August 5, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads!
What If? – by Hugh W. Roberts
As I watched figures going through the open door, not even the pattering of rain on the roof of the car took away the fear I felt.
As my hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, anxiety began to snowball out of control.
The thoughts of home and a warm bed were welcoming and safe.
As I drove away, the LGBT community, who I feared, would have to wait another two years before joining them behind the open door that led to non-judgmental new friends, a new life and being who I really was.
Written for the 99-word flash fiction challenge hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Click here to join in.
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When I woke up that Saturday morning, little did I know that something I was hiding from view from others was about to have the key put in the ignition and set me off on a journey that was to become the life I was born with.
It was a Saturday morning like any other Saturday morning. I always got up first because I’m an early bird.
The fact that I was 17 years old didn’t put me off from watching it. I loved watching it. It got my weekend off to a perfect start.
Just after midday, I always went into town to buy an array of snacks for myself for the evening. I still preferred to spend Saturday evenings indoors watching television like I did on Saturday mornings.
My parents thought it unusual for a boy my age to want to stay in on a Saturday evening. At the time, I thought they knew nothing about why I did not want to go out. Years later, I discovered my mother had already suspected I was gay.
Whereas boys my age were going out to drink alcohol and date girls, my Saturday evening treat was the snacks (including a small trifle from Marks & Spencer) and Saturday evening television.
I always visited the same shops to browse or buy something. On this particular Saturday, though, something I’d seen on TV that morning made me go into a shop I hardly ever visited.
Scanning the shelves full of newspapers and magazines for the music newspaper I wanted, it soon caught my eye.
On the front was a picture of the singing duo Chasand Dave. I didn’t particularly like their music, but I found both men sexually attractive.
Picking up the newspaper, I flicked through it, pretending not to notice the picture and taking little, if any, notice of who was around me.
Towards the back of the newspaper, I stumbled upon the advertisement section, and one of the adverts immediately got my attention.
It was a significant point in my life that opened a door and invited me to step through.
I didn’t personally know any other gay people, yet here was an advert in a music newspaper about a world I belonged to yet knew little of.
Gay? Then you should read Gay News. Once fortnightly. For a copy, send a postal order for (I can’t remember how much) to –
At that moment, a member of staff entered the shop and shouted over to the cashier –
“I see the library is open again, Karen.”
She was referring to me and a few other customers who were all flicking through various newspapers and magazines. I quickly closed the paper to see if anybody noticed me reading the advert.
At that point, I wanted to put down the paper and rush out of the shop, but the chance of being in touch with other gay people stopped me from doing so.
I told myself to be brave, quickly walked over to Karen, and nervously placed the newspaper by the cash register. “Got everything you need today?” she asked me as she pushed the keys on the cash register.
Nodding my head, I could feel myself blushing. I thought she knew which advert I’d been reading and was about to stand up and announce, ‘This one’s queer!” Of course, that never happened.
As I walked home, my heartbeat raced. I kept looking behind to check if anyone was following me. After all, unlike my straight friends, it was still illegal for me (as a gay man) to have sex with a same-sex partner until I was 21.
Precisely one week later, I waited patiently for the postman to arrive. When my first copy of Gay News came through the letterbox, I rushed downstairs before anybody else got to the post.
I was relieved that the people at Gay News did as they had promised to do in their advertisement. My copy of the paper arrived in a plain brown envelope.
My hands shook as I took the envelope up to my bedroom. Carefully tearing it open, I allowed the life I’d been hiding to start coming out of the closet.
Have you ever had a life-changing moment? Contact me if you’d like to share the details in a guest post.
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One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I never sat down with my mother and told her that I’m gay. I chose, instead, the easy option of writing to her and telling her that I was a homosexual.
Facing Mum for the first time, after writing that letter, I was very nervous as I travelled to where she lived. I hesitated several times before walking up to the front door, ringing the doorbell, and announcing my arrival.
What a shock I got when she came towards me with open arms and, as she gave me one of her wonderful hugs, hearing her whisper the words “I always knew you were gay, I don’t know why it took you so long to tell me.”
Not all my family were like mum, though. Some told me they were having difficulty in accepting what I was because it wasn’t the sort of thing that happened to men in the area we came from. Hurtful words, but I already knew that the best thing I could do was to keep away from those who were upset by the life I was given, and allow them to live their lives as they wanted.
Over the years, I regained contact with some of those family members and, thankfully, have the changing face of society to thank for bringing us back together.
The fact that, in the past, there had been a few other men in the family who had never married, never seemed to raise any suspicions that the family had gay people as a part of it. It may have been talked about, but never while I was in the room.
I don’t know if any of those men ever ‘came out.’ Probably not, but it must have been difficult for those that were gay at the time they lived. This only made me more determined to live my life how I wanted and not the way others wanted me to live it.
Moving to work and live in London, in 1986, was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. Although the city acted as a wall which seemed to protect gay people, I was still finding it difficult to ‘come out.’
It was a strange situation because the first two jobs I took in London were in industries where other openly gay people were employees.
When I took my next job, which would last 23-years, it took me six years to come out, and that was only when I heard the words “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” Of course, nobody cared that I was gay, yet for all those years I had been terrified what some of my work colleagues would think about me had I ‘come out’ of the closet.
Fast forward to today, and being gay is something much of society accepts. Or is it?
When we moved to our current home in South Wales, both my partner and I were a little hesitant that people would accept us. There are fewer people here than where we had lived for over 30 years. We were coming back to that place I’d been told that ‘being gay didn’t happen.’ We couldn’t have been more wrong!
People have been so welcoming, and we’re a part of the community as anyone else. Strange, though, that every now and again when I meet somebody for the first time and am asked who the other guy is that walks our dogs, I find myself hesitating before saying “he’s John, my partner.”