He’s a straight guy. I’m a gay guy.
It’s just how these things happen.
All through high school and my freshman year of college, I was confused. Confused about who I was. Confused about who I liked. Confused as to why I didn’t feel like asking out any girls (or boys). Some time I will, I told myself. One of these days, you’ll start liking girls.
It wasn’t that I was opposed to/conditioned against the “homosexual lifestyle,” or that I was afraid my parents wouldn’t approve. In fact, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation at home. They’re both teachers, both liberal, both OK with whatever I was, and I knew that. I couldn’t tell them though, because even I didn’t know what I was. I simply assumed I liked girls by default. But then there was a guy in my senior-year gym class named Adam. One day, it’ll happen. He was on the wrestling team. You’re probably gonna end up liking girls. I wound up looking at him a lot. One of these days.
After graduating, I would hang out with this one girl. We were best friends. We went to prom together, we went to Six Flags with friends together, we watched Arrested Development on DVD at her house together. All summer long. We went to college an hour away from each other, and I visited her one weekend. After that, we dated for two months, long-distance. One of these days. But it didn’t feel right. I broke up with her via text, and that is still one of my greatest regrets. We didn’t talk for a year and a half.
Next fall we were setting up on the first day of choir when he walked in. I don’t remember exactly, but I think he was wearing a tight, yellow or green V-neck. He had the most amazing, statuesque body I had ever seen: perfectly proportioned and well-muscled, something straight out of a museum. So naturally, he ended up sitting right in front of me. And at some point I remember thinking,
Oh. OK… OK, so THIS is what I like. Not girls. This.
It’s the sort of thing that’s good to find out about yourself before the end of college, right?
Still, though, I didn’t tell anyone about my new-found sexuality for a long time.
My crush didn’t start off hard and fast. But gradually, I found myself more and more drawn to him whenever he was around. If he was hanging out, with nothing to do, I hung around and talked to him, even if I had somewhere to go. When he walked by, I would brush up against his arm, because the touch of his skin against mine lit my insides on fire. His goofy grin made me weightless.
By winter and the start of the spring semester sophomore year, I was obsessed. Addicted almost. I thought about him constantly. I had imaginary conversations with him. I imagined making out with him, a lot. I dreamed about him frequently, at one point, every night for a week. (Sadly, if my dreams of him were movies, they would only be PG-13. I couldn’t even get to first base in my own dreams.)
It got to the point where it was affecting my grades. I would sit with him on the couch in the lobby instead of going to class, or forget to finish all the questions on my music history midterm because I began daydreaming about kissing him. My mood was determined by how good he looked on that particular day. And so on. I had it bad.
He started dating a girl. I hardly ever saw them together, but I would go look at their Facebook pictures. I looked at him smiling and thought, Soon you’ll realize you’re just like me. Their obligatory silly Photo Booth pictures that couples post. You’re dating a girl now, but you’ll end up liking guys. I felt jealous that she was the one in his photos, hurt that it wasn’t me snuggling up against him. It’ll happen, you’ll see. I sat in front of my laptop and cried. One of these days.
To make matters worse, I was still in the closet. I had nobody to talk to about my feelings, and they were building up to a boiling point. One day, I set out to change that. I came out to my fabulously gay friend, and a few weeks later, to my friend who is like the guidance counselor to all our friends, and after that, to another close friend. I would send them lewd texts with winky faces and the latest thing he did that turned me on. I told my parents and younger sister that I was gay and they were supportive. I told more and more isolated friends, and I loved the thrill I got from letting people in on the secret. (To any gays reading this: when you come out, I’d recommend doing it this way, one at a time.)
Finally, I got up the courage, and came out to the whole choir after our spring concert. It was the high point of my human experience up to that point. I got a round of applause and hugs from everyone. I got a hug from him, too. He came up to me and said, “You’re awesome.” I held his body close against mine. I’m a little taller than him. “You too,” I said. I felt his big arms encircling my back firmly. My hands and fingertips pressed against his strong shoulders. The point where the skin on the side of my cheek made contact with his filled me with electricity. I let my lips brush his neck. I was alive. The world fell away and it was only me and him. In that moment of embrace, I could have lived forever.
We all went home for the summer. He lived far away from me so there was no chance of me seeing him. He was more of the outdoorsy type, so he didn’t spend much time online. Still, I checked his Facebook all summer, like a creep. The thought of him smiling at me got me through eight-hour shifts at a warehouse. I thought that having a summer in my hometown, away from college, would ease my pains, but I was mistaken.
In the fall when we came back, I was a junior, and started drinking and partying. Before, I was too afraid of drunkenly outing myself to touch any alcohol, but now that barrier had been lifted.
As it happened, he moved into the house where the music kids had most our parties. I had plenty of opportunities ahead of me to see what kinds of effects alcohol had on me, as well as on him. I had heard of straight guys with underlying homosexual tendencies that only came out when drunk, and my fingers were crossed that he was one of those guys. I made a resolution to find out at some point, when we were both good and drunk. I’ll make it happen. I would grab him and drop a big ol’ kiss on him. One day soon I’ll kiss him and make him see that guys are better than girls. I had a way to go before I could pull that off, but I knew alcohol gave me my only chance to do anything more with him. One of these days.
The usual progression at these parties was after getting noticeably drunk, I would always try to be in the same room as him. The more I drank, the more forward I became, putting an arm around him or sitting close to him on the couch. At some point he would become uncomfortable and tell me calmly and quietly, “No, stop.” Immediately, my mood swung from happy to miserable. I would leave him and go find the counselor-friend and cry into her lap until I fell asleep. Often, I would drunkenly cry myself to sleep and stay the night on the couch in their living room.
National Coming Out Day came along following Homecoming and a particularly bad episode of drinking and distraughtness. Counselor-friend said, “You should just tell him how you feel. Take away any ambiguity. And do it sober.” I texted him that evening asking to meet up, alone. The sweatshirt he was wearing had green on it. I came out to him, telling him that I loved him and no other guy had ever made me feel like he did. He light-heartedly said that he’d inferred so, but he appreciated me telling him straight up. He also told me that he didn’t love me back. It was what I needed to hear, and it was why I asked to talk to him in the first place. I knew there was only one possible outcome. I needed to say my feelings out loud to him and to hear him respond with his own. It was a major stepping stone in our relationship.
But I wasn’t close to being through with him yet.
Another change I made at the start of that year was diet and exercise. I started watching what I ate, and because our cafeteria plan gave us unlimited access, I realized that I ate a crap ton. I didn’t do anything active. I was kind of chubby. I’m the tallest guy around though, so it wasn’t as noticeable. But the constant bombardment of perfect body image that I got from him (and kept feeding myself) forced me to do something about it. I started swimming in the evenings. Whenever I would get tired, I’d tell myself, Three more laps and you’ll look like him. If I wanted to turn up the speed, I’d tell myself, He’s drowning at the other end of the lane. Go rescue him. I never swam so fast in my life.
Swimming by itself wasn’t making the change I wanted, so I bought a gym membership and started running and lifting weights. One more mile and you’ll have a belly like him. I was exhausted at first because I wasn’t used to working out but I kept telling myself, One more set and you’ll have arms and a chest like him. When I went to get dinner, I said One bowl of pasta per meal and you’ll be skinny like him.
Before too long, people started noticing that I was losing weight. It felt good for people to notice me, because in spite of my height, I’ve always been a more background type of guy. The type of tall guy that gets put in the back of photos, not the type of tall guy who commands the attention of an entire room. That sustained positive reinforcement led me to continue looking at his body and comparing it to my own. My body will change as long as I keep at it. Invariably, I didn’t measure up to his standard. I can make myself thin and buff and one day soon, people will like me because I look like him, and people like him. I would end up either running back to the gym and exercising away my insecurity or locking myself in my room and crying it away. One of these days.
At the urging of guidance-counselor-friend, I went to see a real guidance counselor after winter break. We had all just gotten back from a nine-day international choir tour, which involved lots of close quarters with him — and lots of drinking. I was underage in America at the time, but anywhere else in the world, I could buy three bottles of wine without anyone batting an eyelash. I sat by him on the bus, but I couldn’t sit right next to him because he spent the whole trip with one of the girls in the choir. If I wanted to be by him, I had to watch them talk to each other, and watch her fall asleep with her head on his shoulder.
My counselor helped me sort out my feelings, and I started journaling, both of which were venues for something I had never experienced: being able to tell someone/something about my feelings without any fear of judgment or criticism. I had never had any friends like that, not even counselor-friend. In the space of a month, I filled up my journal by professing my love for him and recording all the things he did that day and wishing fervently that he would kiss me and lie in bed with me and fold me up in his arms. It’s been almost a year and a half since I finished that journal, and I haven’t been able to reopen it and revisit those thoughts.
The rest of the spring, I was making progress in dealing with my feelings, but deep down, I harbored my resolution from the start of the year: I had to get drunk and plant a kiss on him.
It was May. The last party of the year. If I messed this one up, I knew I’d never be able to forgive myself. It was my last hope, my last open door, my last chance to see if he liked guys even a little bit somewhere deep down. Underneath five, six, seven cups of beer. I waited until around 1:00 a.m., when everyone was leaving, except for the guys who lived in the house, him among them. He was about to go up the basement stairs when I grabbed his hand and said I needed to tell him something. I didn’t plan anything else, so without further ado I went in for a kiss.
I got to within a foot of his lips before he realized what I was trying to do. He grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me away firmly, holding me against the wall at arm’s length, and said, “No.” In that moment, the dam burst, the thread snapped, the last door swung shut and the lock clicked. My last hope that I could be with him vanished. I struggled against him, trying to pull him toward me again, but his arms remained firm, pinning me to the wall. Through the first few tears, I told him desperately, But you have to try! I need you to! How will you know? You have to! He was inflexible. The lighting from the party shone green from behind him when he looked me in the eye. “No. I love you, but as a friend only. You need to remember that.” I kept trying to bring him closer, hands on his arms, tears streaming, frantic now. But I need you to! You have to! I need you! I cried out. Then came part that really stung:
“If you do anything like that again, I won’t hesitate to hurt you.”
It hurt not because I was afraid of the threat of physical violence, but because that statement made it so tangible that he would never feel about me the way that I felt about him. My last bit of resolve buckled and I let him go. The tears flowed abundantly now. He walked up the stairs as I watched, giving one last look over his shoulder before vanishing. I sobbed uncontrollably as I curled up and slumped over, my back against the wall at the foot of the stairs. Two years of wishes fought their way out of me in one long howl punctuated by ragged breaths. Two years of dreams poured out onto the floor. Two years of hopes were condemned to remain in the realm of the imaginary, never to be fulfilled. I sat on the ground wailing for what seemed to me like hours, completely alone and helpless, pierced by the worst pain I had ever felt.
Before too long, counselor-friend came down and brought me up to the futon where I would always spend the night. I could see him in the other room, and I kept trying to go to him, but she pushed me back on the futon. She tried to talk to me and get me to calm down, but I was inconsolable. She just let me cry myself to sleep there on the couch. Gone. It was all gone.
Starting after that night and for months after, I began cutting him out of my life. I walked away and didn’t talk to him when before I would hang around and chat. I forced myself to look away from him or stand so that someone was blocking my view where before I would have moved to get an unobstructed glimpse. I stopped going to his Facebook and hid his statuses from my News Feed where before I incessantly checked his profile. I stopped thinking about him all the time where before he never left my thoughts. I began the slow road to recovery. I can get over him completely. Starting last summer, I stopped looking at his Facebook completely. Once I put him out of my head, I’ll be fine. I had just finished my senior year, and I saw my counselor less and less as the year went on. One of these days.
I’ve had isolated instances of looking at or thinking about him this past year, but overall, especially this spring onward, I’ve almost completely moved past him. I’ve got other problems to deal with now, though. I just started on antidepressants last week at the recommendation of my counselor. I pay for them without my parents’ insurance because I don’t want to tell them about my problems.
I have another year to go before I graduate, but I look forward to being more in control of my emotions, and with any luck, building a positive, normal friendship with my former crush. I hope someone who reads this can learn from my experience, or empathize with it, or get some sort of value out of it. Thanks for your time, if you’re still with me.
29 May 2013