My grief into story-telling…
I came out of the closet at 16 years old.
At 33, when anyone’s suspicions are confirmed about me, I am used to their disingenuous reactions. “Oh, how hard that must have been,” or “I have this cousin..” But, in truth – it wasn’t hard at all. I had a great childhood which segued into great teen years.
Sure, I had my awkward period. Everyone does. When I was in the 3rd grade we had our chance at joining the band. My Dad, despite being a single father raising two sons, took me to that after-school event.
If he was disappointed that the only instrument his 8 year-old son could get a sound out of was the flute, he didn’t show it. He signed the contract with the local music shop and made payments on that flute for years. Then, he was at every meaningful music event of mine for the next 10 years.
I went from junior high into high school having no really great friends that I can remember. My freshman year was terrible. I was in marching band, but I was awkward. I was the boy who played the flute.
The next year, I had a senior position in the marching band that exposed me to a lot more upperclassmen than kids my age. One, in particular, Jen, took me under her wing. She brought me to my first coffee shop. I still remember her warning to not freak out if I got hit on by a guy. Apparently over the summer, I had come into myself. And really, Jen, if you’re reading this – I owe my sexual springtime to you.
I flirted and was flirted with over peach Italian sodas.
The following year, “X”, came out to her parents as a lesbian. The next day she was homeless. Until we graduated, she lived with a friend of ours and their parents.
I don’t know if this is exactly how it went, but I’m sure it’s close. My Dad re-married and my step-mom raised me like her own, with my father. In my head at the time, she was the softer target. I went and told her about X. Her response was something like, “Well we would never kick our son.. er, I mean child out if he.. ah, I mean they were gay. Would we honey?!” she calls to my Dad. The conversation that followed was terrifying and gratifying beyond measure. That was it. I was gay. And damn, if I didn’t own it.
My junior year I was out of the closet. I was flamboyant but not anything resembling political or radical. Enter my best fr-enemy, Auston. I remember parking in our school lot one day and walking across the street to the school. Auston was chanting something akin to, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Homophobia(s) got to go!” I thought he was showy and “gayer” than was necessary.
I’m a judgy person. I always have been. But, with the world as it is today, I know that we could use more Auston’s.
Two year’s later, or so, Auston would be my best friend. We don’t talk much anymore, but when I get a Facebook like or a quick comment – I smile.
I joined more activities at school – choir, theater, student council, key club; I was the drum major of the high school band. I was a 5 (maybe) 6-time letterman, even had the jacket to prove it (Again, thanks Dad for helping me assimilate).
I had friends. Lots and good ones.
This is why, even today, I feel the need to defend my parents, family, and friends when I get those disingenuous reactions from people. I know it may just be their standard reaction to an awkward situation – to try to connect. But. I let them make themselves comfortable – and then I tell them my truth. I grew up with loving parents in a stable home.
When people ask about my coming out story, I tell them the same story as the one above. I add to it though, that I didn’t have to “come out of the closet…” my parents tore the house down. There was no closet to come out of.
The reason I am saying all of this is because of one simple thing. My senior year and a long time after – there was a guy. He held his religion close and was from a very religious family.
You, my friends, who are reading this won’t know this story and I won’t tell it beyond what I am about to. I won’t discuss it even if you ask. It is mine.
I loved him and he loved me. My first love. We met at one of my high school jobs. We were immediately inseparable. He took my virginity and I gave it willingly; lovingly. He would drive down to visit me during my first year away at college. I know it tore him up to see that I was “moving on.” I wasn’t. I was holding on. To him.
The summer after my freshman year – I wasn’t going to be home. I was fulfilling my years long dream of touring the county with a World Class Drum Corps. He was being pressured by his family to make a plan and start his life. Before I left for Ohio – he broke it off officially. He was going to Seminary School. My 18-year-old self was devastated. My 33-year-old self still feels it, too.
I was (and am) stubborn. “He never loved me.. It was all for nothing.” I cut all communication. I never spoke to him again.
His sister knew about us. She was a really good friend to me. Passive-aggressively, I kept up on his life through her for the last fifteen years. He became a priest. Then he met a woman. He went through the process of laicization and quit being a priest. For her! I hated that woman. They had two beautiful kids together and, according to his sister, they were very happy.
After the kids came, the updates were fewer and far between.
It’s been almost a year and a half since I got a Facebook message from her… about him. I opened the message eager for the news it held. I hoped that he was still happy.
He is dead.
She explained that not only was he dead, but he had killed himself. She was hysterical with grief. He was found to have been having an affair with a man. The subsequent fallout from both his family and religious community were too much for him, she said.
She provided me the tentative arrangement details knowing that I wouldn’t go. She told me that their parents wouldn’t be going, either. She said that their parents were no longer speaking to her, either, because she knew of his true nature. She said he left a note and asked if I would like to know what it said.
I considered saying no to her offer. I told myself to let it be.
I knew that I would regret it if I said no. So I said yes.
He apologized to his family. He said his goodbye to God, thinking that what he was about to do, if not his sinful nature, would keep him from meeting his maker. She continued to send this letter through Facebook chat. Near the end – he finishes with a request of his sister,
“Find him, tell him I’m sorry. Tell him I wish things could have been different.”
She pointed out that “him,” was me. She tells me that for as long as she has been giving me updates on him – she was telling him of me. She tells me that she’s glad that I’m happy and that I have a great fiancé and family. She tells me that she wishes everyone’s story was like mine, especially his.
It wasn’t, though. And it won’t be for countless others. My story is the exception.
He is dead, but he didn’t kill himself. Homophobic, traitorous, deceitful, and cold-hearted people did. Doing what he did was his choice, alone. Once his mind was made, there wasn’t a person alive that could sway him. If they did try, he would have done it out of spite. It’s just the way he was.
If I’d had the chance to speak to him one more time I would say this – that God will be waiting for him with open arms and kind eyes. He is free from the shackles that he allowed himself to be bound by.
Now I have a new reason to defend my family and friends to the people who hear my confession with awkward standoffishness. I will do it in hopes that they will not be his parents. They will not be his friends.
Tonight, I mourn for what he, not we, could have been. I’ve found my happiness and I wish that he had, too. Tonight,
I wish peace for him.
I hope that wherever he is, that he is happy.
I pray that if, or when, this situation arises in your life as a parent or friend,
you tear the fucking house down.