Russian Gay Family Takes Refuge In Spain, Personal Memoir "Nice People Once Lived Here" by Ryan Field

Russian Gay Family Takes Refuge In Spain

A gay Russian family appeared in a harmless ad for a food chain and wound up being viciously targeted on social media. They received death threats and actually had to wind up fleeing Russia. 

“We don’t have anti-discrimination laws [in Russia] so we don’t have any protection,” Mila said. “We can’t go to the police.”

Here’s more. They went to Spain because they received a lot of support, and most of all they feel safe there. There’s a photo of them at this link. 

The article goes into more detail about what it’s like for LGBTQ people in Russia. 

Personal Memoir “Nice People Once Lived Here” by Ryan Field

I recently finished a personal memoir titled, “Nice People Once Lived Here.” I’m not going to spend a lot of time with this one. It’s really the kind of self-indulgence I don’t like doing. 

But I just felt the need to get this written, and it is finished. I’m actually querying literary agents about it right now because I don’t want to indie publish this and I want to keep it separate from my gay romance novels. For all I know, this project may never see the proverbial light of day. But at least I did it and I got it out of the way so I can move on to other things. 

Here’s the short introduction and the 1st two chapters. I’m not even sure there’s an interest in this sort of book. 


Nice People Once Lived Here  

Introduction

In the late fall of 1998, when Tony and I were together about 6 years, we were outside in front of our townhouse on a typical suburban cul-de-sac called Spruce Court putting up Christmas lights just like everyone else had been doing that week. We were laughing and joking and trying to untangle strands of little white lights. We didn’t have a care in the world.

Together we framed the front window with little white lights, placed a perfectly round evergreen wreath on the front door, and set a festive green spotlight about 10 feet away from the front entrance so it would shine on the wreath after dark. When everything was ready, Tony went to plug in the green spotlight so I could step back and see if it was shining on the door. While he was up next to the front door where the electrical outlet was located, the next-door neighbor’s little boy said, “Hey daddy, can we get a green spotlight just like the two fags next door?”

            At first, I blinked. I’d never been called that word before. The little boy pointed directly at me with a great big smile, and I just stood there gaping in his direction with wide eyes. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t look at Tony so I don’t even know what he was doing. The father ran over to the little boy, scooped him up in his arms, and rushed him into the house before he could say another word. That was it. No explanations; no apologies. I never saw either of them up close again.

            The next morning we quickly removed all the Christmas decorations we’d put up and phoned a friend of ours who was a realtor. We listed the townhouse on Spruce Court that Monday morning and started packing that same afternoon. We had no idea it would be the adventure of a lifetime.


 

Chapter 1

We were happy. We were ready to put down roots. We were still at that point in our gay marriage where the world was filled with possibilities.

Of course, we weren’t allowed to legally marry in the 1990s because we were gay, but we lived the same as any other married straight couple, and we thought of ourselves as married in every sense of the word.

We sold the townhouse on Spruce Court fast and on the very day we moved, a massive oak tree came crashing down on the next-door neighbor’s minivan. This was the same neighbor who had the child who had referred to us with the anti-gay slur. The oak tree had been the only established tree on the cul-de-sac. The builders of the townhouse community had promised to preserve it. There were no storms that day. There was no wind. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the entire world seemed to have gone dead still. The tree hadn’t even been leaning to the side. It simply swayed back and forth a few times, and it fell directly in the center of the neighbor’s minivan.

As the moving truck pulled away from the curb, and we turned to follow it to our new home, we watched our neighbor come rushing out of his townhouse to see what had happened. He put one hand to his mouth and one to his stomach and just gaped at the crushed minivan. For a brief second, I made direct eye contact with him. Tony and I exchanged a quick glance and I shrugged and said, “My grandmother always said you can never trust a tree.”

Tony smiled. “Or a homophobic neighbor. Let’s roll.”

We bought a larger townhouse in the very gay-friendly town of New Hope, PA. We researched the area carefully and we were determined to never again be the only gay couple on the cul-de-sac. We felt safe in New Hope and we were surrounded by other gay people. At the time we didn’t realize it, but our real lives had just begun.

In the fall of that year, I traveled all the way up to unfamiliar Quakertown, PA and bought a red miniature poodle puppy from a small mom and pop breeder. The puppy was only 8 weeks old and I drove all the way back to New Hope with him on my lap. When I pulled into the driveway, I set the puppy down in the kitchen and called upstairs to Tony. When he wasn’t traveling he was upstairs working in the home office. I told him to come down to the kitchen because I had something to show him. I held my breath and waited for him to come down.

He took one look at the puppy and I exhaled. I don’t think I’d ever seen him that happy. He not only smiled so wide I could see his gums, he picked that puppy up and wouldn’t put him down for the next 3 days. He carried him around under his arm everywhere. For the next two weeks we couldn’t figure out what to name him, so we just called him “doggie.” We finally decided on the name Kipper and he responded well to it. The only one who wasn’t happy was our poor cat, Nittany. She would just glare at him, howl, and swipe at him with her front paw. He would walk around the house, from one room to another, and she would jump out from behind a chair or table and bat him in the head. Unfortunately, she never did learn to embrace Kipper, but she did learn to live with him.   

We had a social life with good friends we saw often, we entertained, and we lived our best lives to the fullest in every aspect. We had one Christmas party in that townhouse with over 60 people, and dinner parties for over a dozen that went on until 3 or 4 in the morning.

It wasn’t all smiles and laughs. During our first year there I lost my grandmother to old age and dementia, and a year later Tony’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he lost her in the spring of 2002. It was a rough time for Tony because I couldn’t be there to support him fully like other married couples. You see, even though we were out of the closet for the most part in New Hope, we weren’t out of the closet with our families. Tony certainly wasn’t out of the closet in corporate America. Those were the days of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for gay couples.

When Tony’s mom died we were already together 10 years as a couple and our families didn’t know a thing about us being gay. I’m sure they guessed things, but we never formally came out of the closet to either of our families and I never had a chance to meet Tony’s mom. The sad fact that I never met her would be one of the biggest regrets of my life. And after she passed away I vowed that I would not make that mistake with my own family.

So a few weeks after Tony’s mom was laid to rest, I invited my mom and dad to our townhome for dinner one Friday night. They drove up to New Hope from New Jersey, about an hour away, and I don’t really know what they thought. I never asked. They knew I lived with Tony, as if we were roommates. But they’d never walked through our front door and seen where we lived, or how we lived.

On the night my mom and dad came to dinner at the townhouse, Tony and I greeted them at the front door and welcomed them with hugs and kisses. My mom wore a light apple green dress and she brought a marble cake in a red and white Tupperware container, plus a Baby George Grill as a housewarming gift. I have other straight siblings and she never went to their homes without bringing a housewarming gift and she clearly wasn’t going to come to mine without one. All this normalcy made me feel validated and I couldn’t stop smiling.

We had drinks and snacks in the living room before dinner on our brand new white Chippendale sofa, we sat down at around 8 o’clock for dinner, and by 11 o’clock they were on their way home again. The evening had been a huge success, with no questions asked, and my mom and dad fell in love with Tony. It was the beginning of his relationship with my family that would last for many years to come.

We should have been satisfied with so many wonderful blessings, but we had to push our luck just one more time.

On a quiet evening in July of 2002, we were outside on the deck having dinner and I said, “I was reading about real estate prices in this area going up lately and I was thinking we might want to list this townhouse for sale just to see what happens. We could make a lot of money.”

Tony looked up from his food. “We’ve only been here a few years. I didn’t think we were going to move again for a while.”

I smiled and nodded. I didn’t think we’d move again for a while either. Just being outside and eating dinner on our beautiful deck, with birds singing and flowers blooming all around us,  was something we’d grown to love. We were an end unit townhome high up on a hill that backed up to woods. From our deck, we saw nothing but nature and in the distance we saw the little town of New Hope. When it was dark at night the twinkling lights made me sigh and sleep better. “I just think that if we have a chance to make money we should at least try and see what happens. Our goal has always been to eventually move to a single family home and this might be the right time to do that. I would hate to miss the opportunity.”

Tony thought for a moment, and shrugged. “Well, you call the realtor on Monday and let’s list the house. But we have to list if for a lot more money than we paid otherwise it’s not worth moving.”

“I agree,” I said. “I think we should ask for double what we paid for it a few years ago.”

Tony laughed. “Oh, we’ll never get that kind of money. That’s ridiculous.”

I wasn’t so sure, but I didn’t want to appear too confident. “Let’s do it and see what happens. The worst thing that can happen is the house doesn’t sell and we take it off the market. And we’re in no rush to move anyway. But I think we should try. The timing might be perfect.”

“I’m all for it,” Tony said. “I don’t see how it can hurt.”

So I called our realtor friend, Danny, once again who was the same realtor who’d helped us sell the other townhouse. When he came over a few nights later so we could sign the papers to list the house for sale I thought he would fall sideways laughing when he heard the price we wanted to put on the house. He just pressed his palm to his chest and gaped at us. Of course, we didn’t listen to him when he said it was too much to ask, and we set a price that made us feel comfortable.

By the end of August we’d had a few showings but no serious buyers so we packed up our SUV and went off to Provincetown, MA just as we’d been doing during the week following Labor Day for 10 years. It was one of those perfect weather weeks on the Cape. Blue skies, warm dry air, warm ocean, and all sunshine. In the middle of the week, we received a phone call from our realtor in New Hope. He’d left a message for us at the front desk of the bed and breakfast where we always stayed because cell phones still weren’t that dependable yet, especially that far out on the Cape.

We’d just returned from the beach, covered in sand, dry and thirsty, and ready for two good showers.  I headed off to our room and Tony went to the main lobby to call our realtor. About 15 minutes later, Tony walked into our room, stared at me for a moment, and smiled. “We just got a full-price offer on the townhouse.”

I blinked. “Full price?”

He nodded. “A full-price cash offer and they want a 30-day settlement.”

 “What should we do?” The last time we did this we didn’t really like where we were living and we couldn’t wait to leave. This time, however, we were leaving a home that we truly cared about.

            Tony laughed. “Are you kidding? What should we do? We take the money and run.”

            “Okay,” I said. “I agree. Let’s do this. The only problem is there isn’t much out there for sale right now in New Hope. And that’s a deal-breaker for me. I want to be in New Hope. I don’t ever want to go back to living in a homophobic community. I want to be around other gay people.”

            “I’m sure we can find something,” Tony said. “And if we can’t we’ll rent something until we can find a house we like enough to buy.”

            I nodded, but I sent him a look. “As long as we stay in New Hope I’m fine with that.” I was not about to go back to living in a straight townhouse community where they would refer to us with anti-gay slurs just for putting up Christmas decorations.

 

 


 

Chapter 2

            Our buyers for the townhouse had sold their home and they had been renting temporarily. They were moving up to New Hope from McLean, Virginia. They needed a home in less than 30 days, and so did we. In their case, it was even more serious because the house in Virginia they’d been renting had been hit by lightning and they were living out of an RV. They were eager to get into their new home.

So in between packing and our regular work schedules, Tony and I went house hunting with our realtor and we discovered there wasn’t much inventory out there for sale. Everything that was for sale was highly over-priced and needed to be totally renovated. But more than that, nothing felt like home.           

One afternoon I said to Tony, “It’s been two weeks of house hunting and we still haven’t found anything.”

“I know,” he said. “We’ve been through old stone cottages, mid-century modern ranches, and even a few cookie-cutter gems and nothing seems right.”

“We’re going to wind up homeless if we don’t find a place soon,” I said.

             A few days later, on my way home from work I started to make the turn into the main drive of our townhouse development and I spotted a “For Rent” sign on the old building across the road. The very next day Tony and I met the owner of the building and did a walk-through. We couldn’t stop smiling. A few days after we handed our new landlord a check for the new house we were going to rent for a year, I got a call from our realtor that I hadn’t expected. “I have this house I want you to see,” he said. “It was just listed and you’ll be the first people to see it. The original owners who built it still live there and it’s the first time it’s been listed since 1971.”

            “But Dan, we just put down money on a rental property that’s almost directly across the road. We signed a one-year lease and we really like this place. I don’t see any point in looking at another house.”

            “You have to see this house. It literally just came on the market and I think you’re going to like it. And the price is perfect. It’s in your range, and I think it’s underpriced. It’s an elderly couple and they’ve been there for 30 years. They’ve been planning to move to an assisted living facility but they’ve been putting it off for 5 years. The wife is 86 years old and the husband is 92 years old. Their kids are constantly worried about them and they really want them to move to assisted living.”

            I hesitated. I really liked this house we were planning to rent. I’d been visualizing how I would live there ever since I’d seen it. “Oh, Dan, I don’t know.”

            “Just look at it,” he said. “That’s all. If you don’t like it’s no big deal. But I really do think you should look as an investment for your future. It’s a good opportunity to own a single-family home on 2 acres of property at a very fair price. It’s surrounded by million-dollar homes that are on 10 acres or more. These places don’t come up often.”

            After I hung up the phone with Dan, I called Tony. He’d been traveling all week on business and he wasn’t due home until the next day. When I told him that Dan wanted us to look at a house his reaction was the same as mine. “Just tell him we already have money down on a rental, we made all the plans, and it’s all settled. We not interested.”

            “I did tell him that,” I said. “But he insisted. He’s a friend and I couldn’t say no. So I made an appointment for the day after tomorrow at 5 o’clock. He said he would meet us there with the sellers’ realtor, a woman named Anita. They work out of the same office.”

           A few days later, we met Dan in the gravel driveway of a heavily wooded property that looked as if it had been perfectly maintained by the most seasoned gardeners. At the time, I wasn’t an expert myself, but as I glanced around quickly I noticed long expansive sections of pachysandra that I figured must have taken years to cultivate. I didn’t see much grass, but I saw English Ivy, Vinca, and a vine that I’d seen referred to as Virginia Creeper. Nothing was pruned to perfection and there were no trees with rounds of mulch like in the townhouse development where we lived, but the well-established landscaping was not an accident and it seemed as though everything had a reason.

            I hugged Dan and looked up at the trees. “I’ve never seen so many beautiful trees. I like them.”

            Dan smiled. “Mostly ash trees. The owners are minimalists and they have a passion for trees. They actually built the garage and the house around trees that have been here for hundreds of years. You’ll see what I mean as we walk the property.”

            The moment I said I liked the trees, Tony sent me a serious look. I knew all too well what that look meant. We once went car shopping and we went out with a salesperson to test drive a Lexus. I’d never driven a Lexus before and the moment I sat down behind the wheel I fell in love with it. Tony had warned me about showing any emotions at all while car shopping. He didn’t want the salesperson to know how much I loved the car. He didn’t want the realtors to know how I felt about this house either. He sent me that serious look because he wanted me to remain totally silent and objective. So I looked back at him and nodded. I loved everything I was seeing so much I was ready to run around the property and start hugging trees, but I remained silent.  

            Tony glanced around and asked, “Is this still considered New Hope? It’s on the outskirts of town.”

            Dan nodded. “Yes, this is still considered New Hope, and that’s the official address now, but at one time it was the little hamlet of Glendale.” He turned and pointed to the property next door. “That little old house there was once the Glendale Post Office. Now the owner of the property owns an internationally known custom lighting business. Clients come from Paris to buy her designs.”

            As I said, “Interesting,” another car pulled into the gravel driveway and stopped short. A tall woman with a medium-sized frame in her mid-sixties climbed out and walked to the back where she opened the trunk. She quickly pulled out a pair of ugly, thick-soled walking shoes and removed her more formal black leather flats. She put on the walking shoes, straightened out her size 16 dress, and walked over to shake our hands. Her name was Anita, she was the sellers’ agent, and she spoke with a thick German accent. I found her amusing, especially because she’d come so well-prepared for the gravel driveway with those awful sensible shoes.

            As she crossed to greet us, a large gray mouse darted out into the gravel path and ran across her large foot. It actually touched her skin at the base of her ankle and she dropped her purse. She placed one palm on her chest and the other on her mouth and she screamed so loud the mouse disappeared into the pachysandra. I didn’t know mice could run that fast. I glanced in the opposite direction so she wouldn’t see me smile.

            When the mouse was gone, she took a deep breath and continued walking toward us. She shook our hands and explained that the two-car garage in front of us was oversized and there was a legal studio apartment above the garage. Apparently, the sellers had built the garage with the apartment for the husband’s mother and she’d come to live with them for a few short years before she passed away. After she passed away, they decided to rent the apartment out to a man named Walter. When he’d moved in, Walter had been in his early sixties, which had been 20 years earlier. He was now in his 80s and he’d been living there for over 25 years.

            I was stunned. Other than my own parents, I didn’t know anyone who’d ever lived anywhere for over 20 years. “So it’s a legal apartment?”

            Dan and Anita nodded. “Yes, I checked with the township,” Dan said. “It’s legal.”

            Tony asked, “Would Walter be willing to stay on as a tenant?” He glanced at me. “The extra money coming in every month couldn’t hurt and he has been here for a long time.”

            My eyebrows went up and I just nodded in agreement. I was surprised that Tony had even considered this. We were only supposed to be there looking, not seriously thinking about moving there.

            Anita frowned and said, “I’m afraid that Walter will be moving when the house sells. He’s moving to an assisted to be near his family. He claims he just couldn’t stay here without Mr. and Mrs. Sutton around anymore.”

            I smiled. “I understand completely.”

            “It’s for the best anyway,” Dan said. “Walter is only paying $200 a month, which is what he paid 25 years ago. They never raised his rent in all these years.”

            I smiled again. “They must be good people.”

            “Well you’re about to find out,” Anita said. She turned right and started toward a long gravel path that led uphill toward the main house. There appeared to be two front entrances: one on the left and one on the right. The one on the right had a more formal front door. “The owners are expecting us. But I have to warn you ahead of time. This is a very hard move for them. They built this house, they’ve lived her for over 30 years, and they really don’t want to leave. It’s just that it’s become too much for them to handle. So please be careful what you say. We don’t want to offend them. They could change their minds at any moment.”

            I stopped short and I looked her right in the eye. I didn’t like her tone. “Well of course I wouldn’t say anything insulting that might offend them. Do I look like an idiot? If they love their home so much and they have to leave against their wishes my heart is breaking for them. I can’t even imagine how terrible that must be. Losing your home is one of the worst things in life. I’m going to just say as little as possible and let them do all the talking.”

            Anita didn’t reply to me. She just turned and kept walking up toward the house. On the way up the gray gravel walk to the front door, I noticed that the design of the house was markedly different from the garage we’d seen up close down in the driveway. The garage had been a two-car and two-door affair with a second floor that had a large picture window overlooking the farm across the road. It was barn-shaped, in that Dutch colonial way that I’d never really loved much. On the other hand, the main house was more modern and contemporary with a ski lodge type of appeal. It had vertical wooden siding, too. The middle section of the house was a variation of an A-frame with two-story walls of glass and a sharp peak. On either side of the A-frame I noticed two different wings that were also two stories tall. And the house was set on a slight angle facing the road.

            When I asked Dan why the house seemed so different from the garage he told me the house had been designed by a famous architect form New England and the garage had been built a year later by a local contractor. According to Dan, the design of the house and the architect were extremely well known. Not as well-known as Frank Lloyd Wright, but almost as well known. He mentioned the architect’s name and we moved on to the next topic.

            The one thing I didn’t love was the colors I was seeing. Both the garage building and the main house had been stained in that very dark brown that had been so popular on the 1970s when the house had been built. The trim was even darker brown paint. Thirty years later it looked tired and I had a feeling that the inside of the house wasn’t going to get much better. As we headed toward the front door I imagined pink tiled bathrooms, imitation wood paneling, vinyl-covered floors, and that awful green scalloped wall to wall carpeting all over the place. We had just finished removing green shag carpeting in the townhouse and I wasn’t looking forward to doing that all over again.

            While Anita rang the doorbell and Tony and Dan talked about the cedar shake roof, I glanced around and saw even more trees. It was late summer and everything was still in bloom and everywhere I looked I saw green leaves. When I looked up, I didn’t even see sky. Although I’d never been proficient in naming tree species, I did notice that most of the trees on this property were ash, oak, or maple. And some were so tall they soared hundreds of feet upward.  They towered over us and the house. The front of the property up near the road was a more overgrown woodland area, with more ivy and pachysandra, and some well-positioned bamboo. The rest was overgrown on purpose, clearly to keep the house hidden from view on the road. There were cars passing but they couldn’t see us and I liked that aspect. I could have been walking around naked and no one would have known.

            For a minute or two, we waited in silence for the owners to come to the door. After listening to Anita talk about how difficult this move was for them I had no idea what to expect so I decided to say as little as possible. I didn’t want to insult them or hurt their feelings. And I certainly didn’t want to push them out of the home they’d been living in for the last 30 years.

            As the door slowly opened, I noticed a small woman with white hair and a friendly face greet Anita, “There you are. We’ve been waiting for you.”

            It was obvious they weren’t familiar with the usual protocol for showing a house. Either that, or they didn’t care. We’d sold two townhomes in the last 3 years and we knew that one of the worst things for a seller to do is be there when a potential buyer shows up. In fact, the more distance between the buyer and seller the better. I had lost track of how many showings we’d had with the townhouse, but I never met one single person who walked through. However, these people were old school and they were not going to allow strangers to walk through their home alone, and they were not going to miss a thing.

            The woman with white hair stepped to the side and gestured for us to enter. As all four of us pass through the doorway the woman was introduced to us as Mrs. Sutton. We shook hands and Anita told Mrs. Sutton our names. We stepped into a large open foyer with a bluestone floor, a wall of glass next to the front door, and oversized sliding glass doors on the other side facing the back of the property. There was a small courtyard in the back off the sliding glass doors with a small garden that consisted of mature azalea bushes, more pachysandra, and massive rocks that were clearly native to the area. I noticed another mouse cross from one side of the walk to the other.

            I was the last one to shake Mrs. Sutton’s hand and the others were already heading into the next room. I read something in her eyes that the rest of them had missed. It wasn’t anger or sadness, or even something I could pinpoint exactly. It wasn’t even confusion. It was more like anticipation, and wonderment. It was as if she didn’t know what to expect and she was going through all the motions to be polite.

            Before I followed the others I leaned down quickly and asked her a question. “Thank you for letting us see your home. But I have to ask you a question. Where are you going to go if you sell the house?” I couldn’t imagine anyone forcing this sweet little woman out of the home she’d lived in for 30 years. No one should be forced to move at that point in life. It just seemed too cruel to make someone that age do something so drastic.

            Well, Mrs. Sutton didn’t even blink. She covered her mouth with her hand and laughed so hard I thought she might tip sideways. “We know exactly where we’re going. We’ve had this assisted living apartment for over 5 years now. We bought it with the intention of moving 5 years ago, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave Street Road. This has been a wonderful home to us. It’s a very lucky house.”

            At that moment, I glanced down at the wonderful big square and rectangular bluestone blocks in the hallway, and I glanced at the photo of a family member hanging near the front door and I understood completely. This was, indeed, her home and she loved it dearly. I had a feeling we were going to be good friends.











The Straight Pride Parade
The Straight Pride Parade

 Don’t Be Afraid of Virginia’s Woolf

Image

Once Upon a Castle by Ryan Field

A Different Kind of Southern Love Story

What readers are saying about “Uncertainty”

Amazon

“A wonderful story that I loved. The characters were well developed, and strong. Gus: A sweet young man. Doing something for all the wrong reasons. Craig: his boyfriend, he’ll go along with anything Gus say. Henry: Gus father a no nonsense man, who’s husband died last year. I enjoyed this story.”

Uncertainty by [Field, Ryan]

What readers said about “Altered Parts”
“Best Gay Novel In Years. This story will stay with you and you will feel you know every character and the beauty of their home in the mountains of North Carolina.”
In paperback or e-book. #gayromance #Wednesday

Altered Parts

Altered Parts by [Field, Ryan]

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