Don’t ask â€” Jesse and Gage go to a small café around the corner from the gym. They both order fruit salads and look at Gage’s pictures. Jesse starts to flip through the pile, but they’re not the triple-X beefcake Jesse was hoping for.
The pictures are of Gage’s tour as a marine in Iraq. Jesse’s still slowly pondering a career trajectory from U.S. marine to Colt Studios star while Gage describes his time as a gay marine. He was on a board that investigated homosexual conduct but also had a boyfriend. He knew a man who earned a Purple Heart but was booted for being gay.
Jesse is clueless about gays in the military, because frankly, joining up is not something he’d ever want to do. Jesse’s not into anything unless it’s hedonistic or makes him look good. He can’t even take orders from Jackie.
My city was gone â€” Jackie and her friend Erin are on their way to visit Jackie’s mom in Jackie’s hometown, Fairborn, Ohio. Riding in a town car from the airport, they watch the strip malls, crooked telephone poles and clapboard houses roll past them under an overcast winter sky.
Ohio: home of markswoman Annie Oakley, feminist Gloria Steinem, actress Dorothy Dandridge, musician Chrissie Hynde, writer Toni Morrison and, er, Jackie Warner.
Jackie: This time, I’m actually here to get some work done â€” some emotional work done with her. Usually, I come simply out of obligation over a holiday. And you know, something comes over an adult when they go to their hometown.
Erin: Well, you probably feel nostalgic and then get kinda sad.
Jackie: It’s not nostalgic. You know what happens? You revert right back to childhood. When you’re surrounded with â€¦ especially in a tiny town like this, I’m surrounded by ghosts.
They drive down the main street, past stores called Yankee Peddler, The Daisy Barrel (thousands of cross-stitch books to choose from!) and something that might have been a little bakery. Middle America. There are no nostril-waxing salons here.
You can go home again, as long as you don’t sleep over â€” It’s dusk when they pull up to Jackie’s childhood home. It’s a simple two-story house on a quiet street with a yellowing patch of lawn. The front porch is bathed in an inviting, warm glow. Jackie looks pale.
Karen, Jackie’s mom, opens the door, and Jackie and Erin take a few steps inside. The awkward shifting around and nervous laughter in the front hallway is broken when Erin introduces herself to Jackie’s stepfather who, until this minute, I didn’t know existed. The three women sit around the kitchen table while Mr. Invisible putters around as far out of camera range as he can get.
Jackie tells Erin about her idyllic girlhood days: riding bikes all summer long, going for ice cream at an actual ice cream parlor, feeling safe â€” and wasn’t it all so quaint? Erin offers yes, and then you turn 17, and then what? Karen looks insulted for a fleeting moment.
The inevitable baby pictures â€” A trip home with a friend in tow wouldn’t be complete without mom whipping out your baby pictures, now would it?
Karen: There’s nothing like having a daughter. And your daughter can be your best friend, and also just one of the loves of your life. Just in the past few years, for some reason, things began to deteriorate â€¦ I’m somebody that has a child who’s gay â€” who loves their child very much but just is really struggling with dealing with it.
Erin holds a black-and-white photo of teen Jackie standing with a bunch of other girls. She looks like Kristy McNichol, which Erin points out right away. Jackie’s hair is poofy and funny, and I think she’s wearing a string of pearls. Mortifying.