the super gay story
(my contribution to the anthology Stories My Gay Uncle Told Me)
My mother has three brothers. They are all gay. She describes their gayness in terms of the porridge in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It’s impossible to tell that one of her brothers is gay. One of the brothers you can tell he’s gay but only if you pay attention. The third brother, the one she calls Aunt Steve, is wildly, over-the-top gay. Super gay.
I remember the first time I met my aunt; it was as if he was worried that everyone in the restaurant wouldn’t know that they were dining with a gay man in the building. He was wearing a shawl that looked like he stole it from his grandmother and he squealed a lot when he talked. By the time he ordered his meal even the cooks knew there was a gay man in attendance.
Aunt Steve was the best.
One summer I went to stay with him for a few days. He lived on a quiet cul-de-sac , which he told me was a metaphor for his love life. At the time I didn’t understand the reference but I do remember he got a very faraway look in his eyes as he said it. His house wasn’t anything like I imagined it would be. I expected pink leather sofas and orange shag carpet everywhere. Instead it looked like every other home I’d ever been in. I was a little deflated and I told him as much.
Then he told me a story about trying to fit in. A story I will retell to my children when they are old enough to understand… and I fully understand it myself.
At one time Aunt Steve did have a pink leather sofa and all of the other garish things I was expecting from my super gay relation. The problem was that none of his neighbors would ever come over to visit because the contents of his super gay house made them uncomfortable.
Even people going door to door to talk about the Lord or selling cookies to raise money for Little League started skipping his house.
Even his two gay brothers apparently had something to say about his décor.
“Want to know what I did?” he asked me one day.
“Of course” I replied.
Apparently every year everyone in the cul-de-sac would hold a joint garage sale. They would all chip in to publicize it and it became something of a tradition. There were fourteen families taking part that fateful Sunday morning.
“The night before I arranged to have six workers meet at my house at seven in the morning.”
My head swam as I listened. What super gay thing could Aunt Steve possibly have planned?
“The garage sale was scheduled to open at seven thirty. At seven twenty nine I strode up the driveway of my closest neighbor and made an offer on all of their stuff.”
I can’t be entirely sure but I’m guessing my eyes shone as I listened.
“’I’ll take it!’ I announced to my shocked neighbor. ‘I’ll pay whatever is on the little sticky tags. Deal?’ I asked him.”
At this point I’m entirely sure my eyes were glistening. I had no idea where this was going but I loved it.
“He was shocked. He didn’t know what to say. My six workers marched up and began bringing the complete contents of his driveway into my house. Furniture, dishes, old board games. You name it.”
No one could tell a story like my Aunt Steve.
“I then went to each and every house in the cul-de-sac and bought up their entire offerings. One after another. After a few houses they began to see what was happening and met me on the sidewalk. There was no bartering or squabbling. Fourteen houses in a row. I bought it all. They didn’t know what to make of me.”
He sat back and smiled at the memory. I looked down at the couch I was sitting on. I looked over to the side table and then across to the kitchen chairs. A light bulb went off.
“That’s right, everything you see in here is from my neighbors. I was able to replace everything.”
The realization of what he was saying hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t know how to feel. Was this a story of fitting in or surrendering? He saw the confusion on my face. Sensed I was wrestling with something big.
“Before you ask me if they started to come over and visit more let me finish.” There was a little squeal in his voice. “After everything was in my house I had the six workers take out all of my existing stuff and put it on my driveway. I had already priced everything up and it was ready to sell.”
I leaned in further, captivated and about to hear the exciting conclusion.
“Let me tell you, it was a feeding frenzy!” Aunt Steve threw up his hands in glee. “I mean, where else could you get a Mauro Oliveira Decorated Chair for fifteen dollars or a Manchester Gay Pride Doodle Map Cushion for fifty cents? The crowds that love garage sales were just showing up and my neighbors no longer had anything to do but take a look. It was pandemonium!”
“Fifteen dollars? Fifty cents?” I thought to myself. I thought this was a story of revenge or at least breaking even. I was feeling a bit crestfallen.
As if answering my unasked question, he continued. “It wasn’t about making money. I lost hundreds of dollars that day. Everything I owned was scooped up for pennies on the dollar that day.” He paused dramatically. “Just like everyone else.”
Slowly a smile crept across my face.
“So it doesn’t matter if they come to visit me. I know that my “Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool” print hangs above the fireplace directly across the street.”
Goldilocks be damned, Aunt Steve was just right.