Thursday, January 18, 2018

TO HEAR SOMETHING

Dear Spike:

The other day I was at a restaurant a few miles west of Boston. I was seated in a booth next to a boy and his father. The boy was about 14, I guess.

He looked terrified.

It wasn’t my business. I know it wasn’t. But I listened in on their conversation. I couldn’t really help it, actually. The dad was a loud guy with a thick Boston accent. He was talking about football. The New England Patriots were in the playoffs. Their quarterback, Tom Brady, had the rest he needed after coming off the injured reserve.

“This could be a really special year,” the dad said.

The kid kept trying, and failing, to break into the conversation, and I could hear his voice becoming more and more agitated. The dad, it seemed, was clueless.=

And then, finally, this:

“Dad… just… I need you to hear something from me.”

The dad shut up just long enough for his kid to blurt out:

“I-think-you-already-know-but-I-needed-to-make-sure-because… I’m-dating-a-boy.”

The dad fell silent. He was quiet for a really long time. An uncomfortably long time. A terrifyingly long time.

The boy said “Dad, are you OK?” and there was no response.

I peeked over the booth. The dad was looking down at his phone, tapping away at something. He wasn’t even looking at his kid. And I just wanted to stand up and punch him. Or maybe not to punch him but scream at him. Or maybe not to scream at him but to at least put my hand on the boy’s shoulder and say, “this is not what you deserve,” and "it gets better," and "I promise you that this is not how everyone will react." 

But I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t but I didn’t. It wasn’t my business, I told myself.

“Dad,” the boy said again, and his voice was growing more desperate. “Are you OK?”

The man remained quiet. Kept tapping away at his god-forsaken phone. And then the kid said, “just say something, OK? It’s OK if you’re mad.”

And the dad finally replied, “just give me a second here, OK?” and then he said, “does the 30-yard line sound good?”

And the boy said, “what?”

Then the dad was crying. And he said, “Joey, that was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m really proud of you. And if we can get these tickets and leave right now, we can totally make the game tonight.”

“Because this is a big day. You’re… well, shit… I guess you’re a man today. Because men do brave things. And I’d really like to celebrate that with you.”

Then the kid was crying. And I was crying. And there was a guy at the bar, across from us, who had obviously also been listening in because he was crying, too. The server came over to my table; there were tears in his eyes.

And just like that, they were gone. I’m actually not even sure they paid for their food, which was sort of awkward, but whatever.

I can’t even imagine what last-minute tickets to an NFL playoff game must have cost. But I really hope they made it to the game.

I grew up rooting for the 49ers. I'm not much on an NFL fan these days, and I sure as heck am no fan of Tom Brady and his coach, Bill Belichick, but that night I watched the game and I cheered for New England. For Joey and his dad. 

The Patriots won, by the way. The score was 35-14.

Love,
dad

2 comments:

Kimberly said...

That’s amazing and beautiful. ❤️

Anonymous said...

I love your writing...whoever you are!