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The first week home is agony.

Or maybe agony is too strong of a word. But the strain is constant: the wear, the grind of being home. Of feeling like I’m under observation, of feeling like they’re watching to see if I’ve changed, of knowing that “a talk”, an intervention, could come at any minute. The feeling that even if they’re open now, all the doors have locks.

I’m constantly stressed.

The first day back we don’t talk about it. On the drive back to Oregon we talk about Great British Bake-Off, and cookies, and women in engineering, but we don’t talk about this. And it’s great, it’s great to see them and to be with them and for everything to feel normal, but as the evening wears on, the thought of starting this conversation slowly paralyzes me. Freezes me like snipped nerves. My heart’s beating too fast and I’m afraid to look my parents in the eyes.

So we don’t talk, and I go to bed tense and jumpy and clenched like gnashing teeth. And doubt seeps in like cold water—did God really say? Maybe you’re just imagining it—and I have a hard time relaxing or carrying on conversations. They all feel like pretenses, like barely veiled lies, like deceptions, and I feel like I’m cooking in reverse, slowly becoming doughy and raw.

And then the next day we have The Talk.

It’s exactly what I expected and somehow worse.

I knew what was going to happen, or I was pretty sure, but— to have it confirmed, to have it actually be real, to hear them say they don’t know what they’d do if I wanted to bring someone (a man) home, to walk around the house and dismantle, piece by piece, the fantasy of showing someone (a man) this room or that book or that picture and telling them all the stories that come with it—it was like having all these little pieces of me stripped away. Like a general getting his medals pulled off one by one.

I had fought so hard for my parent’s approval, for so long, and I’d gotten it. It was a miracle— a hard won miracle— that I’d had it at all, and for a year I’d basked in it. I was in grad school, I was getting good grades and impressing professors, I had a Christian group and I was active and vibrant in it, I was baking, I got a good job, I was making good money and taking care of myself. I was a good son. A son you could be proud of and brag about and I knew it and I loved it.

And now, after the hardest 4 months of my life, after the hardest, most vicious struggle I'd ever had, after coming out the other side in joy and victory— I was watching it all crumble. I was watching all that pride and strength crumble into worry and concern and disappointment. And I was the problem child all over again.

 

I was home.