i had just gotten up from laying on my bed to feed my snake. not a metaphorical snake, but a small boa constrictor that i had received as a 14th birthday present. there was a knock on my door, which was odd. we weren’t big on knocking in the cole household, especially if the door was partly opened. when my mom came in i was instantly struck by her demeanor. she usually owns any room she walks into. she’s a power broker. now, it was more like she was walking into a church or temple. i ran through what i may have done to get in trouble, but couldn’t immediately identify anything. so i cycled through the possibilities: someone died, someone may die, etc.
she sat on my bed and asked me to come sit next to her. it was grandma. grandma died. or maybe it was the housekeeper, miriam. no, miriam would probably never die. i scrutinized her briefly, the way a teenager does with their parents and sat down beside her when there were no signs that i had done anything wrong. she remained quiet for a few beats with her head down and then spoke.
“i wanted to come and talk to you first.” she started. “you’re my number one son, my first child, and we’ve shared so much.” there was a pause, but I didn’t venture to speak. she continued, “you know that your dad and i have been going through something. but i thought it was time i talked to you about it.” she looked up at me and i could see a small storm brewing in her eyes. “sometimes you know something. something about yourself and maybe you keep it inside. maybe cause your not sure how it fits into everything that you know as your life.”
she was still holding it together but i could feel something coming. normally i might have tried to drill down into what she was trying to say. but right then there was just the feeling of being with a friend who was sharing a secret and all i needed to do or could do was listen. there was no space for anything but silence.
“your dad and i are not going to be married anymore. you probably sensed that.” she looks at me for recognition and I nod reflexively. “but it’s not because of him. it’s because of me.”
even this lead balloon, which i had pretty much put together by then, did not make any more room for me to say anything. i was silent, but i remained open and kept eye contact, letting her know i was listening.
she continued, “i’m sorry, chris. i guess i wish i had a choice. but you see, i realized… realized isn’t the right word.” she pauses ” i’m gay, chris.” she looked at me and this person that i had known forever appeared as i had never seen her. she appeared as a child, innocent and helpless.
“i love you.” is all i could say.
with that, the dam burst and she started sobbing. i held her for what felt like hours, but was probably several minutes. we stood up and held each other more and i have never felt so right as i did just then, standing with my arms around her, comforting my mom.
she moved out of our house and got a place twenty minutes away. everything in la is twenty minutes away. we would take turns visiting her. my brother and sister, who were 5 and 8 at the time, would visit together and i would go alone. we began a relationship that was still mother and son, but more. we communicated through music. i would share songs that meant something to me at the time and she would reciprocate. the song that i remember sharing the first time i spent the night still sticks in my mind, you are the everything by rem.
it was a year ago tomorrow that my mom passed suddenly, without much warning. i sit here tonight and play that song and think of the nights we spent communicating without words. i feel it prepped me for this time, when we again have to rely on wordless communication, to hold and comfort each other.