I’m From Oneonta, NY.

by Shawn

Satellite overhead image of New York State from Google Earth 2022

“Silly faggot, dicks are for chicks.”

I remember reading the bumper sticker on my way to high school one day. I was a freshman at the time and I was keeping a part of myself hidden from the world. Like so many other beautiful children, I was ashamed of myself. Every morning, I woke up with a mask firmly in place which didn’t budge until I was safely under the covers at night. That is when I allowed myself to cry. I let guilt and hate roll down my cheeks in hot, salty streams.

I first looked at gay pornography that same year. Merely the sight of those men performing their carnal dance was enough to make the blood pulse hot and heavy throughout my body. My computer monitor became a surrogate trick, something to get me off without questions, ridicule, or meaning.

I double-clicked on the web browser with sweaty palms and bated breath. I typed the address of a site while my pants shrank around my hips. Without ever knowing it, those strange men provided me with the most profound ecstasy and the most deep-seated shame.

I filled myself with guilt, anger and fear for they were the only feelings that I believed or trusted. I knew that my desires were wrong, shameful and disgusting. They were unnatural and immoral. I had to make a choice. I had to live as a straight man, or die as a closeted faggot.

One night, I put a bullet into the chamber of my rifle and placed the barrel into my mouth. I knew my family would be hurt and saddened by the loss, but it was better to have a dead boy who instilled pride, rather than a living boy who caused shame and embarrassment. I cannot remember how long it was that I sat there, but at some point I removed the barrel from my mouth and curled up quietly in the sweet darkness of the night.

Although I survived myself that night, I was determined not to give in to my urges. I entered my freshman year of college with a solid determination to sleep with girls. Every young woman gave me a sick, knotted feeling in my stomach. They frightened me with their advances and forced me to focus upon my own lies. I hated them for wanting me and I hated myself for being incapable of wanting them back.

One failed attempt after another led me to give up on heterosexuality and so I was alone. I had only my secret for company in the dark of the night. I knew that love was for the naïve and weak. Only those who were not strong enough to stand alone needed that ugly crutch in their lives. My life was a very dark and lonely exercise.

Thankfully, this story is not about a boy’s life without love. It is about a miracle. It is about a man who walked into my life one humid, August night. He was beautiful, kind and confident. He was a perfect stranger. I felt an unfamiliar pull towards this intriguing man. I do not remember the topic of conversation that night, but I do remember feeling giddy, breathless, excited and unnerved.

We met two weeks later at my apartment in town. I remember our kisses were awkward and hesitant, neither one of us certain who was meant to lead. We undressed under the soft, yellow glow of my bedroom light. The heat from his body seeped under my skin, into my muscles and bones. The cold, tight knot in the deepest part of my belly melted away to reveal something truly foreign to me, contentment. I lost the unrelenting desire to run away, to hide myself and my shame. As I stared into the brilliant, sapphire pools that were his eyes, I knew my feelings were good and bright and beautiful. I did not dwell on the moments I had lost, but hoped for the moments yet to come. His touch suggested that the impossible was within my reach.

We stayed there, warm and safe, until the birds began to celebrate daybreak. His head rested on my chest and moved ever so slightly with the beating heart beneath it. His hand traced imaginary lines along my torso while his touch moved deeper than my skin and warmed my soul.

That first night was nearly two years ago. What began as lust changed slowly, imperceptibly until it blossomed as true love. Every night that we share together is the greatest of all blessings. There is no uncertainty when our lips touch, only an indescribable feeling of ecstasy and joy. Although we say “I love you” many times a day, no words can ever approach the wonderful feelings that are freely given through a simple kiss between lovers and the best of friends.

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