The only problem was... we weren't one hundred percent sure Sal was a lesbian. I mean, sure, we're not blind. But I shy away from resorting to gay stereotypes, even the more reliable ones.
So we did what comes naturally to us; we fished for clues by asking indirect questions of a semi-personal nature. We learned Sal was in fact married to a man, at one time, but is now divorced with no children. She's a corporate executive at an Atlanta-based company which takes up a lot of her time. And when she isn't at work her pastimes include watching college football, ceramics, camping and church activities. We got the impression church is big with Sal.
Our circuitous line of questioning irritated our other neighbor, Iris. She's from France, so she did what comes naturally to her people: "You a dyke?"
I gasped in horror. Iris often inspires that reaction among the non-French.
Sal assured us she likes men and goes on plenty of dates with them, but I don't think any of us really bought it. Our suspicions only increased over the following months when Sal developed what appeared to the casual observer as a "girl crush" on Iris. Our good-natured teasing also irritated Iris, who insisted she isn't French that way.
Sal continued to be an enigma to us, beating her Bible one minute and tagging along to the gay bars the next. Although any place that poured cold beer and had at least one flat-screen tuned to a sporting event seemed to find Big Sal in her element.
Not one to endure the same tired, religion-based arguments I've heard a thousand times before – especially not in my own house – I took up the "pro-marriage" position. And I must have done a good job at it too, judging by the way I shut her up.
The room got quiet as all eyes turned to Big Sal, anticipating her response. I began to worry that maybe I'd gone too far, as her face screwed into the most peculiar expression and her eyes began to pool with tears. Sal tightened her grip on the arms of our Rooms-To-Go club chair and she slowly and deliberately lifted herself to her feet.
I braced myself for an emotional outburst, maybe even a physical confrontation. After all, my buddy Gilbert always says it isn't a party until a lesbian breaks something to use the shards as a makeshift weapon. (Which now explains why he was cowering in the corner.) But in hindsight, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. When Sal unhinged her jaw and upchucked a jet of tequila and guacamole with enough sustained back-pressure to make The Exorcist look like a zany Catholic sitcom.
The next sixty-nine seconds were a chaotic blur of horrified screams, upset chairs, spilled drinks and trampled toes as Sal's Godzilla-esque rampage transformed our eclectic living room ensemble into a scale model of smoldering, post-apocolyptic Tokyo.
Needless to say I was beside myself... two days it takes to make my Oaxacan Mole con Pollo and my guests fled like rats from a sinking ship without so much as letting me fix them a to-go plate. It took three more days to eat it all myself.
|Kong knew he'd someday regret not paying extra for the scotch-guarding package.|
We haven't seen as much of Sal since that fateful day in May. Iris has spent time with her, reassuring her that this sort of thing could happen to anybody. I suppose that's true, given enough liquor and Southern Baptist repression. And at least ten ripe Haas avocados.
I gave Sal a hug the other morning when we bumped into each other on our way to work. I told her I missed her, and I meant it. She expressed her embarrassment and once again apologized for the upholstery and carpeting. I didn't think it necessary to bring up the coffee table, throw pillows, gas fireplace logs and my socks. We made vague, tentative plans to get together as we climbed into our cars to drive away in opposite directions.
I really should give Big Sal the benefit of the doubt. I could be totally wrong about her being unhappily closeted. It's possible she may be a straight woman trapped in Peppermint Patty's wardrobe and hairstyle. It's not important for my instincts to be right about this. If Sal isn't living a lie out of fear – fear of losing the love and respect of her family, fear of being ostracized by her church community, and the real possibility of losing her job and the success she worked so hard for – then I'm glad for her. Just like I'm glad I know Sal, and that she knows us.
Because having us as her BGFs means we, in our own small way, just might be making a difference inside the corporate culture of America's most gay-unfriendly fast-food chicken chain.
Unless she ever finds my blog, in which case I've probably just doomed us all.