#mylifematters Part VI


It would seem that the last part of this story should be the last, that I woke up and realized what I was doing to myself and swore to never harm myself again, especially not in the name of love. That’s what a rational being would do. But I was far from rational. The incident had unglued, unstuck, something in my mind that was now coming out, gathering strength and speed like  snowball rolling downhill. At some point, you can’t stop the snowball anymore, no matter what you place in its’ path. It’s just too powerful and has too much momentum. I felt like that snowball, careening from cliff to cliff, sliding down icy patches, falling into every abyss, constantly go go going, with no end in sight. But as I rolled along, I was picking up new patches of snow, and shedding some of the old, and so the ball eventually became entirely disconnected from it’s beginning, much like the shedding of human skim cells. Constant regeneration continually reshapes our bodies, until we are composed of entirely new cells, and then the process starts again. I suppose my fate could have been foreseen, then, anticipated, if I had used that analogy earlier. Because what happened was a continual “reboot” of the process, independently of any other factors, just continuously growing and lurching forward and gathering fresh snow, until it was so big that it self-imploded, into a hundred separate balls, in a single horrifying second where the ball rolled over a cliff, but, being just a ball of snow, it carried in as if nothing had happened, started rolling again, not seeing another cliff up ahead, but this time there were dozens of hundreds of smaller balls all rolling downhill, some colliding with each other to make bigger balls, others branching out entirely and discovering new paths and, inevitably, new cliffs. With every death came a reinvention, a fresh start, but indelibly linked to the past, with a little bit of old snow left from the implosion, now surrounded by new snow, but continuing on in that same trajectory. Enough about snow, now. I’m really talking about me. Let me explain.

As I said, I met the Dean at the airport upon arrival. I knew he cared and was worried, but it suddenly struck me that there was a modicum of risk management in play. He confirmed my suspicions when I was driven back to school, to a meeting of the deans of student affairs and of academic affairs, along with an in-house counsel. This was an intervention. They did their best to explain to me, without judging me, that I was too large of a risk to the school as things stood right then. A suicidal law student looks bad in the rankings, and a successful suicide attempt would become the news, indelibly linked to the school. “USF student found dead,” “another student at USF bites the dust,” “USF failed in the care of its most vulnerable students,” etc. For a Jesuit school, founded on compassion, as well as academics, it was, ironically, too risky to have me in school, because there compassion would become their liability. They gave me one option: get a doctor to sign off on me returning to school. They provided a letter to be given to the doctor, outlining their concerns and restating their position, notifying the doctor that it was his decision, alone, whether I was medically cleared for school. Like a soldier suffering from PTSD, I was given a full battery of tests to ascertain my ability to return to the war front, or whether I was damaged goods and needed an honorable discharge. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how deep the damage went, I thought that the events of the past few days were somehow surreal, but not in a scary way, like how did I ever  do that?, but rather in a third-person type way, where those events were simply observed, not played out. I had front row seats to a morbid opera, but I was merely a patron of the arts, not an actor myself. Or so it seemed in my mind. What could otherwise possibly explain a literal costume change, from a high achieving, high functioning student, to becoming suicidal? An instantaneous change, one that any performer who has to change outfits in the middle of a play, or concert, would make them jealous. How did he do it?, the audience gasps and applauds with delight. I was the star of the show, playing every character, in quick succession, like Mrs. Doubtfire, only without the luxury of a place to change outfits. It was more like Houdini, where did I go? Sawed in half, yet walking fine. Turned into a dove, yet striding across the stage. Strapped into a straitjacket, yet carousing around the stage. Unlike Houdini, though, my transformations were not expected, no one foresaw the caterpillar becoming a butterfly in the blink of an eye, the audience wasn’t restless in anticipation of the final trick. No, no one even knew they were supposed to be watching, waiting, scanning a wary eye across the stage, sitting at the edge of their seats, anticipating what would happen next, what plot line would be revealed, what character was coming next. No one knew, because this opera was shooting without a script.

So it was that the Dean decided to place me on a medical leave of absence. I was distraught. First, that meant that I wouldn’t get my financial aid payout, how was I going to afford rent? Second, where could I find a doctor to sign the form? Third, was I really that incapacitated, or were they just avoiding the slightest whiff of liability, cutting me loose rather than risk the negative publicity. Now what? At the very least, how was I going to kill time? Pun intended. At this point, Chris and I had moved out of the flat and I was Irving alone in a studio apartment in Alamo Square, a beautiful neighborhood, sandwiched in between “the projects” on each side. But the vagrants never crossed the line, literally, the street, that divided the neighborhoods. So I was in a good spot. It was even on a direct bus line to school, not more than a 20 minute ride (to cover at most a 1.5 mile stretch, it was often faster to walk). I can’t believe I scored that apartment. I had (and still have) abysmal credit, and no corporate landlord would so much as loom in my direction. So I had to find someone that would trust what I said over a strong history pointing in a different direction. I found that person, I don’t know if I was just walking the streets, or responding to an ad, but he was perfect. He was an older man, Klaus, that owned a bed and breakfast in the neighborhood, and made some extra change by owning and managing a rental property just down the street. It was a rather dilapidated four unit building, with my apartment on the ground level, roughly 400 sq ft to call my own. And he only wanted $1100 for the unit. This was back when San Francisco was still affordable. Today, that same unit would cost at least $3000. How I wish I had been able to hang on the apartment, but events dictated otherwise.

Actually, it’s funny, the “event” happened on the bus one night, late in the evening, on my way home from a long day of studying. Actually, I was just going home to change, so I could go out for 80s night at one of the bars. I had to wear heavy black eyeshadow and liner, rouge, glossy lipstick, do up my hair in a series of spikes, all the steps necessary go transform into a punk kid, one of those New Wave kids, listening to Bowie and Depeche Mode and all the British bands making their way into America. I loved transformations. I don’t know how well I pulled it off, but it didn’t really matter, I enjoyed doing makeup so I had my fun even before going out. The black glitter eyeshadow was my favorite, with glitter lashes spilling down to the cheekbone, highlighting a defined, high cheek, dusted with bronzer, smoothed over with creamy foundation, set in place with a powder brush, and a few extra punches of glitter on my lips, enough to leave a mark on whoever I kissed. I’m not a cross dresser or anything like that, I just wanted to have a good time. Anyways, I looked up across the bus to the other wheelchair/disabled/senior seats at the front of the bus, I always sat there to piss off the Chinese women with their impossibly big carts and fat women who needed the exercise of standing up, Lord knows they sit around often enough as it was, and my eye caught, rested upon a boy, a boy my age, brown hair, casual clothing, but fitted, ice blue eyes that cut straight through me, perfectly manicured brow line, but in a masculine kind of way. I never knew what my “type” was, but surely he fit the bill. Stereotypically the Midwestern look, though he was from the East Coast, which was exotic to me, foreign, much like they must think of California. We were reaching Divisadero when he pulled the bell for the next stop, and he glanced up as he did. I was staring, awestruck, unable to tear my eyes away, when I saw his eyes meeting mine. In that second we telepathically communicated lust and desire and sexuality. I only had that moment, because, without a word, he stepped off the bus at his stop. I looked back as we pulled away, watching him watching me. My heart was pounding. Not since Jason had I had such a crush, though admittedly I was in love with with a straight friend, Justin. So in love that a mutual friend of ours, a gorgeous girl, asked me for my permission to ask Justin on a date. I sadly said yes, with my blessings, just take goodness of him. Her name was Abby. They were destined to end up together, and eventually, recently actually, chose to marry each other. I wish I had been there for that wedding. Anyways, I had a crush, this time on someone who could reciprocate love (or lust).

I stayed late on campus the next night, taking the same  bus home, hoping to accidentally-on-purpose run into h again but really it was several days, maybe several weeks, before I saw him again. This time we didn’t waste the few moments we had together. We exchanged names, his name was Joe, numbers, and, to hell with it, I’ll just ask if he wants to come back to my place right now. He did. We were electric in our connection, diving in with passion and lust, ravaging each other’s bodies, kissing like the world was about to end, I couldn’t let go of his mouth. It was wild, beautiful sex. Afterwards, he said he had to get back home, turning down my invite to stay the night, saying his partner would get suspicious if he came home late. Partner? That’s the type of thing you should disclose up front. But, you know, I didn’t care. In fact, I wanted him even more. He was obviously dissatisfied with his relationship. I could be the perfect opportunity for him to finally break it off with his boyfriend. I wish I could remember his name,  but I can’t. It’s not important. What was important was that, eventually, yes, in a matter of weeks rather than months, I successfully ruined their relationship, and Joe was all mine. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to be all mine. He wanted to be all for a lot of people. I could have foreseen that, I suppose. He had classic good looks and was a smooth talker, he always got what he wanted. When he focused on me, I was flattered. When he kissed another guy, I was heartbroken. I see sawed back and forth, ambivalent about what I should do, when he proposed an offer to me (not that kind of proposed). Did I want to move in together with him? He had a down payment from his ex, who essentially paid him to get out of their place, but kindly spared no expense, and there was plenty for apartment hunting. We didn’t have to look far. In Castro, at 17th and Sanchez, sat Casa Sanchez, an imaginatively named small complex, we found a two-bed, two-bath unit, with patio, dishwasher, laundry across the hall, private bathrooms, a sizable living room and dining area, combined, and bedrooms that were just barely smaller than my current studio. All for only $2200/mth. Split, that was exactly what I was paying now. True, paying less would have been ideal, but at least I wasn’t paying more. Plus now I had the companionship of a roommate, who was also an excellent cook, and, soon, two cats, yes, call me a cat lady,  but he brought his car with him, and I thought she looked bored, so I got her a playmate. They actually got along very well, I was a little jealous of their instant camaraderie since that meant some nights they curled up with each other instead of coming on my bed.

There’s a few other characters in this scene, they were important then but, no offense, didn’t have a lasting impact, at least not one that tangibly changed my course in life. There was Kimalah, a beautiful black girl from USF, who i spent many happy hours with, even, especially, after she left school to take up other interests. She had  tiny studio in the Tenderloin, and I wasn’t a accustomed to the streets yet, so I enjoyed meeting her and braving the neighborhood to go to a gay/drag bar down the street. For all their bark, most of the Tenderloin actually has a soft bite. Polk Street, running up the outer edge of the 42 sq blk neighborhood, used to be the  “Castro” of San Francisco, before Castro turned into the gay scene. Castro had all the twinks, the cute, young blonde boys who had never lived through the AIDS crisis and just thought being gay was all fun and games, and dancing and drinking. Then there were the Polk Street guys, now the Mission/SoMa guys, who were older, larger, more bear-ish, attractive only in the dark, “real” me overcompensating for their sexuality with over the top machismo. I didn’t care for them. Not that it mattered, as you’ll see, they would use me anyways, in fact, probably because I was a young, cute gay, not in spite of the fact. These were the guys who had lived through Stonewall, the gay rights movement, the AIDS crisis, guys who themselves were infected or knew someone who had died already from HIV complications. Being gay was no laughing matter, it was something they had literally fought for, and they banded together. Eventually, with the help of Harvey Milk, an enduring gay icon, San Francisco started to become the mecca for gay rights. Other civil liberties too; this was the period of the Beats, women’s rights, racial integration, all happening at once, and San Francisco, unlike many other cities, was progressive enough to embrace the differences, welcome the differences, become a place where different was safe.

Mariah was another friend, also from law school, who also took a permanent sabbatical. Ultimately, I think, San Francisco just wasn’t the same as the Deep South, and she never fully embraced the change. All of students didn’t, especially those from New York, who left at the end of the first semester so they would be able to transfer to an East Coast school. Mariah was my dancing partner, my going-out friend, someone I could always count on to be there when the party was ready. She wasn’t a party girl herself, but gay clubs bring out a side in people, like a freak in the sheets, that usually doesn’t show in general public. I did go to Mission bars with her, on occasion, it was on fair that she got to find a boy too, but we often ended back up in Castro, with or without a straight boy, when the dirtiness of the Mission became overwhelming. With her, I met a good friend, Keith, a middle aged man, who loved to dance and could always be counted on to come out with Mariah and I. He had a thing for young boys, me for a while, but it didn’t disturb me. He wasn’t your classic pedophile, just an ordinary  man reaching above his given potential to occasionally snag a boy who was either desperate enough or drunk enough to take home. Like I said, I was that boy for a while. I was waiting for the bus, late at night, around 3am, having finally left the club and some after party, it was dark and cold and I was alone on silent, dead streets. A car drove by, I saw the guys inside looking at me, my heart raced a little, then suddenly the car stopped, spinned it’s wheels into reverse, and stopped right in front of me. There were three guys in the car. Keith was the driver and Rob was a passenger, along with someone in the back seat whom I can’t remember. We all went back to Keith’ place, just up the street, in Castro, went inside, had some drinks (but of course), then Keith took us out back, and what would you know but he had a hot tub! There is something inherently sexual about hot tubs. We knew that, because we all immediately stripped, ran through the grass and bushes, and jumped into the tub. We had fun that night. The sex wore off after a month or two, and I became just a friend, not a fuck buddy, but he would still go out with us and sometimes even share a boy with me. I didn’t complain.

I’ve already introduced Joe, my roommate, and Justin, my straight crush. There was also Billy, with whom I was best friends, always out at (straight) bars together, slamming back pitcher after pitcher of IPAs, holding down a table til everyone else could join. Our favorite bar was Pig & Whistle, an English pub. Apparently Whistle comes from Wassail, but I forget what that means, anyways, there was apparently a story behind the name. They had dart boards, pinball machines, pool tables, and, most importantly, trivia nights every Wednesday. That happened to be Kirk’s Bar Night as well, so the bar was generally stuffed to the gills when all of us arrived. I sucked at trivia, I think I successfully helped with maybe two questions over the course of a year,  but I was there for the camaraderie, not the prize. We did win a few times. The rest of the pub crowd hated us, another gaggle of USF students taking over their neighborhood bar, and when we would occasionally win at trivia the discontent was palpable. But we played fair, so no one could complain. The rest of that inner circle of friends, some of whom I’m sure I’m forgetting, we’re Justin, Michael, Mike, and  few others. On the girl’s side, I was close friends with Christy, Molly, Abby and Katie. Abby, Justin’ future wife, would often go to the clubs with me and we would dance til dawn. After they started dating, Abby managed to drag Justin along too on at least one occasion. Christy, Molly and I were serious students. We would study long into the night, sneaking Chinese take-out into the library so we didn’t have to take a dinner break. I think we all ended up in the same general GPA range, we were smart but not brilliant, but I didn’t like the brilliant ones, they had a way of rubbing in their superiority that just rubbed me the wrong way. If that’s how lawyers act, I was not prepared for the practice of Law. I could only hope that they were outliers. Oh, and Stefani. Another dancing partner. Often too busy to join, but when she did, she always brought cute boys and we rocked the town. Mystic was an odd friend. I managed to convince her, and myself, that I might be bisexual or bi-curious, and, to an extent, I was. She was gorgeous. Not in a classical sense, but classics aren’t ways what matter. She was thin and pale, a bit shorter than me, long flowing black hair, a smile that drew you in and just enough flirting to make you want more, gay or straight. The closest we ever got was a pants-off dance-off, a party at her place. She did take a few of us, all close friends, down to visit San Diego, a visit I’ll never forget. The town was beautiful, sunny, warm, beaches everywhere, hot, tanned, ripped shirtless surfer boys. It was like a slice of heaven. We stayed at her parents’ house overnight while they were gone, and she introduced us to real Mexican food. She also introduced us to a rooftop bar, with reflecting pool, in an unmarked bar on top of unmarked building. I was nervous to go in. Oh, and Donovan was there on that trip. He had a way of making you comfortable, making you feel like part of the inner circle, just by his gregarious mannerisms. He was cute, to boot, but so many of my straight friends were. You are who you surround yourself with, and I chose only attractive friends. There was also Shoshana, an SF native, painfully awkward at times, but always near me, hovering, trying to get into my circle. She succeeded, I couldn’t not be nice to someone, and she clearly needed to learn social skills, so I took her under my wing. I actually attended Thanksgiving at her place with her parents, so you could say we became close. There’s so many others, my section of class had 100 people, all of whom I knew well, plus most of section 2, another group of 100. The only ones I didn’t know we were night students, and I think they preferred it that way. School was just a side job for them, they didn’t want to get wrapped up in the politics.

i sit 
my legs pleasantly crossed, my tie tucked in, my briefcase at my side

i wait 
my mind focused on the tasks ahead

i wonder 
where is my ride?

i wonder 
did life pass me by?

i confess 
i’ve always wanted this to end

i pray 
take me from this earth

i pray 
let this time be the last time

i pray 
give me an ending, save me from my life

but

i discover 
i can’t die

i resurrect 
death refuses to take me yet

i return 
to where it all began

i wonder 
where is my ride?

i wonder 
did life pass me by?

-Wonder, personal writings, 2012

Well, I’ve rambled completely off course. You see, I was supposed to tell you about the snowball effect, me careening down cliffs, hitting every ledge along the way, what caused that and what, exactly, did happen. And you deserve to know. Like I said, you were there. You may have noticed something slightly amiss, but couldn’t place your finger on it, just something a little off. I was more than just a little off, though. I had gone off the deep end. What you saw was my body acting independently of me, something inside me doing damage control, trying to retain my humanity when there was no human left in me. You saw all this, but never pried, never questioned, never judged, and that’s how I wanted it to happen. I kept tight control of the things I could, while everything else in my life was falling, ripping apart, until finally, there was nothing of me left, the emperor had no clothes. And that’s what this next part is about. In this chapter we saw the joyous moments of my life, met some of my friends, saw the activities in which I engaged, and generally saw a good impression of me. Now, I’m going to go over that exact same time period, but this time from my inner perspective, from my vantage point, recalling, as much as possible, the events that transpired and how I kept myself together for so long. I’ll take a break now, the next chapter will be emotional for me to write, hopefully emotional to read, if I’m a decent writer, but necessary for me to explain and recover. Go ahead, look into the details. I’m not who you think I am.

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#mylifematters Part II


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Part II

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I wish I remember the details of what follows, though, really, it’s better that I don’t. I remember enough and I’ll share that with you.

My family had, by now, moved from Spokane to Bellevue, WA. There I finished my last year of high school via Running Start, a state program designed to give high performing students the opportunity to take college courses at the local community college at no charge. Because of this program, I was able to complete high school simultaneously with my AA, no small feat since the schools provided no support in managing course requirements. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at community college. I was, by most measures, a highly motivated and successful student. By my senior year, I had completed math courses through Calculus III, which, had I taken two more math classes, would have led to a BA in Mathematics. I was smitten enough with math that I tutored students part time on the side. In Spokane, I officially worked at the math lab, helping remedial students, for the most part. In Bellevue I struck out on my own. I didn’t have a lot of clientele, but there was one of which I’m particularly proud. He was a student in Calc II, middle aged and blind. Calculus, if you’re unfamiliar, relies heavily on visuals to understand the equations, or vice versa. The school had promised to translate the textbook into braille, but lagged so far behind that I was tutoring him by voice alone. To understand diagrams I often traced his finger in the general pattern, explaining as I went along. I don’t know how either of us made it through. However, I’m very proud to report that this student was able to pass the class with a 3.8 GPA. That rivaled my own grades. I was grateful for the opportunity to help, and happy it worked out successfully.

While at community college, I picked up employment at a tech start-up, back when that was still unusual. I worked the reception desk, with an official title of purchasing agent, being under the tutelage of the facilities department. That meant I had the opportunity to take over ordering supplies and food for the building. With a practically unlimited, unaccountable budget, I had fun, probably abusing my power, but the techies certainly appreciated the dozens of doughnuts, free breakfast and lunch, and the occasional perk of getting some special equipment if they were nice, maybe a good pen or a printer or executive chair. I stayed at this job for two years, vacating the position when my coworker, older than I and with a family to support, was vying with me for the position after a merger. She needed the money more than I did, so I graciously acquiesced. Besides, I had picked up part time employment at Eddie Bauer, first at their corporate campus near Microsoft, then at the store level at Bellevue Square, a high end retail mall for well-to-do housewives whose husbands made enough to obviate the need for them to work as well, so they would stroll around, picking up Prada shoes, Coach bags and little Yves St Laurent outfits for their precious babies. Angels, as they inevitably called them, even while they were drooling all over my merchandise and wreaking havoc around the store. Angels. Sure. Never argue with a woman whose bank account rivals that of some smaller nations.

These jobs along with a full load at school kept me busy for upwards of 100 hours per week. I don’t know how I did it. I would sleep in the tech firm’s boardroom, racing off to the mall after an hour of shut-eye, working the overnight shift dressing windows and mannequins, then grabbing a quad espresso on the way back to a full day at school and work. I think I used up a lifetime’s worth of energy in those two years.

But somehow, don’t ask me how, despite this busy schedule, I managed to find my first boyfriend. This was back in the heyday of gay.com, an Internet chat room that offered group and private chat. This was also the heyday of the growing gay rights movement, in Seattle at least. I remember attending night meetings at a youth LGBT organization an hour south of the city, without my parents knowledge or consent, at least once or twice weekly. It was there that I attended my first dance. It was also there that I first saw Madonna’s “Express Yourself” video. I was shocked but immediately fell in love. Moulin Rouge came out around the same time, and Christina Aguilera was the buzz word of the week. I fall easily for musicals, and this was no exception. I finally felt like I was part of something, something cool, something that validated me and my lifestyle. It was there, I think, that I met my first boyfriend. Truth be told, I’m not sure how we met exactly. It may have been from online chat rooms. Either way, we ended up going to the youth club together on many occasions. His name was Shaun. He was not exactly white, but the exact ethnicity escapes me. Polynesian perhaps. Or Irish. I really don’t know. He was cute, not classically, but good enough for me. My standards were pretty loose at the time, I was happy just to meet someone who would talk to me. Anyways, we ended up dating. In between work and school, we went out to lunch together, dinner sometimes, the youth club others. He was head of the student LGBT group at his college campus, so there were always events to attend.

He was my first. It was unforgettable, the absurdity of the events, but the actual sex was apparently forgettable, as I don’t remember much about it. A lot of fumbling around, I’m sure. I’d seen some porn by then but real life people and events so rarely follow a porn script, despite best efforts, that I was pretty much shooting in the dark, pun intended. My coworker at the tech company just happened to be, outside of work hours (and sometimes caught during work hours) a professional dominatrix. She was a large woman, busty, good with a whip. I don’t know why I took to her so well. Probably because my home life was so sterile and disapproving of any sort of security that I naturally gravitated towards the forbidden. A note to parents: the best way to ensure your child does something against your values is to mark it as “forbidden.” No one can withstand that kind of temptation. Anyways, Jackie, my coworker, took me under her wing. She was determined that I get laid. I was too young to attend her wild and raucous sex parties, and didn’t have the time to go to her nudist retreats, so I guess she had no choice but to bring the sex to me rather than the other way around. I should stop here for a moment and note that it was during this same time period that even found out, or discovered, or decided, that I was gay. Actually, it wasn’t me that decided it. I was told that I was gay. My coworker from my job back in Spokane (I worked two – my first as mailroom clerk at  jewelry manufacturing wholesaler, the second as human resources assistant for Spokane School District 81) kept in contact when I left the District and moved to Bellevue. In fact, as I’ll tell later, I continued to go back to Spokane for some time for doctor visits, with the earlier-mentioned psychiatrist, and she would always pick me up from the airport and take me, occasionally letting me stay at her house overnight if I didn’t have  same-day return flight. I was attending school at Bellevue Community College at the time (the time of learning I was gay), and taking a French class. I chose French because people were cuter in that class than the German class, plus it was such a classier language than German or Spanish. I fancied it was the language of aristocrats. There was a boy in the class that I was instantly drawn towards. I’d never experienced a romantic desire in my life, definitely not towards a boy. There was a girl at church that I did, then and still now, had a crush on,  but I was nerdy, awkward and painfully shy, so it was more of a fantasy than a reality. Bethany, if you’re reading this, you probably already know I’m talking about you. Anyways, I didn’t even know what “gay” meant, literally. I first encountered the word when I was outside the grocery store with my dad, and there was a signature-gatherer for some gay rights cause. Actually, he may have been anti-gay for all I know. Point was, I’d never heard the term before. My dad quickly shuffled us past, saying very little about the event  I don’t remember what he did say. It was derogatory, but not in a clearly defined way, not with any four-letter words, but generally giving the sense that there was something wrong with it. I still didn’t know what it meant, though, just that, whatever it was, it was Bad.

Sidenote: somewhere in this time period, I was “experimental” with a friend around my age. We didn’t do much more than exchange titillating innuendos, but there was one time we attempted to touch each other. His mom caught us, after my friend confessed to her, apparently feeling Bad about the incident. I then had am incredibly awkward conversation with my parents about how Wrong that was, expressing genuine concern that I had done a Bad thing, that I couldn’t become one of Them, that was Sinful. I’m not sure the word “gay” ever came up directly. I was just made to feel shame about my curiosity.

Now, fast forward to Bellevue, French class. I was emailing Pam, my prior coworker at the District, and going back and forth about life and school and any other thoughts on my mind. I had no one to really talk to other than her. I was sitting in the computer lab (laptops were still horrid, heavy monsters), when I got The Email. I know I mentioned the French class boy, but I don’t recall saying anything particular about him, especially nothing of a sexual nature. My mind wasn’t there yet. But, as middle aged women, mothers, sometimes do, no, scratch, always do, she told me, not asked, not suggested, not beat-around-the-bush about it, no, flat out told me I was gay. I reeled. I gasped. My mind flashed a million thoughts in the seconds that followed. But the predominant thought, the theme that kept cycling back into my consciousness, was the cute boy from French class. Now I knew why I was drawn to him. Now I understood that he was gay too. Now a lot of things made sense. I never bothered to question her, there was no need. I knew she was right. I don’t know, without her, if I ever would have known, or just stayed repressed my entire life. It was funny, her knowing me better than I knew me. Or, knowing what I already knew but didn’t have the words to use or even the ideas to form. I didn’t stop, at that exalting moment, to think what my parents or others might think. I just remember, maybe for the first time, that I was Happy. I was serene. I was peaceful. I was finally at rest with myself. Nothing else mattered.

The French boy and I drove my teacher crazy, whispering in the corner, passing notes, laughing at inside jokes, the occasional glance or touch to reassure each other we were thinking the same thoughts. My teacher never once said “gay” nor did she reference the matter, nor, even, did she appear discomforted by the matter, beyond the fact that we were frequently disruptive. What an experience! I was heady with delight and happiness and joy. I never even had to “come out,” it was like everyone already knew, and no one cared! I could be blatant about it and still there were no repercussions. The world had come a long way, or, rather, the move of a few hundred miles across state to Seattle had landed me in a whole new world. Gay was the new normal. Gay was the new me.

There was, of course, the delicate matter of my parents. There was no initial confrontation; I didn’t deem it a dinner table conversation, and they, for their part, chose to ignore the ever-blonder hair, the ever-growing collection of jewelry, the ever-increasing use of makeup. I wasn’t subtle, though I may have thought I was. I’m not sure what I thought. I remember sneaking boys into the house late at night, my bedroom literally across the hall from my parents, without ever getting caught. I’m sure at some point they knew, it was just easier to not bring up such sin, to look the other way while I was fucking in the next room, to pretend not to see the rouge on my cheeks, to ignore my efforts to lose weight (I was 6’3 and wanted to be 165 lbs, I came pretty close at times), generally just to ignore me altogether. I was busy anyways, I had dinner in a rush or reheated it late at night, dashed off early in the morning, had lunch at school, etc. There wasn’t a lot of face time with my parents, and everyone kept it that way.

So did I ever tell them? In fact, no. My mother told me. Just like Pam told me, only this time with a tone of reproachment and judgment. I suppose, technically, she “asked” me, but it was one of those rhetorical questions where the answer is already presumed within the question. We were on a car ride, and the event to which I was going, I’m not sure what it was, was canceled, so we were headed back home. And then she asked. I suppose maybe we worked our way up to the topic, in a way, but the question, to me, came flying at me from left field. I could only agree, not only to be truthful, but because the question itself obviated the need for an answer. The next few weeks were nearly comical, as she passive-agressively forced scripture passages on me, and I fired back with quotes and pamphlets from PFLAG. We were at an impasse, which was actually quite common between us. We were both stubborn to the core, no matter how obviously wrong we might be, so especially on this issue there was no backing down.

The day the next event happened was just another day, to start. I was driving around Kirkland with Shaun, walking down the waterfront, playing on the playground, things boys do on dates. When we go back to the car, it refused to start. Well, I’m no mechanic, and he wasn’t either. I learned later that you always should have a lesbian in your life to cover these situations. So I called my mom to come pick us up. There was something odd about that phone call. She refused, citing irresponsibility, neglect of maintenance, failure to be prepared for emergencies, and why, oh why, was I with Shaun in the first place? She knew were dating, though I never told, and he was a constant source of tension between us. There was something more in her voice, though, the tone was different, bleak, almost, desperate but fatalistic, as if she had resigned herself to whatever she was thinking about. Anyways, I called my sister, and she came with a gallon of gas, enough to get home and no further. I was upset because we were on a dare, and why did it have to come to an end, couldn’t she buy a bit more gas, I didn’t have any money, but no, no, no was the answer. My mother had found out I called my sister, and placed severe restrictions on what help she could offer. So I had gas to go home, so I did. It was growing dark, wind blustering, raindrops starting to fall. The kind of night that looks pretty from the comfort of a warm home, in front of a fire, but not something for which you’d like to be outside. My sister had left after giving us gas, so we drove home, me growing ever more uneasy, sensing something in the air, without being able to place it. I got out of the car, went to open the apartment door, but discovered it was locked. I was already in a bad mood, it was a cold night, I just wanted to get Shaun’s belongings from inside the apartment and let him go home. Instead he was just as stuck as I was.

I called my mom, seeing where she was at. She was at, it turned out, at a church prayer meeting at a congregation member’s house down the street, and was not to be interrupted. No matter that I had no key and it was cold out and really she was only five minutes away by car. No matter. It was a bitter phone call. I called the apartment manager next, who knew us well, but she couldn’t break the lock since I wasn’t the name on the lease. She suggested calling the police, sensing my growing panic. The police arrived quickly, but, since I was the age of majority, couldn’t rule it child abuse and, in fact, could do nothing because I had no lease on the place. They left me with a sympathetic look and a pamphlet on domestic abuse. By now I was mad, no, angry, no, furious, boiling, cursing up a storm. Not that it helped the situation. So I reverted back to the passive-aggressive me that always gets results. Not good results, but one can’t be picky. I just wanted inside. I started calling my mom again and again and again, determined to annoy her enough that she would have no choice but to come. Instead, she turned her phone off. Fuck. I knew what to do, though. I convinced myself, and to this day it’s the version of events I believe, despite strong assertions and suggestions to the contrary, that the prayer meeting was about me and what to do with me. I knew whose house it was at, and I’d held long simmering suspicions about what he thought of me, and it just made sense that they would be discussing me. Well, I wouldn’t let them do that in peace. So I called the house, got voicemail, called again; after several times, I was angry and scared and cold and still hadn’t gotten Shaun’s belongings, and was determined to make someone suffer. So I called back, knowing the house phone was in the kitchen adjacent to the living room, and left a series of loud, angry, threatening messages in language that would make a sailor blush. I just knew they were discussing me, and I was determined to upset their meeting. After waiting several minutes from my last call, there was a screech of tires in the paring lot, and my mom emerged from a vehicle I had never seen before. If I thought I was upset, it didn’t hold a candle to the expression on her face. But she remained silent. She opened the door, let Shaun gather what he needed and leave then, in a fateful moment of self-restraint, she whispered, through clenched teeth, loud enough for everyone to hear, with not a trace of sadness in her voice, that I had ten minutes to pack and leave, forever.

It’s a blur beyond that. Some may even dispute the accuracy of the events I just described. What I said, though, was true and real to me at the time, and it’s accuracy, to an extent, is unnecessary, because it was my belief in events that mattered at the time. I remember calling my friend, a young gay couple from the social group I attended, and who I knew well because of weekly Queer as Folk viewing at their house, and asking to be picked up, immediately, and stay with them for a while. I packed everything into two bags and went outside to wait. My dad came out after me and I started running. Just then, my friend, Justin, arrived, and with horns honking, my dad screaming, me running, I leaped into the moving car and we sped off, kicking up dirt behind us, as my dad was yelling, begging me to come back, it could all be talked out. Fuck that. They wanted me gone, so I would go. Forever. Estrangement works both ways.

Well, the rest of this particular story isn’t very dramatic. I lived with Justin for a few months, then Shaun and I got back together and we moved into a two bedroom apartment in West Seattle. I started attendance full time at the University of Washington, took a new job, and was very successful, as these things go. I didn’t talk to my parents for two years, at least. I honestly thought, based on some rumours, that he had moved to the South, or maybe even Russia. Their phone number no longer worked and I had no forwarding address for them, so I was as good as disowned from what I used to think was my family. Anyways, Shaun started acting up around the same time, using drugs (in retrospect, probably just weed, but drugs were drugs as far as I was concerned at the time). I vividly remember the day we had a fight, and he threw my cat over the railing, watching her plunge to the concrete below, breaking her back, spewing blood and guts, a look of sheer horror on her face, and mine. Shortly after, I caught Shaun on the rooftop doing drugs in the hot tub. I called the police. Management kicked us out, but let me move into a new unit since I was an innocent party. So I ended up living on my own in my own one bedroom apartment. Who needed family? I had my own place, my own job, was getting a great education, making friends and having fun. I was doing fine. Or so I thought.

I walk forth, my world crashing and falling all around me
If you listen just right, it’s like a gentle rain
Whispering to me in soft tones of hope and inspiration
The rain picks up
All the Opera seats are full
The patrons lean in, frowning, what will he do with his life now? 
Will he recover, and get a job and find his life again? 
Or will be listen to the torrential rain, the gentle rain long gone, 
And give up hope, as should have been done long ago, 
Surrender to the sweet mercy of drug induced happiness 
Where the rain never comes and the music never stops

But I can’t decide today
I don’t want to ever decide

The rain will never stop pouring until I’ve made up my mind 
Until then, the rain falls, 
Just life restoring death

-Rain Falls, personal, 2012

This concludes Part II in which we see me go from school to work to being kicked out and disowned, back to school and work. I purposely left out the critical, life changing moment, however, when I learned the extent of and limits to sexuality, and bondage, and love and trust. These moments deserve their own section. So take a break, this ride is about to get ugly.

#mylifematters Prologue


I’m sorry.

I’m sorry i wasn’t there when you graduated. I’m sorry I wasn’t there at your wedding. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you got your first job. I’m sorry i wasn’t there when you had your first child. I’m sorry I never call or visit. I’m sorry I never put you on my Christmas list. I’m sorry we’ve become estranged, strangers in the night. I’m sorry I scurry silently by when I see you on the streets. I’m sorry you think you mean so little to me.

Because you mean the world to me. I’m not sorry I ever became friends with you or shared my life with you. I’m not sorry I went to bars with you and danced with you. I’m not sorry I studied with you or came to your events. I’m not sorry. These are moments I’ll never forget.

But, I’ve changed. To you, to my family and to myself. I don’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore. Who is this man, ghastly thin, pale, teeth yellowed, hair falling out? Who is this man looking back at me? A hollow image of my former self, a look that doesn’t go away after Halloween, a permanent and poignant marker of my downfalls and failures.

It is for this I apologize.

But I want you to know, there’s so much more. I wasn’t always like this. You know that. I was happy, carefree, a smart boy, a good looking boy, a healthy boy, a fun boy. I may have grown older with time, then, but I never grew up. I loved that about myself. You did too. There were days when I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, experiencing the joy, the friendship, the love, experiencing the experience! Sure, I studied hard, I worked hard, I was a serious student and worker. Sure I had a few bad days, don’t we all? But, you know, those didn’t define me. My smile did. Infectious, even to me. I was outgoing, popular, a socialite extraordinaire. Well, to an extent. Those parties I threw are some of my favorite memories, whether a small gathering at a bar, a night out on the dance floor, an intimate glass of wine, a  pants-off-dance-off in your living room. These are my memories, the good times, the good friends, the good drinks, the good bars and clubs, the good experiences.

It’s all gone. Even my memory is fading. I’m writing this so I can remember those days, those times, those moments, that made me happy. Those moments. Once lived, but never again.

Who am I? Me, I suppose. A facade, though, as if me was put on as a costume on myself. What I see isn’t what I get. A dashing young man, smart, successful, happy… It’s like a mirror showing me qualities I’ll never possess, the ultimate looking glass mirror. Because there, in that mirror, is the me that you saw and knew, the me that made it in life, the me that went on to grow old with a partner. But that’s not the me behind that glass. Pretty, but false. Who am I? Well, me. But not anything I’ve ever known or expected or anticipated or wanted or desired or for which I prepared myself. No, this me fell under the wheel and was tossed around, trodden upon, spit at, destroyed, used and cast aside. This me lives each day in darkness and despair and fear. This me, this is the real me. Maybe I was faking the whole time.

I’m writing this mostly for myself, so I know, as crazy as I am, that some things are not just in my head, imagined, but rather events I lived through, in fact, many of them events which I arranged. There was so much I wanted, so much potential, so much to live for, so much that I couldn’t take it anymore.

You were there. Really. You didn’t know but you were there. I remember the names and faces. I remember the time of day. I remember the sunshine, the frolicking, the good nature of mankind. You probably forgot, just another day. And it was. But not for me. It was a turning point that, little did I know, would forever alter my life. And so, I write this for you too. Because, as my friend, you deserve to know what happened. You deserve to know why I slipped away, turned my back on you, left you and never spoke again. You should know, it wasn’t you. 

I’m going to start where I remember and fill in the gaps as best I can. Names are real, events are real, dates may be all in my head, but I know what happened, regardless of when it occurred, and I need to put that down on paper so someone, someday, maybe, will read it and understand. I made poor choices, yes, but like anyone, I made the best choice under the circumstances I had, under the way that my mind saw things, under the way of what life threw to me. Under these circumstances and in that might, I made the rational decision. What followed was unforeseen, unforeseeable, impossible to imagine or comprehend. It was just another fucking day.

You can stop here, or skip over parts or jump straight to the end. What I need is to put my story out there, what you do with it is none of my concern. Of course, I want you to understand. But I’m not writing for your sympathy or your judgment. You will judge, I know. Because what follows is not the me that you knew or I knew, but the me that experienced these events and became the me of today. God, how I wish that me was not me.