So, this is what happened. I never talk about it really. I wonder if Violet even knows the story. I would say that it’s because the story annoys me, but the truth, as annoying as it is to admit, is because it still stings.
So, here’s what happened.
I was in high school. I was lucky and had a pretty tight knit group of friends and quite a few really. I also had a girlfriend. This is the part no one knew about. She was more popular than me and was the best lesbo-cover-up a dyke in Smallmindednowhereville could ask for. She was smart and pretty and sweet and everyone loved her. Including me, obviously.
We started secretly dating each other our sophomore year. It was a funny and awkward progression into realizing that we were a couple. We didn’t actually talk about it for the first year of being together. The first time I tried to tell Marie that I was gay I decided to downgrade it a notch (in my mind) and say I was bisexual. But when I looked into her big beautiful blue eyes I knew. Every time. I knew that I was gay and she wasn’t. We were in love, don’t get me wrong. We were very, very in love but that didn’t change who we were. So, I looked her right in her big blue eyes and said, “Marie, I’m, I mean, well… I’m a bi…” when she jumped in and said, “What, jesse?!”
“I think I’m… well, um… a bicycle.” And then I said I had to pee, which I did, and that I would be right back ,which I was. When I got back to her room she said nothing and I said nothing. We said nothing about that again, until we did.
A few months later I tried again. At this point we had been a couple for a little more than a year. This time we were taking a walk around her neighborhood in the middle of the night. We use to sneak out of her parents’ house and go on walks together in the middle of the night so that we could hold hands. It was a big deal. Holding her hand filled me with more butterflies than kissing did. It was harder to do and because it was so difficult and risky, for some reason, it felt more intimate.
As we were walking, stepping around street lights I asked, “Remember when I was a total weirdo and told you I was a bicycle?” Marie said, “Ya, I didn’t know you were stoned until you said that. Whatever.” I put my head down and said, “I wasn’t high.” And in the same breath I said, “I’m gay.”
Marie stopped so I stopped and we both sat on the curb together. Something about the stillness of sitting there in the dark with Marie’s hands all wrapped in mine made everything boiling inside of me fall out and I started crying in a way that I never allowed myself to. I tucked my head into my hands and felt like I might have to sit like that forever. I felt so embarrassed and exposed and wrong and sitting next to the only person who really knew me, who loved me deeper than my whole being, I still felt alone. It took me years to realize how strange it was that the first person I ever came out to was my girlfriend.
So we were sitting on this curb a few blocks from Marie’s house at 2 am and as she wove my hands back into hers, she leaned in and put her head in my neck and whispered, “I know, jesse. You’re beautiful.” And I just sat there sobbing until I nearly fell asleep on the street as she rubbed my head. There were a million more things I wanted to say and ask and it was the first time in my life that I felt like I couldn’t say any of it to her. Any of it. And some of it I never did. And when the night sky began to lighten we knew we had to go.
—– —– —–
This whole post is supposed to be about the shit I went through in high school, so, let’s jump a year. Junior year sucked the most. The more my relationship with Marie grew the more isolated I felt from the world around me. I was crazy in love and no one knew, except for Marie. I also hated that I was gay. It was a safe secret so it mostly seemed like another stupid problem that I really didn’t have time for. It felt scary, the potential of it. I saw what happened to the kids accused of being gay. It was not pretty and usually it was terrible and sometimes it was bloody and sometimes the accused just disappeared to another school in a different district, never to be seen or heard from again, ever.
So, here it is – the moment that started super-suckdom-of-all-suckyness-in-all-the-land:
Marie, most of my friends and I were at a slumber party at Sarah’s house. Marie and I went into the bathroom together to change into our pj’s. We started kissing. The part of this story that I didn’t know about for several months was that Sarah’s little brother had put a ladder up outside the bathroom window to be a perv and watch us change. Well, little brother got a whole lot more than a couple of training bras putting on pj’s, that is for sure. And so, the next day he told his sister. His sister, Sarah, and I were friends but as it should turn out our friendship was not as valuable as this new information and she began to tell our friends what her brother had seen.
I still don’t know how quickly this spread or exactly how, but it did and here’s how I found out:
I got to school about a half hour before classes started, like we all did every day to have our teenage social needs met first thing. I walked down the hallway, found my group of friends sitting where they always did and just as soon as I sat down three of them stood up and walked away. The one closest to me said this as she walked away, “Gross, I think she just touched my arm.”
[Writing this out is making me take some really uncomfortable breaths. Like I said earlier, I don’t talk about this because it sounds so trivial and teenaged and that compared to the way it can still sock me a good one in the gut 18 years later, that imbalance makes me feel silly and unadjusted with the world.]
So, they all got up and walked away, leaving me sitting there alone with a bright red face and empty lungs. My mind raced to come up with, invent, another reason for what was happening but I knew what was happening and if there was any way to wish yourself dead I wouldn’t be writing right now.
So, fast forward past all of the obvious repercussions of being me and outted against my will or want in Smallmindednowhereville, past the feeling of being totally isolated turned total reality and past all of my hatred for myself being promoted and validated by everyone that mattered all around me. Past starting to flunk out of school, drinking too much, too often, past the eating disorders, past the late night drunken plans to get out of this tiny awful world somehow: running away, killing myself or just hiding in every way possible, for as long as I possibly could until I turned 18 and then leave immediately (I went with the third option), past all of the bold face lies I told to the few friends that tried to stay true, that confronted me and said, “Just tell me. I don’t care, I just want to know.” Fast forward to now. To tonight.
I hadn’t figured out how to contribute to the It Gets Better Project and at this point had decided I wouldn’t, not in the forum it was happening anyway. I am an activist by nature and I have and do and will contribute, of course, I just didn’t think I would be writing this post.
But then, tonight, I got home and checked my personal email, like I do, and found an email with a name on it that I could say I vaguely recognized, but I would say that to save face and I would be lying. The name on this email is someone I haven’t spoken to in 18 years. Tonight, just now, I got an email from the girl in high school, my friend until that early Tuesday morning when we were all 15 years old and sleepy and needed each other so much that we made it a point to get to the one building we all wanted out of more than anything, even before we had to be there, so very early in the morning, just so we could see each other, because that was enough to make it until lunch, at the very least. This woman now, my friend until that morning, that got up as I sat down next to her, who looked me in the eyes and was suddenly disgusted that I may have touched her arm emailed me tonight. Just now. And here it is:
Date: Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 3:44 PM
I hope this note finds you well. It has been a long time since I have seen you. I was looking through some old pics the other weekend and ran across some from our sophomore trip together. It reminded me of what great times we had together. I am pretty sure the first time I skipped school it was with you. Anyway, I really turned out to be a super shitty person the last couple years of high school.
I wanted to take a moment to apologize for my behavior and ignorance. Most of all for being so judgmental and saying hateful things. I hope you are happy, I get updates from xxxxxx now and again, and she says you are doing well. I am sorry it has taken me this long to write you. I assure you I have thought many times about reaching out to you, but worried that it was unwelcome. It may still be unwelcome, but I did want to thank you for being a great friend, and tell you I am sorry I didn’t turn out to be one for you.
So, in conclusion, I am a true believer, and very happy to quote Cher when I add that I am Living Proof, that this is no joke, folks:
It Gets Better. I promise.
Thank you, Joanne, for your apology and for your kindness. These things can never come too late. And for the needed nudge to write this post.