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Well Adjusted?

Wayne Gray

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"You know, for a guy who grew up in Kentucky, you seem pretty well adjusted to the whole gay thing."

 

I thought about what Greg had said as I drove home.  I hadn't replied other than to smile and nod.  What would he feel if I told him all of it?  I toyed with the idea, but it was too early for that.  He didn't need to know just how damaged I was.

 

Regardless of my choice to keep the entirety of the truth from Greg, I couldn't stop it from replaying in my mind.  It was just as well.  I had hours to go before I was home.

 

____________________________________________________

 

I was raised Southern Baptist in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.  Fire and brimstone were a part of my world, and variation from the word of God was a sure path to damnation.  That's how this begins.

 

Something drove me to join the US Navy.  I was seventeen years old, and I had never been away from home. Yet I signed up for a six-year stint in the military.  I was terrified to go, but something in me knew that I couldn't stay.  The Navy was my way out, and I took it.

 

I made a fantastic sailor because I was great at doing what I was told.  I didn't let myself think all that much, and I just acted on the orders given.  Something is freeing and therapeutic about a lack of choice.  I know that sounds counterintuitive, but it allowed me to function during a time when my mind wasn't ready for the processing it would need to do later.

 

My first duty station after a year of training as a Hospital Corpsman (essentially a medic) and some additional schooling was Okinawa Japan.  I was eighteen, and I quickly found a fellow named Chris who needed a roommate for his apartment off-base.  We also worked together, so it was great.


That first year was good.  I got to know Chris well, and I came to feel for him an amount of fondness I'd later know as love.  At the time I didn't know better.  I just thought we were best friends.

 

We even shared a bed.  That was fine until the morning I woke, and Chris had his arm around me.  He had turned in his sleep, and it was purely innocent (Chris was straight, through and through).  I lay there, more turned on than I had ever been in my life.  I had no understanding of why - and I told myself it was merely the fact that another person was touching me in a somewhat intimate way.  That if it were a girl, I would have reacted the same.

 

After that, I insisted we sleep in different beds.  I was deeply disturbed that my body behaved in such a manner.  I even paid half for his bed, and we put it together.  All was well again, for a time.

 

A few months passed, and Chris met Gina.  They hit it off.  A part of me wanted to be happy for him, but by far the most consuming emotion I felt was a burning ache of jealousy.

 

I tried hard to find someone of my own.  I was still a virgin.  I dated girls, but none of them made me feel anything at all.  Chris and Gina continued to try and set me up on dates, and eventually, I came to dread them.

 

There's only so long that a person can deny the truth.  My moment came to me, just after I had turned twenty years old.  I lay in bed.  It was two a.m., and I couldn't sleep.  I had work that morning at six, so I sat up and said aloud, "What is wrong with me?"

 

The answer struck like a bolt of lightning.  It slammed into me, the undeniable truth, and I sat there, stunned.  It was the worst possible thing I could have imagined, and I couldn't fix it.  I couldn't make it go away.

 

Something broke.  Something just snapped in my mind.  I don't remember deciding to do this, but I got up, went to the bathroom, and I took down a package of Bic razors.  Chris and I had just bought a new set of six, so I had plenty to work with.

 

I started with my head.  Shaving cream, all through my short hair, and I scraped it all off with one razor.  After that, it was dull as hell, so I tossed it.  Then I moved on to the next.  My chest was next, then arms, legs, and groin.  Why I saved it for last, I have no idea, but by the time five a.m. rolled around, the only thing left was a tiny patch of hair on my belly.  As I was shaving that last bit, Chris surprised me.

 

"What the fuck are you doing?!?"  He stood at the doorway to the bathroom, gaping at me.

 

Imagine for a moment what he saw - twenty year old me, completely naked and hairless, covered in splotches of shaving cream.  I jumped when he spoke, and I snapped the razor I had been using against my belly.  I frowned down at the cut I made, dabbed it with some toilet paper, and very calmly spoke, "I'm shaving."  Then I picked up the last razor and continued.

 

Chris blinked.  "Are you all right?"

 

"I'm fine."  I finished up, rinsed the razor, and put it on the sink.  I looked at him.  "I'll buy more razors today."  Then I toweled off and walked past him to get my clothes on for work.

 

The next six months I lived in this weird state.  A few nights a week I would go up to the top of our building, and stare down at the concrete six floors down.  The scary thing now is how fearless I was at the time.  I only had one worry - and that was if the fall would actually kill me.  I didn't want to live through that, because I'd have to tell people why I jumped.  My logic was - since there's nothing I could do to fix me, and I was going to go to hell, then why wait?

 

I got sick of living that way.  So, one night I decided that I was going to either do a swan dive off of my building or learn to live with being gay.  Unbeknownst to my sister, I decided that however she reacted would do it.  It took the choice from me since I couldn't seem to make it.

 

I worked nights at the Blood Donor Center on the island, and I called my sister in the middle of my shift.  She picked up and immediately knew something was wrong.

 

"Bub, what's wrong?"  I could hear it in her voice.  She was worried, and I had barely spoken.

 

"Sis, I've got something to tell you."

 

She was quiet for a beat, then she said it.  "You're gay."

 

It wasn't even a surprise to me that she knew.  There were only a few things which could warrant the tone in my voice, and that was one of them.  I nodded, "Yeah."

 

There are these moments in other lives where we have a tremendous amount of power, and she exercised hers without even knowing it.  "Well, bub, that's okay."

 

And that was how my sister saved my life.

____________________________________________________

 

I pulled up to my apartment in Ridgecrest, California.  Finished with the drive, I was tired.  But the weekend with Greg was fun, and he was worth the time and effort of the trip.  As I unlocked my door, I smiled slightly.

 

"Well adjusted."  I shook my head, entered, and kicked the door shut.

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2 minutes ago, Thorn Wilde said:

This was a powerful read.

Thanks.  This is the first time writing it all out.

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5 minutes ago, chris191070 said:

As @Thorn Wilde said That was a powerful read.

Thanks.

I guess the moral of the story is - I'm still here, doing well, and loving life.  It's pretty amazing how far I've been able to come from this point, and I'm thankful for the lucky moments I've had which made all the difference to me.

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