I’m From Florence, SC.

by Luke M.

Satellite overhead image of South Carolina from Google Earth 2022

When I was born, you, in your arrogance, chose to saddle me with your name. A seventeen-year-old boy making the assumption that he had done something worthy of having his name carried through another generation; when in truth the only thing of note you had accomplished in life was the seduction of a teenage female.

When I was three you ran away shortly after my mother died in that accident, not that you had really been a part of my life before that. The only thing I remember about you before your departure is the day that you stole my piggy bank. I didn’t see you again for nine years. In all that time I felt connected to you each time I wrote my name because it was also your name. It was the only connection I had, I do not remember ever hearing your voice on the phone for all those years or even seeing a picture.

Almost a decade passed, my grandparents found you and arranged for us to visit for a week. For that week you were perfect and loving. For one week I felt as if I had a father. When we returned home the years would tick by slowly as again the only connection I had to you was when I signed my name to a piece of school work.

Over the next six years I heard from you only twice, once when each of my two younger brothers was born into your new family. You were so proud of these new sons; I would be lying if I said it did not hurt when I realized that I had never heard such pride in your voice when you spoke of me.

I caught myself staring in the mirror time and again trying to find what you hated so much about me, the face that peered back to me with the high cheekbones, strong jaw, the naturally perfect eyebrows and eyelashes that other people would kill for, and skin as flawless as finest silks even in the height of puberty, it was your face that stared back at me.

I threw myself into my education with ruthless determination; I rose from an average student to being at the top of my class in the course of a single school year. You still did not seem to notice me. I pursued sports though with the exception of a few events I found them to be mostly boring, I was not the best but I was good enough to be cheered occasionally. I expected phone calls when we sent you clippings of stories that mentioned me, and even though I waited every night the phone never rang. Seeking even more ways to win your approval I threw myself into every extracurricular activity that I could until I was scheduled to within an inch of my life; still the phone never rang though I know my grandmother sent you letters telling you how I was doing.

Finally graduation day came; I was to give a speech so I got there early. I almost didn’t recognize you sitting there on the hood of your truck waiting for me outside the stadium. You called out to me and I turned, I carefully restrained my joy giving you a handshake and a hug when you indicated it was welcome. It was the happiest day of my life. You spent a month with me this time; I thought I had earned your approval. I had finally become worthy of bearing your name.

I came out before started college, and you said nothing. I did not hear either approval or disgust from you. I went on to finish two degrees. I looked for you at each graduation expecting that maybe you would be in the crowd as you had been once before; you were never there.

I put down the phone having just been told you had found my missing brothers in an orphanage and you were bringing them back to South Carolina. We had not spoken in six months, and only my little brother’s insistence had forced you to call me now. I agreed to wait with my grandparents to greet them, my partner and I hurried over to their house to wait. I was hoping beyond hope that this would be the moment that we would become a true family; I was already planning how I could be a big brother to these two younger ones. The meeting was wonderful; I thought we were definitely on the right path. Until my sister pulled me aside as soon as you left and showed me the text messages, where you described me as a faggot, totally disgusting, and blamed my homosexuality on a mother dead for 23 years. My partner held me in silence while I cried, in our years together he had never seen me cry.

Three months have passed and I open my email to send you a message. I explain to you why I have called at least once a week for the last month only to have you brush me aside. I explain my anger over your years of neglect. I explain why I paid thousands of dollars to make sure that I would never have to see you in my name again. I sign the e-mail with my new name, the one the judge has just given me, and for the first time in my 26 years I do not feel like I have to earn it because I know that I already have.

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