Puberty, Part II
It’s been said that coming out to yourself is like going through adolescence all over again. Awkwardness. Angst. Enamor. This time, however, the experience was authentic; rather than feeling dulled or hollow versions of those emotions, the fullness and weight of it all had finally hit me. In this state of second adolescence, age arguably became less significant, especially for me coming to terms with their sexuality at the age of twenty-four instead of fourteen.
While I would never have considered going out with eighteen and nineteen year-old girls (due 1st to the complete lack of connection and 2nd to what I considered the “perv factor”), the idea of dating guys that age seemed inconsequential. They had a better grip on internal religious conflict, the dating scene, and sexuality itself while I had barely come to the conclusion that I wanted a sexual relationship with another man. In a way, these eighteen and nineteen year-olds such as Billie were my seniors. I deferred to and appreciated their experience. That didn’t keep me from doing things that skewed immature.
Five years my younger, Charlie remarkably seemed the type of person I hoped to be in five years’ time. At peace psychologically and religiously, out to his family, and engaged in pursuing a husband. He was in town chasing down bits of his past from over a decade ago when his father was a grad student at the university. I offered to help him revisit those pieces of his childhood over lunch at his family’s restaurant of choice, A&W’s.
“I’ve only been here once since my dad graduated,” he explained, pulling his mouth away from the frosty mug of root beer. “We didn’t really have family here, but once in a while I’ll have a memory from the playground up here or my place or the old church and think I’m happy now in part because I was happy here and then. I guess this is my way of keeping that. I appreciate you spending the day doing this.”
I looked up from the mess of crumpled hamburger wrappers and used up ketchup packets. “Really, any day out is a step towards sanity, in my opinion. I’ve been going crazy being unemployed and cooped up for the past couple weeks.”
“If you don’t mind driving, I’d really appreciate it. I just want to remember where I grew up. My house, school, the neighborhood.”
“No problem,” I told him.
We made our way to the now-defunct trailer park. All that remained of his home was a set of wooden stairs, weathered and cemented to the ground. We sat down and he put his arm behind me, not quite confident enough to put it around me. He picked up a pebble and tossed it on the asphalt. It bounced a few times and the dull tapping sounds took him back.
He pointed out the patch sidewalk he’d learned to ride a bike and the trailer of another boy he had a crush on. His past held for me glimpses of future. I wanted to be able to teach things to a son or a lover. I wanted to have crushes without consequence as Charlie did twelve years ago. Paradoxically, we were meeting in the middle. As I helped him navigate his past, he helped me navigate my future.
What loomed in the back of my mind was an inescapable notion that monogamous gay relationships did not exist, though I’d seen them with my own eyes. Charlie had overcome that obstacle. Letting go wasn’t something he consciously considered at every moment as I had for well over a year. Life was life and love was love. It was as if that childhood simplicity never escaped him.
We ended the day in the park. It was a place we shared in memory: croquet, ice skating, horse shoes, barbeques, and wading in waist deep water. Now the stream only approached our knees. We took a seat at the creek’s edge pulling ripples across the surface as if turning back pages of water with our toes.
I looked around wondering about this collision of past innocence and my present ambition to pursue a full relationship. I knew things couldn’t remain so simple and care free, but that moment was as close as my innocence and experience could approach each other. As Charlie put his arm around me and pulled himself a few inches closer, I knew those calm and carefree years were not gone forever.
Drops of summer sun rained on us through the canopy of maples and spruces as I stared at his face. Nose and ears endearingly a tad larger than one would expect, and droopy blue eyes. Without a word, he knew to kiss me in the open in the daylight for all to see. Joy was joy and innocence innocence for a moment and worry escaped me.