Ever since I was born, I had a hard time making friends. While the other children were running around, full of energy, scraping their knees on the pavement and getting burned by the sun, I was at home, staring at the wall. I was mentally running wild, as my thoughts were my playground. Others didn’t seem to understand that, though. Since the emotional and mental bonds people formed with me were the most valuable, people thought I was weird. Almost no one in elementary school and middle school was able to connect with me because they didn’t care for other peoples emotions. The few friends I did have were often ripped away from me due to drugs, location, or other emotional or social reasons. However, John didn’t fall into one of those categories. He never moved out of Holcomb County, he didn’t fall into a life of drugs like many others, and he didn’t count me out just because he was popular.
I met John during one of the most difficult times of my life. My parents were in the middle of a divorce, and my brother was having at least 5 seizures a day… so I was often left alone while they were at the hospital with him. Since it was so stressful at home, I often went to Johns’ house instead. We went through this routine for 5 years until we reached the 10th grade, when I convinced myself that I was in love with him.
One night after a school dance, I was walking home with John when I started to think about my feelings for him. Halfway towards my house, with no noise but the crickets chirping in the background, I blurted out the words ‘I love you’. He stopped dead in his tracks, and I was almost certain that he didn’t feel the same and probably wanted to cut off all contact. However, when I saw a sparkle in his eyes and a smile slowly creeping onto his face, I suddenly had hope. When he grabbed my hand, my heart couldn’t help but skip a beat. I felt my face flush when he leaned in to kiss me… and our little secret began.
Holcomb County, Mississippi, was probably the worst place to come out in. If it weren’t for the widespread homophobia, constantly getting spat on and cursed at, then it would probably be an okay place. But… I couldn’t even walk down the street to pick up the mail without getting attacked by classmates and sometimes even adults. I didn’t understand why it was so hard for them to learn how to accept me and love me like they used to. That’s all I really needed, because I already had a hard enough time accepting and loving myself.
Some of the most important people in my life didn’t even accept me after I came out, and I guess that’s part of the reason why I had such a hard time dealing with my sexuality. Many people told me that I was possessed by the devil… even my parents. Every one in the community was extremely religious, including myself. We all believed that love was sacred and should only be shared between a man and a woman… that’s another reason why I had a hard time accepting it. For months, I feared that something was spiritually wrong with me, and as soon as I came out, everyone confirmed that fear.
Although John had come over to my house many times before and had a close relationship with my parents, I had the weirdest feeling in my stomach when I opened the door around dinner time. John was going to sleep over, so we could drive down to the shore in the morning to get a tan and swim. Well, at least that was what we agreed to tell our parents. It sounded a bit silly because we were old enough to make our own decisions, but all of the extra nights John was spending at my house was making our parents suspicious. Well, my mom was actually the only suspicious one, but the paranoia from thinking she knew convinced John and me that everyone else knew too. My mom often questioned the way I dressed and why I hadn’t had girlfriend yet and I always gave her an excuse like “I’m expressing myself” and “I just haven’t found the right girl” when really, I was deeply in love with the person she trusted the most.
With it being only my first relationship, John had to teach me a lot… like how pet names worked and when public displays of affection were acceptable… (which was never.) He often taught me these things at my house, with my mom just a few steps away. The adrenaline rush I got from doing those things under such risky circumstances was addictive. So, after a while, I didn’t care if she found us holding hands or kissing or cuddling, because it made me feel rebellious. I honestly wish I cared though. Even when I believed that she was asleep, I wished I watched my actions. I could’ve saved her from all of the pain and humiliation she felt when she walked in on John holding me, kissing my forehead, and running his fingers through my hair. She couldn’t believe her eyes, and neither could I. I could almost feel the heat from her rage across the room. I don’t believe she was angry at John or I for our sexuality, but angry that she had to find out this way…
Being a single mom, she really didn’t have a concrete support system… so I didn’t blame her for putting me out on the streets after that. She just couldn’t stand me being at home, since every time she saw me, she cried. It was hard being homeless… especially knowing that John was eating a warm dinner and sleeping in a real bed, while I was out searching dumpsters looking for scraps of food. John just couldn’t help me… his parents were told about what happened by my mom and they immediately disconnected his phone line and internet connection. They demanded that I not make any sort of contact with him. I went 10 months on the streets, without hearing a single word from John. I often hitchhiked back and forth between Mississippi and Louisiana to look for anyone who would take care of me, even for a day. I was 17 and homeless… but due to my age, they all expected me to have a job. No one was going to hire someone like me though… I already tried. All I had was the clothes on my back when my mother shut the door behind me, which were far too worn now to even be considered presentable.
After about the 41st week, I ended up back in my hometown, just a few blocks away from my childhood home. I thought about how close I was to him again. I thought about him day and night. I thought about how close we used to be and how happy I would be when he was there waiting to take care of me. To give me a fresh change of clothes and a roof to live under. I was merely walking the streets when I saw a familiar face. It was him… but there was someone with him… a girl. I couldn’t remember her name… all I knew was that she missed school for a while after being sent to a mental hospital. Why couldn’t I remember her name…? Oh! Alexandria. She was really popular back in freshman and sophomore year, until the whole situation with the hospital happened. So, why was John with her? She hadn’t talked to anyone after she came back to school… at least not that I knew of. Why was he holding her hand… and why did he seem so happy? I waited on the curb of Maple Street as they slowly walked over, hand in hand. I looked John straight in the eyes. I looked at him with eyes of pain…with eyes asking “why…?” He continued walking, with his new future… and all I ever knew was gone. I thought he loved me more than this… but I guess it was all a lie. If only he realized how much I struggled because of him. I lost my family and my home because of him. I knew he cared about me… but obviously I wasn’t one to fight and wait for. I felt so betrayed… so hurt… so… dead. But he was long gone now… emotionally and mentally. He was just like everyone else and I failed to realize it.
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