I’ve talked a lot about how places become characters in my stories. They may not be expressed in as much detail as there is in my mind, but please know that in every instance, I am very aware of where I am. Places become burned into my mind, because their personalities are just as loud. They just don’t speak English.
I do, though. And what I know is that where I say something is just as important as why. For instance, I don’t just remember that Houston is home.
I remember that the first time I saw it, I thought it was magic. When we actually moved there, I learned I was right.
My church at the time was a huge Austin-stone cathedral and I used to tell it all my secrets. If those walls could talk, it would be a lot more popular than this blog, I assure you. All my seventh and eighth grade secrets are in the recesses of the left transept, where the handbell tables provided my first “tree house.”
I talk a lot about how in all of my current grief, I have gone to the places that we shared and just talked. It is a pattern that developed here, in this time and place. She was always with me, even when she hadn’t arrived. I would sit under the bell table, with its white cloth so that she had to find me if I couldn’t hear her. I’d just talk and talk, because I had to think about what I wanted to say when she got there! My. Day. Was. Full.
When I got older, it was Crossroads bookstore th at held my deepest thoughts. I would go and get coffee alone with my notebook, and together we would explore the world. One of the best moments of my entire life was when my dad came to Crossroads with me. He saw a shirt that said, “I want to be Martha… the bitch can do everything.” He laughed until he nearly fell on the floor. Here was my dad, in a gay bookstore, and he was having a good time. Just watching him interact with everyone made me feel like he was trying really hard to bridge the gap between us, even though it never has been very far. Basically, we are one personality in two bodies, because that personality isn’t small enough for one person, anyway. The fact remains, though, that I’m gay and he’s straight. There’s a lot about my life that he had to learn.
Crossroads bookstore is one of the places I saw it happen.
Jeremy, the clerk, said, “look at you, all nellied out!” We had just come from church, and I was in my Sunday best. Now, every time I wear a dress for anything, my dad tells me I’m all nellied out. What’s really funny is that I don’t think he knows where “nellied out” comes from. It’s from Little House on the Prairie.
Laugh it up, Chuckles.
When I’m in Sugar Land, which is where my parents live now, I have the same set of places that I do in Houston. More than once I have gone to my high school girlfriend’s old house just to lament that it looks woefully inadequate without a huge Canadian flag flying over the driveway.
And now I get the chance to create those places with Dana, the ones we’ll return to just to feel that feeling. The feeling we felt the first time we went there together. Dana has been my home for so long that bringing her to Houston feels like the most right thing we’ve done together in a very long time.
Because it used to be my place, and now it’s ours.