While I’m in Bend I start reading Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. And I almost start sobbing in a laundromat while my best friend washes his clothes.
There’s a kid in the book, a gay kid (like me), Julius, Julie, Jules, and he’s falling in love, falls in love, falls head over heels, completely, for this boy named Titus. Who’s straight.
But Titus is young/horny/lonely/curious/open-minded, whatever you call it they fuck, a lot, and Jules will do anything for him and doesn’t mind at all, because he’ll take whatever he can get. He’s in love.
They’re exploring, and Jules is completely enamored, and twitter-pated and utterly enmeshed and entangled in this other boy. And I’m watching, entranced, seeing the first love I never got to have spill out on the pages in front of me.
And then Titus tells Julie’s mom Julie is a dick sucking little faggot.
So I sit on the bench in the laundromat, next to my best friend, and I try not to cry. And I don’t say a word.
Because I’m—I keep pinning all my hopes on every acceptable gay couple I see, needing things to turn out for them, just so there’s some small chance it can turn out for me. Because every reflection of my little pain just makes it ache more. Because I’m living and mourning the heartsick adolescence I never head. And because in a lot of ways I’m still 14, and desperate for someone to love me back.
I locked that little kid away in a cupboard, maybe the first time I caught myself staring at Eric’s arms, maybe once Sammy talked to me or after Matt wouldn’t or—
At whatever age it happened, at whatever moment— at some point there was this little part of me that looked up outside myself at someone else and said "I like that".
I took this delicate thing in my hands, this little bird with the pinfeathers still growing, and I put it somewhere dark, and very small, and I locked the door so that it wouldn’t get any bigger. I was scared of its voice, I was scared of what it said, so I pretended I couldn't hear it when it said it again.
And again and again and again and again. The voice was too quiet, because it was too small. Because I wouldn't let it grow a big voice.
But then I cracked the door open, and it erupted out, and it screamed and howled “I NEED that” and it dragged me, through Grindr, through hookups, through obsessions and what felt like addiction. It destroyed my life.
But it was still 14.
I’m still 14. Still standing on the sidelines, silent and with my lips closed for so long they’ve sealed shut, secretly desperate for anyone to talk to me. Secretly, so secretly I’m not even sure it’s true now, secretly willing to do anything it takes and do anything they want if they’ll just talk to me.
But that’s not why I want to cry.
It’s that word (that little word), delicately curled across the page and violently hurled against a 14 year old in love.
And it’s everything I’m afraid of being and everything I suddenly find that I am.
I’ve done that. I’ve done everything he mentioned. I sucked a dick. A cocksucking little faggot.
Am I a fag?
That’s the question that makes it feel like I can’t breathe, that makes my throat catch and my eyes prickle and burn.
Am I a fag?
I can’t be a fag. I can’t do that, I don’t even know for sure what that means but it can’t happen, I can’t fall off that last final step.
But I think I already have.
So I shove it in my backpack—the book and the thought—and I stuff it down and don’t feel it, not with Spencer there, straight and solid and busy, and I ignore it.
But I unpack it again that night. Recoil from it, gingerly poke at it. But I’m too scared of it. To scared of knowing that the answer is “Yes”.
But it’s gnawing on me, chewing with little bites, and on Sunday, in my sister’s church, with the worship band blasting along, that question finally breaks the skin and it bites down—hard.
And I ask God, in a faint, quiet little voice,
“Am I a fag?”
And in a thunderous outpouring, in a flood of love and angels shouting and utter certainty I hear:
“I don’t care.”
And God loves me. His favorite little fag.
He loves me.