I’m at Ivor’s house. That’s Matt’s brother, for those of you who don’t know. And I’m still dealing with the revelation.
Have you ever had the experience of knowing someone intimately — perhaps even living with him — and not suspecting he is gay, then learning it later? It’s impossible not to keep looking back and reinterpreting your memories.
My friends in middle school couldn’t resist him. I introduced him to a few and always wondered why he wasn’t interested. On the other hand, he took one of the hottest girls at Pleastant Valley High to the senior prom.
The last time I saw him was at a softball game eighteen years ago, when the weather didn’t cooperate, nobody really wanted to be there and everybody tried to prove they were having a good time.
Ivor was working as a busboy then and, because there was no professional soccer in the United States, he was trying to get noticed by European scouts. I remember the way he juggled the softball that day with his feet, like hacky sack. When it was his turn to bat, he hit a line drive that knocked Sam Brower down on the pitcher’s mound. Was he trying to show he wasn’t a sissy?
When I think of Ivor from my childhood, I see a narrow back and a jaw jutting forward. I see hair combed straight up and a glob of spit on the sidewalk. I remember the finger horns behind my head, Playdo in my shoe, salt in the sugar bowl. I don’t know how to make a gay man out of what I remember, or a father, or a physical therapist.
So it took me a long time to recognize him on the fields of Califano Park. Matt set up this meeting after I said I was curious to see Ivor (doubly curious after reading on Matt’s blog that Ivor was gay). Califano was my childhood park, the one where my mother took me to dig in the sand and slide on the slides. Behind that lay the baseball diamond where my family became entangled with the Wrightsons over the course of so many softball games.
Facing into the morning sun, I had to shade my eyes to make out the figures by the playground. I don’t know how long I’d have stood there on my own, trying to make one of them into teenaged Ivor, if Matt hadn’t been there. He strode toward a figure in gray sweatpants and a purple T-shirt, whose face was shadowed by his baseball cap. The kids couldn’t keep up with Matt’s gait, so we lingered, watching the two men embrace. Then Matt turned and gestured impatiently to us.
Father and Son
Closer, I suddenly saw not Ivor, but his father, Leif – the triangular torso and muscled thighs; the cool black hair, dusted now at the temples; the easy strength. Closer still, I saw what was missing from Leif’s face, not a feature but a demeanor. In Leif’s stare and half smile you could always find purpose; Ivor’s eyes never rested in one place and worries had scribbled on his forehead. But a smile strobed on when he saw me. “Adrienne!”
His hands twitched, hesitating, and I put my arms around him, feeling athletic bulk. “It’s been a long time!”
If Leif’s figure was passing to a third generation, it hadn’t made its appearance there yet. His son, Gabriel, half a year older than Dante, had an oblong tortoise shape. “Yes,” said Ivor. “And that’s Megan.”
He pointed to a girl digging in the sandbox. She was the same shape as her brother, done in softer material. Both had blond ringlets they must have gotten from their mother; Megan’s floated the length of her back. I introduced Dante and Chloe, then Matt excused himself to go to work. I’m guessing he was relieved to be free of us after the havoc my kids wreaked on his apartment.
“You guys want to play on the climbing structure?” I asked Dante and Chloe? When I was a kid, the equipment was some welder’s weekend fantasy and included a dinosaur, a carousel and a fifteen-foot spiral slide. All that is gone now, replaced by a couple of mass-produced platforms in cheerful blue, red and yellow; padded and low to the ground.
Dante gave me a patronizing smile. “No thanks!”
“No thanks,” Chloe echoed.
“Soccer?” Ivor asked. And in a moment he had all four kids running after the ball. Somehow he even got me involved for a few minutes before I collapsed, breathless. Dante spotted a kid with a pirate outfit after that and went to investigate. Gabriel followed, and Chloe got interested in Megan’s sand toys. That gave Ivor and me a moment.
It felt eerie sitting with a person I had known so well who had changed so much. For a moment I didn’t know where to begin.