his suit coat and began reviewing the mail when he
suddenly noticed a large brown package with a note
from Trent. Hey babe! Hope you had a great day.
This package just came for you. I'm at the gym, then
off to do some work. See ya. Love, Trent. As Raymond
picked up the package he thought he should be at the
gym with Trent.
The package was heavy and Raymond could tell from
the handwriting that it was from his mother. But it
didn't feel like cookies, brownies, or any type of
food he had been expecting. Raymond tore open the
package and out spilled a black leather photo binder.
Taped to the front of it was a note on frilly paper
from his mother. My Dearest Son, I hope this helps
with the confirmation. I've been looking forward to
the day when you might need this. I love you and I'm
so proud of you. Your mother.
The house was quiet and the evening sun bathed the
den in a golden glow. The room was large, with hardwood
floors, a beautiful Persian rug, black leather furniture,
forty-six-inch television, and an antique rolltop
mahogany desk. This was the room where Raymond and
Trent spent many quiet evenings enjoying each other,
watching sporting events or reading while snuggled
on the couch. Raymond leaned against the desk and
opened the binder.
On the first page was a copy of his birth certificate
and his footprints. He looked at the date, June 20,
the time, 4:56 A.M., and his weight, 8 pounds 6 ounces.
He read his father's name and "student" listed as
his occupation and his mother's maiden name of Gaines
and her occupation of "teacher." Raymond couldn't
recall the last time he'd seen his birth certificate
and the black-and-white photograph of him as a newborn.
Curly hair, eyes closed tight. Only three days old.
As Raymond slowly turned page after page, he realized
the treasure he was holding: a memoir of his life
from his mother's eyes. A magical binder that included
photographs, report cards, teachers' names, school
names and addresses from kindergarten to high school.
There were pictures and awards from football, basketball,
and tennis camps that Raymond had attended during
his youth. Photos taken with Santa and other special
activities like the Cubs and Boy Scouts. His first
NAACP membership card, certificates from Sunday school,
vacation Bible school, and articles that appeared
in school and local newspapers. A tattered picture
of Raymond in his high school football uniform, holding
his younger brother, Kirby. Memories that had slipped
from Raymond's mind.
There were letters and cards Raymond had sent his
parents and even letters his mother had discovered
from his first love, Sela, the young lady he had fallen
in love with on sight at a high school basketball
game. Numerous pictures of Raymond and Sela at their
high school prom, parties, and sporting events, and
fraternity and sorority mementos from their days at
the University of Alabama. Every important person
and event that occurred up until his graduation from
law school was lovingly placed in this special book.
During his parents' weekend visit Raymond had mentioned
how much he was dreading tracking down all the information
required for his confirmation. The financial stuff
would be easy. All Raymond had to do was call his
accountant and the reports would be ready. But the
FBI wanted more. Organizations in which he held memberships,
papers he had written, and a random sampling of cases
he'd handled as a lawyer, not just in Seattle, but
throughout his career.
They also requested information on the schools he
attended, including the names of teachers and friends
who might vouch for his good character, and evidence
that he had always been a good citizen. His mother
appeared pleased when she said she might have something
that would help him out. When Raymond and his father
asked what, she had said, "That's my little secret
and I don't know if I'm ready to let go. What did
I always tell you? Save some secrets for yourself."
Some of the secrets Raymond had saved for himself
didn't make the book. There were no pictures of Kelvin,
the handsome University of Alabama football player
who had seduced Raymond on a beautiful fall Friday
during his senior year. But how would Raymond's mother
know about that life-changing experience? He wondered
where Kelvin might be at this exact moment, whether
he was dead or alive, if he had remarried or was spending
his life with a man. There was one picture of Kyle,
Raymond's first openly gay friend, in a group photo
his mother had taken on a visit to New York, but no
pictures of Kyle during his last months on earth,
before he succumbed to AIDS. Raymond's smile disappeared
as he thought about Kelvin and Kyle, but it returned
quickly when he thought of the great times he had
shared with each of them. The romantic snowy night
when Raymond and Kelvin came oh so close to making
love with only a winter sky covering them. Raymond
could hear Whitney Houston singing "You Give Good
Love," even though no music was playing. He thought
of a warm spring night in New York's Greenwich Village,
standing outside of Keller's, where he and Kyle would
comment on the good-looking men going in and out of
the bar, waging bets on who would take home the best-looking
guy. Moments like these were missing from the book.
Moments in his life he'd never shared with his mother
or any member of his immediate family, simply because
he thought they just wouldn't understand.
But there were other memories of his New York tenure
in the binder. A newspaper article about Nicole Springer,
the Broadway actress Raymond had fallen in love with
harder than ever before, harder even than with Kelvin.
He'd always known in his heart of hearts that Kelvin
and he wouldn't last. Nicole was now an official part
of his family after she married his best friend and
play brother, Jared. There were no photographs of
the hospital hallway where Raymond confessed to a
stunned Nicole his sexual desires for men. Yet, like
hearing the silent music, Raymond could still see
Nicole's horrified face.
There was a picture of his mother, himself, and Sela
on her wedding day--to someone else. For a moment,
it looked like the picture everybody in Birmingham
thought possible. Raymond and Sela married. There
they were, Raymond's mother looking like the mother
of the groom, Sela in a beautiful wedding gown, and
Raymond smiling in a handsome black suit. He was not
the groom but only a guest, at a wedding that occurred
a few weeks after his confession to Nicole. The day
he realized there would be no wedding day for him.
Raymond smiled to himself, and his eyes became moist
as he reviewed the melancholy milestones of his life.
And then a tear escaped from his left eye and rolled
down his cheek. He felt overcome with emotion from
the gift his mother had given him. He wanted to call
her and thank her and share some of the moments she'd
left out simply because he hadn't shared them with
her before. But Raymond didn't pick up the phone,
only inches away. He wanted to share this moment with
Trent, and yet a part of him relished being able to
review his life in solitude. It was a special feeling,
a special moment. And even though the house was still
silent, he could hear Trent's voice after the first
time they made love in their new home, quiet like
now. Trent had whispered in his lover's ear, "Some
of the best moments in life are when we don't have
a clue of what to say or do."
Later that evening, Raymond got a call from Trent
saying he was working late and asked if he wanted
him to stop and pick up something to eat.
"Naw, that's okay. I'm not that hungry," Raymond said
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Just enjoying the evening and life," Raymond
"What was in the package?" Trent asked.
"A really special gift from my mother. It's hard to
describe it, but I'll show it to you after I've enjoyed
it," Raymond said.
"Okay. I'll see you later on."
"Thanks for being such a gift to me," Raymond said.
"What a nice thing to say. Are you sure everything
"Never been more certain," Raymond said.
After hanging up, Raymond picked up the phone and
called Jared. Nicole answered the phone. He still
loved the sound of her voice.
"Nicole, how you doing?"
"Raymond? Of course it's Raymond. I'm doing fine,
sweetheart. Is everything okay?" Raymond was thinking
people close to him didn't understand the sweet sadness
he was enjoying. But how could they?
"I'm doing just great. I know you're happy to be back
in the Big Apple," Raymond said.
"I sure am. Matter of fact, I'm on my way out the
door. Going to a party one of the members of the cast
is giving. Want to speak to your boy?"
"Is he there?"
"Sure, let me get him. It's nice talking to you, Raymond.
I hope we'll see you and Trent real soon," Nicole
"Same here. It's always nice hearing your voice,"
After a few seconds Jared came on the phone.
"Whassup, whassup, my niggah?"
"You, my brother. How is everything?"
"Everything's cool, couldn't be cooler if I was sitting
in a tub of ice," Jared joked.
"You sound happy."
"Why wouldn't I be? Life is sweet."
"I'm not keeping you from nuthing, am I?"
"You know I always got time for you. Besides, Nicole's
gone to her party and I'm getting ready to look over
some work and hit the sack," Jared said.
Raymond and Jared spent the next hour talking like
they hadn't talked for months. In reality they spoke
briefly at least once a week, sometimes two or three
Raymond, knowing Jared was really a small-city type
of guy, asked him how he was dealing with New York.
When Jared said he was loving it, Raymond teased him
about how he used to say he could never see himself
living in New York.
Jared asked how things were going with Trent and the
confirmation and if he had any dates for the hearings.
"You know, I know people in D.C., so when you go down
there for the hearing, I want to be in the front row.
In case any of them congressmen wanna act stupid.
I got yo' back," Jared said.
"And you know it," Raymond said.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Jared asked as the
conversation neared an end. Before answering the question,
Raymond told Jared about the gift his mother had sent
and how it had got him to thinking about his life
"Your moms and pops are some special people," Jared
said. "What a wonderful gift."
"So you see, my brother, I'm fine. I just wanted you
to know what a gift you are to me. And I love ya,
man," Raymond said.
"And I love you back," Jared said.