Saturday, September 26, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Some, like this one, make me want to cry:
“So he stuck his middle finger to the world,” Nick’s ring back sang to me as I waited for him to answer. “Let it Rock” was unofficially our song, that’s why he made it his ring back tone, to find subtle ways to say I love you to me when we knew that often one or both of us couldn’t.
“Hello?” He answered.
“I’m here,” I replied, I knew he could hear the smile on my face.
“Awesome! I’m just outside the door by baggage claim,” he told me, unable to hide his excitement.
I flew in from Missouri, not even supposed to be there because I was attending a military school. I considered it a risk worth taking because the army pushed up Nick’s deployment and this was my last chance to see him for a year before he left for Afghanistan. As I rode up the escalator, we made eye contact and our smiles grew even bigger. I barely stepped off before he had in me in a tight bear hug and whispered into my ear, “I missed you so fucking much.”
“I missed you too,” I replied, and planted a kiss on his cheek; no one we knew was there to witness our public display of affection. We headed for the car for the drive back, holding each other’s hand and stealing kisses from each other. On the drive back, we held hands and sat listing to the radio, comforted by the other’s presence.
When we arrived home, it was late and we had to pack his bags. I sat in a chair and called off items while he stuffed them into his duffel bag. Between items we would kiss and confess our love to each other. I would tell him not to go because I wouldn’t know what to do without him. He laughed it off, as did I, because we both knew it was out of the question. I told him that I would wait right here for him to come back and it had better be sooner rather than later. He promised me he would, and we kissed and held each other some more. We finished packing and laid down in bed.
We made love.
Afterwards we laid naked in silence, listened to each other’s heartbeats and enjoyed the company. I wished the night would never end, but we drifted off to sleep entangled in each other’s arms.
The next day we woke up early and spent the day finishing up his last minute packing, holding each other, kissing, and getting in our final I love yous. Before we knew it, the time came to take Nick to the base where we would have to hide our love and say goodbye to each other.
I looked around at the crowd gathered in the parade field, all holding back their tears as they sat with their husband or wife in their final moments before boarding the bus destined to take them to the airplane going 7,000 miles around the world to Afghanistan. I watched the lovers hug, kiss, and hold hands silently enjoying each other’s company. I saw the fear in the eyes of those leaving and the impending loneliness of the ones staying. Children played around me, pretending to be their dad in combat, holding sticks as rifles and yelling war cries as they rushed an imaginary enemy’s position, no doubt destroying the target and becoming a hero. I watched a couple close by, a woman in pink shorts and a white t-shirt wiped tears from her face as her husband draped his hands around her neck swearing, “I will come home to you.” Another couple sat close by in silence watching their daughter roll down a hill and giggle, blissfully unaware that her father would be leaving her to grow up for a year without him.
Nick and I sat as close together as we could without raising any eyebrows, chain smoking Marlboro Reds in silence. Occasionally he and I made eye contact and mouthed the words, “I love you,” to each other, after checking for witnesses. Then we went back to our cigarettes and silence. On the outside I showed no emotion, I was just a friend here to see him off because no one from his family made it. I wore sunglasses so no one could look at my swollen, red eyes. Nick did the same. He wore his hat too high on his head because it was too small and perched his rifle over his left boot so it would not get dirty. He had on a pair of my pants, the ones with a small hole in the knee, which were a little too big on him. Somehow, though he still looked like a professional Soldier, and every time I looked at him, my love grew deeper. With that my impending loneliness and my resentment for the couples around me that were allowed to hug and kiss grew. The lovers allowed to publicly cry and bemoan the absence of their loved one. The lovers who did not have to hide their hatred for the army at their fate. The lovers who were allowed to beg the other to come back to them in one piece. I had already done that with Nick, behind closed doors, several times, but I wanted to tell him just one more time in person, “Come back to me. In one piece. I’ll be here, while you’re there, waiting… For you.” Instead, I smoked and silently mouthed I love you while I held back the tears that I’m not allowed to show the world.
Buses crept up to the loading area. “Ten minutes,” Nick told me, though I already knew. Couples around us began to stand up to say their final goodbyes. I watched a couple pull each other into a tight hug, kiss, and just hold each other tight as their tears spilled into each other’s shoulders. Understanding fell on some of the children and they ran up to hug their daddy’s leg one last time before he left. Husbands held their uniformed wives and assured them that they would hold down the fort until they came back. Around Nick and I, hundreds of people said their I love yous and goodbyes. Hundreds hugged. Hundreds kissed. Nick and I mouthed, “I love you.” Then we shook hands. And he boarded the bus. I snapped a picture of him and walked back to the car.
When I turned on the engine, Lil Wayne sang, “I wish I could be as cool as you…” That’s when I lost control and the tears finally came. I drove home, missing Nick.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
In fact, my parents can't stop talking about Bridging the Gap. Mom has now posted a quote from one of the speakers in the video on the board in her classroom at school. Dad has discussed the video with their pastor and has encouraged him to watch it. They already ordered a copy of their own, and they shared with me their hope--pending their pastor's approval--to begin hosting "showings" of the DVD and discussions of its subject matter with couples in their church.
This is amazing! I am so eager to see how widely they are able to present and discuss this DVD among their conservative congregation in small town, Texas. My hat is truly off to the good folks at New Directions for their labor of love assembling the speakers and producing this video. What a joy to be able to share this resource with my family without a drop of reservation and to see them latch on to it so enthusiastically!
With Through My Eyes, my parents were somewhat less enthusiastic, but discussing the video did bring up a (for them) emotional conversation topic. My parents' voices became shaky--almost weepy--as they broached the topic. They noted that several of the gay Christians who told their personal stories in the DVD expressed a sad sense of "missing" the evangelical churches they were once a part of. My parents put to me the question: Joe, do you miss the evangelical church?
While there were many topics we might have discussed that could have been emotional for me, this one actually wasn't. Or isn't. I shared with my parents that I did know people with stories similar to the ones the referenced in the video--people who parted with the evangelical church not because they disagreed on theology but because they just didn't want to continue the exhausting fight against their orientations. I have had friends do this, and honestly it makes a lot of sense to me why: trying to live counter to your orientation is a crushing task for many.
But if living counter to ones orientation is difficult, living counter to one's faith presents it's own difficulties as well. While living in agreement with your orientation can bring relief for a time, true peace can only come from--to borrow a term from my friends at New Directions--living in congruence with one's faith.
I shared with my parents that I did not part ways with the evangelical church because I'm gay. When the evangelical church I had been attending when I began dating C asked me to leave, I left without argument because I had come to the realization that I was not evangelical. In particular, I came to understand that I and evangelical Christians view the Bible very differently.
I reiterated to my parents that my orientation is not what keeps me out of evangelical churches nowadays--rather, it's my faith. If I were not gay, I wouldn't return to the evangelical church. I do miss some of the relationships I had while I was part of evangelical churches, but I don't miss the evangelical church per se or long to be reunited with it.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Unfortunately, that opportunity has still not occurred. I usually call my folks when I am driving back to Peoria on Sunday nights after spending the weekend in Champaign with C. But disaster struck this past weekend. C and I got stuck in the worst traffic jam I've ever been in in my life--on I-39 in the middle of nowhere on the Wisconsin/Illinois border. A terrible accident brought both lanes of traffic to a complete standstill for what seemed like ages. As it happened in a construction zone, we were all sandwiched between miles of concrete barriers on one side and miles of guardrail on the other. Nowhere to go. Miles of bumper-to-bumper stopped traffic literally as far as the eye could see in either direction. No vehicle movement. Everyone standing around on the interstate outside their cars, milling around, chatting and getting to know the neighbors-by-happenstance. At one point I peed on the otherside of the embankment beside the interstate. At another point the lady in the car next to us begged us for some water to give to her parched dog. At another point the lady in the car behind us complained that she needed to use the bathroom; I told her I had just done so on the other side of the embankment and we laughed together as I suggested she do the same.
I climbed the embankment next to the interstate several times to see what I could see. Such a bizarre sight. The increase in elevation only allowed me to see more traffic in front of and behind us (we never saw the accident until after the traffic began moving again). The whole experience reminded me of the hurricane evacuation traffic snarls in Texas and Louisana the week after Katrina just before Rita made landfall.
By the time things finally got moving again, our schedule was completely off. We realized I could either (A) drop C off in Champaign, head straight back to Peoria, and still arrive past bedtime or I could (B) spend the night with C but have to get up obnoxiously early and drive directly to work in Peoria. Either way I knew I would lose sleep, but the latter option at least offered the opportunity for more cuddles.
Guess which option I chose ;-)
So I missed my phone call to the parents this week. Tried calling them yesterday and got their machine (I think they were at their church's Wednesday night services).
I did, however, receive a voicemail from my Mom saying she and dad were really moved by Bridging the Gap.--so much so that they asked if they could keep the copy of the DVD I sent them to show to their friends. They promised to order me a replacement copy.
That's encouraging :-)
So I'm looking forward to discussing both DVDs with them this weekend. I'm planning to break tradition and call them tomorrow night on my drive away from Peoria. I promise I'll eventually blog about our conversation. Sorry for the delay, guys.
A bit of background. For those of you keeping track, there are 4 Moderate sons; in order from eldest to youngest: S, Joe, T, and J. Next month (October 2009) will mark an unhappy anniversary--3 years since I've seen or been in contact with my next-younger brother, T.
Shortly after I began dating C in 2006, T informed me that he believed his God was telling him to cut off all contact with me. T cited the following passage from a New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth (I Corinthians 5):
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord...From this passage, T believed he should "put out of fellowship" and "not even eat" with me because I had fallen under the category of "sexually immoral person who calls himself a brother [Christian]". He mentioned that phrase in particular to me when he called me to say he would not be in the same place as me or respond to written or electronic communication with me until I either (A) renounced Christianity or (B) stopped dating C.
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
As neither (A) or (B) has happened yet, I haven't seen or heard from T in three years. When I have returned to Texas for family Christmas or Thanksgiving celebrations, T has left before I arrived and spent the duration of my visit elsewhere. I used to send him Christmas and birthday gifts and cards, but the silent treatment finally became too painful. I used to follow his blog online, but that got too painful too--especially one blog in particular where he talked about his family and mentioned his parents and all of his brothers... except me. :-/
Back to the present: J is planning to propose to his girlfriend has soon as she's back from Europe and has recovered from jet lag. Granted, she may say "no." But banking on the assumption that she's gonna exuberantly say "YES!", our family is sailing into some drama.
Over the phone today, J said he forecast a wedding in 4-6 months. If T maintains his obedience to what he believes God is telling him to do to me, T will miss out on J's wedding because I will be there. There's simply no conceivable way I'd miss J's wedding (he was, after all, he was the only member of my family to attend my wedding to C; not even my parents came).
On the other hand, if T decides to make an exception for J's wedding, our family will be faced with the now-unusual experience of seeing me and T in the same place at the same time. Wow, my heart races and my emotions flare up at the thought of it--joy, hurt, elation, anger, compassion, fury, the full gamut. How would I respond if I see T again? So many complicated feelings to sort through. I dunno.
I need a pick-me-up. And I know just what this situation calls for: Alanis Morisette's masterful reinterpretation of "start some drama" as written by the Black Eyed Peas:
You can look but you can't touch it,Take it away, Alanis :-)
If you touch it I'ma start some drama,
You don't want no drama,
No, no drama, no, no, no, no drama
(you gotta click to see the video; I searched for ~30 minutes. Doesn't seem any site will allow embedding of this video)
J's definitely a member of the Moderate family; we all waaaaaaaaay overthink things*. I remember my older brother, S, worked himself literally into depression from overthinking his engagement for, oh, about a year. Srsly. In fact, the most unhappy I can recall ever seeing S was right before he proposed--he was so vexed that he might make the wrong decision. (S, by the way, is the only person I've ever heard of who sought out multiple sessions of couples' pre-engagement counseling that he and his girlfriend attended together months before he actually proposed! :-O)
J has stressed out about his engagement less than S, but only a little. I think he's only been debating whether to propose to his girlfriend for about 6 months now.
At any rate, the last two phone conversations I've had with J have been on this subject and it had been awhile since our last chat. So last night my thoughts drifted back to J and his deliberations about marriage. I recalled that his girlfriend was headed to Europe for a three week evangelical mission trip this month, and I wondered if J might come to a decision and be waiting for her with a ring when she got back. I made a mental note to call J Friday as I drove back to Champaign.
Today he beat me to it. I got a call from J on my cell a little after 1pm. Though I was at work, I grinned thinking about what news might possibly prompt him to call me in the middle of the day. I took the call.
And I've had a stupid grin on my face ever since :-) His girlfriend took off for Europe yesterday. Today he visited a jeweler in Houston.
The ring should be ready about a week before she returns. I'm so happy for them!
*Note 1: I am probably the worst of my brothers when it comes to overthinking things. Why, before I proposed, I went through 5 years of therapy, became clinically depressed, and held weekly book studies with my boyfriend for 9 months... all before I felt peace about just dating him, let alone getting engaged to him! LOL We Moderates are an overly-cerebral bunch.
Note 2: Hmm. I just realized that the little clipart I used for this post may very well be the first portrait of hetero affection I've ever posted on this blog. Hmm. I gotta say, though, the guy's hair in this photo is just rad. Looks like mine :-)