Swimming in the Deep End

There were two significant events in my young life that lead to my fear of swimming.  Oddly, I only have specific memories of one, though I know the other to be true as well.

When I was in the neighborhood of three years old, my father and his wife took the three of us, my brother, sister and me, on a trip to the Northeast.  I can’t honestly say for certain now, whether we were in New York City or Atlantic City.  I feel as though we went to both places on this trip.  No matter.  I remember, surprisingly vividly, walking along the beach one evening.  It was dark, or nearly so.  We all had our shoes off and we walked in the surf, feeling the cold Atlantic waters pressing against our legs as they washed over our feet and rolled back out again.  I was small, as we tend to be at that age.  The waters came a little bit higher on me than on everyone else, and I remember feeling in equal amounts fear from the pounding pressure that knocked against me, pushing me out of my steps, and joy at the experience of being at the beach, near the ocean, wet feet squishing into the sand as we walked.  Given that I was smaller than everyone else, it was no surprise when the unexpectedly large wave came along and knocked me right to the ground.  Nor was it a surprise when the wave washed fully over me and began to drag me back out as it made its hasty retreat.  It seemed like an eternity passed to my young, scared, oxygen deprived mind.  But before I knew it, I felt a strong hand on my back followed by the force against my body as the waves continued to pull and the drenched t-shirt I was wearing became the handle by which my father pulled me back to shore, out of the water, and to safety.  Immediately, I was in tears and I was coughing and sputtering as I sobbed the words, “The ocean tried to kill me.”  (Yes, I’ve been prone to over-dramatization since I was a wee young lad.)  Of course there was some truth that claim.  As we all know, tides are unpredictable, and if my father hadn’t pulled me out of the waves when he did, I could easily have been dragged out to sea and might never have been seen alive again.

At some point probably not long after that experience, I was at my father’s apartment complex during one of our week-end visits.  Apparently, we were out by the pool in his complex (when I say “we” I’m not certain what that really means.  I do not know if my siblings were around.  I do not know if my father’s wife was around.  I do not even know why we were near the pool.), and somehow I fell into the water.  I could not have been more than four or five years old.  Once again, my father was right there, and immediately pulled me to safety.

By then the damage was done.  For many years, I was afraid of water.  Period.  I was even afraid of the water in the bathtub.  After some time, and some forced bathing requirements, my fears began to subside somewhat.  I stopped fearing the water entirely.  I came into possession of a life support vest and I spent some time in swimming pools.  Always with he life vest on.  Always staying on the shallow end.  I learned to like the water, the sensation of the liquid surrounding the body, offering some support, cooling the skin on a hot day.  But still, I always felt I was missing out on something.  Everyone else felt free to roam the pool.  They swam to the deep end.  They played games and ducked under the water.  They enjoyed themselves.  And all I could do was hang out in the shallow end, with my life vest giving me a wasted sense of security, and watch as everyone else had fun.

Over the years in my adult life, I’ve had conversations with people which have eventually lead to a revelation that I did not know how to swim.  People were always surprised and astounded that at my ripe old age of (whatever age it was at the time) I did not know how to swim.  Repeatedly, I’ve been told that I “need” to learn how to swim.  Yes, I live in California, and yes the beach is only a few miles away, but I don’t live there.  I live on dry ground.  Why did I need to learn to swim?  But they were right.

Last summer, I spent the Fourth of July at the house of a friend who lives in the central valley of Northern California.  The average temperature in the summer where he lives is about one meelleeon degrees (should be read in Doctor Evil’s voice with a pinky at the corner of your lips).  Pools are common back yard fixtures and welcomed!

It was while we were all hanging out in the pool, most of us sitting on the expansive steps, but a few lounging on floats, that I had a turning point.  I won’t bore you with too many unnecessary details (first time for everything) but at one point I made my way from the steps to one of the people on a float.  Just as I was reaching her location, I felt my right foot slide over the edge where the pool floor began its downward slant to the “deep end”, which I have since learned is only six feet.

I contained my anxiety and acted like everything was normal, but the truth is, as my foot slid over that edge, I felt my heart rate speed up and my chest tightened to the point of restricting my breath.  I was over come with fear at the prospect of getting into a section of the water in which I could not control my circumstances.  I finished my business and casually made my way back to the step where I stayed seated until we were ready to leave the pool and go inside.  I decided that weekend, it was time to do something about my weakness.

I couldn’t do it on my own though. I needed help.  I needed a guiding hand.  I needed someone who already knew how to swim, to help me learn to swim as well.  I perused the local community college course catalog and I found a beginning swimming class for adults.  Somewhat unexpectedly, I even recruited a friend to take the class with me.  It was nerve-wracking to be sure, but I learned to swim.  Of course the pool was only 4’6″ in the “deep end”, so it was comforting to know that anytime I was in trouble all I had to do was put my feet down and stand up…  Until the last week of the class when our instructor informed us that the pool we had been using for months was closed and we would be having class in what we all referred to as “the big pool”.  The big pool is where all the experienced swimmers swam.  The big pool is split into twelve lanes, not three.  The big pool is 6’9″ ON THE SHALLOW END.  It wasn’t easy climbing into that pool the first time, but I did it.  On the last night of class, our “final exam” was to jump from the diving board (roughly three feet from the surface of the water) into the pool, and swim to the side.  Once I was in and able to tread water and swim the length of the lane, it was not so bad.  I even jumped from the diving board…  once.  But getting into that water felt like I might as well be hurling myself off of a cliff.  For the first time in my life, I was in water I could not stand up in…  And I lived to tell the tale.

As children we have innumerable experiences that shape our lives.  We learn many lessons, both spoken and unspoken, deliberate and incidental.  In general, I feel that people do not give enough consideration to that fact, and because they don’t, children learn and internalize many things they would be better off never learning.

A while back, I wrote a post in which I admitted to a significant fear.  The fear was, in large part, due to lessons I learned as a young boy and on through my teenage years.  It’s the kind of fear that just compounds the longer it’s allowed to go unaddressed.  It’s the kind of thing which, if discussed with other people, would result in exclamations of “You’re 38 years old and you’ve never…”  “You need to…”  And I did need to.  But I lacked the skills and the resources to resolve the situation and over come the fear.  There were no courses in the community college course catalog for that particular skill.  I needed to be a bit more creative.  More recently, I wrote another, very cryptic post in which I alluded to seeking guidance and assistance in over-coming my fear.  And then I’ve been virtually silent since as I pondered my actions and deliberated the likely responses I would get in sharing those actions.  It was all I could think about, really.  What should I share?  How much should I share?  How specific should I be?  And as all those thoughts went round and round in my head over and over again, my fingers fell silent.  The blog was quiet.

For various reasons, I’ve decided not to share the details of my experience, at least not at this time.  Somethings might slip in here and there along the way.  I may come completely clean at some point in the future.  I may keep it all to myself for the rest of time.  But for now, all you need to know is that I found an instructor.  I went to class.  I over-came my fear of the water, and swam the length of the lanes.  I even jumped off the diving board and swam in the big pool…  And I lived to tell the tale.

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Conquering Fears

The only way to get over fear is to face it head on.  Easier said than done, to be sure.  With determination comes strength and courage.  Often, a controlled environment makes facing one’s fears more tenable.  Controlled environments can be like a stepping stone between a position of abject fear, and facing that of which one is afraid completely head-on.  It can be a process, but one which is well worth the struggle and the discomfort one faces along the way.

Sometimes, however, determination is not enough.  A helping hand is required.  A guide.  A mentor.  Someone who has already faced the things of which one is afraid.  Someone with whom one can build trust and therefore begin to face and experience the very things one has spent so many years fearing.

The world is full of surprises.  When one makes oneself available to be surprised, amazing, unexpected things can happen and when one takes a leap and asks (God, the universe, Craig, whatever the case may be) for a helping hand, a guide, a mentor, one just might get exactly what they needed, but more than they dared hope for.

In the end, when one is open, patient, and persistent, determination, a controlled environment, and the aid of a guide will ultimately lead to success.

The Words Will Come

Just start writing….  The words will come…  Just start writing…

That’s what the great and powerful “they” always say, right?  Just start writing, the words will come.  And the truth is, the great and powerful “they” are not wrong.  This strategy has worked for me many times before.  It’s just that, there’s a lot of stuff going on and swirling around in my brain, and I haven’t quite figured out how to sort it all out yet.  How much of it to share and how much of it to keep to myself.

Despite my best efforts I’m still inclined to worry a bit about what readers of this site will think of what I put here, and yet, I’m actually quite proud of my last post.  Yes, I discussed some “mature themes” and yes I admitted to some activities that, in the past, I would have completely kept to myself, as much out of embarrassment, as anything else, but I think it’s a good thing that I posted that.  I spend a lot of time in this sort of “in-between” stage of life where I feel like, I shouldn’t do anything I’m ashamed of and therefore I don’t do anything I’m ashamed of…  Yet I’m ashamed of things I really shouldn’t be, and therefore, this philosophy holds me back.

There is an excellent chance that I’m confusing shame with fear, or shame with unfounded guilt which causes fear, or some other tremendously deep and impressive introspection that I’m not quite clear about and obviously can’t manage to articulate…

I’ve come a long way in the last several years of blogging, and even before that.  I’ve learned a lot about myself, I’ve gained a considerable amount of emotional and mental independence (not to be confused with the physical and financial independence that I’ve had since I was 22).  But “a considerable amount” can be just a drop in the bucket when you’re coming from a place of such dependence…  Or co-dependence.  There are still a good many subjects and issues about which I can hear my mother’s voice, or more to the point, her judgmental, disappointed noises.  Tsking and groaning and sighing (oh my!).  And it’s not like she even needs to know about my behavior and my activities, but it doesn’t matter if the physical being knows anything because the non-corporial manifestation of her that exists in my subconscious is ever-present and equally judgmental.  And, of course, I think I’m inclined to project that judgement and condemnation onto other people both local and afar.  I imagine the gasps and the shaking heads of the people who might read my words, the disappointment that might come from having the image of me, which they have created, sullied by the revelation of the things I don’t dare say.

I am aware, as I write these words, that I’m creating a proverbial mountain out of what many would see as an equally proverbial mole hill.  I am also aware that, while I do value the regular readers of this blog and would hate to put anyone off, concealing things about myself and allowing the fears of other’s opinions to hold me back is not only destructive and hurts me more than it does anyone else, it is potentially more destructive and hurtful than not acting because of the fear.

I’m human.  I’m alive.  I’m male (stereotype).  And like everyone else, I have needs, both physical and emotional that need to be fulfilled, one way or another. The truth is, while I’m over here hiding from that fact, all of you are probably reading this blog and assuming it; assuming that I take measures to have my needs fulfilled (trust me, I do), you just don’t necessarily want to know what those measures are.  Certainly, there is a fine line between open and honest sharing, not leaving out pertinent details, and this turning into a very different kind of blog from what it has ever been before.  

Prior to the vague implications and poorly shrouded subliminal information in my last post, I believe I have discussed specific sexual activity on my part, exactly one time on this blog.  One time in five and a half years.  Meanwhile, any regular readers probably haven’t given my sexual endeavors much conscious thought, but have unconsciously assumed that I have not lived as a eunuch.  Society, as a whole, tends to frown on free and open discussions of sex, or so I have generally believed.  Yet as I write that I realize it happens far more frequently than I am comfortable with, and I have to question why that is.

Why am I so uncomfortable with it?  Why is it so hard for me to discuss it?

Certainly, it is, in part, due to my lack of experience and a fear that engaging in such conversations will result in any number of uncomfortable situations where I can not contribute as much to the conversation as people might expect me to; something I generally prefer to avoid.  But part of it is because of that non-corporial manifestation of my mother that exists in my subconscious, which is ever-present and tremendously judgmental.  It comes from a  damaged place within my psyche that is influenced by my mother’s constant over-vilification of sex during my childhood to the point that sex scares me.

There.  I’ve said it.  Sex scares me.  It doesn’t just make me nervous or uncomfortable because it’s “new”, it scares the ever-loving shit out of me in a way I don’t even know how to combat.

Logically, I know it shouldn’t.  Intellectually, I know that sex is a perfectly natural, and healthy thing.  Through the power of study, meditation and independent thought, I have even arrived at the conclusion that I believe pre-marital sex is not only not wrong, it’s important and healthy.  Reasonable, not overly graphic discussions of sex in general, are not something to be afraid of and shy away from, particularly when they lay the groundwork for a further story…

Yet any discussion of my own sexuality (not my sexual orientation, but my sexuality) makes me very uncomfortable and self conscious.

…..

I have a date tomorrow night, and I have mixed feelings about it.  I think it’s a date.  I didn’t really think it was a date when it was discussed, but it seems that it is a date.

Everything I have said here that leads up to that revelation does not, in any way, mean I think there’s an expectation or obligation for sex tomorrow.  In fact quite to the contrary, I think it’s clearly understood that sex will not be happening.  Rather, it’s about how this date came about, and how my shame, prevented me from writing about it before now.

In this wonderful, 21st century world in which we live, there is an iPhone app for absolutely everything.  Seriously.  According to one source in October, 2013 there were approximately 1,000,000 apps in the Apple App Store and that number just keeps going up.  If you can realistically conceive of it, there is probably an app out there for it, already.  And society (and men – stereotype) being what it is, there is more than one app for on-line dating and people-meeting available that uses the GPS signal in phones to show you the profiles of any number of people within a certain distance of where you happen to be holding your phone and looking at that app’s screen.  The first time I ever heard of one of these apps, I downloaded it on my phone, because it was free, and I was curious to see how it worked.  I never had any delusions that I would use the app as it was intended.  I still don’t.  That’s not my style.  But because I have discovered that my, once thought to be impeccable, gaydar is, in actually, completely for shit, I thought it might be interesting to see the faces of other gay men in the area, see if there was anyone I recognized and might, therefore, meet organically and get to know, in real life.  Of course, I wasn’t about to post my own face, because I would be mortified if anyone knew I had even heard of the app, let alone actually downloaded it and look at it once in a while.  I rarely initiated conversations with anyone, and even more rarely did anyone initiate conversations with, or respond to, me.  When they did, it was, without exception, overtures toward having anonymous sex.

The block button is my friend.

Through all the bullshit that went down with The Guy this summer, one good thing did come out of it.  Well–  He doesn’t, by any means deserve all of the credit, it was the whole unfortunate experience with that short-lived job.  From the day I walked in the door, I was determined not to hide who I was or try to keep secret the details of my existence that have been so hard for me to freely share, verbally, in the past.  It was a fresh start in a new place, with a new group of people, and I was determined to start things on the right foot.  The Guy figured it out, or believed he did, from the very first day.  So, apparently, did my boss, though she couldn’t say so until I revealed it to her.  All she said was “I knew you were ‘family’.  Well, I was pretty sure, anyway.”  I learned to be more open about myself.  I learned not to fear people’s reactions.  (To this day, I have not had one person outside of my family react badly to learning that I am gay.)  I learned to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may, because these people were all new in my life and if they learned the truth up front and they didn’t like it, well, there was no loss.

Thanks to The Guy, I started to feel better about myself, physically.  Again, he doesn’t get all the credit.  Over the last two and a half years, I have lost approximately 70 pounds.  The man I see in the mirror today, is definitely not the man I saw back then.  That man’s clothes don’t fit me anymore.  I still have a long way to go, but I’ll gladly take what I can get.  I’ve learned to appreciate my body in its current form, to take control over the things I can, and not obsess over the things I can’t.  But at least for a little while there, I believed that, not only did someone find me attractive, but someone who I was attracted to, found me attractive.  Due to the nature and circumstances of our involvement and the end thereof, I temper any excitement at that fact with a healthy dose of he-was-full-of-shit, but at the very least, I learned what it feels like to appreciate having someone pursue me due to physical attraction.

I posted a face picture on the app, and filled in a simple profile telling people what I was about, and what I was and, more importantly, what I was not looking for.  I tried to put the hurt and shame of my experience with The Guy behind me and see what came next.  Suddenly, out of the blue, people started initiating chats with me.  Talking to me.  Having real conversations with me.  Much of the time, those conversations end with “so when can we hook up?”.

The block button is still my friend.

Early this week, I crossed paths with a guy we’ll call “No. 1” (not for any reason you’re likely to think of, just go with it) who was deemed to be a “likely match” by some inexplicable algorithm the site uses to suggest people you might like, based on your reactions to their previous suggestions.  No. 1 had a very relatable profile, with a statement about relationships, fidelity, and where he stands on the subject that I happened to like quite a bit.  As it happened, he hit the little “like” button on my picture and I hit the little “like” button on his, and the app was kind enough to let us each know that the other “liked” us and suggested we chat.  So we did.  And he was a nice guy.  And he appealed to me.  And we exchanged phone numbers and I suggested that we should talk again.  I even considered asking him if we could meet for coffee or something sometime, but I decided against it.  The next morning, he sent me a text message and asked if I might be free on Saturday after he gets off work at 8:00.  I am and said as much, and we set up what I thought of as “meeting and getting to know each other better, face to face.”  I know. I know.  That’s pretty much what a date is.   Only, I didn’t think of it that way.  I didn’t think of it as a prelude to anything.  I thought of it as meeting a potentially nice person and getting to know him.  (Again, pretty much what a date is.)

My mind is reeling with this.  Really, it wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if it is a date.  It wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if I enjoyed our date.  It’s just…  I admit it.  I’m terribly skittish.  And it pisses me off.  It’s not fair, that this one experience with this one, completely fucked up guy, has done such lasting damage in me.  I want to move past it.  I want to put it out of my head and forget about The Guy entirely.  I sure as shit don’t want to let him affect how I handle dating going forward.

But I’m so afraid of taking another chance.

I’m not sure I’m open to a relationship right now.  I’m not sure I’m ready to date right now.  When I agreed to meet No. 1 and we settled on a time and place, I thought, “Great!  That’s that.  I’ll see him on Saturday and we’ll have lots to talk about,” and I’m sure we will, only, he continued to text and talk to me after we settled the plans.  He has texted me every day since then, and I can’t quite explain why that bothers me.  It just does.  He has made some fairly innocent comments here and there that really have me on edge.  I’m probably reading too much into it, but he has made some comments which elude to the prospect of a relationship with me and I’m so not in that place.  I mean, we haven’t even met yet.

And all I can think is, “Oh my God!  I’m The Guy!”

Grilled

Strangely, I’m almost as nervous writing this as I was as it was happening.

I had a date last night.  Well, anyway, I think I had a date last night.  It kind of felt like a date, not that I can be counted on, reliably, to say what a date feels like.  I don’t know if he felt like it was a date.  Maybe I just met a friend for dinner…  I think it was a date… A nice date.

There is a gentleman, Gene,  that I have been acquainted with through various forms of social media for close to two years, I would say.  We became acquainted on Twitter and struck up a friendly banter.  He started reading my blog and responding to what he saw directly on twitter and eventually we began e-mailing each other.

Gene is a very kind man and he made a great impression on me.  About 18 months ago, I had a dream in which he played a prominent (though relatively innocent role) and I tweeted about dreaming about my “twitter crush”.  This resulted in a series of e-mails between us in which it was clear that we were both interested in knowing the other better.  The problem is, we are “geographically undesirable” (He lives in San Diego, I live in Oakland, approximately 500 miles apart) and, both of us being practically minded people, a long distance relationship is simply not in the cards.    But we made it clear that if ever and whenever we were in each others back yards we should get together for dinner or coffee or something.

This week-end his nephew is participating in a debate tournament at UC Berkeley and Gene made a point of being here early enough to spend some time with me before getting wrapped up in his family stuff.  When he told me he was coming this way, I was really excited.  I wanted to see him.  I wanted to spend some time with him and get to know him better.  Our relationship has been a little one-sided in that he reads my blog, but he doesn’t write one and he’s very private with the stuff he posts on Twitter and Facebook.  I was excited about the prospect of getting his undivided attention and grilling him on all the things I didn’t know about him.

But as the weeks passed and the time drew nearer, I became more and more nervous.  I wanted to meet him, but what if he wasn’t what I was expecting?  What if I wasn’t what he was expecting?  What if I had misjudged him?  What if he wanted something from me that I wasn’t ready to give?  Was I ready?  Did I want to be ready?  Would we?  Wouldn’t we?  What would I do if it…  ahem, came up?  I went back and forth on that and to be honest, I never really arrived at a conclusion.  I don’t know what I would have done if I was faced with that decision last night.  Fortunately, I wasn’t, and I think it’s for the best.

The truth is, Gene was a perfect gentleman.  He was almost everything I thought he would be, and in the ways that he was different, he was better.

We were both nervous.  We decided to meet for a drink before dinner and to be perfectly honest, I was shaking like a leaf (whatever that means.)  Stupidly, I wondered if I would recognize him when I saw him, but the minute I walked in the door, I knew him.  It was comforting to know that he had been as nervous as I was–  well, maybe not as nervous, but he was nervous.  We had a glass of wine at the bar and talked comfortably for a little while.  And then were seated and had dinner.  It was a fascinating experience to be able to talk so comfortably and freely with someone you’ve never been face to face with, but I realized we really already knew each other.  Certainly more than I thought we did.

After dinner, we shared a piece of cheesecake (really the one inevitable outcome of the evening) and then we walked along the boardwalk for a little while as we talked.

It was oddly hard to say good-bye, though it was time and had to be done.  I can’t speak for Gene, but for me, it was that much more disappointing, knowing that while we’ll continue to be friends and hopefully grow closer now that we’re “real” and not just words in a box, there’s still so much distance between us.

Fear of Success

So I haven’t been here in what seems like forever.  I wish I could tell you it’s because I’ve been SOOO busy doing SUUUCH exciting things, but then you’d be expecting me to write about it and well, it’s simply not true.

Truth is, I’ve been busy writing, which, I guess is sort of exciting.  It’s exciting to me.  It’s also frustrating and nerve-wracking and irritating and a whole hell of a lot of fun.  It just. Takes. So. Long!  I have a cheerleader who is desperate to read my book.  She’s read the first two chapters and the “mom” chapters I posted not too long ago.  She likes what she’s read and she’s chomping at the bit to read more.  Sorry!  You’ll just have to wait.

Anyway, I’ve been busy committing all my writing time to the book and I’m really happy with what’s coming out, even it is taking an eternity and a half to create but I’ve noticed that there’s a certain amount of fear that goes with it.  (It would be well to note that fear often has no basis in rational thinking, however…)

I’m fearful that this book is not as good as I think it is (despite significant evidence to the contrary.)

I’m fearful that just because a handful of people have read a small fraction of what I’ve written and liked it, a lot, that it will not be good in the eyes of a publishing company.

I’m fearful that because of the nature of its content, what I’m writing will never be accepted by mainstream publishing and even if it ever does get published, it won’t be by a mainstream house and may not be promoted or marketed enough to sell many copies.

I’m fearful that this is the only thing I’ll ever be able to write.  It took me 32 years to come up with an idea which actually formed into a complete story.  What if it takes another 32 years to come up with the next one?

While I’m enjoying the process and would be happy for any amount of success that might come from it, I have to admit that all of that is tempered with a fear that I might get exactly what I want; a fantastic book, well received by major publishing houses, huge promotion and significant compensation and an opportunity to do more…

I’ve grudgingly resigned myself to the idea that my family may never really know me; never know the full truth about me.  I don’t love this idea, but I’ve lived with it for a long time and it’s…familiar.  But, what if I get published.  What if this book I’m writing, a book all about a young man who comes to terms with his sexuality despite his conservative upbringing and judgmental mother, a book full of emotional turmoil and sexual revelation… and sex, get’s published and promoted and makes even a medium splash in the literary world?  My mother is a voracious reader.  I’m not sure if a book like mine could accidentally find its way into her hands, but the prospect is disconcerting, at least.

I wrote a scene just the other day between our lead character, Calvin and a would-be lover/pseudo mentor, Trip, in which Trip explains his less than blissful relationship with his own family.  Without getting too bogged down in details or giving away too much of my, as yet unpublished passion, Cal has been taken to an Atlanta emergency room after a relatively minor injury.  Trip accompanied Calvin and is waiting in a room with him.  Pay attention to the last line:

Another thought occurred to me that I was ashamed not to have realized earlier.  “Oh my God, Trip!”  I slapped my hand down on his arm which had been resting comfortably on the edge of my bed.  “I’ve done it again.  You missed your brother’s reception.  What was I thinking making you bring me here.”

“Those drugs they gave you must be really good,” he laughed.  “You’ll recall I didn’t give you a choice in the matter.”  He patted my hand still resting on his other arm.  “Don’t worry about the reception.  I was there for most of it.  I won’t have been missed, I’m sure.”

There was something sad in his tone and I wondered what his relationship with his family might really be like.  “I’m sure that’s not true,” I suggested.  “You’re brothers after all.”

Trip just looked at me for several long seconds and then he leaned forward in the chair, and whispered to me, conspiratorially.  “I’ll tell you a secret Cal.  What you saw last night?  The way Tommy acted when you and I were leavin’?  That was just the tip of the iceberg.  My family has really struggled since I came out.  Most of the time I think they’re happier when I’m not around.”  That revelation struck me hard.  What must it have been like for him to accept being gay, acknowledge it, and tell his family, knowing that his father was a Baptist Preacher and his family would not accept him?  I couldn’t imagine what his life must be like and I didn’t understand how he could come off as being so self assured when he had this burden weighing him down when he thought no one was paying attention.

And he wanted me to be in the same boat?  How could he expect anyone to follow in his footsteps and demolish whatever sense of a life they had?  I was about to ask him just that when the nurse walked in.

We ate in silence for a while, crunching on our fruits and vegetables.  In spite of my hunger, I couldn’t bear to eat the white bread bun so I pulled the turkey off the sandwich and ate it plain.  Finally, I gingerly turned my head to look at Trip directly and I said, “I’m sorry, Trip.  I’m really sorry.”

He was confused, “’Bout what?”

“It sounds terrible,” I answered, clearing nothing up.  “I can’t imagine facing my parents and knowing that they don’t approve of me.”  Even as I said it I realized, I already knew how that felt.  I was all too familiar with the look of disdain my mother was so adept at displaying at the merest mention of pretty much any new idea I’d ever had.  I knew that if I were to tell her I was gay that would be the end for us.  The look she would give me, her reaction to that news would be impossible to get past.  “It must be just awful to be faced with that every day.”

Trip’s expression darkened.  “It’s not easy,” he said, his voice was thick with grief.  “My parents had such high hopes for me when I was growin’ up,” he continued.  “They wanted me to be a pastor like my father and like his father and his father before him.  Our family has been leading The First Baptist Church of Savannah for three generations.  Daddy is pretty well respected in the community.”  He paused and as his eyes glistened he gulped hard, holding his feelings in.  “Well anyway, he was.  And then about eight months ago I was caught on film coming out of a club called The Cockpit.  There was a local news crew doing a remote spot outside the club.  I didn’t even notice them at the time and I have no idea what the story was about let alone that I was on film but before I knew it, someone had seen me on the news and it got back to the Convention – The Southern Baptist Convention – and they talked to my dad about it.

“And then a couple months ago Janelle got pregnant and she and Tommy had to have this shotgun wedding.  Which is a sham, as far as I’m concerned and I just know they’re not going to last and I can’t help but think that’ll be even worse for my father’s reputation.  But you know…  At least they’re doin’ the honorable thing in the face of their shame.  There’s nothin’ I can do to make this right in their eyes.  And now, daddy’s reputation is damaged and the Convention is talkin’ about replacing him at the church.  It’s all a big ugly mess and not the way I would have wanted it to be, at all.

“I dreaded comin’ out to my parents and I put it off way too long…  I sure as hell didn’t want them to find out from someone else.  Let alone the whole community.”  Tears crept down his face now and he lowered his head, staring at the blanket that covered me.  “Talkin’ to my parents about being gay was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I owed it to them to be the one to tell them, and I didn’t do it.”

It seems like a long shot at best but I would hate for this book to be the way my family finds out that I’m gay and yet having that conversation is something I’m unable to imagine.    But the flip side of that is, what happens if this book actually gets published?  What if it actually is a moderate (or bigger) hit and I make a nice chunk of change from it?  What if I need to go on some sort of book tour because of it?  What if this turns out to be a really big deal…  And I can’t share it with my family, because to share it with them I’d have to tell them the hardest thing I could imagine ever having to tell them?  And what if I have to go through the rest of my life watching what I say, careful never to give any inclination about any of the experiences that I’ve had as a result of writing this book, just as I have to be careful now, never to mention anything that might reveal the identity that is Riggledo (blog, twitter, e-mail, etc.)

I realize I’m putting the cart before the horse, as I’m prone to do, and I’m not allowing these fears to stop me writing the book, but I can’t help fearing all these things.