We had been living in the West Village a few years when I attended my first Gay Pride Parade, and living in the Village made the parade a big deal. This was natural. There had been the history of Stonewall, and then the awful business of AIDS, and many people came to line the streets and be supportive and also to celebrate and mourn those who had died. I held Chrissie’s hand, and William held Becka on his hip. We stood and watched as men walked by in purple high heels and wigs and some in dresses, then there were mothers who marched by, and all the kinds of things you see at such an event in New York.
William turned to me and said, “Lucy, Jesus Christ, come on,” because of what he saw in my face, and I shook my head and turned to go home, and he came with me and said, “Oh, Button. I remember now.”
He was the only person I had told.
Perhaps my brother was a freshman in high school. He may have been a year older, he may have been a year younger. But we still lived in the garage, so I would have been about ten. Because my mother took in sewing, she kept various pairs of high heels in her basket in the corner of the garage. That basket might have been like another woman’s closet. In it were also brassieres and girdles and a garter belt. I think that those were for women who needed some alteration done and had not arrived with the right underclothes; even when it was normal for all women to wear these things, my mother did not bother to wear them, unless she had a customer coming over.
Vicky came shrieking toward the schoolyard to find me that day, I don’t even know if it was a school day or why she wasn’t with me, I only remember her shriek and the gathering of people and the laughter. My father was driving our truck along the main street in town and he was screaming at my brother, who was walking down the street in a pair of big high heels I recognized from the basket, and a bra over his T-shirt, and a string of fake pearls, and his face was streaming with tears. My father drove alongside him in our truck screaming that he was a fucking faggot and the world should know. I could not believe what I saw, and I took Vicky’s hand, though I was the youngest, and I walked her all the way home. My mother was there and said that our brother had been found wearing her clothes, and it was disgusting and my father was teaching him a lesson and Vicky should stop her noise, and so I took Vicky away in the fields until it was dark and we became more afraid of the dark than of our home. I still am not sure it’s a true memory, except I do know it, I think. I mean: It is true. Ask anyone who knew us.
That day of the parade in the Village, I think — but I’m not sure — that William and I had a fight. Because I remember him saying, “Button, you just don’t get it, do you?” He meant I did not understand that I could be loved, was lovable. Very often he said that when we had a fight. He was the only man to call me “Button.” But he was not the last to say the other: You just don’t get it, do you?
Sarah Payne, the day she told us to go to the page without judgment, reminded us that we never knew, and never would know, what it would be like to understand another person fully. It seems a simple thought, but as I get older I see more and more that she had to tell us that. We think, always we think, What is it about someone that makes us despise that person, that makes us feel superior? I will say that that night — I remember this part more than what I just described — my father lay next to my brother in the dark and held him as though he was a baby, he rocked him on his lap and I could not tell one’s tears and murmurs from the other’s.