i’m sitting at a coffeeshop in birmingham, alabama, across from a park on highland avenue, a coffeehouse that didn’t exist when i lived here half a decade ago. i walked down the hill from my sister’s apartment for a cup of coffee. sitting out on the sidewalk, i take off my jacket. nine in the morning and the day is warming up. i had expected a snow storm, more of the unusually extreme cold weather the south has experienced this year. instead, the sun shines, the temperature approaches 70. bare trees have not deterred the happy chirping of birds, and i can feel spring fast defrosting on the second of march.
two women on the far side of the patio talk of running and biking. they discuss their friend from california.
a middle-aged couple, dressed warmly in fleece north face jackets over work out clothes finished with running shoes. two australian shepherds with kind brown eyes snuffle for crumbs around their feet. i drink coffee and crease my brow at my computer screen. the dogs notice i have a muffin.
the young cashier might be homosexual. evenly dressed in a t-shirt and khakhis. he wears a hemp bracelet colored red and dark red. a display for bible bars sits next to the register - they contain 18 biblically approved ingredients as found in dueteronomy. his eyes are dark brown and worried like the australian shepherds’ on the sidewalk. he’s polite, but not friendly. maybe he mistrusts me, wonders why he doesn’t recognize me. it’s birmingham and all gays know each other.
a young man approaches quickly on the sidewalk and sits down amidst a scrabble of aussies and smiles at the older couple in front of him. he asks for their debit card, explaining that he left his in a bar last night, grinning mischievously. his parents acquiesce.
fair haired, weak chinned, blemishless, when the young man returns to the table, he explains to his parents that the reason a few of the men at the bar have not been talking to him is because some “tranny” had been talking shit about him behind his back. dressed in workout clothes like his parents, he waves flamboyantly at two girls passing on the sidewalk.
the parents look happily at their son, indulgently in love with him. the son seems comfortable with himself. this is a young southern man who came out to his parents what must seem to him years ago. his father probably said nothing. his father was probably still disappointed to hear it from his son’s lips, but had been expecting this for years. at this point, retired, his parents just want to enjoy their lives, their vacations, their coffee, their dogs. they find themselves disappointed only when their son asks for money. they always indulge.
the fair haired faggot enjoys his life in birmingham. he’s completing a nursing degree and spends weekend nights at a gay bar, living on vodka diet sprite and gossip. he only has safe sex with other young gay men his age. to his friends, he sometimes laments the fact that he hasn’t found a new boyfriend yet. he has more fun making fun of the old queens who have been struggling with hiv since he was in diapers.
when i lived in birmingham i knew boys like this. their lives, their concerns always seemed so remote from my own.
i close my computer and start back up the hill, walking toward my sister’s house with the rest of my coffee.