I find a sauna, a car and a book

I’ve spent the last week in Galway where I’m working on a course full-time for two weeks. The school is putting me up in a lovely hotel, and the lovely hotel has a lovely leisure centre with a pool and a steam room and a sauna and a hot tub where I’ve spent most of my free time for the last week. As you all know, I love water.

Men in saunas are among the worst men at being men that there are. I think all the male skin on display makes them feel as if they have to have conversations that are as masculine as possible, just for fear that they’d accidentally get gay juice on themselves or something. The pressure to be macho is so extreme that I listened to two men have a conversation about soccer on Monday night in the sauna. Now, this wouldn’t be unusual, but the Irish soccer team were playing in a crucial European Cup qualifier at the same time. If they actually had any interest in soccer, they would have been watching that. These men in the sauna were choosing to sit and sweat in their underthings with other men with their nipples out instead of watching this match. They clearly didn’t care for it, but they obviously felt they should seem as if they did, so the conversation in the sauna revolved around soccer, and these “fans” made wise comments like “the crowd is like a twelfth player really” and “it’ll be a great old lift for the country if we get through”.

***

I am finally done with Julian. The garage in Cork that my family has been dealing with for years got me a hire purchase deal on a 2016 car. I didn’t think my old car would last until 2016, so I asked if they could do anything for me in the meantime. They said that they’d set me up with a good second-hand car in the mean time.

I’d left my registration and insurance paperwork in Longford, so at the end of work on Friday, I couldn’t go straight to Cork as I’d planned. I drove to Longford, spent the night in my little house, which finally has heating again, and drove to Cork yesterday morning. I was under time pressure in my ridiculous little car that doesn’t go up hills and struggles to get above 30 miles an hour because my insurance policy on it was ending at 2:00 pm and switching to my new car. For all five hours of the journey to Cork, my car made the sound of a gas fire that just won’t start – spark, spark, spark, hiss, hiss, nothing, spark, spark, spark, hiss, hiss, nothing. For five hours.

I was delighted to get to the garage and get my new car. I introduced myself to “Brendan”, the teenager who appeared to be in charge of one of Cork’s biggest car dealerships for the day, and he said, “You’re here for the Yaris”. He went outside and filled a shiny red car with petrol. He came back in and handed me the key. I asked if I was meant to sign anything. There was no need, apparently. Should I pay the deposit for my new car? No. It’s fine. Should I show him my driving license or my insurance certificate? No. Should I give him some money? No. Eventually, I convinced him that I would leave my old car with him, but he would have been fine if I hadn’t.

So, I have a free car. I’ve signed nothing and not paid any money. But I have a lovely little red car worth €10,000 with a full tank of petrol. Well done me.

I’m calling the car “Scarlett”, after Scarlett O’Hara. She never stayed with her husbands very long. And I won’t stay with my new car very long, because in six weeks or so I will actually pay for a new car.

Scarlett is amazing. The engine is so quiet – no chugging, no rattling, no whining. It’s so quiet that I honestly don’t know whether I’ve started the engine or not. I don’t miss Julian at all, not one little bit. Maybe I should feel nostalgic about my first ever car, but bugger that. My new car actually drives. I put my foot on the break and the car stops. I put my foot on the accelerator and it speeds up. Magic. There are electric windows and a CD player. And it doesn’t just stop for no reason. The petrol gauge shows me how much petrol I have left. Driving it cut an hour off my journey from Cork. And it cut the chest pains too. I didn’t realise just how stressful I found driving the old car until I got a chance to drive the new one. Thinking your car will break down at any minute is hard on the central nervous system.

***

I was in a good mood yesterday. I had a new car (for free!), I was liberated from Julian, I’m enjoying my work in Galway, I had met my little nieves and nephews and Christmas is coming.

My parents went out for their Saturday evening mass and I was pottering about in the house when I saw the pile of books my dad is currently reading. At the top of the pile was “Healing Homosexuality” by Joseph Nicolosi, one of the classics of so-called reparative therapy, with case studies of people who have “successfully” been “healed” of their homosexuality.

My bubble burst and I deflated. I wasn’t feeling like I was wronged. It’s not as if my parents’ views are unknown to me. I just felt so sorry for my dad. I know my mother worries. She can’t stop worrying about all four of her children. I have (kind of) learned to accept this. But I thought that maybe my Dad wasn’t really worrying much about me. That maybe I wasn’t making his old age worse. That maybe we were maybe OK.

I’m Irish, so of course I said nothing about the book to him. I don’t know what I would say. I put it back exactly where I found it.

It’s been three and a half years since I came out to my family and my dad’s been sick most of that time. Sick, and worrying about me. And I don’t have a magic wand to heal his opinions any more than I have a magic wand to heal my homosexuality.

I guess we keep on living and we keep on worrying and we keep on keeping on.

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