Jesus Christ ambled slowly from the darkness of his sepulcher into the blinding light of the daytime sky. The women who had been there to anoint his corpse fell to their knees and began to weep and pray to God. Jesus took teetering steps in his worn, leather Hushpuppies. More villagers came running up the dusty hill to meet their Savior; and quickly dropped in prayer, speechless. Why would no one meet Jesus’ benevolent gaze? Oh. He was dressed like a little schoolboy in a blue and white cap, matching rugby tie, Sunday whites and short shorts with woolen socks pulled up to his knees. Wow. Jesus felt like such a royal asshole.
As did I, at a scant twenty-one years of age, in my petit ecolier ensemble, stepping from the darkness of that White House holding cell and into the orange glare of late afternoon, Easter 1995, liberated from the Secret Service and my four day “adoption” by bossy Ernesto and emotional Chance, my two gay “dads”.
“Hey little guy, maybe we’ll meet the President. You’d like that, huh? I brought your favorite baseball. Maybe he’ll sign it and… where’s my Sharpie? Ernie did you bring the Sharpie?” Chance began searching frantically through the pockets of his vest and the glove box. His voice pitched higher and higher as he couldn’t find the permanent marker.
“I don’t have your damn pen. Clinton won’t be there anyways. It’s just an Easter egg hunt.” Ernesto had a knack for cutting to the chase and crushing all optimism.
“Roll. It’s an Easter egg roll. And Clinton will too be there. He’s going to welcome all us gay families as an example of his administration’s promise to celebrate America’s diversity. It’s going to be so beautiful.” Chance bit his knuckle and gazed out the minivan's shaded window smiling … and … actually he held it together. His eyes got watery, but he didn’t cry.
I sat in the backseat tediously leafing through a colorful edition of “The Little Train that Could” and munching on animal crackers. Occasionally I coughed on Ernesto’s cloying cigar smoke. I wanted to ask are we there yet?, but didn’t wish to encourage the familial façade any further. After the egg roll I’d be heading home on the first Greyhound I could find. Well, once I was out of my little schoolboy uniform.
“Ok. We’re here.” The minivan veered to the left and sidled adjacent to a Secret Service checkpoint. Ernesto placed a colorful egg placard on our dashboard and we followed a winding concrete drive toward the south lawn of the White House. Already the guest parking was jammed with minivans and families. Tiny girls in frilly pink dresses and little boys dressed in corduroy and bow ties were already lining up for the annual Easter event.
Great. Not only was I dressed like a loser, I wasn’t even wearing the correct “drag”. This whole outing was doomed from the start.
“Neil, did you put sunscreen on? Let’s get the camera. Oh, did we bring the frozen water bottles?” The three of us gathered our belongings and began walking towards the iconic front lawn, towards the other families, when four imposing men in black suits and matching sunglasses stepped in our path. Twisting white ear buds gave away their identity.
“I’m sorry gentlemen, may I help you.” A mustached agent delivered his question as a statement, not a question.
“Yes. We’re a GAY family and we’re here for the annual Eas—“
Chance had no time to cry, much less finish his reply as all three of us were grabbed by our elbows and quickly, discretely, pulled out of sight and into a Secret Service holding stockade. As we were lead away, I could see agents searching the minivan. One of them placed a Sharpie into a plastic baggie and handed it to his colleague.
The hours passed. One by one we were taken into a separate area for an interrogation. Turns out the Secret Service believed we were radicals there to disrupt the proceedings and make a political statement. Little did they know Ernesto and Chance didn’t have the wherewithal to plan a picnic, much less take down the White House on the day of Christ’s resurrection.
And so we sat in silence; silence punctuated by fits of hysterical sobbing. With no cigars, Ernesto became jittery. It’s amazing the secrets you learn about people when held for questions by the Secret Service. Turns out Ernie had some shady international connections and was facing possible deportation. Chance had $800 in delinquent parking tickets and was facing a night in jail. With no fathers, falsely adopted, but otherwise vindicated of being a political activist, I was free to go.
The mustached agent held the reinforced glass door open for me to leave. I stood to exit, then paused. I turned back towards my “dads”. For four days, regardless of what the White House (or America) may think, we were a family; a family like any other, with good times and bad.
A wave of memories washed over me: Chance monogramming a dinner bib with G.N., Ernesto scolding me because his black boots weren’t polished brightly enough, the first time Chance cried over nothing and I thought it was kind of weird, the amusing way Ernesto berated Chance that he was lucky he had him because Chance was a basket-case and couldn’t get anyone else.
Ernesto had an uncommon softness in his eyes as he stared at me. Chance wept quietly and avoided my gaze. I bit my lip. I wouldn’t cry. They deserved better than that.
“Will you guys mail me my shit?” And I left. For fourteen hours, in short shorts and stockings I rode the bus home and replayed the day’s events in my mind. As the bus rolled into Athens, safely home, I vowed to never again speak of that bizarre long weekend.
I’m not certain why I've broken my silence. Perhaps a recent paternal rumbling of my own has sparked my springtime nostalgia. Paternal rumbling, you ask? Yes dear readers. Yes, indeed.
Bryce and I have decided... We’re adopting a kitten.