The Joy and the Pain of the In-Between

(A short excerpt from the novel I’m working on and that I may actually finish someday)

On the way back home, I began to feel a sinking in my stomach at having to be separated from Ricky for the four days till I would see him back at school and I was finally forced to confront the idea that I might be in love with him.  I had never been in love before and all I had to go on were the cliches in movies.  I suddenly remembered a song lyric, “If this isn’t love, this is the closest I’ve ever been” and I realized that’s exactly how I felt, but at the same time, I was so confused as I had always been taught, and as I truly believed, it was wrong to be in love with another man.  My eyes began to fill with tears at the anger, the despair, and the feelings of helplessness this situation elicited.

It felt wrong, but I knew that if Ricky showed the slightest bit of romantic interest in me, I wouldn’t have the willpower to say no.  No matter how much I believed that it wouldn’t be right to begin a relationship with him, my desires for love, comfort, friendship, family, sex, passion, trust, and acceptance would override everything else.  It made me feel weak and ashamed to realize that the moral and religious high ground I had lived on my whole life could disintegrate so quickly in the presence of one person.  I felt like all my religious fervour, my devotion to God, and the ideals I held so dear were all a lie.  If everything I had ever believed could be thrown away the first time it was challenged, what did that say about my integrity, my character?  Had I ever truly believed or was it just an act I put on because of my Evangelical upbringing?

The days crept by at an unbearable pace again, but this time, in addition to missing Ricky’s presence, I also agonized over my feelings for him and what that said about my faith.  I needed someone to talk to, someone full of wisdom and compassion, but I knew of no one who would understand my situation.  I couldn’t imagine talking to my friends, or my old youth pastor, or God forbid, my parents about what I was feeling.  I felt so isolated having never known a Christian who showed the slightest hint of being anything other than completely straight.  Lacking someone to discuss my feelings with, I prayed and poured over the Bible reading the passages that were always brought up regarding homosexuality and then scouring the internet for commentaries that would contain some pearl of wisdom that would lead me to the truth.

Unfortunately, I found a mix of opinions on both sides of the issue that left me with more questions than answers.  Some scholars had researched the Greek language and culture and claimed that the words so often translated in our modern Bible as homosexual were really only referring to specific arrangements between older men and young boys or that it was only forbidding straight men from letting their lustful feelings overtake them and cause them to do something “unnatural.”  These theologians claimed that in the time the Bible was written, there was no concept of a man who was solely attracted to other men and, therefore, the Bible had no passages that directly addressed the issue of committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.  Therefore, the argument went, we were left to use other more general passages about love and companionship to form our conclusions.

Meanwhile, more traditional scholars tended to focus on the fact that the Bible always talks about male and female, gender complementarity, and never mentions same sex romantic relationships in any type of positive light.  They made arguments based on physical traits (the phrases “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” and “parts fit together” came up a lot) and pointed to church tradition as well as societal norms.  One thing I found frustrating is that it was rare for proponents of either side to have a real answer to opposing arguments.  In all the debates, the participants just seemed to be talking past each other and making the same arguments over and over without making any real progress.

In the end, I found that neither stance had me truly convinced.  At that point, I had to rely on what felt true in my heart which, to my dismay, was that Ricky and I could not be together.  I was distraught and emotional until I realized I was getting way ahead of myself.  Up to this point, Ricky and I were just good friends, nothing more.  I felt no guilt about continuing on as we had and that was perfectly fine with me.  Besides, I had no idea if Ricky was even gay; I had been trying to figure out where he might stand by asking questions about old girlfriends (he had none) and how he felt about gay marriage (all for it, everyone should be free to marry the person they love), but there had been nothing conclusive and it seemed way too awkward and impolite to just come out and ask.

When I arrived back on campus the following week, I threw everything into my dorm room and rushed over to Ricky’s apartment to begin our last hurrah before the start of the next semester.  We planned a whole night of debauchery (which, for us, meant tons of junk food, bad movies, and a lot of laughs).  When I arrived, the lights were off and the first DVD was already in and waiting at the menu screen.  “Welcome back!” Ricky hollered from the kitchen, carrying a 2-liter bottle of soda in each hand and one under each arm.  We had an awkward hug on account of the bottles of soda and then I flopped down on the couch to see a wide array of snacks splayed across every available surface.  Ricky poured me a red Solo cup of Mountain Dew and sat down while I hit play to begin our marathon of awful movies.
Normally when we watched movies at Ricky’s apartment, we sat at opposite ends of the couch, giving each other plenty of space, but, for some reason, I had unconsciously sat towards the middle this time and Ricky followed suit leaving only a few inches between us.  Even this small amount of physical proximity was enough to make me both anxious and excited.  I wanted so badly to lean over and rest my head on his shoulder, but for some reason, this made me imagine what my mom would say if she were to ever see us in that position and that was enough to convince me to keep to myself.  The rest of the night was fun, but uneventful; I dozed off during the third movie and woke up to Ricky shoving me over so I fell face first into the couch cushion.  I gave him a mock dirty look, bid him goodnight, and sleepily stumbled the two blocks back to my dorm where I quickly drifted off to sleep for the night.

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