Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
Usually Jason would sleep in on Saturday mornings. This Saturday he was up and ready to go by eight a.m. He went downstairs and walked into the kitchen. His mom was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee.
“Good morning, Jase. What would you like for breakfast?”
“I’ll have a glass of orange juice and some toaster waffles. Could you make me some bacon to go with the waffles?”
“Sure. Since I’ll be frying your bacon, would you also like some scrambled eggs?”
“Okay, that sounds good. Thanks, Mom. How about you? Did you already eat?”
“No, I’m waiting for your father and sisters to come down. You’re early for a Saturday morning.”
Jason got up and poured a large glass of orange juice, and found the box of toaster waffles in the freezer and the bottle of maple syrup in the refrigerator. He put two waffles in the toaster and returned the box to the freezer.
“Yeah, I want to get an early start so I’ll have good morning light for taking pictures.”
“Did you finish your homework last night?”
“Yes. I didn’t want anything that I’d have to finish the rest of this weekend. I want to totally concentrate on my Photography class project. I’ll spend today taking pictures. Tomorrow I’ll select and edit the best ones, upload them to Picasa and arrange them in a Web Album. Then I’ll make the Web Album accessible so Mr. Hunter can review and grade it.”
“Where are you going to take your pictures?”
“I’ll start by going downtown and take pictures of people and buildings and things like the fountain in front of Nordstrom. I’ll go to the top of the parking structure and take pictures from there. I should get some good pictures of Mount Diablo and the buildings downtown. I’ll use my telephoto lens looking down over the top edge of people walking below on the sidewalks and crossing the streets. Then I’ll wander around taking pictures of people.”
“Are you going to the mall?”
“No. I decided that lots of people in my class will head for the mall. I want to have pictures that aren’t all the same as everyone else’s.”
“Well, that sounds like a good idea. Do you need some money, or do you have enough for your lunch and some snacks?”
Jason grinned. “Mom, I’m a teen. I always need money.”
Betty set a plate with the now toasted toaster waffles and three slices of bacon and two scrambled eggs in front of Jason.
“Is thirty dollars enough?”
“Wow. Yes, that’s excellent. Now I can go to Lettuce and have a real lunch instead of a fast food burger.”
“You like eating at Lettuce better than a hamburger place like Counter Burger?”
“I love the burgers at Counter Burger but it’s too heavy for lunch. I’d get tired with all that food on my stomach. I’ll have a half sandwich and a bowl of mushroom soup at Lettuce. Their BLT is fantastic and so’s the mushroom soup.” Jason winked at his mom. “You should be proud of me for eating a healthy lunch.”
Betty laughed. “Yes, I am proud of you, and not just for eating a healthy lunch. So you won’t miss the good light for taking pictures you’d better eat your breakfast so you can get going.”
“Okay.” With that Jason dug into his breakfast and finished it in less than ten minutes. Betty didn’t bother telling him not to eat so fast. That’s something she used to tell him and since he never got an upset stomach from eating so fast, and since her admonition apparently went in one ear and out the other, she’d given up.
Jason rinsed his breakfast dishes and put them in the dishwasher.
“I’m going to head out, Mom. See you later, probably late afternoon. I have my cell so you can call if you need anything.”
Betty followed Jason to the entry hall where he picked up his backpack.
“Have fun taking pictures. Call if you’re going to be home later than five o’clock or if you need anything, alright?”
“Okay, will do. I’m outta here. See you later.”
Jason left and Betty stood looking at the closed front door. How could she ever have been so stupid to reject Jason just because he said that he’s gay? Well, that episode was over except for one thing. She and Tim were going to have a session with Doctor Byers. She had phoned his office and made an appointment for Wednesday morning at nine o’clock. That turned out to be the only morning this week that Tim could take off from work, and also when Doctor Byers was available. Betty hoped that this would be the only session they’d need, but she wasn’t sure about that at all.
Jason headed downtown. It took him about a half hour to walk the mile and a quarter to the Main Street parking garage and take the elevator to the roof level. There were only three cars parked on this level, but he knew that within an hour or so there’d be lots more. This part of downtown had major department stores and shops that drew large crowds of shoppers on the weekends. He walked to the ledge on the west side and looked over. The view of the sidewalk was blocked by awnings at the front of each of the shops and restaurants on the ground floor. He did have a view of the sidewalk across the street, but because of the early hour on a Saturday morning there weren’t many pedestrians out and about. He decided he’d check out the other three sides. He found the east side to be best for taking pictures of people below. The view gave him the ability to look down on the walkway between the garage and the stores, and despite the early hour, nine fifteen, there were people walking below.
He mounted his 80 to 300 mm telephoto zoom lens to the camera and started taking pictures of the unaware people below. After fifteen or twenty minutes he heard footsteps and looked around. It was a guy in a guard’s uniform.
“Excuse me, what do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m taking pictures for my Photography class project.”
“You’re not allowed to take any photographs in city buildings without a permit. Do you have a permit?”
“No. My teacher didn’t tell us anything about needing a permit.”
“Then you’ll have to pack up and leave.”
Jason took a deep breath. He didn’t believe that a permit was needed, so he thought he’d push the envelope a bit.
“Where do I go to get a permit?”
“This is a city owned facility. You’ll have to go to the Parking Department at City Hall. They are open Monday through Friday.”
Jason put on what he hoped would be a sad face. “That’s a bummer. I have to turn in my project on Friday, and I can’t take pictures during the week because I go to school and I need the light to be just right. The only time I can take pictures is in the morning this weekend. Is there any way I can get a permit today so I can have it to take my pictures tomorrow?”
“What are you taking pictures of?”
Jason thought for a couple seconds, and decided to be a bit inventive. “The tops of people’s heads as they walk down below. That’s the topic of the poster I’m creating, it’s called ‘Headlines’ which is why I’m taking the tops of heads. Some of my pictures will be sharp, others will have motion blur. I’m going to put them together in sort of a collage that will fill a color poster. It’s going to be big, eleven by seventeen-inches.”
“You’re not taking any faces or an anything else identifiable?”
“No. Just the tops of heads. I’m looking for people who are wearing hats or caps now. I have enough bald heads and different kinds of hair colors and haircuts.”
“How about vehicles? Will you be taking any pictures of vehicles?”
“No. I don’t have any need for pictures of cars or trucks for my project. If I did something like that I’d just go to the car dealers ‘cause they’d probably like the publicity.”
“You’re not climbing on top of the ledge, are you?”
Jason shuddered. “No. I’m afraid of heights.” That was the truth; Jason was afraid of heights.
“Okay. I’m not trying to be a hardass about you being up here without a permit. If you’re only taking pictures of people’s heads, maybe I can let you stay up here until the garage gets busier. How much longer do you need?”
Jason thought, then looked at the display on the camera to see how many images were recorded on the SIM card.
“I took 137 pictures so far. Like I said, I need more with hats and caps. Maybe a half hour, assuming the people walking below are cooperative about what they’ve put on their heads.”
“Can you show me some of the pictures you’ve taken?”
Jason smiled. He always liked showing the pictures he took.
“Sure.” He put the camera in display mode, held it so it was shielded from the morning sun, and held the camera up so the guard could see the images. He stepped through some of the images he’d taken, and, like he’d said, they were almost all pictures of people’s heads with a few of the tall buildings in the business district north of the garage.
The guard looked at Jason. “Alright, that’s enough. You have a half hour then I’ll be back up here to shag your butt outta here.” He grinned to show Jason that he was joking. “I’m serious about the half hour, okay?”
“Yes, sir! Thanks a lot. Do you want me to send you a copy of the poster?”
The guard seemed surprised. “You’d do that? Wouldn’t that be expensive?”
“No, we get to print up copies at school to give to family and friends. As long as I don’t have to mail it to you it won’t cost me anything. Is there a place I can leave it for you?”
The guard reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a business card. “You can drop it off at our office. I don’t work for the city, I’m a rent-a-cop with Allied Security Services. This is the office address, it’s at the corner of California and Olympic. It’s in the same building as that burger place, Habit, except you go in through the entrance at the corner.”
Jason looked at the card and laughed. The guard’s name was Charles Phillips. “You’re not going to believe this, but my name is Jason Phillips. If you give me one of your cards, I’ll write my name and phone number on the back. Maybe we’re related.”
Now the guard laughed. “I doubt it. You have redish-blonde hair and a light completion with freckles. I’m about as dark as any African-American you’ll run into. Anyway, here’s my card and a pen.”
Jason wrote his name and home phone number on the back of the card and returned it to the guard.
“Thanks for the extra time to take my pictures. I’ll turn in my project on Friday and get the printed copies the week after, and I’ll deliver your copy to your office. It was nice to meet you, Mr. Phillips.”
“Just call me Charlie. It was nice meeting you too, Jason.”
They shook hands and Jason turned back to take more head shots and heard Charlie’s footsteps fading as he walked down the ramp to the fourth floor of the garage. About twenty minutes later He decided that he had enough head shots. He checked the display and saw that he’d taken 191 images. He carefully packed his camera and lens in their cases and then into his backpack, and took the elevator to the first level.
As Jason walked from the garage to the northern part of the downtown business district, he thought about his project. He hadn’t told Charlie the truth. His plan had been to take pictures around the downtown area for a project he planned to call ‘Cityscapes’. But his off-the-cuff invention renaming his project ‘Headlines’ sounded like a much better idea and more original than ‘Cityscapes.’ He sat down on a bench and began figuring out how many images he’d need.
After deciding he’d need about three times as many head shots as he’d taken so far, Jason walked to the downtown garage on Locust Street and took the elevator to the third floor. The elevator lobby had an opening where he could take pictures of the people walking along the street. Now that it was ten fifteen there were a lot more people out walking, and from the number carrying bags with store labels most of them were shoppers.
After taking almost eighty head shots, Jason decide to move to another location. Since the parking garages had provided good locations for all of the pictures he’d taken so far, he went to three others but had limited success.
He was near the library. That would be perfect. He knew that when he’d get off the elevator on the second floor he’d be able to look down at the main entrance where there were always a lot of people coming and going. He should have thought of the library to begin with.
Jason checked his watch. Eleven forty-five. A good time to get some lunch before Lettuce got busy. This was Jason’s favorite soup and sandwich place. When he got to the restaurant there were a few people in line waiting to place their orders. In about ten minutes Jason was sitting at a table having lunch. After he finished eating he walked to the library which was three long blocks from the restaurant.
Because of his confrontation with the guard earlier, he decided to talk to someone about taking pictures. He went to the information desk and talked to one of the librarians.
“I’d like to take some pictures from the second floor where you can look down into the main entrance. It’s for a project for my Photography class.”
“That’s fine, from there you can take very good pictures of the sculpture. The name of it is ‘Shhh…’. As the light changes the figure of a woman with her finger on her lips saying Shhh becomes more or less visible to the naked eye. However, when you look at the sculpture through the lens of your camera the image of the woman is visible regardless of the light.”
“Is there any limit on the number of pictures I can take?”
“No, as long as you don’t display or sell them as prints or postcards or anything else with the image of the sculpture.”
“Okay, thanks.” Jason turned and started to walk away.
“Just a moment! There’s one other thing that I need to tell you. No flash photos anywhere inside the library, please.
Jason smiled and replied, “Okay,” and continued to the elevator.
Over a two-hour period Jason was able to take several hundred images. Most were headshots of people coming into or leaving the library, including a lot of kids. He also took several images of the sculpture under different amounts and positions of the sunlight. He found that if he looked up at the sculpture standing in front of it on the first floor it looked like a two-story tall bookcase filled with books with solid color spines ranging from white to dark grey. From the second floor balcony it looked the same. But looking at it through the viewfinder of his SLR camera, or through his smartphone camera, he could see the woman the librarian described. Maybe he’d have to be here earlier or later when the sun was at a different angle to see her directly without using a camera. Fortunately, every picture he took of the sculpture showed the woman. He wasn’t sure how he’d arrange the images, but he decided that he would definitely include a picture of this sculpture in his poster.
Jason needed a break and decided to get something to drink. Maybe a large Dark Chocolate Caramel Mocha Freddo with whipped cream on top. He walked to the Peet’s on Locust Street, got his Freddo, and sat down at a table outside.
“Hey, Jase! How’re ya doin’?
Jason turned around. Leshawn Cross stood behind him, smiling. There was another kid he didn’t know with Leshawn.
“I’m doing great. How are you doing? You have time to grab something to drink and sit for a while?”
“Yeah, that sounds good. By the by, this is my cousin, Kevin Cross.”
Jason stood and shook hands and bumped fists with Kevin.
“I like Kev better. My mom’s the one who calls me Kevin, mostly when I’ve forgotten to do something and she’s yelling at me.” He grinned and sat down.
“That’s like me. When I hear one of my folks yelling ‘Jason!’ then I know I’m in trouble. That’s why I prefer Jase.”
Leshawn stayed standing, scowling at Kevin. “It looks like I’m the appointed delivery boy. What do you want, Kev?”
Kevin looked at Jason’s Freddo. “What’s that, Jase?”
“It’s a Dark Chocolate Caramel Mocha Freddo with whipped cream, the large size. It’s a blended iced coffee and chocolate and caramel drink. Lots of calories but lots of flavor. It’s absolutely my favorite drink at Peet’s.”
“Cuz, I’ll take one of those. You need a hand?”
“Nah, I can carry both yours and mine, no prob. You want a cookie or something else to eat?”
“No, that drink should be more than enough. Oh, and thanks for buying, Leshawn.”
“Yeah, that’s okay Kevin, since you’re going to buy my dinner tonight.” With that he smirked, turned, and went inside to get their drinks.
“You live around here, Kev?”
“No, I live in Beaverton, Oregon. That’s next to Portland. I’m gonna live with Leshawn’s folks for a while. My grandma died and my folks are in New Orleans in the middle of getting her stuff all taken care of. Leshawn’s folks were nice enough to let me stay with them for a few months.”
“When did you get here?”
“Yesterday. Leshawn is showing me around town. I’ll be transferring to Hillcrest High School for the rest of this semester and probably through next fall.”
“What year are you in?”
“Ninth grade, same as Leshawn. You?”
“Same, I’m also a freshman. It sounds like it’s going to take a long time for your folks to be away taking care of your grandma’s stuff.”
“Yeah, she has a big house in New Orleans and other houses around there and other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. Dad said her finances were all messed up. She sort of lost track of thing like paying bills and her income tax and stuff like that as she got older. Anyway, that’s the kind of work my folks do, probate and estates and that sort of thing. They’re both lawyers, so it makes sense for them to take care of her estate.”
“Is this the first time you’ve been to California?”
Kevin smiled. “Yes, and I’m really excited about coming down here and living with Leshawn and his folks. You’re the first of his friends I’ve met. You have any classes with Leshawn?”
“Uh-huh. We have English, Geometry, and Photography together. How about you? Do you know what you’ll be taking here?”
“My mom had my transcripts sent here and we went over the class schedules so I should be all set. I’ll be in your English and Geometry classes. I was also taking Journalism, AP French 3, World History, Chorus, and Gym. I was on our freshman football team last fall. I hope I can make your JV team next fall.”
Jason grinned. “Wow, a jock, ‘eh?”
“No way! I love playing football, but I’m so not part of jock society. What classes are you taking besides English, Geometry, and Photography?”
“Let’s see. Creative Writing, World History and Geography, Web Design, but that was last semester and this semester it’s Photography, and PE and Spanish 3.”
“World History and Geography are one class. How about Web Design and Photography, one class or two classes?”
“Two classes. I took Web Development in middle school. In Web Design we learned how to develop more complex websites using tools like CSS3, HTML5, and Bootstrap, and in Photography we’re leaning how to take and edit images, you know, Photoshop ‘em, and then to integrate images into websites.”
“Sounds like an interesting class. We didn’t have anything like that in my high school.”
“Where did you go to high school?”
“We don’t live in Portland itself, we live in Beaverton. It’s a suburb just west of Portland. I went to Beaverton High. I think it’s about the same number of students as Hillcrest, about fourteen hundred.”
“That’s right on. How’d your football team do?”
“You ever hear the term ‘we sucked?’ Well, we sucked. We won three games and lost eight. How did Hillcrest do this year?”
“Not including the playoffs we won nine games and lost two. Unfortunately, the two losses were in our league so we finished in third place. But it was good enough to get us into the playoffs and we won one and lost one. So our record for the season including the playoffs was actually ten and three.”
Leshawn returned carrying a cardboard carrier with two drinks and a plate with a slice of cake.
“I got two of those chocolate mocha caramel whatever thingies for us, same as what you’re drinking, Jase. Here’s yours, Kev. And I got a slice of lemon cake for me.”
“Thanks. I’ll pay you for mine.”
“Oh, no you won’t, Kev! I’m paying for your Froddo thingie, you’re paying for my dinner tonight.”
“Then I guess we’re going to a Sonic for dinner.”
“What say? A Song-what for dinner?”
“Sonic, s-o-n-i-c. You do have Sonic Drive-Ins here in California, don’t you?” He could tell from our expressions we had no idea what he was talking about. “You don’t have a Sonic Drive-In here? Where do you go for burgers?”
“For an inexpensive burger,” Leshawn answered, “I go to Habit.”
“For a great burger that you can build any way you want, I like Counter Burger,” Jason added. “It’s my favorite.”
“What about Stanford’s?” Leshawn asked.
“Oh, yeah. Their burger is excellent. Thing is, I don’t like their fries. They are way too greasy.”
“Yeah, true that. What I do is get a baked potato with my burger when we go to Stanford’s.”
“That’s a great idea. I didn’t know you could do that.”
“Neither did I until my dad ordered his that way. I don’t think they charge any more for getting the baked potato either, but I’m not sure.”
“I’m going to have to try that.”
Leshawn looked at Jason. “Okay, Jase, why don’t you come to dinner with Kev and me? We can go to Stanford’s and each of us can have one of those burgers with a baked potato. And maybe a salad to start. How’s that sound?”
“Are your folks coming?”
“Nope. They have some sort of meeting with the Hospital Planning Committee. It’s got something to do with the new wing that’s opening next month. So Kev and I are on our own, and,” Leshawn looked at Kevin, “if it’s okay with Kev, I’m inviting you to join us.”
Kevin smiled. “Hey, it’s more than okay with me. In fact, it’s a great idea.”
“I’ll have to let my folks know and get their okay, but that sounds good. And I’ll pay for my own dinner.” Jason pulled out his cell and called home.
“Hi yourself, Jase. How is your picture taking going?”
“Great. I’ve taken maybe six hundred pictures.”
“Wow. Back when I was your age and cameras used 35mm film there’s no way I could afford the cost of film to take six hundred pictures. But you didn’t call to hear me talk about the good old days.”
Jason chuckled, shook his head, and thought, ‘Good old days, not!’
“You’re right about why I’m calling. I met Leshawn at Peet’s. His cousin Kevin is here from Portland, and Leshawn’s folks are going to some meeting at the hospital. He asked if I could go to Stanford’s and have dinner with them.”
“Do you have enough money to pay for your dinner?”
“Yeah, no problem. We talked about having burgers and Leshawn suggested Stanford’s.”
“Alright. Let’s see, it’s almost quarter to four. What time are you going to eat and what time will you be home?”
“I don’t know, let me ask. Leshawn, what time do you guys want to eat dinner?”
“How about five thirty?”
“Works for me. Uh, Mom, Leshawn said we’d eat at five thirty. So I guess I’ll be home between seven and seven thirty.”
“That’s fine. Call us if you want a ride home, and we can give a ride to Leshawn and his cousin, too.”
“Okay. Thanks, Mom. See you later. Bye.”
Jason put his cell in his pocket. “My mom offered to drive us home if we want.”
“That’s good. If it gets cold that’ll be a lot better than walking home.”
Kevin took a big swallow of his Froddo. “Damn! I just got a brain freeze. Talking about cold, this is cold.”
“Man, Kev,” Leshawn grinned at his cousin, “you gotta be more careful about protecting your brain.”
“As you’d say, cuz, true that!”
Leshawn laughed and turned to Jason.
“Jase, my man, you can see how I’m going to be abused and misused by Kevin. This is just the beginning, I tell you, it’s just the beginning!”
Jason could tell that Leshawn was about to bust up laughing, so he started it by chuckling. Soon all three were laughing. Most of the other people sitting nearby looked at them and smiled, though a few frowned. ‘Some adults!’ Jason thought.
Leshawn leaned his elbows on the table and, using one of those plastic forks, took a bite of his cake. “So, what have you been doing today, Jase?”
“I’ve been taking pictures for our Photography class project and I'll put them together into my poster. As you know, it’s due on Friday, so tomorrow I’m going to play around with laying out my pix to plan what my poster is going to look like.”
“Were you guys given a topic that you have to follow?” Kevin asked.
“No, we’re supposed to pick our own topic. I’ve decided on ‘Headlines’. It’s going to be a bunch of head shots taken from above so all you see are the tops of people’s heads, everything from little kids to senior citizens, lots of hair to bald heads and shaved heads, some with hats or caps or scarves or whatever they might be wearing on their heads, some in focus and some with motion blur or out of focus. I took about six hundred pix, so I’ve got a ton of work to do. I’m going to put all the pix together to be printed at school on eleven by seventeen-inch glossy photo paper as a poster. The only text will be the title in all caps all the way across the top, and my name in the lower right corner in a small size font.”
“How long have you been taking the pictures?”
“You took six hundred pictures today? Man, you must have been pressing that shutter release about every minute.”
“Yeah, sometimes a lot more often than that. My best place for taking the pix was the second floor of the library looking down at the main entrance.”
Kevin shook his head. “Man, what an amazing project. Can I see the poster when it’s printed?”
“Sure. And you’ll see it too, Leshawn, in class when I show my poster. How about you, how’re you doing on your poster project?”
“I'm all done. I turned mine in yesterday. Kev, if you’re interested I’ll show you my poster when we get home tonight.
“So tell us about the places you went to take your pictures, Jase.”
So Jason described his day, and they laughed about how Jason had turned the guard at the parking garage into a friend. At around five o’clock they left to walk to Stanford’s for dinner, and afterward Jason phoned his mom to pick them up as she had offered.
All in all, Jason thought that Saturday had been a great day. He took all the pictures he needed for his project, he found out that Leshawn had already turned in his project for the Photography class, he met Leshawn’s cousin, the three of them had fun hanging together and talking, and he had a great lunch and dinner.
On Sunday Jason spent the entire day organizing his pictures and tagging each of them with where they were taken and the type of head shot, just like how he’d described it to Leshawn and Kevin. Ron called wanting to get together, but Jason begged off so he could continue working on his project. At the end of the day he realized that it would take him the rest of the week to finish. He was going to have to come up with a more efficient way to get it done. Maybe on Monday he’d ask Mister Hunter for some tips.
In the meantime, unbeknown to Jason, his parents were discussing the PFLAG meeting they would attend Tuesday evening and their session with Doctor Byers Wednesday morning. While Jason didn’t know what was going on, he had a strange feeling that something was going on, and that it involved him.
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