I have hated you almost every day since we first met. But for different reasons altogether than you might expect.
I still remember the terror I felt, every time I approached the soccer field. It was junior high, a difficult time for almost everyone, but for me, especially so.
You see, I’d always known I was gay. Even in kindergarten, just looking at Jeff Hayward’s smile would make me happy, and I knew, intrinsically, that it was alright to feel this way — to love other boys — as everything about it felt completely natural and unforced.
In junior high, however, once placed on the same soccer team with you, everything changed.
What I had seen as natural and good, you were suddenly calling abnormal and detestable.
Every “faggot” you spit towards me hit directly between the eyes, and the whispers, taunts, and dirty looks you and Mike Baker sent my way continually unnerved me, affecting both my sense of self, as well as my performance on the field.
Because of you, questions about my masculinity hovered over me, and I would feel physically ill at the thought of another practice or game. I would choose different, roundabout paths to my classes, just to avoid where I knew you’d be.
In high school, while I went on to be active in theater and academics, you and Mike continued to rise socially, becoming the big men on campus that I’d longed to be.
You were even voted onto the homecoming king’s court, and as you took to the field, flashing your charming smile, all I could see was the sneer on your lips when you turned and glanced my way.
But that isn’t why I have hated you.
Just prior to our senior year, during summer break, word came that you’d tried to commit suicide and were in a coma. No one knew what had happened, but you eventually returned to school our senior year. You were just as popular as you had been before, and perhaps even more so, now that you had this added sense of intrigue about you.
But despite your outright hatred of me, I still wondered about you and about what could have possibly led you to try to take your own life. You, more than anyone, seemed to have it all, and despite the way you continued to torment me, I felt a pang of pity for you.
How lonely you must have felt, Dirk, as you tied that rope. Could you really see no path forward? Was there no one you could have reached out to? Was there no friend, family member, priest, counselor — not one person you could’ve trusted with your pain?
Later, I heard that you’d left behind a note, writing that although you did not like girls, you did not want to like boys. And suddenly it became horribly clear to me. You and I were exactly alike. That anger and venom you directed at me, you were also directing at yourself.
How I wish, Dirk, that you’d allowed yourself to connect with me. I’m not saying that a friendship between us could have altered your path, but just knowing that we weren’t the only ones could’ve made our lives easier. For me…
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