Saturday, November 28, 2009

One Night at Christmastime

Picture 237

I hope that days like today will be the backbone of what Pie recalls as a warm and happy childhood, hope that in her memories I'll be a beloved figure who was a source of kindness and magic.

She's asleep on the couch right now, dozing in the dim light of our Christmas decorations after a long and active day.

My parents were on a trip today with Grand Pa Hick Family and his girlfriend to Largest City, leaving Beautiful Cousin and I to tend for Pie. She had a soccer practice this morning at eleven-thirty that my cousin took her to (I wasn't even close to being out of bed), and then later in the afternoon she, Thomas, and I headed to the Western City Mall to see New Moon in the theater they have there.

She enjoyed the movie and later took great delight in imitating Bella's gasping dialogue while Beautiful Cousin and I laughed at the accuracy of her mimicking.

After the movie, I took my brother and sister to McDonald's, where Pie whispered that she wanted "a boy Happy Meal."

She's a tough little girl.

We arrived back at our house after four hours out and Thomas headed next door to attend the neighbors' party, leaving my sister and I to occupy ourselves on a Saturday night while Beautiful Cousin studied downstairs.

Pie picked up a balloon that's been sitting around the house for the last few days and decided that we should play at keeping the sphere from touching the ground, otherwise "the vampires will eat us."

Before long the latex thing was careening off of walls, bouncing from lamps and doorknobs while the two of us slid across the house attempting to bat it into the air from the most improbable of angles.

Pie had the inspired idea that we should kick the ball every time it came to us, and, like the uninhibited genius I am, I agreed to abide by this rule while running across the hardwood kitchen floor in my socks.

Only minutes into this game Pie took a spectacular fall, something I pointed and laughed at before helping her up.

Just moments later I repeated the move with much more panache. I aimed a kick at the balloon that sent my right foot hurling into the air, my left foot flying out from under me, and my writhing body catapulting for the floor, where I landed squarely on my rear end with a terrific thump.

"Ow!" I cried out. "My butt!"

I jumped up and down, clutching my injured rear end while Pie fell over herself laughing.

"Oh, and it's only one side!" I complained.

I quickly got entirely too into this, indulging at least as much as my first-grade sister.

Whenever a lamp wobbled, or a picture teetered dangerously from its rung on the wall after a collision with the balloon, my sister and I would cover our mouths, stare at each other with wide eyes, and laugh in mischievous collusion.

After one paticularly loud bang that Beautiful Cousin no doubt attributed to the small child in the house and not the twenty-one-year-old who shouldn't have been conducting himself like such an idiot, the college freshman called up the stairs, "KNOCK IT OFF!"

We stopped and shared a conspiratorial glance before I reluctantly surrendered to responsibility and said, "Okay, Pie, let's go play something else."

We headed for the sitting room and lay down beneath the artificial Christmas tree, staring up into the plastic and metal interior through which the multicolored lights with which it was strung shone muted.

"I spy something green," Pie challenged.

I thought about it a minute.

"The Christmas tree?" I asked.

"Yes!" she exclaimed, perhaps amazed at my powers of detection.

She seemed to sense after a few minutes that the possibilities for I Spy were of a limited nature when played from under our tree, so we emerged and spent the next half hour picking out the most obscure Christmas ornaments we could think of for each other to find.

This diversion concluded, we returned to the tent of manmade pine needles for a game of Would You Rather.

"Would you rather eat dog poop or dog pee?" my sister asked.

"Dog poop," I answered. "Would you rather eat brussell sprouts or broccoli?"

"Ew, broccoli," she returned. "Would you rather eat poop or blood?"

"Definitely poop."

"Okay. Would you rather live in spikes, or poop?"

"What is it with you and poop?"

We attempted a board game that thoroughly tired her out, and now she's gone to the world.

As I sat stroking her soft cheek, brushing the hair from her smooth forehead, a sudden and profound sadness came over me. I am home now, in the bosom of my adolescence, living in effect the same life in the same house that I've been living since I was seventeen. I am Pie's older brother, Thomas's companion, Powell's friend, David and Marie's son.

Sitting there, embracing my sister, I couldn't help but wonder how many quiet nights like this we'd have before this was no longer our mutual home. How long would it be until I left this place, until I became an entity of my own, until my position was not that of subordinate to my parents and equal to my brothers and sister, but independent unit? How many more cold evenings of contentment will pass until I'm of this family but no longer in it?

I'm not ready. I just want to go up to whoever is operating the control panel of my life, shake him by the shoulders, and scream that in his face.

"I'm not ready!" I'd cry, manhandling him until he was afraid. "Do you understand? It's too soon! I don't want to leave! I'm happy here!"

I feel as if I'm plunging towards a world that I don't want, can't understand, and am unprepared for, a world in which I'll be torn from her arms and from everything I love.

Even when locked securely within the warmth and safety of my cushioned home, I fear the winter winds that blow outside.

Picture 251

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I arrived home from school on Tuesday evening after skipping three of my four classes and leaving another early so I could start back before dark. The sun soon retreated behind the clouds and left the sky above my route a black shroud. Driving over mountains laced with thick fog and down roads lined with ghoulish trees was a bit like traversing a gothic landscape.

After spending so many weeks in the hectic atmosphere of Major University, coming home to my warm house was a relief. Pie was happy to see me, and within moments of my walking through the door had enlisted me to help her and my mother in baking cookies.

Powell was off at a friend's house, my father was working, Beautiful Cousin was visiting her mother, and Thomas was sleeping upstairs, so the three of us sat in the kitchen together kneading dough, cutting it into holiday shapes, and drowning it in sprinkles before throwing it into the oven.

Decorating the Cookies

"You take the red, and I'll take the green," Pie said when it came time to decorate the cookies.

"Okay, Pie," I replied.

She tried to imitate the way in which I gently shook a whole load of sprinkles onto the patterns, but she couldn't do it and so instead just rattled the bottle with her entire body.

Apply the Sprinkles Just Right

Food and family have defined my time here.

Today, I woke around noon to find a turkey in the oven, the kitchen cleared of all chairs, the dining room stacked to capacity with furniture, and my youngest siblings assembled in the living room watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

We've hosted all the major holidays for some time now, and this Thanksgiving we were expecting only Aunt Ostentatious, Uncle Car Salesman, Blonde Cousin, and Pretty Hair. Beautiful Cousin, who lives with us and goes to school near here, returned to Hick State to spend time with her family.

Around three o'clock, my mother looked up from the stove top to glance at the time.

Mom and Dad Check the Turkey

"Blonde Cousin was supposed to be here at one," she noted.

With anyone else this would be cause for concern, but Blonde Cousin has a well-known tendency for taking forever to perform the most elementary of tasks and, no matter how many times she's driven to our house, getting lost along the way.

"Well, she'll probably get here around four," I said.

I'd been half joking, but it was almost exactly four o'clock when Aunt Ostentatious came through our front door, followed by her husband and two daughters.

This is a family that's been through a lot in the last few years.

My aunt and uncle moved to Humid State in 2006, when Blonde Cousin was fifteen. Dirty Town, from which my family and I escaped in 2001, had grown intolerable enough to prompt their relocation, and they decided that if they were to leave they'd make their dream home somewhere warm. This idealism, combined with the fact that easy money had been available for a long time, led to some unwise financial decisions.

They bought their luxurious new house before securing employment in Humid State, and purchased a number of custom features that were unnecessary but enhanced the beauty of the residence. Before they departed from Native State, Blonde Cousin had an unfortunate accident falling down the stairs, an incident that left her with a broken ankle and the need for several surgeries, all without medical insurance given that neither of her parents had jobs.

This soon plunged them into nearly $100,000.00 of medical debt, a situation compounded when neither could find worthwhile occupations in Humid State. My uncle was the manager of a used car sales dealership in Native State, and for years made six figures. However, as my father discovered during our time in Deep South State, the sales market in the South is more lackluster than that in the North, and before long my Aunt Ostentatious was forced to take a position earning minimum wage.

At their most desperate point, Uncle Car Salesman returned to Native State to seek higher wages, leaving a depressed Aunt Ostentatious alone with Pretty Hair in Humid State while Blonde Cousin, who'd effectively dropped out of high school at sixteen, flew back and forth between the two.

They've come a long way since then, and now they're back in Native State in a rental home, slowly rebuilding their savings and shattered credit. Their situation is hard and their finances tight, but their family isn't on the verge of collapse the way it was before.

Beautiful Cousin called before we sat down to the meal.

She was back in Hick State, and in the background I could hear Aunt Eighties-Hair and her husband arguing. Eighteen-year-old Beautiful Cousin has lived with us since August, and in that time I feel she's adopted our family, to an extent, as her own.

"I hate it here," she told me. "Slow Uncle and my mom have been fighting the entire time I've been here. He's ruining Thanksgiving."

"I'm sorry, Beautiful," I consoled her. "We'll probably have some turkey left when you get back."

"Yeah," she said. "I'm ready to come home."

Neither of us acknowledged the significance that what she called "home" was not the place she'd grown up.

As for me, my Thanksgiving was a happy and warm one.

Thomas and I, always guttons for food, lingered about the kitchen as the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy were readied, he peeking into the oven every few seconds to see if the bird was any closer to edibility.

"Thomas, there's plenty of time," I told him. "It's two o'clock in the afternoon; we'll be okay."

Thomas Monitors the Turkey's Progress

Pie, meanwhile, had set our places, assigning seats with plastic red cups on which our names were scrawled, placing blue candy-canes on the plates of those she said had been "good," and using for a centerpiece a crayon-colored paper turkey taped to a disposable cup.

The Centerpiece

The Picture That Pie Took

She took the above picture herself, by the way.

As has been our custom this Fall, we spent the time while the food cooked playing outside, mostly throwing the football back and forth in the backyard. I'm famously inept at physical sports (with the unusual exception of badminton, probably the least masculine game in all of athletics outside of competitive ballet), and as usual my long passes to my fourteen-year-old brother failed to match the strength, power, or accuracy of his to me. There was one golden day several weeks ago when, under conditions I have tried and failed to recreate, my throws were miraculously robust, swirling through the air in perfect arcs from one end of the yard to the other.

I don't know what I did, but I need to get some of that magic back. As if my fashion impairment wasn't already holding me back from being properly gay, now I'm trying to increase my football prowess.

Today was somewhat different from my other visits, though, as Powell, usually off with friends, was here for the entire afternoon. He can satisfy Thomas's older-brother needs much better than I can on the field, so I let him take over football-lobbing duties.

Throwing The Ball

After football, Thomas took me on a homicidal drive around the neighborhood in our go-cart that had me screaming like a small girl when no one was around to hear and a very frightened young man whenever we were within earshot of anyone.

"Just so you know, this thing doesn't have brakes!" he confided as we approached a stop sign.

"What!?!" I yelled.

"Sorry!" he replied, then soared through the intersection and made a sharp left turn, our only defense against a front-end crash the sincere hope of two terrified boys.

When dinner was finally ready, I came in and piled my plate high with mashed potatoes, stuffing, white and dark meat, and my favorite Thanksgiving treat of turkey skin, in my opinion the best part of the meal.

The Thanksgiving Plate

I felt lucky as I sat there eating, surrounded by family. I knew that out in the world, people were suffering, some of them people I from my own life: Beautiful Cousin was unhappy and out of place; while Anne, moving into my late grandmother's home, which she recently purchased, spent the holiday cleaning out a filthy garage and dealing with the recalcitrant brother who's taken up residence on the property and is refusing to leave. Those things were unfortunate.

Yet my kitchen was warm, my food was too, and my family was safe and gathered in one place. For everything else that's going on and my own worries, I still have much to be thankful for.

A Kiss

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hair Update

It's a bit late this month, but I was rather preoccupied with other things, such as midterms and the rush before departing for Thanksgiving Break.

This is what my hair looked like last month:

My Hair

My Ponytail

A Very Long Ponytail

This is what my hair looks like now:

My Hair



Per usual, my ponytail really doesn't look much longer but my bound ponytail appears to be surging for the floor. I've had to add a fifth hair tie to keep it straight and smooth, and reaching far enough to do that has actually become difficult. I've resorted to just throwing the thing over my chest and putting the last tie in that way.

A real post will be coming tomorrow or the day after, as these last few weeks of silence, in an unhappy coincidence for the blogging community, have been quite possibly the most eventful of the entire school year thus far. A lot has gone on, and, as my more longtime readers will know, I don't use that expression mildly. When I say much has happened, I mean that at least one major, and, in this case, probably several major blog posts will be needed to detail it all. There have been quite significant developments on multiple fronts. I look forward to sharing the stories.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Generally speaking, I like people on principle. Maybe it's because I spent so many years being tormented and made fun of, but it's always made sense to me to just treat others well as a matter of courtesy, and I get along with the vast majority of those I meet.

To make me angry you have to be a real winner, and to get me to the point where I'm deliberately unkind to you likely implies some sort of social disability on your part.

Alas, this story falls into the unfolding narative that I am beginning with deep regret to discover is a part of the gay story, the fact that gay men behave abominably to each other.

Red-Haired Friend called me yesterday afternoon and invited me to go clubbing with her. I was tired and not feeling very well, but my plans to go out Friday night had fallen through and the weekend would feel wasted if I did nothing, so I agreed.

I arrived at Red-Haired Friend's dormitory to meet two of her roommates and a gay friend from Growing State whom we'll call Douche-Bag.

The trouble with Douche-Bag apparently started while we were getting ready to leave, but I would later learn Red-Haired Friend had shown him my picture on Facebook and that this person I'd never met was making comments about me before I even got there.

As we were preparing in front of the mirror, Douche-Bag asked casually, "So, what kind of guys are you into?"

I looked over at him.

Douche-Bag was very well-dressed and neatly groomed, but he was also significantly overweight.

"I generally just go for my own body type," I said, stating it in what I thought was the most tactful way possible.

"Oh!" he said, a caustic laugh already on his lips. "Well, then, do I have the perfect guy for you!"

He took me by the shoulders and turned me around so that I was facing myself.

"Okay," I said, already irritated. "I didn't mean I wanted someone who looked exactly like me, I just meant someone with roughly my same build."

"Oh, okay," he said with a leer in his eyes.

"I mean, I wouldn't want someone really tall and broad," I clarified. "And I wouldn't want someone really short and rail thin either."

"Honey," he said, approaching me. "You probably wear what, a 29 waist?"

"28," I answered.

"Yeah, you are rail thin," he said. "So you're basically saying you don't want someone short?"

In addition to being quite round, he was also about three inches shorter than me.

"No," I said. "No. I just like my same type. If I were a bigger guy I'd be into bigger guys."

"You're just digging yourself a deeper hole," he smiled.

"Douche-Bag, stop," one of Red-Haired Friend's roommates said.

"What, I'm just--"

"No, you're making drama. Stop."

Out in the hallway, as we pulled on our coats, I tried to smooth things over.

"This is going to be so much fun!" I enthused. "I love clubbing!"

"Why, because everyone's going to be on you?" Douche-Bag asked.

"Uh..." I began, taken aback. "No..."

"We can't all be thin and beautiful," he added, smirking.

Why would anyone say something so awkward?

During the entire train ride into Marble City he said things to me that had the express intent of making me uncomfortable, insults and insinuations couched in the cloak of friendly banter.

"I hope there are guys there who are your type," he repeated several times throughout.

Once we actually reached the club, I wasn't talking to him anymore.

"He's mad at me," I could hear him whispering from behind.

I just ignored him, and meant to leave it at that. He was, after all, Red-Haired Friend's friend, and out of consideration for her and the fact that she invited me I had no desire to make the situation stressful.

Once we were in the club, though, he kept at it.

I was lingering with our group, too intimidated to approach the mostly taken guys on the half-empty dance floor of the declining establishment.

"Why aren't you up on someone?" he asked snidely over the music. "Don't stay here with us, go!"

As I said earlier, I was determined not to respond to this childish teasing, but after two drinks the rationale for doing nothing seemed far less solid, and my wish to get even at the insufferable prig for seeking to make an outsider feel unwanted became far more sensible.

I went off, grabbed two cute black men, and, dancing with both at the same time, edged over to where my friends were standing.

I waited until Douche-Bag was facing me, then left my partners behind and approached him.

I moved in, rubbing against his leg, pressing my stomach to his body, and bringing my face just close enough to his that he thought I was going to kiss him.

In the moment his eyes lit up and he leaned forward, I pulled away.

"No," I whispered, smiling.

He gravitated towards me, and, with a sweet laugh, I shook my head withdrew further into the crowd.

As we were leaving some time later, I apologized to Douche-Bag for what I'd nearly allowed to happen.

"I just want you to know, Douche-Bag, that your integrity is paramount to me," I said. "And I would never do anything to tarnish your honor. We were dancing back there, but no matter how drunk I got, I would never, ever, EVER, take advantage of you like that. EVER."

I smiled.

"It would have been unfair of me. You were in an altered state of mind."

"I was?" he asked. "You were drunk."

"Yes, I was," I answered. "But you were taken in by the sophisticated atmosphere. And don't worry. Like I said, no matter how drunk I was, nothing would happen. I have that kind of restraint. Even if every ounce of alcohol in the world were poured upon my head, I would never touch you. EVER. I care that much."

He looked like he wanted to punch me.

"BB," Red-Haired Friend said, looking surprised and concerned, as if she were seeing something in me for the first time. "Stop."

"What?" I asked, and my laughter sounded cruel even to my ears. "I'm just trying to preserve his honor."

Douche-Bag didn't say a single word to me as we rode the Metro back to Major University, but Red-Haired Friend did.

"BB," she said. "I know you're not trying to be rude, and I know you're meaning to do something nice, but when you talk about 'preserving people's honor' it doesn't come off the right way."

I laughed, amazed at how much credit she was giving me.

"Red-Haired Friend, I did it intentionally," I said, my eyes alight with mirth. "He was an ass to me the entire night."

"Well, okay, that's fine, but just don't bother with him anymore," she said.

"I won't," I assured her. "But you know me, and you know I'm not a bad person. In the entire time we've been friends, have I ever once said a rude thing to you?"

"No," she admitted.

"I try to be right to people," I explained. "But he started in on me for no reason."

This morning, I was torn between guilt at one of most vindictive things I have ever done to anyone and savage satisfaction at inflicting pain on an individual who was determined to embarrass and discomfit a newcomer for the sole purpose of boosting his own self-esteem. I have no tolerance for people like that, and, in a hard corner of my heart, far away from the one that wants to be better in the future, I hoped I made him cry.

The whole incident was saddening, because it's symptomatic of the wider viciousness that exists in gay culture, something that I lamented to Black Dress Girl on the phone this afternoon when I just needed someone to talk to.

"I didn't realize before I came out that it was like this," I told her. "I had no idea that within the gay community people were so destructive. You know, we face so many obstacles in the outside world: a large part of society doesn't accept us, we're a minority, we don't have the same rights. You'd think that we wouldn't put up barriers ourselves, but we do, and it really hurts my heart to see it."

There are good ones out there, some of them my friends.

That doesn't stop the bad from being hard.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Excess Tempered by Restraint

The Happy Scarecrow Welcomes Fall

I am well rested, well fed, warm, and happy, sitting at my kitchen table on a cold Friday night. Beautiful Cousin is seated to my left, pouring over a Chemistry textbook, and my father is across from me typing something on his lap-top computer. My mother is sitting in the living room, watching television and talking on the phone, while somewhere in the house Thomas and Pie are playing and our two Dachshunds are running around.

Above the rhythmic whir of the dishwasher I can hear faint banging from the second floor, which could realistically be either my youngest siblings or the canines. Millie and Minnie, our six-year and four-month-old dogs, make a habit of toddling around the house after each other on their tiny leg, giving hilarious chase as their tubular bodies wobble from room to room.

I love nights like tonight.

My mother and Pie went out earlier for a movie night sponsored by the school, so my father, Beautiful Cousin, and I ordered Chinese food. Now we’re happily full, sitting here in our sweatshirts under a warm light just inches from the cold air beyond our windows.

I’m glad for the quiet of this weekend; next weekend will be very busy, as was last.

The weekend of Halloween started shamefully for me.

I was invited to Flamer’s apartment, and, despite having sworn him off, I made an appearance so as not to be rude to the mutual friends who were over. Before returning to my dorm for the night I consumed two shots of vodka, a small amount of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and two tall glasses of jungle juice. By the time Flamer and his friend carried me to my room I was wildly drunk, and when we got to my door I pushed them off and ran for the bathroom, where I spent the next several hours attached to the toilet.

I was in a disgraceful state.

I hurled up pink liquid until there was nothing left to vomit, at which point my roommates forced me to drink water so I wouldn’t throw up my stomach lining.

“BB, you need to drink this or you’re going to have to go to the hospital,” Smart Roommate’s girlfriend said as she brought glass after glass of water to my lips.

I cried as I drank it and then regurgitated the liquid the moment it was in my throat.

“I think we’re going to have to take him to the hospital,” Smart Roommate said in the background.

“No,” I moaned.

It wasn’t that I feared having to see a doctor; it was that the idea of leaving the bathroom made me nauseated throughout.

Meanwhile, Non-Frat Roommate had gotten ahold of my phone and dialed the last-called number, which connected him to Flamer.

“You mother fucker!” Non-Frat Roommate yelled. “You fucking dick! How could you take advantage of him like that!?! If you know he can’t handle it, why would you give him that much!?! You know he can’t drink, so why did you give him that much!?! You never leave someone when they’re like that! What if something really bad had happened to him? If I have to call you again, I’m going to have a cop on the line!”

I was touched by their outrage, and by the tenderness with which they reassured me, tied back my hair, and helped me into bed. I was also determined, however, not to ever put them in that position again.

I woke up the day of Halloween hungry, weak, and about three pounds lighter. To my apologies my roommates simply replied, “We’ve all been there” and further disparaged Flamer.

I felt their reaction to him was a bit overblown; he didn’t tie me down and force me to get drunk, but then again he didn’t hang around when he should have.

Halloween itself was a bit redeeming for me. The very notion of consuming alcohol was repulsive, so I went to Jolly Girl’s Halloween party completely sober and remained so the entire night, not that anyone would have known. For, though not an ounce of alcohol touched my lips, I made on the evening of October 31st a crucial discovery: I am just as crazy, just as wild, just as clumsy and weird and prone to embarrassing gaffes sober as when I’ve been plied with several gallons of rum.

BB the Hippy

I was supposed to be dressed up as a surfer, but everyone just thought I was a hippy. Two people actually asked me if my hair was a wig.

I had a great time, was cognizant all the while, and suffered no hangover the following day.

By the way, I’m still a bit shocked at how fun it all was. I was lively, I was talkative, I joked, and people responded. I find myself, after years of isolation, in love with socializing. I adore the sensation I get when I’m surrounded by laughing, happy people, the warmth I feel between human beings. It’s so precious and wonderful, and can be enjoyed in so many ways. For every friend I have, every night I hit the town, every dinner I share with a classmate, and every I evening I spend engaged in intimate one-on-one conversations, I am so thankful.

It’s funny that I reflect on this as often as I do, this simple thing that means nothing to most people. It’s those things, though, so basic we don’t even think about, that are most critical to a happy life. The deficit of this quality in my existence for so long has enriched every normal moment of my days, allowing me to draw a deep appreciation from that which others regard as mundane.