I wasn’t on my way home to do homework. It was five o’clock. I was starving, and Mami would be expecting me for supper, but I wasn’t ready to go home yet. My heart wouldn’t slow down, and even though anger heated me up, chills ran through me.
People already suspected Evan and I were a couple. I could deny it forever, but people would always assume something was going on.
Sooner or later, someone would figure out they were right. Everyone knew Evan was gay. He didn’t try to make any secret out of it. A straight guy and a gay guy could be friends, the same way a straight guy and a straight girl could be. People were ignorant, though, and they would still make guesses about the real reason I hung out with Evan.
As I stomped out of the building through the gym doors, my brain ran through all the worst-case scenarios if I stopped hiding. I might be kicked off the team because the guys wouldn’t want to share the locker room with a gay guy. None of them were even close to attractive as far as I was concerned, and I wouldn’t have hit on them any more than I would have hit on a girl. But that wouldn’t stop them from whining about me seeing them naked in the showers.
Being forced to leave the team would be easy to handle compared to how my family might react. I was the oldest son. My father expected me to carry on his name, and both of my parents expected grandchildren. In my family, a man supporting his wife and children was a matter of pride, and the news that I wouldn’t be fathering any children or marrying any woman might send my father off the deep end.
They might throw me out of the house. My family might never speak to me again.
That was the main reason I didn’t dare to let anyone find out about me. The way people hassled Evan at school was bad enough, but I’d be able to deal with bullying. If my family turned against me, I didn’t know what I would do.
So I had to make sure they didn’t find out.
My brain was going down a darker path than I wanted to deal with, so to break the spiral I took out my phone and called home.
Mami answered. “Guillermo, is practice over yet?”
“Yes, but I promised Evan I’d help him with his anatomy homework.” I held my breath. She wouldn’t be happy to hear I didn’t plan to be home for dinner. Family dinners were a nightly thing at my house, and we didn’t miss them without a good reason.
Homework wasn’t usually a good reason.
“We’re eating at six,” she said. “It’s after five now. How long will your homework take?”
“I’m not sure.” I couldn’t quite bring myself to tell her I’d planned to eat pizza with Evan. My mind was still whirling, and I just didn’t have it in me to break family plans. Evan would have to understand. “I’ll try to be home by six. I might be a few minutes late.”
“All right.” She sounded happier now. “See you when you get home.”
I put the phone back in my pocket and groaned. I couldn’t win. If I’d stuck to my plans with Evan, Mami would have been upset. And then Papi would have gotten on my case for upsetting her.
Now I would only have about half an hour with Evan, which would make him unhappy. He knew how important my family was to me, so he wouldn’t be too upset. But I’d promised him I would go to his place after practice and stay for supper because his mom had to work late, and now I had to break my promise.
Sometimes I wondered why he bothered going out with me. He had to hide it from everyone else, and half the time I ended up saying something stupid or breaking plans with him so people wouldn’t find out.
I wanted to be worth the effort for him, and I doubted I was. But he was beyond worth it for me.