Safe Spaces and Dangerous Places

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At sixteen, I coward into over-sized sweatshirts during class so that no one could bother me. The soft cotton felt like a womb that isolated me from the rest of the world. A world in which two high schools took my attendance because one of them already knew my secret. In one of them I came out to a group of boys.

“Hey, kid. Are you gay?” one of them asked from the back of the room. Him and his friends all sat on the edge of their seats, waiting for my answer.

“Yes.” I said. The one kid laughed and turned around. My lips felt numb. I just told a total stranger my sexual preference and now that whole class knew. My stomach rumbled with nervous energy. A kind of energy that vibrated throughout my body for the next couple of months, as I skipped school and stayed in bed, shivering.

I needed to get away from everyone. My parents considered sending me to Harvey Milk High, a school in New York meant for LGBTQ teens. They considered this because back then any other institution seemed a threat to my mental health.

Day and night I imagined kids beating me up in the corner of a classroom. Any classroom that provided a safe space for their hatred. The locker room where no adult ever checked on students. The side of a trailer that the school never used after Hurricane Katrina blasted through the campus. The tennis court, band room,  or even the courtyard where one student got beaten up during lunch period. No on interfered until the hitter got in enough punches to give the victim several bruises to heal over the course of a few months.

I feared this even though I laid in bed a couple of miles away. So I never went back. Another school opened its doors to me. One with a whole body of students that never asked about my sexuality. A place where no one could suspect anything other because of my “shy” personality. I would just sit quietly until the last bell rang.

At sixteen this option might feel the most logical as fear installs itself into every body movement. It plans out everything from getting to school to eating lunch to someday starting a Gay Straight Alliance Club. A club where straight people could hug a gay person without any reprimanded by their friends. Friends that write “lesbian” on a teachers walls because she hosted the first club meeting. Friends that start rumors about two guys initiating intercourse on the stairwell between classes because they became the first gay couple at school.

I ran the club until my senior year and by then I made enough friends to no longer need a place to feel safe with people. I could wear a rainbow belt on campus without thinking about the violent repercussions it could potentially stir. Boys no longer seemed like a threat because a ton of them talked to me in class. We talked about poetry, guitars, and television shows. I made friends.

 

 

S.O.S. New York Part 3

I laid on the sofa shivering. My feet curled under a blanket that seemed more the size of a dishcloth. All I wanted was to be back in Brooklyn where my cousin was, family photos hung on the walls, and I could cuddle my iPod beneath a comforter. Instead, I was stranded in a room on the fourth floor of a Manhattan apartment, with an air conditioner thats was blowing away any sense of drowsiness.

I couldn’t venture outside though. The darkness seemed as deep as the ocean where any tourist would surely drown. My only life buoy were the Subway Apps but they didn’t have a chance of floating me all the way down the island. Eventually I’d have to ask a stranger for directions.

Hurricane Sandy Bears Down On U.S. Mid-Atlantic Coastline

My experience with New York residents was already tainted though thanks to a man who called himself Ice Queen. A guy that had stood 5’6 in baggy jeans shorts and a book in the pocket. He had approached me tonight in the club and asked me to dance before taking my hand outside to talk. Ideally, it had been the moment I was searching for. Me up against the wall with a cute guy. It’s the kind of scene that happens on television screens, the one I’d envisioned in my head, the reason I’d come to New York.

Now alone I couldn’t get away from the picture fast enough. Every time I closed my eyes the cold air reminded me of Ice Queen, unwilling to leave when I said goodbye. He followed me all the way to the stoop of my friend’s apartment where I sat for over an hour. All texts and phone calls I sent went unanswered.

“There’s a coffee shop right around the corner.” he kept saying. There probably was such a place, but my relationship with the stoop was about as strong as a shadow’s with the pavement on a sunny day.

He wasn’t a bad guy. The book in his pocket was about philosophy and he read it when no one at the club interested him much. We talked about gay history and body language, although he couldn’t read much of what mine was telling him. In fact, he was a very nice guy but I wouldn’t allow him to put his arm around me. I didn’t trust him and he said that was ok, but then we said goodbye. My friend had come downstairs to pick me up.

I could have had another kind of adventure instead of couch surfing, I might be in somebody’s bed. Waiting out the darkness might have been a little bit warmer.

Closet Case Part 2- Lover’s Wall

Welcome back reader! This is the second installment of my Closet Case series. I meant for this to be a posted a day earlier. After this there will be one more installment to the Closet Case series. Enjoy!

I lifted my leg as far up on the ledge as I could without losing balance. The trashcans beside me smelled dangerously like cat pee. One slip of my foot and I’d be the new kitty litter. This was the first time I ever snuck into someone else’s house, not to mention a boyfriend’s! However, it was kind of “romantic” that two lovers had to meet in secret by a window. I just hoped I didn’t ruin the experience by falling.

“Sit on the ledge. I’ll help you down.” He said. So I sat down with both legs dangling on opposite sides of the wall. He came to the window and held me by the waist. I chucked my other leg over but  with too much force. The two of us stumbled into the bedroom, over dirty laundry, beer cans, and books before tumbling onto the mattress. It smelled just like the trash outside. I shot up and brushed my body off as if a thousand ants were crawling over it.

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“Settle down dude! My parents will hear you.” He said quietly. I looked up to see him closing the door and locking it with a bolt. The bolt was there because the knob was missing! After stuffing it with a sock my boyfriend came over to give me a kiss. One peck on the lips before I put up my hands in protest. There was underwear piled around the room like maybe he organized them according to their cartoon character, but after collecting them he decided to do something else. Like drinking. Bottles and cans were the common knick-knack on bookshelves, nightstands, and windowsills.

“What’s the matter?” He said. A goofy smile was spread across his lips. It was the normal expression he had but now I wondered if maybe it was because of the alcohol.

“Oh. Umm….nothing.” I said. I clenched my gut and sat down on the bed. He came down with me. I wanted to kiss him but there my thoughts were stopping me. Was he drunk every time we met? Could he not express affection without being intoxicated? He touched the inside of my leg with his fingers. I watched them try to nuzzle their way in like a bee crawling into a flower. If he was tipsy then I didn’t know what this meant.

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“There’s this movie I want you to watch.” He said. “It’s an old Sci-Fi set in the dystopian future where the robots rule over the humans.” He got up and walked over to an old VCR. Inside there was a tape all ready to play. I looked around the room a second time. Underneath the dust in a corner of the room was an entire layer of cassette tapes. Some of them I recognized from copies in my living room while others I had never heard of. I suddenly remembered why I liked this guy so much. While the rest of the world had moved onto using downloads and DVDS this guy was vintage.

He came and sat down next to me but this time I had no apprehension about opening myself up to him. I snug my head under his arm and watched the movie, at least for the next five minutes. I needed him to be closer. I tired pulling him on top of me but before I could he shut off all the lights. Afterwards he mounted me, slid his legs back so that we were chest against chest, mouth against mouth. There was indeed alcohol on his breath. I still let him kiss me though. I didn’t care what it took for him to get past some of his fears because somehow he took me away from mine. I was the boy that snuck out of his parents house at night, to an abandoned pool, to a lover’s window.