Luis smiled and nodded yes. But he almost laughed in Jase's face for underestimating his grandmother. When Luis met Isabelle in the future, one of the first things Isabelle had mentioned to Luis was she'd always known Jase was gay. It was a feeling she'd always had deep down inside. She'd suspected since he'd been a little boy. And she hadn't been shocked when Jase finally came out to the world. But Luis couldn't mention this to Jase in l986. He wouldn't have understood. So he said, “I'll act like one of your football buddies. I'll scratch my crotch and spit on the sidewalk.”

Jase frowned. “No. Don't do that. You can't pull it off. You're too pretty. They'll suspect something for sure. Just act natural and nice, the way you've been acting.”

Luis nodded. “Okay, I'll pretend nothing happened.”

But on the way to the kitchen, the telephone in the center hall rang and Jase asked Luis to get it. Luis stopped at the telephone table next to the coat closet and picked up the receiver. It was one of those old fashioned phones, with a separate receiver and a large base with push bottoms. “Hello?”

“Hey, is this Luis?”

Luis's heart stopped. He felt the blood drain from his body and he had trouble speaking. It was Barry's voice on the other end, and the last voice Luis had expected to hear.

“Ah well, yes. It's Luis.” He stammered a few times and took a deep breath.

Barry spoke with a lighter, more relaxed tone. “How's everything going there? We're having a great time on the cruise. I wanted to call to check in.”

Luis felt a sting in his eye. The last time he'd heard Barry's voice on the phone was in the year 2010. Luis and Jase had gone away on a long weekend camping trip with a few friends and they'd called Barry to see how things were going. Barry died not long after that. They had to rush back from the camping trip because Barry had a heart attack. And the shock of hearing Barry's voice now, in 1986, alive and well, sent shivers up and down Luis's spine. He became overwhelmed with emotion and tears rolled down his face. He turned toward the kitchen and saw Isabelle standing in the doorway. She was holding a dish towel, gazing at him, trying to figure out what was going on. He pulled the receiver from his ear and shook in Isabelle's direction. “It's Jase's father,” he said. “Please, please take it.” Then he set the receiver on the table and ran back up to the bathroom.

A few minutes later, Isabelle followed him upstairs. She knocked on the bathroom door and asked, “Is everything okay, Luis?”

Luis checked the mirror to make sure there were no tears left on his face. He opened the door and forced a smile. “I'm sorry,” he said. “I got a little homesick when I heard Jase's father's voice, is all. I'm fine now. You've all been so nice to me. I think it's finally caught up with me.” He wished Jase's parents hadn't gone on a cruise. He wished he'd been able to spend more time with Barry.

Isabelle put her arms around Luis and hugged him. “I think I understand. It's not easy being so far away from home.”

Luis sniffed back. He hugged her as if this was the last time he'd ever see her again. “Oh, you have no idea.”

* * * *

On Saturdays, Jase always worked in his family's hardware store until three o'clock in the afternoon. Luis had to work until one o'clock. So after breakfast Jase dropped Luis off at the high school and Luis said he'd walk over to the hardware store and meet Jase later so he wouldn't have to come all the way back to school.

Luis spent most of the morning mowing the back lawn near the auditorium. There was no one around and it was quiet; he had plenty of time to think about getting back to his real life in 2011. He missed his son, Hunter, more than anything. The thought of never seeing Hunter again was almost too much for him to handle and he wound up mowing down an azalea bush. He was determined to get back there no matter what he had to do.

As he walked into town that afternoon, he passed cars from the 1980's he hadn't seen since he was a child. There were records stores that actually sold records, a video store that advertised itself as being the newest “game” in home entertainment, and a small drugstore that only sold drugs and medical equipment. Luis laughed as he passed the drugstore window with a sign advertising a sale on vaporizers. The last time Luis had been in a drugstore in 2011 they sold everything from medicine to canned foods to e-readers. There was one drugstore near his farm in Bucks County that even sold garden supplies.

When Luis walked into the hardware store, he spotted a huge brown boxy appliance and stopped to take a closer look. He laughed when he read the sign above it and saw it was a microwave oven. It was almost as big as a regular oven. He remembered one of his aunts in Tennessee had one like it when he was a kid. Then he saw Jase in the back helping a customer select a new red wheelbarrow and he smiled. At least wheelbarrows still looked the same in 2011. He felt like running up to it and hugging it.

The customer was trying to get a few dollars off because there was a small dent in the wheelbarrow and Jase wasn't giving in. So Luis walked up to them, reached down to touch the wheelbarrow, and said, “This is perfect. It's what I've been looking for: a bright red wheelbarrow. I'll take it.”

The man who was arguing over price stopped and sent Luis a contemptuous look. He grabbed the handles on the wheel barrow and turned in the opposite direction. “I saw it first and I'm buying it.” Then he pushed it up to the front counter without looking back.

Jase laughed. “That wasn't nice. You know you don't need a wheelbarrow.”

Luis shrugged. “I wanted to help out. That little mark he was complaining about wasn't even an actual dent. Some people have a lot of nerve.”

Jase stood taller and squared his shoulders. He lowered his voice and spoke with an authoritative tone. “Well, I'm used to it. I've been dealing with the public for a long time. I know how to handle them.” It seemed as if Jase had experienced a surge in testosterone.

Luis smiled. “I'm sure you're very good with people. There's no doubt in my mind you would have sold that wheelbarrow to him without my help.”

Jase looked back and forth, and then he moved toward the back storage room and told Luis to follow him. When they were in a dark corner, he ran his palm through his hair and said, “I've been wondering about what I should say about what happened last night.”

Luis tilted his head sideways. “I'm not sure I understand.” He thought they'd already discussed this. Evidently, Jase was still worried about it, which seemed plausible to Luis. Young gay men question themselves more than straight people would ever know. Copyright 2016 - 2023