As a follow-up of sorts to last week’s “Running Through the Closet Door: The Coming Out Stories of Terrence Moss” is a scene I originally wrote in 2006, shortly after I returned to Los Angeles from New York.
The original, longer version is posted to Associated Content – where my mother discovered it during a random Google search shortly after she and my father divorced. She thought I had written it with her in mind because she saw herself saying some of Sandra’s lines, but I hadn’t.
I revisited this scene over the last week and shortened it – making the piece tighter and less religiousy.
HANK and SANDRA MARSHALL have been married twenty years and have a seventeen-year-old son, TRENTON. Both come from religious backgrounds and have maintained that same level of faith throughout their marriage, which they’ve instilled in TRENTON to varying degrees of success throughout his life. HANK walks in through the front door of his house. SANDRA sits awash in tears on the living room couch. HANK slowly walks over to a small table next to the couch, places his keys on it and turns to his wife, stunned.
Hank: We did the right thing.
Sandra: We are horrible parents.
Hank: What else could we do?
Sandra: We should have caught it earlier.
Hank: And then what? Shock therapy?
Sandra: It would have been an effort.
Hank: I don't think it would have changed anything.
Sandra: We didn't even try. We sat there, let it happen and did nothing.
Hank: He never told us.
Sandra: I knew a long time ago. He didn't have to tell me. I tried to talk to you about it, but you were too prideful to discuss it.
Hank: Prideful? This has nothing to do with pride. We just can’t have that in our house.
Sandra: Have what? A son who isn't what we think he should be?
Hank: It’s not about what we think.
Sandra: He's seventeen. What’s he going to do out there?
Hank: He's a smart kid. He'll be fine.
Sandra: How much did you give him?
Sandra: What did you say to him?
Hank: I didn't say anything.
Sandra: You just dropped him off, gave him the money and sent him on his way?
Hank: What could I say?
Sandra: Did you tell him that we love him?
Hank: We just kicked our son out of the house.
Sandra: That’s not the point. I still love him.
Hank: I do too. I just didn't know what else to do.
Sandra: We should have stood by him.
Sandra: I don't know. Why isn’t the fact that he's our son enough?
Hank: I don't know.
Sandra: How is this going to make us look?
Hank: I don't know.
Sandra: It would seem to me that you should have thought about that before you sent him on his way.
Hank: You didn't argue.
Sandra: It all happened so quickly. I didn't have time to think. Besides, our son had just told us that he was…
Hank: It was a lot to deal with right away.
Sandra: And we didn't handle it very well.
Hank: What other way was there to handle it?
Sandra: Talk to him. It took a lot for him to tell us this. How long had he been keeping this to himself? He had to be absolutely terrified and anxious and uncertain of himself. We just turned our back on him without a second thought. What if something happens to him?
Hank: We did the right thing.
Sandra: What we did was reprehensible.
Hank: The way he wants to live his life is reprehensible.
Sandra: What way is that? We don't even know. All we know is that he likes guys.
Hank: What else do we need to know?
Sandra: I don't know. Maybe what that means.
Hank: It means that he is probably very sexually active.
Sandra: Maybe he isn't.
Hank: Maybe he is.
Sandra: Did you ask him?
Hank: I don't need to.
Sandra: So you’re just assuming.
Hank: He's…you know. What more can it mean?
Sandra: I don't know. We should have had a conversation with him about it.
Hank: That is not something I want to talk about with my son.
Sandra: What would you prefer to talk about? Girls? Football? Church?
Hank: That's not fair.
Sandra: You want him to be you. You always have.
HANK stares intently at SANDRA but says nothing.
Sandra: He's a good kid. He disappoints us in this ONE way and can no longer live here?
Hank: This is a pretty big disappointment.
Sandra: I’m sure there are bigger ones.
Hank: Think of it this way. A house has one large room and three really small rooms. The large room takes up 80% of the house. If the house is dirty and you only clean the three small rooms but leave the larger room dirty, it's still a dirty house. And that’s unacceptable.
Sandra: Does this house have bathroom?
Sandra: Your metaphor was dumb.
Hank: It makes perfect sense. Our son is that house. But he’s a homosexual and his homosexuality is that large, dirty room. Whether or not those the three smaller rooms are normal rooms, it’s still a homosexual house.
Sandra: Are you kidding me? You’re comparing our son to a dirty house.
Sandra: That’s how justify this?
Hank: I don't have to justify anything. I have the Truth backing me up.
Sandra: Or your version of it.
Hank: What's that supposed to mean?
Sandra: It means that I am not sure we did the right thing. There are some unsettling things about this decision you made.
Hank: I made?
Sandra: It was your idea.
Hank: Did you disagree with it?
Sandra: No, but I certainly wasn't sure about it. Then you went ahead and did what you wanted to do.
Hank: I didn't make the Trenton decision. He did.
Hank: By deciding to be gay.
Sandra: So his decision took away your ability to make a decision?
Hank: I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do in the eyes of God.
Sandra: By turning our back on our son?
Hank: He turned his back on us -- on everything we taught him and on everything we stand for. We have standards in this household. He wasn’t going to live up to them and therefore he couldn’t stay here.
Sandra: Because he isn't what you want him to be? You wanted him to play football, basketball, baseball or run track. Instead he draws and writes poems. Have you read any of his poems? Have you taken the time away from your disappointment to see how great an artist he is? Do you even care? We have ruined that child! Seventeen years and suddenly we have no holidays, no birthdays, no grandchildren, no nothing!
Hank: Of course I was disappointed. I was cheated. When you told me you were pregnant, I was so happy. I couldn't wait to play catch with him or shoot hoops. I wanted to take him to ballgames and teach him about girls. But I didn't get that. I got art and poetry. I don't know anything about art and poetry. I’m not creative. So I had no way to relate to him. And he didn't want me to. He never showed me his artwork or read me one of his poems. Trenton kept all that from me. So yes, I’m disappointed. I feel cheated. Cheated by Trenton and cheated by God.
SANDRA takes a long pause as she struggles with what to say next.
Sandra: Maybe he never showed you anything because you never expressed an interest in what he was doing.
Hank: I didn't get what he was doing.
Sandra: Asking would have been a great way to find out.
Hank: I'm not sure I could have handled knowing.
Sandra: You missed out. There was a lot to be proud of.
Hank: I don't know what to do.
Sandra: Talk to him. He doesn't have to come back, but we should at least talk to him.
Hank: And say what? I'm sorry we kicked you out, we aren't letting you back in but let's be friends?
Sandra: No. We can just meet him where he is.
Hank: I don’t know. I still think we did the right thing – at least under the circumstances.
Sandra: He's only seventeen. I can't believe we did this.
Hank: But it's done. And I can't beat myself up over it.
Sandra: But it wasn't right -- not the way we did it. He'll never forgive us. Part of me will never forgive us either.
Hank: We can't fix this can we?
Sandra: I don’t know. He knows how we feel and we've acted on it. The damage is done. I always thought my love for him as his mother would override my feelings about his being gay. I should have done more to stop you, but part of me agreed. The other part wanted to be his mother and take him away from you. He'll find a better family than us.
Hank: We did what we had to do. God will understand.
Sandra: I think we got the message mixed up.
Hank: Maybe, but I’m leaving him in God's hands.
Sandra: That's crap. This is crap.
SANDRA gets up and grabs her purse.
Hank: Where are you going?
Sandra: I have to go. I can't leave him out there.
Hank: He can't come back here.
Sandra: Then maybe I shouldn't either.
Sandra: If you found out something that you didn't like about me, would you kick me out?
Hank: You live here.
Sandra: So did Trenton.
Hank: You’re my wife.
Sandra: He’s your son.
Hank: That's different. Anything you tell me can't compare to what he is.
Sandra: I had an abortion before we got married.
Hank: No you didn't.
Sandra: Yes I did. I was not a virgin when we met. I got pregnant and had an abortion because I didn't want to have a baby while I was in college. There's three right there. I had sex, I had an abortion and I lied to you about the whole thing.
Hank: You’re making this up.
Sandra: Believe what you want. Do you want me out as well?
Hank: You’re talking crazy.
Sandra: It's the same thing. If you consider him a sinner, you have to consider me one too.
HANK stares at his wife as he tries to figure out the veracity of her last two statements.
Hank: I have to believe that we followed God's guidelines and made the right decision. That's all I have.
Sandra: But there has to be some gray area or more to all this than we know.
Hank: Do you realize what would happen if we started asking questions? We may not like the answers. And what if there are no answers? What if it’s all questions? Then where are we? Confused. Just like everyone else. I don't want to be confused. I don't want to be scared. I just want to believe in God and his Word and live my life accordingly. That’s it.
Sandra: Why would God want us to toss Trenton out into the street?
Hank: I don’t know, but I can't talk like this.
Sandra: I need you to. I can’t figure this out alone. I need to know we did the right thing and the Bible isn't enough for me on this one.
Hank: Then what else is there?
Sandra: I don't know.
The phone rings. HANK answers it.
Hank: Hello?...Hi, Candice…He's with you? (sighs relief.) Yeah, I know…We didn't know what else to do…Is he okay?
SANDRA gets up and heads toward the door while HANK is talking to CANDICE. HANK watches her and half pays attention to the conversation. SANDRA grabs her purse and keys. She stops at the door and stares at HANK.
Hank: Ok, Candice. Thanks for calling.
HANK hangs up the phone and looks over at SANDRA by the door.
Sandra: Is he with Candice?
Sandra: What did she say?
Hank: She said he can stay with her until we figure things out.
Sandra: How did he get to Candice's?
Hank: I dropped him off at the train station. He must have walked from there.
Sandra: I’m going over there to get him.
SANDRA opens the door and starts to walk out.
Hank: He can't come back here.
SANDRA stands in the doorway.
Sandra: Fine. What do you suggest?
Hank: I don't know.
Sandra: We should have an idea of what to do when we get over there.
Hank: I don't want to go over there.
Sandra: Why not?
Hank: I can't see him.
Sandra: Why not?
Hank: I just can't.
HANK is silent. SANDRA approaches him.
Sandra: This is our second chance. We can fix this.
Hank: He can't stay here.
Sandra: Where else can he go?
Hank: Can't he stay at Candice's?
Sandra: He is our responsibility. I do not want him staying at someone else's house.
Hank: Let's get him his own place.
Sandra: Okay. Okay. I like that. He won't be staying here and at the same time, we don't have to cut him out of our lives.
Hank: I don't want to support his lifestyle.
Sandra: We're supporting our son. He is seventeen. What lifestyle could he possibly have?
Hank: He'll have to get a job.
Hank: I’m not paying for school.
Hank: Bare essentials.
Sandra: His bed. His dresser. A TV. His cell phone. His desk. And some food.
Hank: I can deal with that.
Sandra: Let's go to Candice's.
Hank: I still don't want to see him.
Sandra: I'm not going to push this time, but eventually you will have to see him.
Hank: We'll see.
Sandra: Are you sure you don't want to come?
Sandra: I'll see you later then.
Hank: I love you.
SANDRA smiles faintly at HANK and then leaves. HANK stares at the door for a moment. He walks over to the couch, plops down and then stretches out.
After reading this, my mother told me she never would have kicked me out of the house.