On the night of Christmas Eve, we went to Henry’s sister’s house for some holiday hootenannies. We passed out gifts to all the kids and then Henry’s mom Judy asked, “Where are the spinach pies?”
Henry looked at me like I was going to tug them out of my g-string, but unfortunately I forgot to stuff them in there. It’s tough when my pimp doesn’t remind me to stow sundry down my pants like a human pantry. Besides, spinach pies were Henry’s duty, and he evidently failed. Judy seemed very sad about this.
Toward the end of the night, Henry was in the living room watching the kids play video games, while I sat in the kitchen drinking wine with Judy and Henry’s sister Kelly. Henry walked through the kitchen at one point to grab some food and I made an off-hand remark about how I’ve been trying to get him to dress a little better, and they both said they had noticed and thought he looked nice. Once he left the room though, the atmosphere got very heavy and Judy leaned in and, with her face drawn into a grave expression, murmured, “You know the reason why my son doesn’t dress nice, right?”
Because he got the domestic piece of the gay gene and not the sense of style slice?, I wanted to say. Instead, I shook my head and said, “No, why?”
“Oh, that girl he dated after the Service!” Judy exclaimed, hand on her chest.
I gave her a blank look.
“You don’t know about that girl he was going with?” she asked, clearly astonished that Henry left that chapter out when divulging his life story to me after a night of cheap drinks and bad karaoke at McCoy’s.
I looked over to Kelly for some help, expecting for her to chime in and say that their mom was losing her mind—which typically is Kelly’s role in these conversations, to say that Mom is batshit crazy—but she too had gone all somber.
“No, I guess I don’t know about her,” I said, wondering what the story was since Henry has told me some Pretty Big Secrets in our time together.
“She was awful!” Kelly spat, looking completely repulsed. “I don’t know what he ever saw in her!”
“He met her at Jack’s, right when he got out of the Service,” Judy regaled. “They were always together, going out drinking. Oh, when he found out she was gay, he didn’t come out of his room for three months.”
RECORD SCRATCH. My ears were practically fluttering off my head, this unbelievably moist wad of gossip sending them into overdrive.
HENRY HAD A GAY GIRLFRIEND? Oh, how rich.
At this point, I was pretty sure Judy was trying not to cry. But the more I let it sink in, the less it seemed like a verified Henry Story to me, so I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I kept trying to imagine him, fetus-curved on a twin bed in a mostly non-descript bedroom that maybe had one lone Dukes of Hazard poster on a wall, hugging a pillow into his chest and sobbing because some broad left him for the vag, while the whole family convened out in the hall on suicide watch, fruity tones of Air Supply wafting out from under his door like so many homosexual farts. These images didn’t come as easily as maybe you’d like to think. But I really, truly wanted this story to be legit. More than anything, that would have been the best Christmas present ever.
“Nothing!” Judy snapped, waving him off. “Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“I hated her,” Kelly continued in hushed tones, after making certain that Blake wasn’t listening. “Chrissy, I think that was her name.” Henry’s mom nodded in recognition. “Yeah, she was always telling him what to do. What to wear. Where to go. She was so controlling. I was like, ‘Why are you letting this girl control you?’ I couldn’t ever understand it.”
Just as I was thinking this broad sounded an awful lot like me, Henry walked into the kitchen. Judy made lip-zipping gestures and acted all awkward and suspicious. I locked eyes with Henry, smirked, and shook my head.
“What?” he asked, stopping in his tracks.
“Nothing!” his mom shouted. We waited for him to grab another handful of chips and leave. “Don’t tell him I’m telling you this!” Judy pleaded. “He was so upset when this happened. If he hasn’t told you, it’s probably because it’s too painful for him to talk about.”
Henry texted me just then: “What is my mom telling you?”
I replied: “Oh, we’ll be talking later. I can’t believe you’ve been withholding from me.”
Judy wasn’t done.
“I’ve never seen my son so upset!” she continued, face still pulled taut in that expression of utter seriousness. “They didn’t date for long but she really hurt him. He hasn’t bothered dressing nice since her. I guess she ruined him, I don’t know.” By this point, I was chewing on my inner cheeks, trying not to laugh. I just didn’t buy it. It didn’t seem like something he would purposely omit from his oral history, but you better believe I was thinking of all the ways I could use this to fuck with him.
A few minutes later, I was in Kelly’s living room, sitting alone on the couch with Henry.
“So I just heard a terribly devastating story about you,” I baited.
“Oh yeah, what’s that?” Henry mumbled, not taking his eyes off the Wii game he was playing.
I started to sprinkle out little hints but he honestly kept saying he didn’t know what I was talking about.
“So you mean to tell me you never dated some broad who wound up being gay, plunging you into a downward spiral that left you house-bound for three months?”
“What are you talking about?!” he asked, looking at me for the first time. I filled him in on what his mom and sister told me. They told me not to, but it was too good! I had to chide him, at least a little.
“That girl?! I never dated her! She was just my drinking buddy.” I asked him what her name was, as a test, and he said he couldn’t even remember. I could tell he wasn’t lying.
“Oh, yeah. Chrissy,” he repeated absently after I told him. “Where the hell did my mom get that story from?” he asked mostly to himself.
According to Henry, he used to “loaf” (that’s what old people say instead of “hanging out,” you know) with her and some gay guy named Kenny.
“Oh my god, so you were dating BOTH of them?” I gasped obnoxiously.
“NO! They were just my drinking bud—-SHUT UP!”
The most I could get out of Henry, who is playing the Bad Memory card, is that she was “mannish and had short hair.”
I let it go for awhile, but in the car after we left I filled Blake in and together we rode him like a down-trodden mule all the way home.
“Nothing sexual was going on!” Henry swore.
“Hahaha, Henry said ‘sexual’!” And Blake and I cracked up even harder.
I asked him what ever happened to Chrissy, and all Henry could muster was that he “thinks” she moved to Florida.
“Yeah, you know that because you creep her Facebook profile on the daily,” I needled away.
“I DON’T EVEN REMEMBER HER LAST NAME!” Henry cried, the heat of the situation making him tug at his collar.
Today, we were in the car when I noticed that the skin beneath Henry’s bottom lip was bulging, like he was pushing his tongue down in front of his bottom teeth.
“Did you used to dip when you were dating Chrissy?” I asked.
“What? No. Why? AND I NEVER DATED HER!” He quickly tacked on to the sentence.
“Because I’ve never seen you do that with your bottom lip before, thought maybe all this talk of Chrissy was bringing back some old tics.”
“I’m going to kill my mom and sister,” he mumbled.
Maybe they were just that mad over the spinach pies.