Boyfriend came back from Utah to visit for graduation. After several months of difficult conversations, loneliness, and such that I've faced with my closest friend being so far away, it was such a relief to have him home again.
After a week of spending time with me and his friends, he and I were sitting together on our friend's dock one day. He turned to me and said there was something he needed to tell me, but he didn't think he'd be able to say it. I encouraged him to talk to me. I reminded him of the trust he claimed to have instilled in me. Finally, fearing that his secret was one that perhaps ought not to be kept, begged him to tell me. Eventually, his silence got to be too heavy for me, and I gave up. We changed the subject.
Last night was very similar. We knew he would be leaving today, and tried to make the most of our remaining hours together. He was very close to me; asking me if there was anything I needed, always sitting close to me and reaching out to me with a ready hand. Perhaps that doesn't seem so atypical of a couple of teenagers in a relationship, but Boyfriend has never been like that. For as long as I've known him, and for as long as we've been together (about 3 years now), he has been very careful and conservative in ANY display of physical affection with me. It's something I respect very much about him, and have never questioned. So while I was, I guess you would say suspicious of the difference, I didn't think all that much of it.
Then he took me to the end of the dock, where we would share one of the most difficult conversations I've ever had.
We have never been afraid to be content with silence. We love to sit together and allow the beauty of nature to speak the thoughts we sometimes are unable to say. Last night was no different. The sky was a lovely pastel blue that blended like watercolor with the distant horizon, with a half-full moon poised perfectly at the end of the dock. And because the world was beautiful, I was afraid to ask him what he was keeping from me. But I knew that if I didn't ask him now, he might never tell me. I suspected that for one reason or another he would be breaking up with me, and I knew I couldn't allow something like that to go unsaid.
So I pushed the moment to its crisis. I asked him to tell me what he was keeping from me, and I'll never forget the way his face fell. He told me quietly that he could not bring himself to say the words. He told me that he hates himself for his struggle, that he didn't want me to think any less of him, and that he couldn't bare to see my reaction when he finally did tell me. I pleaded with him with all the yearnings of my heart--reminding him of how much he means to me, of what he has brought to my life as the person who helped me to convert, as someone I have trusted with more of myself than he will ever know. And after a pause and a silence that I swear could have cracked Heaven open wide, he restated his problem, and I repeated more of my desires to be close to him now, to help him with whatever it was.
This went on until the sun went down, and the moon rose higher and higher into the sky.
Finally, the silence cleaved us both in two. I cracked first, and he held me as everything spilled out from my secret hiding places. I told him of my weaknesses, how much I relied on him in so many ways to help me keep the pieces of my life together--how much I've struggled without him here. As I released my thoughts, gave them words, I felt as if I were casting stone after stone from my chest and watching them sink and into the murky depths of the Chesapeake.
I guess he must have felt something in my confession, because he finally let go. He took my embrace and allowed me to hold him as he shed tears that I couldn't understand. I crooned and whispered maternal nothings to him because it felt right somehow.
No, it's not.
You don't know that.
Yes, I do.
It's OK... It's OK... It's OK...
And again the silence.
I begged for the truth. I would not allow him to be Prufrock this time. I needed to know what he was keeping from me--what was keeping him from trusting me the way I had always trusted him.
Finally, the words escaped in such a wild fury I barely understood them.
"I struggle with same-gender attraction."
He leaped away from my shocked and breathless shell to the other side of the dock. He never saw me reel as my entire universe came to a grinding halt and my orbit changed directions forever. But because caring about him is the only thing my lonely little planet knows how to do, I returned to my sun.
"Look at me."
"Please look at me, and see that I haven't changed."
Tear stained eyes found me and nearly broke my heart all over again. But I looked him in the eye until he smiled and knew that I would never leave him--not like he feared. Not like a secret, scared part of me wished I could.
"I'm so proud of you for telling me. Some people have gone their entire lives without being able to say what you have said."
I didn't know what to say after that, so I didn't say anything. I let the gravity of what he was telling me pull me into a new frontier where I had never travelled before. I thought of him--the jokes that everyone made about us with their talk of a marriage that I wanted to believe in. I thought of his parents, who have already "lost" one wayward son this week to the Marine Corps. I thought of his new life in Utah--how many times he had called it, and tried to make it "a new start."
And I thought of all the times I had made jokes about homosexuality, had given root to ugly prejudices, and I was ashamed of myself.
"I'm so sorry," I said through violent, trembling sobs. "I'm so sorry."
He understood that I wasn't giving him pity. He knew my compassion, and the apology that I hoped was also coming from Heavenly Father to His son for the cross he has already borne in secrecy. How desperately I hope that to be true.
But as I stood with him on the end of that dock, I knew if I examined my testimony, it would have a large crack. Fixable, but present. If only my dearest friend, someone who asks for so little and deserves so much, could say the same.
He had asked me before his confession if I would promise to still be his friend, to talk to him--essentially, not to abandon him now that I knew his secret. I gave him that promise, even though I have no idea how to keep it at this time.
What do I do with the feelings I have for him? They're not platonic. They haven't been since I met him. I've only ever destroyed lingering feelings like this that I can't escape... I can't do that now. It would ruin our friendship, and he needs me. I need him...
A glaring truth amid tempests and cracking testimonies.
I need this young man in my life, and he needs me. He needs to know that there is a place for him in this world, and I can teach him how to find it. I know I can. And he can teach me how to stand on my own now that I feel like it's impossible. On our own, he and I cannot do this. But together, we will not fall.
"I still stand by what I said," I stated, referencing something I had mentioned earlier in the week from a different context. "You can't do this alone. So do me a favor and please talk to me more than you have in the past."
"It'll be easier now that half of what I say to you doesn't have to be a lie or a secret," he commented.
"Well," I replied simply, "make sure you take back all of your words."
I asked him if I could talk to my mom about this because I knew I needed her. I promised him that his secret would be safe with my family and with me.
That was when our friends came to find us. They continued to call us lovebirds like they always had, and I was grateful it was dark so they couldn't see how much it hurt me. I didn't walk with Boyfriend (who will be needing a new title), but I didn't allow myself to get too far from him...
That was two days ago, and it already feels like I've been bearing this weight for so much longer. Thinking of all the memories I've shared with him; the dances, the dates, the times I've felt separated from him even when he was standing right next to me, and it all makes perfect sense... I think that's what hurts now. All this time I've wanted the truth from him, and it has cost me everything I didn't want to pay to finally get it...
And of course, God has been as puzzling and quiet as ever.
But perhaps that's for the best. I admit, I'm so furious with where Boyfriend and I are right now, part of me wants to hate myself for ever putting my trust in a God that would do this to us.
I think of the life that Boyfriend will never have. No temple marriage. No children. No answers to why he should live this way--feel this way. A lonely, celibate young man with nothing to look forward to in a family's church. And it makes me angry. They've preached to us in EFY and Sunday School and Youth Conferences about how life is supposed to work--baptism at 8, mission at 19, temple marriage, children, grandchildren, repeat. And no answers as to where to go or what to do when that just doesn't work out.
I think of the future I wanted to share with him, and still would if there was any way. I think of the prayers I've said in the past two days, the scriptures I've read, the pleas for SOMETHING I can understand from my Heavenly Father, and all He has told me is that endurance is necessary and miracles are possible.
And I want to believe it. I want to believe it so badly, it brings tears to my eyes. But I don't know if I can right now. Not today. And I'm not the one who has to believe it anyway, so what does it matter? At the end of the day, I'm not the one suffering the most. I see that now. After holding Boyfriend's weeping, bowed head to my chest, I see now who suffers most.
And that's what kills me. That is what ripped and tore, and now aches and throbs...
So I have myself on auto-pilot right now. I cry when I have to (which is a lot), I pray when I can stand it (which isn't often at the moment), and I'm going to call and make an appointment with my new bishop for Sunday. The fact that he is a complete stranger will help me to throw up this part of my universe in front of him. I plan to ask him for a blessing, and hopefully I'll find some clarity in it. And not even for my sake, but for Boyfriend's... he's the one I care about right now.
(Funny how some things never change.)
I have to believe there's something we can do... some way out of this mess. Some hope for, if not what we planned, for something better than what we now anticipate.
Until then, I guess Boyfriend will just have to settle for being a Heretic like the rest of us who don't fit the molds that the youth in the Church deal with so much--those of us who pay a high price to be ourselves when we're taught every Sunday to be... something else.
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