I remember during the holidays I used to hide in the bathrooms of department stores to shoot up dope. Trying to look inconspicuous when I left, but all the clerks and customers knew I was the druggy kid tripping out in Macy’s. Now seven years later I’m looking for a Christmas gift. I don’t know what to get him, something sentimental? Jewelry? Something cute, or maybe something practical? That would be so lame, our first Christmas together and I say “here sweetie, I got you a crock pot! Yes, I know you never said you wanted one, but it was on sale.”
Akira walked over to the jewelry department, lustrous watches, necklaces, rings, and earrings all sat guarded in clear glass. Several clerks were already helping other customers. Indecision and hurry filled the atmosphere. To the right was a small display of 2020 themed jewelry.
Kinda weird to think about the decade ending, it’s not just gonna be a new year, but a new decade. I didn’t think about it much when 2009 became 2010, I just wondered how they were gonna make the new year’s glasses work. I guess I didn’t care for existential crisis back then. This is silly, why am I trying to make it deeper than it is? It’s just another year, another day. Four years clean, starting the new decade off good, I would say. Would he still love me if he knew me back then? If he knew me when I wasn’t clean, no stop this line of thought, but would he? I’ve told him about it all, and its baggage he’s willing to carry, but still. Nah, stop this. I didn’t even love me back then, so how could he love me? Would he? It doesn’t matter. This is our first Christmas together, it has to be memorable for him, I already fucked up Thanksgiving. I don’t really want to go back for Christmas, but this is his chance to have a family again. A shitty family has to be better than no family. Right? But I don’t want him to have to put up with my family, I can barely do that myself. I don’t think it’s always been bad like this. I can’t remember if my addiction tore up my family, or if it was already broken. Did I do it because of them? Because of him? Dad’s drinking has always been a problem, but never to this extent. Ah hell, it’s always been bad. He showed up to my first communion wasted. Always threatened to beat me and ma but never did. He always said, “The day I go to rehab is the day I beat ya, so if you want me to go to rehab, let me beat ya!” I’m sure he wouldn’t have followed through. Though he’d sooner beat me than admit he has a problem. Every thanksgiving when the whole family is together everyone tries to act like nothing’s wrong. Ma will tell everyone to go ahead and bring wine and drinks, she doesn’t want dad to feel left out. And this year they both got drunk at dinner.
—The first time you bring someone to thanksgiving dinner and it’s a guy!
—Be thankful he wanted to introduce someone to a slob like you.
And Aunt Rhoda tried to redirect things, as she always does.
—If you don’t mind me asking, when did you know you were gay? Akira.
All of them kept asking me about being gay all night. No matter how many times I explain to them that I’m bi and my attraction for women hasn’t gone away, or explain to them that I won’t cheat on Ken because I’ll magically want to ditch him for a women, or any of the other numerous myths about being bi, they always think I’m gay. I wanted to punch Rhoda when she asked Ken if he was worried that I’d “go back to being straight.” I don’t even remember what he said, he looked uncomfortable I know that much. Then one thing lead to another and Ma and Dad got in an explosive argument.
—I don’t know why I haven’t divorced you yet!
—Why? Why? Because you know I’m the only woman who would put up with your shit! You can bet your ass that I could leave you!
—Well then do it! Get yourself a new man and maybe he’ll have a straight son!
Dinner wasn’t even over but I told Ken we were leaving and Aunt Rhoda tried to stop me, they’re just drunk, they don’t mean what they say, but I didn’t want Ken to see that, no one should have to put up with that. Still haven’t spoken to them since, it’s only been three weeks now, but still. Maybe the divorce is moving forward. Should I have tried to talk them down? Did I do enough? It might be my fault if they go through with it. I was never a good son anyway.
—Excuse me, can I help you, young man? A saleswoman’s voice cut through the reverie. Wrinkled skin, glossy make-up, and the raspy deep voice of a smoker.
—Yes, I need help finding a gift. I need something, uh, nice looking.
—Well not only do we have a great selection, but we also have great deals! Who are you shopping for?
—I’m shopping for my p-partner.
—Well what kind of jewelry does she like?
—Um, well, he.
—Oh, I see. Well for men you can never go wrong with watches. Let me show you our selection. Her voice trailed off, Akira stood over the glass sweating, his heart slightly racing.
Amazing, the world didn’t end. I’m still standing here. She’s still helping me. She didn’t make a face, just kept going. This whole being in a same-sex relationship is still new. Didn’t have these anxieties when dating a girl. Didn’t feel like I needed to prove something. Though not to say it was all perfect when dating girls. No one understood, hell no one still understands, being bisexual. I don’t envy how pan people how to try and explain themselves. Came up in conversation one day at work, coworker didn’t believe in bi people. What are we, Santa Claus? She was a conservative lesbian, weird fucking combination. Bi people don’t exist, she said. You gotta pick one or the other, eventually you make a decision. Well, when you enter a relationship you make a decision, a decision to be with someone. Forev—well for as long as possible. No matter if you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever, you make a decision to be monogamous. Unless, of course, you’re someone who is polygamous or something, but that’s never been my style. I’d get too jealous and try competing and it would be bad. I wouldn’t want Ken with another.
—How about this one sir, it’s a Rolex. Top quality and affordable too. No? Let’s see what other brands we have…
None of these really catch my eye, I don’t wanna just get him anything. He deserves something special. Maybe something more than I can give. Stop this negative shit, just keep looking. Oh! Look at that shine.
—How much does this one cost?
—Oh, a fine eye, this Bulova costs $550. It’s on sale, so the price comes out to be, $310. You’re not gonna get a better deal anywhere else. I’m tellin’ ya kid.
The fluorescent glare from the store lights illuminated the crystal watch. Even in the glass it looked luxurious yet modest. Without a second thought Akira darted his face up.
—Do you accept credit?
—Yes, yes of course.
Christ this is a lot, and right when I got the credit line increase. Good fortune, or just foolish? It would look good on him. So, I’ll be low on credit again, not the end of the world. Just get it before you talk yourself out of it. But, is it enough?
—You, you don’t think this is cheap, do you?
—Kid don’t be crazy. This your first Christmas with your lover?
—I can tell, you seem nervous. I think he’ll love it. Lemme tell you, I’ve seen cheap. I once knew this guy who proposed to his girlfriend with a ring, he won from those candy dispensers in grocery stores.
God why did I say something so stupid? About to drop $300 and scared I’m cheap? How much do you have to spend to make someone feel loved? Would any amount make me feel worthless?
—There ya go kid. All wrapped up. Here’s you go, and the receipt is in the bag.
She extended her long bony arms; Akira gently grabbed the bag.
—Merry Christmas, he said gently.
—And a happy new year! She said with a smile. Hard to believe it’s going to be 2020. Hey, yer young, have a few drinks for me.
—Right. Happy New Year to you as well. Feigning a smile, he walked away. Every holiday has been ruined by alcohol. New Year’s is on of the worst. It’s practically socially acceptable to stumble drunk into the New Year. Hard to stay clean this time of year. Champagne. Drink it down. Happy New Year! Everyone forgets their resolution by the 2nd. No need to get mad at the woman, she would never know. Just a joke, a light-hearted joke. I’ve been there, and don’t wanna go back. Some friends, some people, will say just drink one, it’s only one. What bad will one more do? My father has destroyed his life for every “one more.” There’s no stopping if you don’t stop it yourself.
As Akira headed for the exit of the store he stopped when he reached the restroom and gave a hazy stare.
How many bathrooms do I have to look at and remember? When will I start forgetting? No, no I can’t. If I forget then I’ll be back. The shame, the humiliation, it has to mean something. I need it, it’s part of me now. That was me too, used to. An old therapist said to love the old me. How? Why? I still don’t get it. I used to hate myself. Still do. Kinda.
Is that…Ken? What’s he
Why is he
Doing here? The watch, the watch! Gotta hide the box with the, Ken!