I hung out with an old friend the other day! It was horrible… Not because the friend is horrible or that the time was horrible. It was horrible because it resurrected emotions and longings that I would rather have dead.
It felt like a shadow of what once was but is no more. A shadow has no substance. In fact, by definition, it’s the very absence of light, an absence of substance, color, and life. It’s like a memory. It has a shape and form that is similar to what once was, and that’s what makes the longing worse. Like when someone’s dumb voicemail sounds like they’re answering the phone, and you get excited, eager to talk with them. You start rolling out your latest news, only to be cut off with a “Leave a message after the beep, and I’ll call you back.” But you don’t get a callback. It’s like calling someone who’s dead and all you get is their pathetic voicemail. You’ll never get the actual voice. You never get to hear that actual life. You never get to engage.
That’s what the interaction did to me. Like someone made the call, forced the phone to my ear, and I got the voicemail. It drew out all these emotions that I thought I had killed, but the shadow had swirled to the surface. And now I’m filled with longing, a longing that is terrible, especially when you believe it is very likely to go unmet.
This wasn’t the first time I had tried to kill this desire. From an early age, I longed for intimacy and proximity and just some basic physical touch. But that was inappropriate. Boys can’t want physical affection. Especially from other guys. That’s gay. And I didn’t want to look gay.
So as the jocks wrestled and slapped each other’s butts with a “good game” or the class clowns plopped onto each other’s laps, laughing, I sat at my desk with that terrible longing, writing stories to grasp at something I couldn’t have–to be physically affectionate with people, for it to not be wrong, for someone’s sexuality to not be brought into question. Just let it be affection. Period.
But that’s not how the world works… or so I thought. As life progressed, I was blessed, and also cursed, with fraternity that was balm to an aching wound. It was this balm that I was reminded of while driving with my friend. Memories floated to the surface, and all I wanted in that moment was to relive each moment, to capture it, and hold onto it, to never let it go. I missed those memories. But more than those memories. I missed the names and faces that made them worth cherishing…
I saw Bethany, Lynn, Micah, Kirsten, Esther and I lying on each other’s bellies at my goodbye party, laughing and crying all at once. I saw random bodies stacked on top of mine, as all of us cheered, “More men! More men! MORMON!!!” trying to reach the ceiling of our dorm. I saw Curran, Derek, Chase, Sherman, Michael and I sleeping next to each other, trying to keep warm in the freezing woods. I saw Josh and I in his bed, watching Friends and complaining about our leadership. I saw Janell, Abi, and Dallas crawling into my bed, dawning pajamas, each owning a character’s voice as we read through Narnia. We laughed so hard, tears were wiped from our eyes as I emphatically shouted, “I’ve been a baaaaaad fawn.” We’d later call ourselves the “Narnia Kids”, cherishing that moment in bed together.
I see it all, and I see how improbable it will ever be to ever have it again. As you get older, this type of affection becomes more and more inappropriate. People pair off and build their own families. We gravitate into ourselves, our phones, our families. They can curl up with the one they love. They can hold their child close to their chest. They kiss their parents goodbye. And that’s all fine and well. But what about those of us that crave something outside of that nucleic family?
Honestly, I wonder if I would even be gay if I could readily access this affection without it being stained with sexuality. In all the memories listed, I never had an inkling to pair off with someone, man or woman. The fellowship of my friends was enough. But then I think, “It’s not probable. This is why I need to marry a man.”
But I don’t want to be an island. Even if I were to marry a man or woman or whatever, I want fraternity with a tribe of people. People whose affection transcends blood or surname. Where affection is seen as simply that–affection. Where there is trust and vulnerability. Where people are loved as they are, and we champion the very best out of each other.
I want that. More than anything else. That would be a substance to this nagging shadow. But it feels like a mist, something I can never grab ahold of. It eventually slips away. So I cope with quick fixes.
Just the other day I downloaded an app, desperate for intimacy. I was about to hook up with a random stranger because I just wanted to be physically close to someone. Who the fuck does that? Me. Yep. Me.