Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Experiment, Part 3

The Unspoken Understanding

Canada MapFlag Upon arriving in “The True North Strong and Free,” I met up with my research contact, Leandra. In the mayhem following my flight’s cancellation, we managed to connect after a few hours.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work one-on-one with an expert in my field. We’d been planning this research project for months (since before I had even considered the possibility of being gay), so it was an immense relief to meet her and start our work. We discussed how our passions and lives had led us to the field as well as our family lives. She wasn’t at all what I’d expected. A very tall woman, shy but immensely passionate, with uniquely short hair and a remarkable smile.

For whatever reason, there was an instant personal and professional connection. Leandra was the middle of three daughters; I was the middle of three sons. Academia had engrossed us both from an early age. We both loved to write—confident in our academic talents, but hesitant about our creative abilities. It was the first time somebody didn’t automatically assume I was straight. It was refreshing, but impersonal.

We spent four days together discussing so many fascinating things: the local geology, the extreme tides, ship wrecks, the French Indian Wars, folk music, Anne of Green Gables, ferry rides, wildlife, life during World War I & II. Although we were hard at work (or perhaps as a result of it), discussion of our personal lives quickly tapered off after that initial meeting.

On the third night, following a quiet dinner with a woman she arranged for me to interview, we sat on her porch sipping tea and putting aside the research for a few hours. I pulled out some of my poetry and the blue writing journal I began as a missionary.

DSCN0037 I’d received it in the MTC and nearly four years later it was half-filled with attempts at formal poetry and essays as well as outlines of books and telenovelas. She asked me to read her something and I shared a poem from the perspective of Michelangelo’s David as he’s being sculpted, or rather the stone that became the statue. I share only a portion because it’s about to be published; email me if you’d like to see the rest. michelangelos_david1

The gritty mist of yesterday
now lines the floor—
a dusty sea of pebbles.
Bits of myself now lay
at my “feet”.

The hands—
they tear at my blighted marble
flesh as
my silent strength
slips away.

“You raise a very interesting point, GMB. Although we might view David as the perfect form of man, who’s to say that conforming to some sort of mold of perfection is what any of us want out of life… or even beyond this life?”

No one had ever understood what I’d written on such a level (except, perhaps, for Cole or Jeannie). “It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. You know. It’s difficult to grow up in a really conservative community.”

“I’ve never quite been in that situation, but I can sympathize."

We left our personal discussion at that both of us aware that something in the other’s life was lurking under the surface.

I was indeed struggling with the idea of being perfect—I was the golden boy: perfect grades, faithful missionary and member of the church, supportive friend and brother—yet I felt unfulfilled.

She was struggling with her own demons. I avoided prying into Leandra’s personal life (partly because it isn’t in my nature), but I think we both felt at ease that someone from an entirely different place and culture could connect on such a simple idea of not fitting the mold.


Rob said...

Wow do I know what that feels like. To work your heart out to be and remain the "golden boy" everyone expects you to be and thinks you are, top grades, honorable mission, etc., etc., when inside you know something huge is missing, out of joint, unfulfilled. I never imagined how much better I'd feel once I mustered the courage to rip the mask off and just be who I really am.

Ben said...

I was reading a quote book like 5 minutes ago and found this quote that reminded me of your post:

"The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows." --Michelangelo

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

@Alan: "out of joint" and "unfulfilled" are good ways to describe it.

@boskers: Dang! That would have made the perfect epigraph to the poem.

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