A bedroom filled with night harbored a thirteen-year-old criminal. Tears dripped and plopped as he flopped over once more. His left side hadn’t been any more relaxing to rest on than his right. He wiped sweat from his brow praying for a solution, for a way out, but his mind and heart warred with one another. They toiled, skirmished, and screamed.
“I can’t be like this. Please, Lord.” The quiet of his room quickly absorbed this whisper, guarding it much like the boy himself was.
His mind raced. Fragments of memories replayed themselves. Birds chirped, kindling creaked and crackled, mosquitos buzzed and bit at exposed skin, and hushed laughter and stolen kisses filled all the empty spaces. How could something that feels so good be wrong? The boy jolted upright, afraid he might vomit.
Once the feeling passed, he laid back down, this time on his back. He stared at the ceiling searching for something. The ceiling, stoic as it was, glared back at him.
“Please don’t hate me. I don’t want to be like this.”
The boy stifled his sobs the best that he could, but the lack of a response crushed him. He remained frozen there, ruminating on memories with both yearning and disgust. The past few months had consisted of many nights like this one. The cycle felt endless, and the thirteen-year-old was tired of it. He glared at the ceiling with all the courage he could muster. Through gritted teeth, he uttered the words that he’d been avoiding all this time.
“If being gay really is a sin, one worthy of being hated by those closest to you, then I do not wish to live a life like this.” The child paused, unsure if he could finish his sentiment or if he would ask once again to be healed. He’d asked several times before, but no matter how hard he prayed, nothing ever changed. Thoughts of his family soaked into his mind. Could they love him like this? He scoffed at the thought of coming out.
Who would he be in his father’s eyes if not the strong, traditional, all American boy? How would his father’s face look if his son told him the truth? Would it contort with pain and disappointment? Would his father force him to leave? The child shook, oozing with fear. A voice blared in his mind, “You’re no son of mine. Get out of here, and don’t come back.” He had heard about fathers who had said that exact phrase to their children, and all because of something their kids have no control over.
The boy felt another tear trail down his cheek and wondered if his mother would cry for him. Would she wail to him, pleading that he rescind the statement and claim that he had been confused? It could all be chalked up to a misunderstanding. The boy pounded his fist into the memory foam beneath him. He flared his nostrils at the ceiling. “They are my parents. They wouldn’t desert me.”
The ceiling ignored him.
“Why won’t you do anything?!”
He jetted up, ready to hit the ceiling, but in his rage, he slammed his head into the ceiling instead. Gripping at the point of impact, the boy crumpled into a pile of sobs on his bed.
Were these people in his mind really his parents? He couldn’t tell. He had always been sure that they loved him, but, the condemning words from Sunday’s church service ricocheted off the ruffles of his brain. Abomination. Disgrace. Predator. They bounced around and hooked into the child, forcing him to stare at the bleakest truth. The church would abandon him. And if his parents followed, they would abandon him too. He wept. He couldn’t envision a world without his family.
With nothing left to lose, he gulped down the spit lodged in his throat along with the final remnants of fear. He would maintain his resolve this time. He blinked his eyes open and looked upward, his gaze unwavering. Here was his ultimatum.
“If being gay is evil, I’d rather be dead than hated by you and everyone around me. So go ahead. Kill me.” The words exited his mouth, and all the straining, the anguish, the ruminations went with them. The war inside quieted. This wasn’t his to worry about any longer. He was free. The child eyed the ceiling with a quizzical brow, waiting.
Finally, he slept.
After I fully embraced my sexuality in my freshman year of high school, I came out to my parents, and although it took a few months for them to come around, they eventually did. One of the first things my father said to me when I came out was, “I’m not sure how to navigate this yet, but please know that I will always love you. I will never kick you out of my life.” We were both in tears after he said that. Nowadays, I’m living with my partner and our pets, and we see my parents often. They love to come visit us for vacations and vice versa. I feel incredibly lucky and thankful for the parents I have.
Joseph Gorrell is a queer writer currently residing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is a teacher that spends his days working with students and his nights completing his Master’s degree with the goal of one day becoming a professor and published novelist.