So it’s really late and today has been a really crappy no good soul crushing day from start to finish. As I was processing all that occurred I received a really sweet message about my first tale of growing up gay and it brought the first genuine smile to my face all day. It’s amazing how serendipitous life can be. And as a personal thank you to all that have shared your own stories with me because I have shared mine, I’ve decided to open my journals yet again and share more of my tales of growing up gay. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
The time of adolescence is always marred with confusion, doubt, and an immeasurable amount of angst. But during those times of our lives we are awakened to the innate desires that make us who we are. And at sixteen, I was the epitome of all those geeky, awkward moments indelibly etched in memories that at the time we hope we never remember but as we grow older we are so thankful for being a part of. Doesn’t hurt that there was a hot guy that was a part of it.
This was not a time of new discoveries, or at least that’s what I believed before all this happened. For I had already began to discover who I was and having a good idea what I had always been, I still was not willing to accept that I was gay. Especially as the very introverted teenager I had become. Building toy models, holding down a job as cultivating and farming tropical fish from my aquariums in my bedroom. Always reading about different worlds and people but I somehow unwilling to interact with the people in the real world. And always writing in my journals trying to decipher why the world was the way it was and why people do the things they do that contradict their actions. But I learned it was a time of sweetness, and summertime flings.
I had not yet reached the level of confidence that I now have as a man that contrasts the meek adolescent I was back then. It wasn’t that I had a hard time being social, far from it. I’ve never had a problem of being able to talk and engage in meaningful conversations with people. It’s just that back then, I really had no desire to interact with my peers or forge new relationships. I know now that it was because of fear. Fear of someone noticing even more how different I was from all the other guys.
I knew that I had an attraction to other guys. My body had a bad habit of showing me how much I liked my own gender through involuntary dreams and involuntarily body movements. I knew it meant I was gay but was still deep in denial and wondering why God had made me this way. So I was experiencing the basic rules of attraction and the stages of coming out all the time. Thinking about it all the time because while at school I was constantly being reminded of it with no control over when these strong emotions happened.
That’s why I was so glad that summer break arrived to finally give me a reprieve. So I wasn’t constantly around guys that made me think about being gay or around girls that reminded how I was not attracted to them. So I spent the time reading and writing and selling the tropical fish I had farmed to support my hobbies of buying comics and building toy models or designing wood sculptures. And I loved taking long strolls through the country woods as the sun set and by the creek. Who knew that this daily walk would soon bring all the things I was running away from directly in front of me once again?
My childhood home was deep in the woods, the sparse neighborhood was surrounded by tall stoic trees were delicately woven in waves of green hills and farmland. The air was always fresh and a lingering sweet perfume that invigorated, even on the muggy, humid days in Tennessee. On a particular day in early June I took the daily route through the trees and down the path to the creek during sunset. Honeysuckles pilfered the air as the sky turned gold and rouge with splashes of fuchsia and magenta. As I was lost in the clouds I heard a branch crack and my eyes darted towards the source that had broken my daydreaming sequence. And there was this guy around my age staring back at me.
At first I tensed up because in the south you’re taught to always be ready for two things: a fight and for love because they both can happen at a moment’s notice. He was tall and lanky with olive tanned skin and stark black hair. Intense blue-green eyes and a chiseled smile that could crack rocks. I was in awe. Staring at him trying to take in what I was seeing while telling my brain to stop racing the thousand thoughts zooming at top speed making me unable to speak. He said hello and I kept staring, Repeated himself and I kept staring. He tilted his perfect head of curly hair and he turned to walk away when I began cursing at myself out loud because I hadn’t said anything. He turned back around and said it was cool. And I melted.
After the embarrassment wore off we introduced ourselves. “Sam” as I’ll refer to him here was athletic and charming. A year older than I and a running back for his old high school team. He had just moved into our widely spaced out neighborhood and hated how country everything was. We talked about TV, movies, videogames and just about everything else for three hours. We met up every day after that and did more of the same. I felt like I had a new friend but every time we were around each other those same racing thoughts and feelings came rushing back to me.
A few days before the 4th of July another neighbor who was my age showed up with her friends by the creek, no doubt seeing us cut up there every afternoon for several weeks. The ladies were all inquisitive to the magazines we were reading to spark conversation and I, as naively can be sometimes, and ignored all the signals that they were flirting with us. So I forgot to feign interest to mimic the way Sam was interacting with them. He flirted back and showed how strong he was while I rolled my eyes and continued reading. I was feeling jealous because I wanted him to flirt that way with me. Then I made snide passive aggressive comments, which is a clear departure of my subtle and docile nature.
When Sam asked what was wrong with me I panicked so I stormed off and he trailed for a few paces before placing his hand on my shoulder to turn me around to see I was on the brink of tears. Concerned, he asked what was wrong and my emotions were running wild so before I could process what generic answer to give I blurted out “why don’t you talk to me the way you talk to them” and I was mortified by what I had just said aloud. I hadn’t even accepted that I was gay so how the hell had I just exposed myself to someone relatively new? Sam was puzzled at first and then had the look of “Oh, he’s one of them” and I was even more upset because he knew, and obviously didn’t feel the same way. So I ran home and cried myself to sleep, worried he would tell someone else.
Days past but Sam didn’t show up at our usual meet up place. I was hoping that he’d just forgotten the prior events but that was most likely what kept him away. The next day Sam showed up at my house wanting to hang out like nothing happened and I was more than happy to oblige. we talked about our plans for the 4th that I worried were scrapped but Sam still wanted to continue on. Then while we were talking about bottle rockets Sam brought up how his uncle who was gay taught him how to light them and stared rather awkwardly back at me. I became angry and he said he didn’t mean anything by it (he did) so we tensely went back to going over the inventory of fireworks we collected. Sam then stopped and said “I’ve thought about it too” and ran out the door at what seemed like an actual rocket. Couldn’t process what it meant. Did it mean he was feeling the same way or was he just talking hypothetical. But I didn’t want to lose our friendship so the next night when we met up to pop fireworks I pretended he never said it. And so did he…
So we went on with normal conversations until interrupted by thunder. A storm was coming in and we had to hurry if we were going to do. We reached to the top of the hill we picked out and set up everything to get the fireworks going. We started setting off more than originally planned and as Sam lit up another round one went off unexpectedly and went past his head grazing him near his eye.
He fell down and I took a knife to cut off a part of my shirt to cover the wound. it spooked us both more than anything. But I just wanted him to be safe and okay so I was doing my best to tend to it and gingerly cleaning it. Then he looked at me I guess seeing the concern. Sam smiled at me in a way he never had before and I returned the expression. It all happened so fast but it began to rain with lightning flaring up the night sky. But instead of collecting the fireworks we both instinctively lit more up to match the sky. We were out in the middle of an open field lighting off firecrackers in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm which retrospectively was stupid but in that moment made us feel alive. Immortal.
So we lit the last one, a cannonball together and stepped back and it shot up so high it looked like it hit the lightning and we jumped and slid backwards with us falling over each other staring each other in the face. His eyes danced as he said what to do next. Time froze like it had when I was younger but this time the sensation and emotion I felt was not friendly as it was in third grade. It was romance. It was perfect. He touched my hand and the next thing I knew I instinctively wrapped my hand around his jaw and kissed him.
For a split second I panicked at what I had so impulsively done and was about to withdraw until I saw him close his eyes and kiss me back. I couldn’t believe this was happening but didn’t stop myself but at the same time I did not want to admit how right it felt. I didn’t want to think so I continued until the rain let up like a sign it was time for it to end. We walked back without saying a word and didn’t talk to each other for a month. The next time I did see Sam. he was holding the hand of the neighbor that had visited us before with her friends. They were a couple, and I retreated back into my world of toy models and exotic aquarium fish only this time a bit more confused and more grown up than I had left it.
Months later Sam randomly walked up to me when no one else was around asking if we were cool and I said we were. Then said what happened was just being curious and I quickly agreed to silence the tension building. He smiled and patted me on the shoulder like he had the first time and kept it there for a moment. Then he smiled and rejoined his girlfriend who was waiting for him.
We have kept in touch over the years and are still friends and when we talk about this story we refer to it as a nice moment between friends. He and his wife have been happy for over a decade and when the three of us do talk about that time openly we don’t spend hours on end debating if Sam may be gay or bisexual but rather that two people can share a moment like this and it is all it was. People experiment so I don’t want readers to think that there was more to it on his part.
The point of sharing this particular tale is to remind us of even when it doesn’t work out the way we planned that we can appreciate those moments that meant something special to us. Even when it ends abruptly for no reason. Even if the person you shared it with turned out to be someone completely different than you expected. Even if you find out that they don’t feel the same way that you felt. We can always appreciate how it made us feel and how for a little while we felt a dream coming to life. And if we can remember that lesson, we know that taking control and making those dreams is possible so long as we are open to them when the opportunity comes to you. To remember there is always something new when we least expect it.
After all, it was summer