The table is long, filled with empty plates, glasses, and a steaming pitcher of coffee. Everyone is smiling, and grandpa has an eyebrow cocked in a sassy way at the camera. The plates are red, and they nearly blend in with the teak table. A light on the wall shines behind the family, just above grandpa. A stone fireplace sits to the right of grandpa, and his daughter, my boyfriend’s mother, sits in front of the fireplace, snuggled up close to her father– grandpa. In front of her sits my future brother-in-law, his blonde hair parted in the middle to look straight out of the 90s. The swinging door to the kitchen is far behind everyone, slightly skewed to the left. In front of the door and to the left of grandpa sits grandma, her body hunched just slightly. She leans into my boyfriend, her youngest grandchild, just as his mother leans into grandpa. Closest to the camera is my boyfriend, soon fiancé. Everyone is smiling, probably because they are full of breakfast foods, but more likely because they are enjoying the company. It’s grandpa’s 93rd birthday, and he’s going strong. I’ve heard stories about him, about the farm he owns and continues to run. My boyfriend told me all about it, about the times he worked on the farm. I can listen to stories, but that is it. There’s an empty chair at the table, and I wonder if I could ever fill it. I imagine coming with my boyfriend, or maybe fiancé, or maybe even husband one day to visit his grandparents. I want them to smile at me, offer me a hug, and eat breakfast with me. I want to sit at that table. But I know I can’t. I can’t because they are old and can’t handle change. I can’t because their grandson, my boyfriend, is the normal one, the one not married to a man, but in reality, he is. He is in a relationship with someone who looks like a man at face value but was born a woman. If he told his grandparents? Who knows. He wants to keep them safe in their old age and keep life simple. But my life, and now his life, is not simple. We are two men in a happy relationship. I have a vagina, but strangers don’t see that. We’re nearly engaged, we’ve bought the rings, and we have started the process to have a child. Yet his grandparents will never know this, never know me. And so, at night, as I’m alone in my bed, I find myself hoping my life wasn’t so complicated, that I could be normal, that I could sit at the table and enjoy breakfast.
Aarron Sholar’s book, The Body of a Frog: A Memoir on Self-Loathing, Self-Love, and Transgender Pregnancy,is forthcoming from Atmosphere Press, and his essays have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He holds an MFA from MSU, Mankato, and a BA from Salisbury University. He serves as the Prose Editor for Beaver Magazine.