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Fic: A Long Road Ahead (1/2)

neal caffery getting dressed, suit up
I know, I'm surprised too. Turns out that despite horrible, horrible writing and lots and lots of -isms, the characters can still hook you in and keep you there even as you yell at your TV about how much you hate Mr. Shue.

Although this might be one of the most depressing fics I've ever written. So be warned.

The Long Road Ahead
Fandom: Glee
Pairing: Blaine + his family, Blaine/Kurt
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Realistic depictions of racism and abusive relationships.

Summary: The story of Blaine’s mother and why Blaine doesn’t call himself Pinoy.

Notes: This story started when Darren Criss talked about being hapa and Pinoy. I knew that Glee would probably not let Blaine be either, but the thought of Blaine’s mother stayed with me. Why would Blaine not think of himself as Pinoy? What would his home be like, if he had a Filipina mother who wasn’t allowed to be Filipina? What would her story be? This grew out of that, and out of thoughts on colonialism, imperialism, racism, and abuse in interracial and intercultural relationships.

You may notice that there are no historical landmarks to date this story -- i.e., I don’t discuss Mount Pinatubo erupting. I did this because as a non-Filipino, I was drawing on research of the Philippines I’d done, but I could not know what it was like to live that culture or that moment. Additionally, I was drawing on my own experiences and observations for the bulk of this fic, and while I thought I could do justice to the experiences of a first generation immigrant married to a white man raising a biracial, white-looking queer child, I did not think I could do justice to the experience of Filipinos when Mt. Pinatubo erupted. Because I didn’t think I could do it right, I decided not to co-opt the narrative at all.

Finally, the title of this fic comes from an essay in the book Pinay Power: Peminist Critical Theory, a book that was invaluable in understanding the experiences of Pinay women. It seemed fitting because both immigrants and victims of abuse always have a long road ahead of them. If anyone would like a full list of the books I read to write this, drop me a line.

The Long Road Ahead

~~~


You stand and stand and eventually, turn and leave.

~~~

It is the third time you have been here tonight. You raise your hand to knock at the door. Stop. Lower your hand. Raise your hand again. Lower it. Walk away.

You have been hiding too long to risk everything now.

~~~

You never imagined how hard it would be, being married to a white man. When you first met Terrance, he was charming, funny, kind. The kind of man you had never thought you were going to meet. Now -- you’re not sure of anything any more.


But you haven’t been sure of anything for such a long time, it’s almost like normal now.

~~~

When you are 7 months pregnant with Blaine, you and Terrance have your first real fight. You want to name him Dominic, because it was your grandfather’s name, the one who helped you pay for college in the States. He has always wanted a boy named Blaine -- he even told you so on your forth date. You argue logically, keeping your voice even and stomping roughly on your over-dramatic emotions. Terrance hates when you get hysterical. But for every argument you have, he has a counter-argument. Finally it is too much, and you begin to cry.

Terrance pats you gently on the back. “You’re tired. This is putting too much strain on you. I’m sure you’ll see it my way in the morning.”

~~~

Your courtship was like a fairy tale. It doesn’t even sound real. Terrance loves to tell the story -- how he came in early for his economics class at the University of Ohio one day and literally ran into this beautiful undergraduate who had the most charming accent.

You don’t have an accent any more. Sometimes you say words wrong, but Terrance always corrects you. It’s good. It’s good to speak English correctly.

~~~

When Blaine is three, you take him back home to Manila to spend a summer with your parents. Terrance doesn’t come -- he has work, and besides, he doesn’t like travelling anyways. Being home is like a dream -- you missed the noise and the bustle of the city. You even missed the traffic and the crowds cannot dampen your spirits. It seems like everything is just as you left it. You wander around the streets you grew up and and eat isaw and lumpia and fish balls and dirty ice cream until your stomach nearly bursts. They don’t have any of these things in Ohio. Your mother makes you take an umbrella to keep your skin fair and chides you when you come back, umbrella unopened and skin already bronze, but you have missed the strong sun too much to care.

Your mother calls you Marimari and you’re surprised that the childhood nickname brings tears to your eyes. Terrance doesn’t like that nickname. He doesn’t even like your given name -- he calls you Mary, not Maria. Mary is a lovely name, but it’s not yours. But it makes Terrance so happy.

Your parents are proud of you and your job and your white husband and your impending citizenship. Your mother tells all the neighborhood about her daughter who lives in Ohio and married the nicest man, who has a lovely house as big as the whole complex and drives two European cars.

Blaine discovers a love of cebu mangos and papayas and crispy pata. It takes some persuading, but your mother convinces him to try sinangag for breakfast and now he asks for it every morning. Your father swears that he’ll be eating like a proper Filipino by the time he leaves. “He’ll love it,” he tells you. “
Nasa dugo niya.”*

It is a summer that you will remember fondly for a very long time -- sun and beaches and good food, and most importantly your family. Everyone is charmed by Blaine, with his three year-old precociousness and his curls. For once, caring for him is not so draining, because there is always a mother or uncle or aunt there to smile at him, to distract him with new toys or tell you that you should take a nap and leave “Nonoy with us.”

By the time you leave, Blaine is eating tosilog for breakfast and begging for his grandmother to make adobo in halting, accented Taglish. He is dark from a summer spent running around with neighborhood boys and his cousins, and can’t wait to go back home and tell his friends all the cool things he did.

Terrance meets you and Blaine at the airport with flowers and a new toy for Blaine. He tells you how much he missed you and listens to all of Blaine’s stories. “Did you eat any good dog?” he asks, tweaking Blaine’s nose playfully. “Woof woof!”

You are hurt, although you don’t know why. It was only a joke.

~~~

Blaine loves to sing. When his little sister is born, he sings nursery rhymes all the time. Her name is Anna, which makes you and Terrance both happy.

It is too difficult to continue working and take care of two children. You will go back to work when Blaine and Anna are both in school.

~~~

Your sister Lucia comes down from California to visit you for Anna’s second Christmas. Blaine is six.

“It is too lonely here,” she tells you. “How many Pinoys live here? Five? Six? Terrance should transfer to California. Blaine and Anna should grow up in their culture.”

Lucia has not liked Terrance since he snapped at you during the rehearsal dinner for your wedding. They have bristled at each other through the entire visit, with you and Blaine keeping the peace. It is a big sister’s prerogative, you think, to worry. But she keeps reminding you of all of the things you are missing, so far from everyone, so after she leaves, you bring up the possibility with Terrance.

“This is so like you!” When Terrance gets angry it is like a volcano. You are never sure of your footing. You should have known this was a bad idea. “Do you have any idea how hard I work to make sure that we can live a good life? How many hours I put in while you laze around at home? And now you want me to uproot our entire life -- give up my career, of any chance of promotion, just so that you can take the kids to eat -- pickled fish and who knows what else?”

Timidly, you offer that you can go back to work -- you never intended to stop working altogether, just until the kids were old enough. Blaine is starting first grade next year, and Anna will go to preschool the year after. Terrance doesn’t need to support you on his own.

“That’s not the point! The point is that you’re being selfish, Mary!” Terrance is shouting, and you don’t know what to do. “I can’t take this.” He walks out of the room and a few minutes later you hear the car starting.

You are crying on the couch when Blaine comes and sits on your lap. “I love you, mama,” he says, clinging to your arm like a limpit. “Why doesn’t daddy want to move near Aunt Lucia’s?”

You forget sometimes how perceptive Blaine is, how much he understands. “Don’t worry, nonoy,” you say finally, reverting back to your private nickname for him. “It’s just a silly fight. Daddy will be back soon because he loves us.”

Blaine considers this with six year old gravitas and nods. He gets up carefully and makes his way to the kitchen on slippered feet. Before you know it, he is coming back with two mugs of warm milk and the bottle of vanilla you keep in the pantry. “Milk helps you calm down,” he says, repeating back to you what you have told him so many times on nights he can’t sleep. “But you have to put in the vanilla, I always put too much.”

Your baby is only six years old and he is already thinking of other people.

“Be happy, mommy,” he says, holding your hand like a lifeline.

You and he sit on the couch together, drinking your milk, until Blaine falls asleep on your lap, unable to stay up any longer. You stay up much later, staring out the window, looking for headlights and wondering what is going to happen now.

Terrance comes back, and you don’t move to California after all.

~~~

When Blaine is seven, he comes home and tells you that he doesn’t want any weird stuff in his lunchbox any more. The adobo and rice that he used to love now “tastes weird, mom. Can’t I have lunchables instead?”

Terrance backs him up. “He should eat normal food like the rest of the kids. We don’t want him getting picked on.”

When you try to talk to him in Tagalog, he sticks his fingers in his ears and sings. It is the first time since you married Terrance you have felt really alone.

~~~

It is much harder for a mother of two to get a job than a woman fresh out of graduate school. You look and look but everywhere turns you down. Terence comforts you when you cry. “You’ll find something.” His hands make soothing circles on your back. “I’m making more than enough to support us right now. There’s no rush.”

You never do end up going back to work.

~~~

Anna is six and Blaine is ten when Anna starts getting picked on for the shape of her eyes. She looks like your daughter, while Blaine looks so much like Terrance that you get asked if you’re his nanny when you two go to the grocery store.

Anna doesn’t have the same natural charm as Blaine. Blaine is funny and outgoing, talkative and animated, but Anna is shy. She is used to her brother taking the spotlight -- she doesn’t talk much and she hates being around lots of people. She is happiest on her own, exploring the backyard or practising her counting. You know she does not have as many friends as Blaine does, but you hope that the other kids will come to appreciate her quiet and her funny sense of humor as much as you do.

You don’t know how bad it is until the principal calls you one afternoon to tell you your son has been in a fight.

When you get to school, Blaine is sitting on the bench of the nurse’s office with a bloody nose and a mutinous expression. “It’s not fair,” he tells you. “I had to, mom. I had to. They were making her cry. It wasn’t right.”

It seems, the principal tells you, that some of the other first graders have been picking on Anna during recess. “She’s not like her brother.” The principal is a young man, younger than you are. He is new to the school, freshly graduated with new ideas on how children should be taught. He doesn’t punish the other kids. Instead, he says that the answer should be “education. Kids pick up what they hear, and in order to change their minds, we need to educate them. I think we should do a day on tolerance and multiculturalism, to prevent things like this happening again. Would you talk to your daughter’s class about her upbringing?”

My daughter’s upbringing is just like everyone else in her class, you want to snap. Instead, you take a breath and tell the principal that you’ll think about it.

Terrance is furious at Blaine for getting in a fight. “Gentlemen don’t get in fights,” he tells your son, his voice cold. “I thought I was raising a gentleman, but obviously I was wrong. A gentleman would go to a teacher with his problems, like the rules say.”

Blaine’s lower lip wobbles, but all he says is, “yes, dad. I won’t do it again.”

You are proud of your son for standing up for his sister, but you don’t know how to say it. “Listen to your father,” you say instead.

~~~

You always mean to take Anna and Blaine back to Manila, but somehow it just never happens.

~~~

You’re on the way home from picking Blaine up from soccer one day when he says “Mom I think I’m gay” in a voice so low you almost don’t hear him. You look up, startled, and see so much fear in his eyes that all the words die in your throat.

“Are you sure?” The words come out before you can stop them. He’s only twelve. Surely that’s too soon to know.

“I think so. I don’t know.” A car behind you honks and you realize the light has been green for a while now. Blaine isn’t looking at you any more, staring down at his cleats. “I’m sorry.”

You pull into a parking lot and hug him as hard as you can. “It’s okay. Nonoy, no apologies. Oh, baby, it’s okay.” You both cry, there in the parking lot off the main road. You feel shaken, down to the core. All the plans you had for your son -- that he would grow up, meet a nice girl -- maybe even (if you’re being completely honest with yourself) a Filipina, settle down close by, have a family, be happy -- they all are going up in smoke before your eyes.

~~~

You try to be as supportive as you can, checking out books and magazines to drown out the voice inside that repeats the preacher’s phrases you grew up with, the taunts you heard on the streets, the careless, cruel jokes your family used to make. You want to believe that it’s different here -- Terrance is always talking about how much more civilized the United States is -- but you still hear those whispers when a boy with pink nails tries to buy a copy of Cosmo in front of you.

You want to protect your son, but you don’t know how.

~~~

It’s Terrance who gets the call from the principal, this time, Terrance who calls to say that there’s been some sort of trouble at Blaine’s school and could you go see what it is, honey, I have to finish this years projection report by five and I just don’t have time for this. You put on your coat and drive, knowing in your gut that something is very wrong, that Blaine has not been to see the principal since his father told him gentlemen don’t get in fights, since he started solving his problems with words and getting fed up with Anna for not being able to do the same.

Blaine is once again sitting on the chair to the principal’s office, but this time he doesn’t look angry and mutinous, he looks scared, and when you sit down beside him you can see that he’s trembling.

The principal is sympathetic but says his hands are tied. “Boys will be boys,” he tells her, speaking like Blaine is not in the room, like he is invisible. “Maybe if your son was a little less...delicate.” It is a nice word, but you both know it is not the one he means, and you remember the way your uncle’s mouth used to turn up when you brought the neighbor’s boy over to play with your dolls.

There are many things you would have said, once, but your tongue has gone numb with disuse and you tell him that you appreciate his time and you’ll be on your way.

For the first time you can remember, Blaine looks at you with weary, jaded eyes and you know things are going wrong but you don’t know how to fix them. You have spent too long learning to be silent to speak now.

~~~

The boy you watched dance and sing in your parents’ flat, curls flying everywhere, eyes bright and smile gleaming, is disappearing more every day. He rarely tells you about school any more, and when you press, he just sighs and says “Mom,” and you fall silent because that’s all you know how to do any more.

It is only when he comes home with a word scrawled across his backpack that he tries to hide that you know that it’s time to do something. It’s past time to do something, because Blaine just looks away and says “it’s no big deal mom, it’ll come out with water. I’ll wash it myself.” As if it’s the backpack that’s the important thing.

You don’t know what else to do so you call Lucia that night from the study, even though you haven’t talked to her for four years, since your fight about Terrance. There is too much still floating in the air between you, too much said and unsaid, but Lucia is your big sister and you need her advice more than ever.

“Oh, Maria,” she says, and you know that if she were there, she would let you rest your head on her breast, the same way you did when you were small and she was the person who would solve all your problems. “Marimari, you have to do something.”

The words come out before you can even think about them. “Terence won’t --”

“Fuck Terrance!” Your sister goes from sympathetic to angry in a heartbeat. “I don’t care about Terrance! I know you never liked to make your own decisions, Maria Teresa, but enough is enough. This is your son! 
Mahiya ka nga!

You are ashamed of yourself, and that shame is what propels you, what makes you get on the computer and search for answers you don’t have, to go to the guidance councilor at school -- her surname is Li and she smiles like she knows what your son is going through all too well -- and get paperwork and brochures and forms to present to Terrence that night.

Blaine looks at you in shock when you bring up Dalton over dinner (steak and potatoes, Terrence’s favorite) -- like he had long since given up on any help from you. You recite all your arguments calmly, just the way you practiced in the mirror, and you’re terrified of the fight that’s coming but you have to do this for Blaine. When Terrence agrees your knees feel weak with relief. You email Lucia to tell her the good news and try to pretend like the other thing she said to you isn’t burning a hole in your head.

“Leave, Marimari. I don’t know who you are any more. Why are you staying with a man who doesn’t even call you by your name? Come to California. I can help you get a job, and Blaine and Anna can go to school here -- the schools are used to kids like Blaine and there are lots of other Pinoys around. Why are you still in Ohio? Just...think about it, okay?”


You can’t leave. How could you possibly get a job on your own? What about Anna’s friends? How can you uproot your children from the only home they’ve ever known? It’s selfish to even think about it.

~~~

Dalton is magnificent. It’s only an hour away from the small stores and suburbs where they live, and yet it seems like another world -- stately buildings with fountains and marble staircases. The guidance councillor tells them all about Dalton’s zero tolerance policy, the support groups and clubs and excellent academics, and Terrance talks to her easily. This is his world, not yours and you know it when another parent tells you how well you speak English. Terrance doesn’t notice but Anna goes stiff beside you and you know that people are already telling her the same thing.

You wish you had answers for her. Instead you put your hand on her arm and take her to see the dorm where Blaine will be living during the week.

~~~

Things are easier now that Blaine is at Dalton, and for the first time you see glimpses of your old son in telephone conversations, “Mom, I got an A on my exam and Mr. Rhinehurst said I was doing really well for someone who’d just come to Dalton this year!” “Mom there’s this acapella group called the Warblers, and they’re having auditions and I think I might give it a shot.” “Mom I need another uniform shirt because I tore mine playing soccer, but on the bright side I think they offered me a spot on the team!”

You laugh and cheer him on and hug him every time he comes home, even though every weekend he’s more like a stranger. He’s cut his hair short, and now he’s slicked it back so that those curls you loved so much are trapped under a layer of crusty hair gel. He’s taken to wearing his uniform everywhere, even at home, and you miss the Blaine who would tumble out of bed and throw on a wrinkled t shirt and a pair of shorts, even though Terrance nods approvingly every time he sees Blaine and gives him a box of ties for his birthday.

But you don’t have too much time to worry about this new, strange Blaine because it’s Anna’s turn to have a hard time.

~~~

Your children have always been very well behaved -- both Terrance’s insistence and your own, because children should know how to respect their elders -- so it is a shock when you start getting calls from Anna’s teachers saying that she is being disrespectful and rude. Anna would never act that way, except when you ask her about it she rolls her eyes and tells you the teacher is overreacting and goes back to playing who knows what on the computer in the back room.

Anna has always been so quiet that it’s shocking just to hear her raise her voice, and you wonder who this changeling is in front of you who yells and gets in arguments with her teachers and with Terrance and refuses to back down. It’s like she has bottled up so much that now she’s exploded, and her words scald anyone who gets in her way. She has no patience for anyone any more and you get more and more used to intervening in fights between Terrance and Anna, in sending Anna to her room and taking the blunt of Terrance’s anger because she’s a child, Terrance, she doesn’t know any better.

Compared to Anna, Blaine is an angel, and you don’t pry too much, although you learn that his best friends are two Warblers named Wes and David, and that he thought about joining the GSA but just didn’t have the time.

Part 2

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
fara1903
May. 31st, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)
I'm hooked! Can't wait to finish it!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )