A few weeks ago I wrote a short fictional piece and found that it was well-received. I was urged by more than one person to go deeper into it and give my characters some background. This may not have been what anyone expected but there’s only so much my brain can produce during everyday 4AM vigils.
It was a frosty winter morning during mid-December and it was difficult not to notice how the hostile chill in the air quite aptly described the condition of my poor, desolate heart. I got out of bed early because I like having a head-start on my daily chores. Sometimes I imagine racing against my life and emerging victorious. But these are only distractions. And I’m trying to keep myself together this morning. It’s only 9 o’ clock and I’m not ready to let my brain wander off into unsafe territories. I’m not ready. Maybe I’m too tired and I should go back to sleep instead of thinking about.. No, I cannot think about it. Think about what? Oh great, here you go.
I have a hazy memory of the first time we met. Since it’s vague I won’t share the details for fear that I’ll misinterpret my own thoughts. For fear that I’ll make up things that weren’t there. Like I’m often known to. But I’ll tell you this, we struck right away not because we had things in common or our personalities jived smoothly with each other, the only string we both held the ends of were mutual distaste and hatred for all the same things.
They say love brings people together. In our case, hatred played that key role. And right then you’d wonder what was love doing in the meanwhile? Well, love waited on the sidelines, like an all too eager menace, waiting to pounce on the weaker one among us. Love and it’s various branching definitions never brought us together, instead they insidiously did us apart.
I knew it all too well that boys who liked boys could just as easily be dead boys. I also knew that although people all over the world professed that coming out of the closet was the best way to go, it’d only do me more harm than good.
Certain countries, certain places within certain countries object to people defiling social norms in a way so demeaning that even if they grant people to come out, as they are, they make sure they pick you up and set you apart. Like the rotten apple in a basket.
What good would it do to me to tell anyone how I functioned on the inside? When you admit to people you’re gay, it’s not as though people can magically look past their insecurities and embrace you for the hardships you’ve faced along the way. I wish it were that simple.
What those success stories about teenage boys accepting their homosexuality don’t tell you is how straight boys start to fear them. Every straight boy you’ve been close to will secretly run a walkthrough in his mind trying to assess if he were one of the milestones on the road to discovery about your homosexuality. What these shallow boys also do is flatter themselves inside their heads but treat you cautiously and with a certain kind of untouchability as though if they shook hands with you, all your pressing, uncontrollable male hormones would be spilled out on a rampage. As though all straight people are deeply in love with every person of the opposite gender they encounter.
The phone rings and I’m caught off guard from my inner monologue. It’s been a year and a half since we last saw each other. The dark gray dashboard of your car and the glove compartment I stared at for the longest time while we spoke about your musical depth are imprinted on my mind with vivid clarity. It’s been a whole year and a half and now I see myself sitting there in the most uncomfortable way possible, as though I had to restrain my shoulders, square them out like my life depended on it. And my hands, I didn’t even know what to do with my hands. I remember constantly shifting them about and never being able to settle on one spot. Finally, I resorted to pressing them against my knees and watched my knuckles turn white. I watch this awkward dance playing out before my eyes as I reach out to reject your call at 9:03 AM. The time of the call matching the moment when I’m thinking about you.
You, on the other hand, were completely relaxed and in absolute control of your body. I envied that but now I realize there was no reason for you to be uncomfortable, anyway. Your heart wasn’t hammering against your chest for reasons you couldn’t understand. You weren’t expecting it to be the last time we’d sit like that. You weren’t feeling the way I did. You were in the driver’s seat and by default, in full control of everything.
I now notice myself noticing you. I watch how I occasionally divert my gaze from the glove compartment and slowly let it settle on the profile of your face. I watch all of this from somewhere above like an invisible floating presence. I don’t remember it like this. I only remember facts. Your blue t-shirt and the way it drooped a bit at the front to reveal your clavicle. I also recall how you half-smiled and smirked at the same time and how ridiculous it made you look. I remember that when you spoke you never made eye contact with me but after you were done you always looked over for my reaction. I was part of that conversation but I was also so much more that day.
I was telling myself that I was leaving after today so that you’d be happy on your own and go out and achieve what you were carved out for. I was convinced that me walking away would ensure you had space and it all seemed noble and pure, even righteous.
A year later I finally saw the truth about myself. Moving away from you was the worst best thing I could have done to myself. I’m still thinking around all these whirlwind of implications minutes after I’ve slid my finger to cancel your call. It’s an involuntary action now and I don’t have to think twice.
You’re a 20-something year old now who is making their mark and slowly climbing scales of success. I stopped interacting with you but I never stopped keeping a tab on you. I had to be sure that even though I left because of my own selfish (at the time, unknown to me) reasons, some good had to come out of it for you. I knew you had it in you and I knew if I hoped and persisted long enough the universe would guide you there. That was how much I would’ve liked to believe in you. To actually put my faith in the very universe we expressed our mutual apathy for.
I also know that you knew all along how I felt about the world and the people that lived inside it. You knew before I knew who I was on the inside and that shames me. I don’t pick up the phone to talk to you anymore because it’s easier to shoulder the hurt and sweet pangs of love when it’s unrequited for independent reasons of the heart and what it does and doesn’t want. But when your love is dictated by societal reasons that give you no right to openly acknowledge your desire without being shamed into guilt, it’s best to observe silence and hope that people like you, people who rattle the very core of my existence don’t stride into my life ever again.