledged to my wife, Evelyn, that I was gay. It happened just days away from my 40th birthday party, the one she had been planning for months. And it happened just weeks away from a family trip to Spain. This was the trip we had all been looking forward to forever. We had my party. We went to Spain. Except for Evelyn and I, no one had a clue what we were going through. Not her mother, our children or any of her friends. Evelyn was crushed.
We spent three weeks in Spain, including New Year’s Eve in Barcelona. I went with Evelyn, our two kids and my mother-in-law. I planned New Year’s Eve perfectly. The place was off the beaten path, but not too far from Sagrada Familia. A great location. I had read about this New Year’s Eve event. It was a gathering of locals. Very authentic. We sat upstairs among several other tables that overlooked the main dining room. It was a wonderful party.
Well after midnight, as things started winding down a bit, we heard people clapping and cheering downstairs. Our daughter Evelina came running and shouting at us to look down below. Our son was getting a standing ovation for playing the piano! Evelyn looked over at me and gave me a look. Instantly, I knew what she was thinking. Since when does Alex play the piano? I shrug my shoulders. That’s what too much wine and Cava does to a 16 year old! We laughed. Who cares! It’s the new year and we’re in Barcelona!
Many months later, I’m with Evelyn looking at pictures, remembering that trip. She shares a few things. She clearly remembers Alex playing the piano that night. She also tells me about getting up and going to the ladies room over and over again. I vaguely remember that. Each time she went, she locked herself up, away from it all, where no one could see her. Alone in that bathroom, she cried. How can Henry be gay? Why is this happening to me? But she wants to be strong for us. She doesn’t want to lose it. She wants to keep it all together. Nothing is more important to her than our beautiful family.
Back at that corner across the street from Woody’s, I noticed the line getting longer. Even though I’m still living at home, I’m supposed to be gay now. We agree to live “separated but under the same roof”. She gets her nights to go out. I get mine. She calls mine, “gay night out”. I keep arguing with myself. Stick to the plan Henry. Remember? Yes, the plan. Go in, order a beer. Maybe talk to someone, anyone. Maybe make a new friend. It’s just Woody’s! It’s where the gays go in Philly. No big deal. Go on Henry, go in. I don’t know, I’m not sure. Really? No one cares, it’s okay. Go already! Nah, not tonight. Woody’s belongs to the gays, but it doesn’t belong to me.
In the parking lot I sit in my car for awhile. It’s way too early to head home. Oh, what? You don’t want to be a fag now? Too fucking bad! You are. You’re a fag! You should have figured this shit out a long time ago but you didn’t have the balls! How can you do this to her? How can you do this to Evelyn! Fucking loser! I’m exhausted. I’m tired of fighting back tears. Tired of trying to sort this out. I’m tired of arguing. I head home.
When I get back, Evelyn is surprised to see me. I’m surprised she’s still up, watching T.V. I thought gays stayed out all night?, she asked. Some do, but not this gay, I say to her. She laughs. Well, how was it? It was ok. Did you have fun? Did you meet anyone? Yeah, I had fun. I talked to a few guys, it was cool. No big deal. Babe, I’m tired. Can we talk about this tomorrow? Sure, yeah. You going to bed now? Yes. Ok, goodnight. Goodnight.