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The Wicker Chronicles: Essays, Poetry, Short Fiction
Thursday, 23 June 2005
amber

When I returned home from college that first year, I had to explain to my mom and dad why I withdrew from most of my second semester. The truth wasn't an option (I'm gay, I was almost hit by a train, God may or may not hate me but the Christians certainly do) so I opted for the next best explanation (I had a nervous breakdown, maybe I should start seeing a therapist). This was an emotionally manageable story which dealt with my overwhelming, paralyzing fear of discovery but didn't resolve any of the turmoil going on inside me.

All of my energy went into managing a facade of normality; I wanted this to blow over as soon as possible. I knew that I wasn't going back to the Christian university, so I applied and was accepted at a large state school within an hour and a half drive of my parent's house. I reconnected with some of my best friends from high school and told them some of my experiences, but not everything. I kept the train and the doctor to myself, hidden, scars that I was ashamed to reveal to anyone.

I was determined and had convinced myself that Everything Was Going To Be Just Fine. The summer was speeding by. I was going to a new college in the fall and I was excited to forget the old and start over again.

Midsummer, a high school friend of mine threw a party at her house. Her parents were out of town, and my friends and I had the whole place to ourselves. The liquor cabinet was fully stocked; there were all types of hard alcohol and beer... I had little knowledge of alcohol other than a single beer and a few sips of wine, so it was a new experience. As soon as I got to the party, one of my friends poured me a mixed drink of Southern Comfort and orange juice. It was so good! As soon as I'd finished the one she'd given me, I headed to the kitchen to find more. There was a nearly full bottle of Southern Comfort that had just been opened, and the carton of orange juice in the fridge. I grabbed a big water glass out of a cupboard and filled it half full of juice and half full of the dark honey-colored Southern Comfort. It still tasted good, but had an edge of bitterness. I drank it all down very fast and then poured myself some more. Everyone was laughing and having a good time in the living room and outside on the porch. I started feeling flushed, slow, time moving slower and slower. I had never felt that way before; I was drunk! I thought it was funny, these strange and new sensations.

So I went back to the kitchen. I poured most of the rest of the bottle of Southern Comfort, straight, into a big plastic cup. I stood there in the kitchen and drank it all down in maybe a minute, maybe two.

I stumbled back to the porch where everyone was hanging out. The porch lights were bright and summer moths and mosquitoes swarmed around them. I remember thinking, fumbling over the words in my mind, wow, it's like, like everything is... receding but I'm still standing right here. Still standing. Right. Here. Then it all stopped, and I was stuck in static, hazy amber. Then darkness.

That's my last memory.

Snip. Like a film editor cutting out an entire scene and letting the celluloid strip slip to the floor, I lost about 16 hours of my life.

From darkness I drifted back up, gradually coming back to awareness. A dim, blind awareness, full of intense pain. All of my limbs were numb, my breath shallow, searing heat beating inside my skull. I could hardly move. When I managed to open my eyes I couldn't focus on anything. Suddenly I was bent double with violent nausea, but there was nothing left, dry heave after heave, my mouth swollen and the stench of vomit thick in the back of my throat.

I was in the den of my friend's house, on a pull-out bed. My friends had put me there, not knowing what else to do, not wanting to call parents or ambulances, not knowing how much I had had to drink. They'd watched me during the night to make sure I didn't choke on my own vomit... it's all they knew to do. And more disturbing to me, I found out later, they'd had a direct, all-access, ringside seat to view the contents of my subconscious.

Snip. After time stopped, my body still continued to move about of its own accord. With the marionette strings of my mind cut and my conscious, tightly-controlled demeanor gone, it was like a switch had flipped. Without my skin I was a raw nerve of pulsing fear. I screamed and cried and vomited, yelling that God hated me, everyone hated me, that I was going to Hell. I was utterly terrified and sobbing and inconsolable. And then I passed out. My friends carried me into the next room and put me to bed. It was a waking nightmare for them too. What had happened to their quiet, shy friend? What could possibly make someone be so afraid?

I was a lean, skinny guy, and had no alcohol tolerance. For the amount of alcohol that I drank, I'm not sure why I didn't die. We did the math. I drank the equivalent of 12 to 15 standard 1.5oz shots of 80 proof alcohol in about 20 minutes.

It took me well over a week to recover; I was so very sick and weak. There's nothing my parents could have done to punish me that hurt worse than what I had done to myself.

Except now I had this gap with no memory. Just the confusing details of what my friends told me that they had witnessed, the screaming and fear that I couldn't remember. But now I knew it was there. I knew that even if I went off to this new college and pretended everything was okay, that I was just pretending. That it was more than just the doctor and the train. There were memories I didn't want to see or acknowledge or name.

So I pushed it all down again, below the amber and the darkness. I stood on the squeaking lid and I jumped up and down and made sure it was good and shut this time, no flying open at awkward moments ever again. I was determined and Everything Was Going To Be Just Fucking Fine.

Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 23 June 2005 4:43 PM CDT
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Saturday, 18 June 2005
not exactly a news flash

I haven't spoken to my father in 6 years. This is not exactly news; anyone who knows me well knows what an abominable creature he is. I've also written about various experiences of mine with him, and posted them on this blog.

I've been told by well-meaning people that in order to truly forgive him, I need to reestablish a relationship with him. Which, from my point of view, would put me in a position to be abused and rewounded all over again, because that is what he does. He's a master manipulator. He's mentally cruel by nature. He wants a relationship with me not for my benefit, but so that he can present the false reality to his friends, family and colleagues that he has a relationship with his oldest son again. I'm just a prop, a last component that will complete the tidy tableau he's designed for others to see. I know this because that was my function for about twenty years, so how exactly would that change now?

There's also the fact that he has succinctly stated his views on homosexuality in public forums, that it not only profanes but perverts the image of God. He also compares it to bestiality, saying that homosexuality strikes at the essence of what it means to be human. As you can imagine, as both a Christian and a gay man, his zealous stance doesn't exactly inspire much confidence in me that he's capable of a rekindled relationship.

Most of my friends are like, excuse me? Did we hear you right? They're shocked that I would even consider a relationship again after all that he's done to my mother and brother. But I'm not interested and never have been in doing the easy thing when it's not the right thing. I've wanted to make the honorable decision, even if he has never dealt honorably with me.

So as Father's Day swings past, the annual questions rise: Should I make contact again, and what would that do to my life? I've been so protective of what I've regained over the past 6 years, untainted and uninfluenced by him. My mind hasn't been clouded and anxious, constantly worried that he's going to be angry and disappointed with me. I don't want to give him any more material that he can save up and use against me. I don't want to give up the peace and the confidence that I've so carefully built out of his absence.

Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 7:20 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 June 2005 8:03 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 15 June 2005
dreams of cities

1.

There is a city.

It is cold and stone, metal veins pulsing with bitter fuel and fire. But this is only in the grey marrow, in the spaces between the walls, in the wormed out hollows of cellars. On the surface it is all candy and neon, skin dancing with color and youth.

It appears to live, but it is a necropolis.

It is the last road, the only one left, the desperate path when all ways are closed.

It is the last hand of the last game, and it knows it.


2.

There is a city.

There is an ache, a want in each of us that has no name, only a place: this place.

Without the city, we are scattered seeds, lost, blown in the wind, caught in strange currents, taken away from ourselves. We become less than what we could be without you, O City.

The tips of your furthest branches stir the rarified gas at the lip of space, and your roots caress the dull red rock at the edge of the core.

No part of our world is unknown to you. No part of us is unknown to you, O City.


3.

There is a city.

It is ancient and new, all at the same time --- buildings coming down, buildings going up. All is in flux, ending and beginning.

Once, when I was walking to the library after school, I took a shortcut over one of the wide bridges that span the Fox River. I ran down the crumbling cement and iron stairs that extend down from the bridge to Walton Island, a narrow strip of land with scraggly trees in the center of the river. A damp breeze blew from the dimness underneath the bridge. I saw an old man sleeping behind the foot of the stairs, curled up on the cool cement in the shade. At least, I thought he was sleeping. I hurried on, not thinking about his motionlessness, the sense of stagnance, his stillness in contrast to the rushing brown of the river.

Afternoon fishermen in worn lawnchairs had camped out along either side of the island, poker faces not revealing whether they had caught any fish, or hoped to. They were focused on their serious game and barely registered my passage. They didn't seem happy, just driven, bent to their purpose.

As I reached the end of the dirt path, about to set foot on the small arch of the Iron Bridge which led at last to the library, I glanced up to my right into the low boughs of a box elder tree. A flock of parakeets busied itself in the spreading branches, green and yellow and blue, twittering and chirping, as normal as if they were native. Which they were not.

They were living jewels cast in feathers, serendipitous anomalies thousands of miles from the jungle. They were living sentences on the paragraph tree, and they spelled out: anything is possible if you know how to see. Even someone like me can follow the brown river down to the sea, and leave the sleeper and the fishermen behind. Even someone like me can follow the dirt path to the edge of the island, and roll back the dark, blank ceiling of the sky to find fiery stars.

Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 15 June 2005 9:36 PM CDT
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Tuesday, 14 June 2005
theological worldview

Hi everyone. I do have another piece that I'm in the middle of writing, but in the meantime I thought this was a pretty interesting quiz. I'm very proud to say that I'm 0% Fundamentalist!

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern
68%

Neo orthodox
68%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
61%

Modern Liberal
50%

Classical Liberal
43%

Reformed Evangelical
32%

Roman Catholic
21%

Charismatic/Pentecostal
14%

Fundamentalist
0%

http://quizfarm.com/test.php?q_id=43870
created with QuizFarm.com

Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 1:55 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 15 June 2005 10:17 AM CDT
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Thursday, 9 June 2005
safe

I will be safe
and not speak
unless spoken to

I will not say things
that tighten the air
with awkwardness

I will be yielding
pliable and white as
Holy Silly Putty
mirroring the message
from the pulpit

I will be the safe gay
The one that's really trying
saturated with prayer
sweating the Word
blind with faith

I will be the puppet
for any faith-based initiative
sexless and plastic
posing for the people

I will be a trophy
shiny as the cover
on a new Bible

I will smile until
my smile breaks

Instead of being straight
(which will be granted to me someday)
I will now be narrow

I will give my testimony
and it will ring with yearning
I will hold on to my vision
so fervently
that the bones in my hands
will snap like pretzel sticks
before I let go of it

My spirit is so renewed
I don't think about men anymore

even Jesus



---------------------------------
(This was written to reflect my state of mind back in 1998-99, not my present feelings)


Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 3:56 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 9 June 2005 4:13 PM CDT
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Saturday, 4 June 2005
Window of Opportunity

1.

Laying in the dark on my bed, I listen to the crickets chirruping under the honeysuckle bushes outside my open window. It’s deep summer. No breeze stirs through the window screen, just the sweet warm molasses night. I lay there wondering if this is the time, the correct and appointed time to leave. To leave him.

In my daydreams I always head west, but I embellish it boldly: The Great West. I envision it, the stretching endless roads and neon truck stops, the vast plains lapping up against hard, grey mountains. Go west until I hit the sea, and then I'll stop. Don’t all journeys end or begin at the sea?

But what will I do for money? Or food? Shelter? Will I even be able to pull it off without getting caught? Dragged back to Illinois amidst cops and newspaper reporters and flashing camera bulbs. Him waiting until the cameras had gone, the door finally closed, and then the inevitable tight hand on my shoulder, fingers digging into the tender base of my neck, the air suddenly hard to breathe and…

The lightning bugs whirr and lazily glow like fairy traffic signals on the branches of the honeysuckle. Just a short drop to the ground and I'd be free. The crickets urge me to action, the lightning bugs’ blinking turned urgent, the dark unknown inviting.

A brief window of opportunity.

Remember: I'm twelve. A couple of weeks ago I dared to disagree with him, and then realizing what I’d done I tried to backpedal, fight the current sweeping me toward a familiar conclusion. I’m standing by my bed, him in the doorway looking down on me. Before I can even react he's on top of me, his hot hand on the back of my head grinding my face into the carpet, his body straddled over my back, crushing, heavy, his low harsh voice taunting in my ear, asking me to repeat again what I'd said, mocking. Are you going to say it again? Huh? You going to mouth off to me again? Say it again. What's that? I can't hear you. What? Say it. Yeah, that's what I thought. And then just as quickly he's gone, leaving me there on the carpet. The beige, ordinary, neutral carpet. If I focus on the patch right in front of my nose, I can pretend it's a strange jungle, an alien landscape far away from here. I do that for a while, populating the loops and valleys with a wee, beige people going about their carpet lives undisturbed. Normal. He comes back about five minutes later, I think. Get up off the floor. You're not hurt, get up. You always overreact, you're so stupid. Stop crying. Now go wash up for dinner. You’re keeping us waiting. Now.

Then everything is back to normal, everything is fine, nothing happened, he smoothes over the bumps and cracks in his reality like smoothing icing onto a cake, until everything is gooey and sweet and seamless. Don't disturb the icing. He can have his cake and eat it too. The cake is not for us; his reality is not our reality, our reality isn’t listed on the can, doesn’t exist on the packaging. Everything is fine. Nothing happened. If you hadn't mouthed off, I wouldn't have had to do that. Don't disturb the God Damn icing.

You can't walk on eggshells without them breaking. Walking through the icing leaves tracks. Always. This has consequences. Every unscheduled, unsupervised trail through the icing has consequences. Be sure to wipe the icing off your shoes before you come in, or go out.

I didn't leave. Because it wouldn't have mattered how far I'd run, I'd still be in his world, not my own. Eventually, I'd be returned to him. And that would be unimaginable. Better to stay. Stay and pretend everything was normal, praying and praying every day into a semblance of normality.

Everything. Is. Normal.


2.

I made my own world, in response to his.

He never knew the secret names or found the sacred places, never heard the voices pitched only to my ears or saw the lights meant only for my eyes. He could be power, principality and dominion, could manipulate and charm until night seemed day, day seemed night, but the pure, true things I hid from him were safe.

I tried to restore the spirit to the things he’d crush, give them life again, so that even when he’d grab at them impatiently, pop them like the fragile, colored-glass balls my younger brother and I used to hang on our evergreen-scented plastic Christmas tree, he’d never really steal their essence. Even when he shook me like a sapling in a storm and bellowed until I felt the fragile glass ball inside me break, it was never really me he shattered. I’d say to the wee, beige people in the carpet: Here. Take this quickly. Hide it. I’ll come back for it soon. Or I’d suddenly be a cloud of invisible moths circling his head, dancing and diving, and as he swatted at the insects he could feel but never see I would smile to myself, knowing he could never really catch me. He could never erase what I could remember.

Remember: Under my patchwork quilt, warm and close within the dim amber glow of a failing flashlight, a complete world unfolds between the pages of a worn, thick paperback book. The characters and images enthrall me, and so vivid and real are they in my mind that I forget to be mindful of certain noises. In particular, the tiger-soft padding of footsteps in the hall, the warning creak of a floorboard, the protesting eeeeee-eeep as the clear glass doorknob of my bedroom door slowly turns. As the door shudders open I react instantaneously, switching off the flashlight, flattening myself under the covers, holding my breath and waiting, waiting…

“Are you awake?” my father says.

I don’t answer. I lie still and begin to breathe again, slowly, evenly, although the panic is screaming silently in my head, each hot breath hoarse in my throat. Important to keep calm, calm, if I don’t move he’ll go away, if I don’t answer he’ll leave.

“I know you’re awake, I could see the flashlight through the quilt. You know you’re not supposed to be up this late. I want you to give me your book. Now.”

I turn over slowly onto my back, folding the quilt down over my chest. In the dim moonlight coming through the window blinds, I can just see the dark shadow of him standing in the doorway. He clicks on the overhead light switch, everything leaping into sharp, bright definition as he comes into the room and stands over my bed, right hand outstretched.

“Give me the book. If you waste any more of my time, it’ll be a while before you get it back. Don’t make me come get it.”

His hand is thick but not big, with short fingers and neatly clipped fingernails. It’s an average hand, unassuming, not a hand that would obviously wield power or close a deal on the strength of a handshake. But I’m still a child in this memory, his child, and his hand is an extension of God. His hand always requires an offering.

As I hand him the book, sweaty now in my grasp, it turns in my hand and falls to the carpet at his feet. With horror I watch it fall, knowing that he’ll think I did it on purpose, did it for some reason, any reason. I grab at it quickly, twisting out of the bedcovers to get it, and his fast hard knuckle connects with my right temple in a burst of stars, white magnesium flash pinpricks and I gasp and slide out of the bed onto the book onto the carpet blankets and all in a heap and he starts swearing at the colossal inconvenience and drama caused by me, yet again.

“Shit! God fucking DAMN it!” he growls and slurs, kicking me off his feet and grabbing the book, tearing the cover off in the process. His face is red and tight, his eyes beady and grey, which is strange because normally his eyes are pale blue, I think. When he wears blue shirts, they really show off his eyes. I think about the different blue shirts he has, and how nice he looks in them, and then he finally stomps out, shuts off the light, slams the door. Only then, in the dark, do my emotions catch up with the situation, and I cry silently for my poor book. Silently, because if he hears me he’ll come back, and when he comes he demands an offering to his anger be it book or head or heart.


3.

These “situations” always seem to happen near my bed, or at least in my room. Have you noticed that? Good. I appreciate a reader that’s quick on the uptake.

After a while, all the memories of him run together, become hard to tell apart. Instead of panning for gold, washing the grit and slurry around and around the pan, intent on discerning that bright wink of yellow, I pan for anti-gold, original sin, archetypal Him. The vise-like hands, serpent swift. The grey eyes devoid of reason. The words like hot, honeyed knives.

When I find them, the bits wriggling in the pan, I pin them down so they can’t scurry away. See the tasteful collector’s case, all burnished wood, precise steel clasps, polished glass? Any entomologist would be envious. My specimens are neatly labeled: Latin name, date and location caught, wounds garnered. The black wasp in the bottom left hand corner, abdomen convulsing, stinging and stinging the empty air, remember that? That was the time he picked me up by the neck and carried me over to my bed; easiest way to keep me quiet, he said. And the great water beetle in the center, iridescent mandible jagged and twitching; remember? That was the time he put his hand through the wall outside my bedroom door; good thing he tripped when he lunged at me. Or the glossy centipede with its candy apple red carapace, thrashing on its pin… If I had a scratch or strategically knuckled bruise for every thrashing leg, there still wouldn’t be enough.

These are stubborn bugs of memory. They hum and click in their case, refusing to die like normal insects, and I am forced to be their guardian, their prison warden. Without them, I would have no proof that they ever existed, that they’re real. There are those that don’t believe in them anyway.

Beds are where we’re most vulnerable, where we need to be safe.

When that’s taken away, nowhere is safe.


Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 10:21 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
forest

The resolve to be more Christian than Christian didn't work out so well, as that would mean I'd have to be around them all of the time.

That last semester of my first year of college, I had so much going on inside that I felt raw, skinless, all nerves. I had so many questions trying to burst from me that the tiny vent of my mouth got clogged, rendering me silent. Mute. I didn't want to speak anymore. I didn't want to look people in the eye. I stopped attending classes. The presence and expectations of others was unbearable. The normalcy, the sanity of everyday life was driving me insane.

So I went where I could breathe deeply, where I didn't have to speak... I escaped into the forest.

I was all eyes and ears and nose and touch, and the forest was big enough to encompass the craziness, enfolding my exploding brain with wind and creaking trees, green and sap, birds and stream, blossom and sun. I was allowed to begin again, able to scrape the charred rind off of my heart and start fresh. I came to the forest as I was, and it accepted me. I carry the jewel-like memories of that time deep inside me like seed crystals, God crystals. They helped me endure what was to come: doctor, train, near-death and onward down the troubled paths into the future.

There is a stream, deep in the forest, where a bed of purple clams gleam and burble, tan sand runs flecked with pyrite, pebbles tumble, and all are untouched by hungry raccoons or curious humans.

Carpets of pink and red bleeding hearts bloom under the multitude of evergreens and towering maples, as far as I can see in the thick, wet air.

Spiraling ferns and fiddles unfurl up wide trunks of craggy bark, shaggy moss, over the sticky-shimmering paths of land snails twining over limbs. I collect their shells, brown like nuts, like caramel, I keep them in a box with pungent nuggets of hardened pine resin. I will always keep this gold of the forest, secret money for me.

I know where the great tree lies across the creek, like the great tree of the world that fell, and I see the minnows and turtles that hide in its shadow, avoiding the ripples of open water. I see how we all hide in the shadows.

If I crouch down among the ruby-red stalks and peach-colored blossoms of policeman's helmets, I can hear a hundred fuzzy bees, I can see the green metallic beetles finding mates, I can feel the hum and the sun and the click. I am more alive here than anywhere. I am more yours here, O Lord, than anywhere else.

In a bank of stinging nettles I find a bird's nest made of green and brown moss, and a single butterfly's wing, woven and tattered into the downy feathers of the central bowl.

Wild blackberries and salmonberries are my feast, my challenge, I can spy them by their shadows behind sunlit leaves, winnowing between vines or stalking their stalks, in shadow or light. The sweetness is neither too little nor too much, the black tart and the pink musty and mellow. I pity the people who never taste them thus, who never know such simple completeness.

I am rich to bursting in these moments. I am fully present.

Coming back to people was like slipping into a troubled sleep, a busy-dim awareness, like diving into a dark pool and holding my breath, until the time that I could surface again into the light and freedom of the forest.


Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 June 2005 6:57 PM CDT
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Sunday, 29 May 2005
grace

God does me no disservice
by loving without limits
granting grace
denying distinctions
restoring warp and weave
I am woven into His will
logos and loom, text and textile

God does me no disservice
by saving without second thoughts
completing creation
evolving epiphanies
redeeming penance and prayer
I am drawn into His promise
agape and gift, past and present

Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 2:59 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 May 2005 4:42 PM CDT
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Monday, 23 May 2005
belief

He finds me when I am not looking,
the soft footstep at the threshold of my senses

an embrace of apple blossoms humming with bees,
murmuring all languages that have ever been spoken

Oh quickened tongue made of light and earth,
voice of star and root, wave and leaf

He comes to me when I am not seeing,
the honey glow of light from behind the door

Here is the expectant coil of green beneath the snow,
beneath the burn, beneath the stone

Here is warm and sun on skin again after night,
after grief, after sorrow





Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, 23 May 2005 4:24 PM CDT
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Monday, 16 May 2005
Lost

I very nearly lost my life toward the end of my first year of college. In some ways, I did lose it that day, and it would be many years before I would find it again.

It was about a month before the end of my second semester, and I had just turned 19. I had chosen to go to a private Christian university, one that many family members had also attended. It was a family thing, and I had been so excited to come and continue that tradition.

I was just coming to terms, and not well, with the undeniable fact that I was gay. I had grown up in a Christian home, so I knew from countless years of Sunday school and youth groups that homosexuals were going to burn in Hell. It's just the way things were. There wasn't any nice way around it.

But I wasn't like any of the gay people I saw on TV, or read about in the newspaper or in magazines. I was Christian, and this just couldn't be happening! I would pray and pray that somehow one morning I'd wake up and everything would be normal. I would fantasize about what it would be like to be straight, to be attracted to girls like all of the other guys, to go on and get married, have kids, etc. But I was me, and those were other people; I just couldn?t quite imagine what it would be like. Not really. I would lie in my bed at night and would whisper "Oh fuck, I'm gay"... What else could I do?

I grew increasingly inward as that first academic year passed. I just couldn't tell anyone else, any of my friends, family... it was just too big. I was too ashamed and scared. If anything, I felt like I was in constant danger of someone discovering my secret. Of someone noticing that I was different, and then figuring out why.

I finally had to talk to somebody about it, or go crazy. I opened up to a trusted professor, the only adult I felt safe with at the time. She was very empathetic and wise, and was a listening ear when that is what I needed most. But she also thought that it would help me if I spoke to the campus counselor. Someone who was a professional and who would be better equipped and trained to offer me advice. I agreed, because I wanted to believe that things were going to be ok. I was desperate for someone to tell me that I?d get through this, that it wasn?t the end of the world.

I visited the campus counselor several times. We talked about my family life, about why I was feeling so down, about how I thought I was gay. After what would be our last session, he proclaimed that he thought my primary problem was that I was depressed, and that he would like to put me on some trial anti-depressants. In his opinion, that would definitely clear matters up. But as he wasn't a medical doctor, he couldn't actually prescribe them to me himself. So he referred me to the campus doctor to fill the prescription.

I walked directly over to the campus doctor's office, energized to finally be doing something constructive about the way I felt. I was nervous, but I was happy too. Here I had worried that people would freak out, that I?d be rejected. But instead, my professor and the campus counselor had both been really kind and helpful. I walked into the doctor?s office distracted, my mind full of all the things that I would do when I felt better. Because I wanted to feel better. I wanted more than anything just to feel normal again.

I was shown to a little room by the receptionist, an older woman, and waited for the doctor. The receptionist had seemed, I don?t know, edgy when I?d said who I was and that I had an appointment. I didn?t think anything of it at the time. When the doctor came in, I shook his hand and we both sat down.

He said that he had received a call from the counselor, and had fit me in right away. He said this in a careful, precise way, each word enunciated very clearly. It?s how people speak when they want to be understood the first time, so they don?t have to repeat themselves. He looked me directly in the eyes and said, "I will only prescribe these anti-depressants to you if you promise me one thing."

"Okay, what's that?" I said.

"That you not come back to this school next semester. This school and community is no place for students like you, with... your problem." He emphasized the words "your problem" as if they were particularly loathsome and he could hardly bring himself to even refer to the "problem" I had. He was obviously referring to the fact that I was a homosexual.

He looked at me with cold, cold eyes, and then he turned and busied himself at a cabinet. He shoved a handful of sample packets at me, enough for a month or so, and a prescription for when those ran out. The economy of his movements, his terse words; he was mechanical and detached.

?Are we understood?? He said.

I was stunned, I didn?t know, didn?t know how to think, what to say.

?Yes,? I replied quietly.

"Good," he said.

He left the room quickly and didn't look back. The receptionist stared at me on the way out, like one would at a circus freak or a car accident. She didn't say goodbye either.

I stepped out into the bright sun. It was a beautiful Spring day, but I didn't feel alive inside anymore. I walked and walked, too numb to think or cry, just replaying in my mind's eye how he and the receptionist had looked at me. How I was disgusting, a human-shaped bag full of dirt masquerading as a Christian, just pretending to be like everyone else. But they had found me out. His words had peeled away what little hope I had, the thin skin that I wore that kept me going.

I walked instinctively to one of my favorite places, a wooded area with railroad tracks running along a raised bed of grey gravel. I walked along the tracks, kicking stones, listening to the quiet, peaceful hum of bees and flies, the click and thrum of grasshoppers. I ambled about a half a mile, until I came to a part of the tracks that passed over a quiet road. I stopped in the middle of the bridge and stood there, feeling the wind and the sun, just being and feeling nothing.

Then the tracks started to vibrate, very quietly. The steel started to sing. It always sang when there was a train coming. You could feel it before you could hear it, soft trenors up through the soles of your shoes, the distant train running swiftly along the tracks. The unusual thing about this section of track though, was that the train comes around a tight bend right before the trestle, so if there's something on the tracks, it can't stop. It can't blow its horn. It can't slow down. It erupts from around the bend, a great bellowing wall of steel, all thunder and muscle. I could smell the creosote and tar from the railroad ties, the rusty tang of the hot steel in the sun, and now I could hear it coming. It was right there, around the bend. I could feel the deep vibrations in the air all around me.

But I just stood there, because nothing mattered anymore. I wasn't human. I was gay. What did it matter?

Then I saw the train, and something inside me snapped. A seal broke and instinct sprinted through me and I ran, RAN without thought, my cells reacting where my mind could not, would not. I don't know how, I don't remember clearly, but suddenly I was in the dust and gravel at the end of the trestle, beside the tracks, when the train thundered by, so loud that it blotted out the entire world. There was only train and thunder and hot, angry wind.

Then as suddenly as it came, it was gone. The steel tracks gently sang, softer and softer, a quickly fading lullaby after the storm. I was still there. Dusty and coughing and scared, but still alive. I looked at where I had been standing, off in the middle of the trestle, and I don't know how I had made it here in time. It didn't seem possible. But I did. Somehow.

At the time, this was small consolation. Now there was no one I could trust. No one was safe. I would never tell anyone else about this, about the doctor, about the anti-depressants, about my... problem. I would wait out these last few weeks of school as if nothing had ever happened, and then I would leave and never return. I would act more normal than the most normal of students. I would be perfect and happy and more Christian than ever before, but inside I was dead.




Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 17 May 2005 1:23 PM CDT
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