The night before our apartment-hunting trip to East Tennessee, my mother called.
There was silence after our hellos and then, my mother said, “Your father and I do not want you to live with Patrick.”
“Why are you telling me this now?! I’m bringing him tomorrow,” I said annoyed.
“Well, people might talk about you living with a man,” my mother replied.
“I live with a man now,” I responded. I was living with a Puerto Rican man in a platonic living arrangement.
“Yes, but Alberto isn’t gay,” said my mother. “And you will be living an hour away from home when you move to Knoxville.”
“Is this really about me?” I asked. “Or are you just afraid of what your friends might think? I’m bringing him to Newport tomorrow because I know you will love him once you meet him.”
My thoughts forbade me to sleep. Why had I told them he was gay?
The next morning, I drove with Patrick to East Tennessee and my hometown in Appalachia. On the way, I tried to maintain an air of normalcy. Exhausted from a sleepless, fitful night, I fell asleep at the wheel. The car careened across all four lanes of Interstate 40, and we slammed into a bank as I awoke. I made an excuse about not sleeping well because of my excitement. Patrick still knew nothing. I needed him to be himself.
Drawn to his sincere smile, my mother took to him immediately. My father did not. Rather, he kept Patrick at a distance, until he asked him to “Help move this big table.” “Man’s work” spoke to my father, and while Patrick’s muscular frame easily moved the table, he did not move my father.
The ride back to Clarksville was quiet. Towards the end of our journey, I explained my father’s opinion to Patrick. “We can still move in together,” I said, “I’m a grown woman, and he cannot rule my life!”
Patrick listened intently and said, “Rosita, we can’t change people by fighting them. He will come around in time, and I won’t move in with you. I’ve lost my family already, and I won’t be the reason you lose yours.”
Saddened, I accepted Patrick’s decision.
That following fall after my move to Knoxville, I returned to Clarksville to see Patrick. We relived our early days of merriment. He made plans to come visit.
A month later, he disappeared. When he failed to arrive at Red Lobster for a shift, co-workers went by his apartment to find his door wide open, and his wallet and money on the coffee table. Patrick was nowhere to be found, and the authorities were notified.
Up next … what happened to Patrick.