After landing at the Nashville airport, I proceeded directly to the washroom to remedy the fact that I looked clinically-dead. When you only see your parents once or twice a year, it is paramount that you present them with the image of healthy and successful son, who is truly making it in the big city.
Splashing hot water in my face as to return colour to my cheeks, I applied a liberal amount of cover-up to inject light in to the dark circles under my eyes. Once my visage was taken care of, I unstrapped Hunter and opened the bottle of Burberry London I purchased from the duty-free store. With two quick sprays I exchanged the smell of Coors Lite and menthol for bergamot, lavender and warm cinnamon.
After my transformation was complete, I proceeded to the baggage terminal to find my mother. As it turned out, she was the only person waiting at the bottom of the staircase when I arrived. Descending the steps, I was confused as to why the look on her face spelled panic and anger, when I expected a warm smile punctuated with excitement.
“WHERE WERE YOU?” she yelled at me in her quiet voice and grabbed on to the side of my arm. I didn’t remember this book as a child, but Mama Bear was clearly upset at Brother Bear while Sister Bear was on a flight from Japan and Papa Bear circled the airport in a rental car.
“Everyone else got off the plane an hour ago!” she continued, her grip tightening around my arm. “I was beginning to think you didn’t make it.”
I did not want to admit to her that I was in the powder room the entire time and so I had to come up with a story and quick. Fortunately, growing up as a gay man I had plenty of practice lying to my mother.
“I cannot apologize enough for your distress on this matter. The truth is, I have been off gluten and dairy for a couple of months now and caved at the sight of a multigrain bagel with Philadelphia cream cheese at the airport in Denver. My stomach has been a all kinds of upset since we crossed the Kansas state line. I swear I have gained like six pounds in the last two hours.”
I was unsure whether she bought it or not because her attention had shifted elsewhere.
“Are you wearing make-up?” she asked, sounding even more concerned then before, when she thought I was dead.
“No!” I blurted out. Forcing laughter from my diaphragm, I tried not to over-react when I accidentally began choking. The gig was officially up when she licked her thumb, and with ninja-like speed, swiped it underneath my right eye.
“Mom!” I screamed, girlishly. I felt like it was the first day of Junior High and she had just kissed me on the cheek.
She looked down at her thumb, and then back at me. I couldn’t tell whether she was horrified, disappointed or just plain confused.
I could think of nothing to say at the time to fix the situation. So I went directly in to reciting the entrance speech I practiced on the plane.
“I am great mom! I have been eating lots of kale, sleeping eight hours a night, and after all the hard work I have put in at the restaurant, things are really starting to look up for me. I am truly making it in Vancouver.”
She placed her hand on the small of my back and guided me silently to my lonesome suitcase on the baggage carousel.
“If you are going to wear make-up Rugged,” she said, “at least let me teach you how to apply it properly.”
She reached in purse and passed me a tissue. “Now get that shit off of your face before a redneck sees you, we are in Tennessee for gods sakes. How I am supposed to protect you when it looks like you broke in to your sister's bathroom drawer.”
“Yes mom," I replied, taking the kleenex.