How about some pie? (27)
I managed to make a few new friends at school. Not that many, but enough to stay sane. My closest friend, Amanda, had horses, and when I’d go over and visit her, we’d ride around on them and talk about life. When we were on the horses, I felt invincible and safe. In reality, I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I’m thankful that her horses were well mannered, but the freedom I felt when riding at full gallop was the highlight of my entire year. It was also the only time I didn’t feel like I was being spied on.
You know how I thought I wasn’t getting any letters from my friends in Arizona? Well, I was getting them, but my Grandfather managed to intercept them all, read them, and then subsequently shred them. This included a few letters from my cute goth boyfriend from church camp, who’s words in his letters sent my Grandpa into a fit of rage. One day after school, he stormed into my room and declared that I wasn’t ever allowed to be around boys alone under any circumstance and that he knows what I “did” at church camp, and he didn’t mean the part about singing Oliver Twist instead of church hymnals. He meant that I had walked with a boy unsupervised, and I can only imagine where his mind went from there.
Like with all boys, nothing happened with the goth boy. We walked around and talked about how miserable we were at home and how thankful we were that we found one another. In my letter to him, I confessed to liking him, but that was about it. My grandfather’s constant watch over my vagina was uncomfortable. He seemed to know more about it than I did.
I suppose the modern-day equivalent would be my grandpa putting a tracker on my phone and reading all of my text messages. I wonder if he would have let me have a phone. Probably not. If an app notified him that a penis was within 5 feet of me, then maybe he would have considered it.
It occurred to me that maybe I should tell my grandpa that I’m gay, but the opportunity for that ship sailed when he found my secret letters. Instead of telling him that, I decided to create intrigue and talked about my female friends at school in a romantic context when talking to him about my day. This backfired miserably, and my social life was reduced to whatever I could accomplish at school or church. I was not allowed to have friends over or visit anyone.
What’s odd is that I was allowed to make phone calls and call whoever I wanted, but I never felt safe discussing anything because I knew that either he or my grandmother would eavesdrop on the conversations. If I got too lonely, I would pick up the phone and dial everyone I knew until someone answered so that I didn’t feel insane. The weekends were so incredibly long, and I couldn’t wait until Mondays when I could be around people my age again.
One friend that I loved to call was Sam Harper. Sam shared the same last name with my grandfather, which I found neat, and Sam and I had several classes together. Sam was genuinely intrigued by my life back in Arizona, and he liked to ask me a lot of questions about subcultures, as our school barely had any. We had a few skaters, but not really anyone who bucked authority in any real way. Sam had read about “skinheads” and wondered if I had ever encountered any. I had not, but I did know how to identify them at this point in my life, so I shared with him what I knew. I also broke down for him that there are racist skinheads and non-racist skinheads, which he found confusing, but we didn’t have the internet, and I had to explain it all the best I could with pretty limited knowledge.
Sam and I would talk for hours, and when I got off the phone, I would gush about him to my grandfather because I knew it bugged him that I had this friendship. Not only was he a boy, but he’s black. My grandfather would say incredibly racist things about Sam, which upset me, which caused me to call Sam more.
“You know Harper isn’t his real last name, right? That was his family’s former owner’s last name”.
“Talk to him on the phone all you want, but if he shows up here or if I catch you alone with him, I’ll shoot him.”
Sam was the highlight of most of my school days. When I got to school, he and I would hug and catch up on whatever was on our minds.
I accused my grandfather of being racist during dinner.
“I’m not racist. People just need to stick to their tribes, that’s all. This intermingling of tribes is dangerous and will only lead to everyone’s ruin. Theirs and ours”.
“Leave my wife, daughter, and grand-daughters alone, and we won’t have any issues. it is that simple”.
Keep in mind that my grandmother’s family told her that she was a native American. How did he square that away in his mind? Well, he asked her to wear wigs and, if she wasn’t wearing a wig, to conceal her pitch-black hair with hair dye. How did he square these beliefs away with his half Persian grandson?
There was so much that I admired about my grandfather, so these beliefs that he held troubled me greatly, and he left very little room for discussion. I hoped that eventually I could change his heart, and I wasn’t sure how, but someday it had to be possible. I didn’t believe that anyone’s beliefs were set in stone but rather loosely held until presented with further evidence.
Along with Sam, I had another friend named Freddy. Freddy sat next to me in band class, as he was the second chair French horn player and I was third. If you don’t know what this means, it is basically what part you play in a piece of symphony music. The first chair tends to get all of the higher and more difficult notes to reach and solos. The second chair plays lower notes that are complementary, and the third chair gets some of the higher notes, occasional solos, but we’re really the backup for the first chair, and the fourth chair plays more simple and complementary notes to all the rest, and so on.
I asked my grandfather if I could head to the library after school one day and if he could come to pick me up. I had some research to do for a paper and needed to look up material in some books. Much to my surprise, he agreed to let me do it. When I arrived at the library, I saw Freddy there, and I decided to sit across from him at a table. It was nice to see a friend. We made some small talk, and I got to reading, but before I finished the material I was engrossed in, I felt two strong hands dig into my shoulders and pick me up out of my chair.
“Cyan, get in the car now.”
It was my grandpa, and he was an hour early. I was in deep shit. I was sitting across from a boy, and Freddy is Cherokee.
On the way home, my grandfather said many things, things about pregnancy, things about boys, AIDs, racist things, and I finally reached my boiling over point and did something I’d never done before…
“Stop being an asshole.”
My grandfather didn’t hesitate, and while he was driving, he took his right hand off the steering wheel, formed it into a fist, and he curled it in towards his chest, and unleashed the full force directly into my abdomen. I squealed in pain, and he told me to shut up. I started crying, and again, he demanded that I shut up. If I didn’t shut up, he was going to hit me more.
When we got to the house, I panicked, unbuckled, and ran inside to find grandma, thinking she could do something about this situation. What I didn’t expect to find was that she was scared shitless of him herself, and that’s when I started to understand their dynamic more.
“What’s going on, Cyan”?
I told her that grandpa assumed I was doing things I wasn’t doing and that I called him an asshole, and that he hit me. She became very quiet and did the thing she does when anything gets uncomfortable.
She offered me a slice of pie.