Quest as in Question or Quest as in Journey
I stared into his dark eyes. I was washed with pure hate. He hated me. I had no idea why. Three words separated me from gaining his acceptance. I am gay. Those words rang in my ear and danced in the whirlpool of thoughts that strangled my mind. He hated me. He spoke it with his eyes. I knew it yet… I hated him. No. Yes. I definitely did. I stared deeper into his eyes and searched for what his next move would be. Would there be bloodshed? Would I be left clutching myself, comforting myself in a foetal position? He raised his hand. I clenched. He dropped it.
I began to calm my mind with words. Meaningless words. I wished my soul was silent. Dead. Silent.
I reminisced on the day that I was born. The day I took that breath of life here on Earth. The air of a gay child. I wonder if my mother felt I was different? Some mothers do. Bobby’s mother from that movie did. My mother didn’t, I am sure of it. I wondered if my mother fell or took drugs that caused me to have this intangible disease. I kept on wondering.
As with many young gay persons trying to figure out life and sexuality, I questioned God, I begged God to make me normal. What society considered “normal,” I would have done anything to be. Prayers and tears went hand in hand. Bruise those knees, as the old people say. I did from the moment I knew myself, from the moment I realise that I was. Gay. The frustration of not changing turned to anger turned to hatred, turned to HATE. I hated God, who was this god? Does he even exist? Hatred led to disbelief which led me to denounce the existence of this fairytale god. This liar. This man I am supposed to believe in, to help me, to give me the strength. Yet he made me an abomination. That was the verdict because I never chose this life. In my mind, I questioned why would God create me like this if it is an abomination? It is only signing and confirming my first class ticket straight to hell.
I drank till I could not feel myself, I drowned myself, I buried myself. I bled. I cried. I wrote. I screamed and yet never before in life I felt so lost or so alone than I did. Than I do. Self-hatred and self-pity were the crutches that I survived on. A daily battle of facing myself and looking myself in the eye, when I knew I was an abomination. When I felt like an abomination. I sank deeper into depression and my existence became heavy. Like a person who has a cold and can’t breathe as if there is a ton of bricks on his chest. I fought to survive. I begged to survive yet there is no reason to. Death became my ally. Beaconing me towards taking my life. To easing the suffering. You have a ticket to hell anyways, so why don’t you just speed up the process?
But I couldn’t. I was such a coward, a weak little effeminate abomination. Yet I couldn’t. I couldn’t end it. Probably for a reason. Was cowardice the reason? Then I wondered about life without my existence. As they say, life indeed goes on and I wonder the responses that I would have heard of those whispering over my coffin. “He had so much potential.” “He allowed the devil to take over.” “Yielded to temptation.” “Another young soul.” Then what would my parents feel, I have lived my life for the longest time trying to please them. To live up to the standard that I held myself. The standard that I thought would make them happy, despite my disappointing latent homosexuality. I felt that I was a demon seeking out heaven. That I am a demon. My overcompensation to gain acceptance, to gain love, to gain a sense that I was not a mistake or an abomination. Yet in my mind, that was not good enough.
How could you wager good deeds against a cursed soul?
So I put down the razor in my hand. I looked again into his dark eyes. I began to weep. I was weeping for my tortured soul and weeping for the hope of inner peace. I saw that drip of blood that stained the white bathroom sink and the dam broke. It was too much. Life was too much. In that moment I just could not carry on. I longed for that pinnacle moment that everyone says would happen when the gay would change, it would dissipate as vapour and I would be normal. I sold myself that dream for 15 years.
It is a crazy kind of mental hell to keep beating yourself up, over yourself and for being yourself. My own private hell is what I proclaimed it as. A constant battle. I remember bouts of menacing waves of emotion hit me dead on, in the face and spasming over my body proclaiming me as its victim. Under its control, I was left powerless. Lost in my mind and losing my mind. It is a kind of hell having to judge or live three or four steps ahead of everyone. The fear of what they might be thinking or murmuring about you. Thinking that they might know my secrets. My damnable secret. The horror of what they might do or the fear of the homophobic people who might threaten me with violence.
My only means of survival was to become numb! Numb the feelings about myself and the thoughts that consumed my mind. Numbing with alcohol, until I reached that point of happiness. That point where I felt better about myself. Which lasted a fraction of a moment. Then sadness consumed me. It devoured my soul and my being. My isolation deepened. My social skills became minimal. My room became my haven. Sleep eluded me and my appetite was gone. I began to waste away, pounds fell off without even trying and I had left a mere skeleton of myself. What kept flashing in my mind was how life would be if I was just “normal” or straight. We all want to live a happy life, one where parents are happy, we are married with children and living in a big house, the car, the pool and everything. The ideal life and the perfect scenario plays out vividly in my head. But the sad thing about life is that nothing is perfect or what we want or expect it to be.
Probably that is the beauty of it. Probably that is what it is supposed to be, the appreciation of things that are good and when they are good. But in my mind how can I, when the very existence of me is and continued to be preached to be an abomination. How could I when I felt so wrong just being alive that I thought that I deserve nothing good in life. That I was such a horrid person that I deserved no good. Nothing good.
I question and I researched trying to piece whether or not I was indeed wrong. How did history see us gays and how were gays dealt with. It only fuelled my abhorrence of this god that people preached to be that great designer of the universe, yet in my eyes, he was horrible, unforgiving and clearly incompetent in his designing. Further to this, I questioned the purpose of religion. My conclusion, a tool of subjugation and control. Used to oppress the masses, Africans, Indigenous persons and now the LGBTQ community.
In my mind, I thought of those free gays in American and all over the world living their authentic lives and I longed. I longed to be among them as if it were oxygen. To fill my lungs with freedom and pride. I yearned for that freedom to express myself and to live authentically. No lies or false bravado, the person that I was born to be and to enact. Without the pressures of society, religion, parents or what “god” dictates. I believe that I deserve that inalienable right to be who I am. If what I am is a homosexual then so be it.
Yet I can’t. I am surrounded by expectations and demands that I become this normal person. The awkward silences and terrifying moments when talking about girls and children come up. Then I suppress myself even more. Force a lie and then mentally map out my alcohol binge later that night. How could I when my very existence has my super conservative parents broadcasting their support for the massacre of gays. How can I sit back and act normal or feel any good about myself when I am left alone. Where being gay now has been left to exclusives.
I visited one gay bar in Port of Spain. It was the most profound feeling I have ever had in my life. I felt so uninhibited. I felt less alone. But only for a moment. Then I was left in a swarm of cliques and subsets of persons that I knew nothing about. I further felt lost in this gay life. Then all this attention swamped me and I was left even more clueless. Sex was the game and I kept drawing persons who wanted me to leave and go home with them. But I kept returning. Trying to claim that feeling I had the first time, that feeling that brought me to my knees in overwhelming happiness. But I couldn’t, and each visit the same scenario played out:
He looked at me and gave me a wink, I blushed. I always do when men pay me attention. How could they be interested in this wreck? And I blush again, all these odd and confusing emotions bombard me. I feel a little twitch down there. But I know all I am to them is a potential piece of ass. I think to myself, maybe I should. But god knows I don’t want anything. I just like the attention. I sniff and inhale this drug so deeply I get high. Next thing my pants are off and regret lingers in the air like stale, cheap perfume.
Why. I love you, they say. I want more, they say. But days down the road my morning text or have a good day text gets left unread. And I beat myself to a pulp about all the things that I could have done and should have done. Should I have been more extroverted, should I have kept his attention, talked more, danced more? Been freaky? Then weeks pass and months pass and I get a random message or call and I am back on that high again. SO confused yet so craving this attention. Angry with myself for running again like a puppy but hoping to god that he likes me more than just a day.
A whirlwind of confused emotions, feelings, thoughts and I sit and beat myself to a pulp again about how incredibly stupid I am. Have been. I sit and cry and wonder and worry about if I have gotten infected because he said he was clean. Then a pimple in an odd area, a discoloured patch of skin and I am back to worry about how stupid I have been and how needy and pathetic I really am.
They say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. But in my mind, I somehow convince myself that it is so gonna be much different. But then I see myself as if on a record doing the same thing and the same thing keeps on happening. I used to think it was all because I wanted to feel loved, needed to feel that attention that embraces like a warm blanket on a freezing morning, a comfort. That feeling that mummy reassures you that everything is gonna be alright and she rubs your back or your belly and gives you a hug. That kinda feeling I long for each and every day. With each and every person. And for a brief moment laying on that bed I do get that feeling. But the moment I am off, I slowly feel the warmth leave my body and I am frozen again. Lost, confused, angry and forever worthless.
What was that? I didn’t and still don’t want that. I wanted a friend. I need a friend. Someone who listens and understands. Someone I can be free and myself with. Someone non-judgemental. Someone who was gay so I would not feel so alone. I was not getting that. I still have not found that. It may be that my social skills are not so hot. But then again, where else can I go to be among gays who are not into me because I represent potential sex. That I can have clean fun and talk about real stuff? I am and still forever lost on that one.
I remember my childhood and I wonder if it factors into my crazed behaviours. I never had a normal childhood as far as I can remember, and I always was a nurturer. From an absent mother who I dreamt each day would be a mother, to a workaholic father who was absent in his own way trying to ensure food and shelter were always available. To a stepmother that I tried so hard for her to love me as a mother does her son. Which didn’t work out, because to her I was the fault of the hardships the family faced. I can’t remember when I took on that role but it became synonymous with me. To take care of everyone. And I slowly lost myself.
So I am back at negative one. Alone and lost. With the additional feeling that now I am less than, that I am not good enough to be gay. The funny thing about life is that the things that you want seem not to be attainable. Those that you don’t want seem to flood your gates. There is this guy I met a couple years ago, I’ll call him Vince. I was 18 at the time now on the gay scene. Now going to the gay bars. I was there outside sipping my drink and chilling. This guy obviously drunk comes asking me if I want to have sex. Me being me pre-drunk was obviously was playing hard to get. He however continues, now he is grabbing me rubbing up on me. I am disgusted. Yet slightly turned on. I push him away, he keeps coming on to me. Same time Vince appears on the scene. Pulls the guy away and as smooth as that was now begins to chat me up. Seriously. I am acting uninterested yet I am piqued, he has this accent, his body looks great. Attracted, I am not sure. I make an excuse that I am heading home. He has a car that can drop me. South? I asked. Nah. He lives in San Juan but he could drop you to get a car. Should I? I did, so he begins to call his driver who isn’t answering. Who would, it was 2 am, or was it some hoax? Now I really want to get home. He said he would take a car with me into the city, he does. Here begins the hell.
We got into this car, there were two passengers already, one in the front seat, one in the back seat directly behind the driver. Things were fine, we were almost into the city. The guy in the front seat gets out of the vehicle. As soon as he does, I heard the door lock, the car speed off, and within seconds, the driver was looking back, pointing a gun at us. “Give me everything,” he said. I laughed, while simultaneously reaching for the door handle. This obviously isn’t real, I want out. The door handle didn’t move. Smart, I thought. Child lock. “You feel you smart, give me everything boy!” I hear Vince on the side of me pleading and begging. I am silent. It was one of those moments where things go in slow motion. You’re not sure if you’re alive, if this is really happening or what. I painstakingly hand him my wallet, he pulls out bill after bill in ecstasy like he just hit some kind of jackpot. “That all?” The guy in the back seat starts feeling up my pants. “What’s that?” Gosh, my phone. “My phone,” I stammered. “Ent we tell yuh give us everything!” I painfully reach into my pocket and hands over my phone. At that moment I think I probably was the closest to crying I have been in a while. I had just purchased that phone. The iPhone 4s and it wasn’t even a week old, yet I had to part with it. That hurt me.
I said nothing yet I parted with it. To the side of me, there was Vince resisting. Next thing I know I feel sprinkles of something wet to the side of my face. A jostle as Vince and the other guy get into a tango and the repeated sound of something hitting a cushion, only to realise that it was stab after stab Vince was getting. I was horrified and felt as if my soul had left my body. This obviously isn’t happening. A sudden blur, Vince and I are being pushed out the car like old garbage, like in those movies where you see people getting pushed out of a moving car. I hit the ground. I couldn’t comprehend anything. Vince hugs me, crying that he is so sorry. Am I sorry? Am I alive? I sit on the pavement. Lost. Bloody and lost. I look at the city lights all around and the distant revelry of the Avenue can be heard. But here I am in another universe of time and space. With my life almost snuffed from me. With this Vince.
I can’t seem to understand myself since that night. I have been having this attachment to Vince. Even when I message or call and he leaves me unread, basically denying my existence. I met him a couple times after that, when I was in university he passed by said he was living close by. Last year I went again to the gay bar, a few days after my birthday on the same night as his birthday. There he was, sexy. We danced a bit and I felt stuff. Little me won’t behave in my pants. I went home with him that night. Again after that messages and call go unanswered. Yet when he wanted to talk to me, he made sure I answered.
April this year he called and asked me to come spend some time with him. I did. Stupid me. He spun these dreams in my head of him loving me, wanting me to move in all these things, said the reason before why we couldn’t be together was that he was involved with someone. I listened. I swoon over him. He took me to dinner, made me feel good. I swooned even more. Yet feeling this self-hatred that I wasn’t and couldn’t be enough for him. That I wasn’t doing enough with the time we were there together, wasn’t outgoing enough, wasn’t talkative enough or wasn’t entertaining enough. While the whole time he was on his phone messaging whoever, calling them babes, making plans to see them. So stupid. When I got home I deleted his number blocked him on WhatsApp and yet was only snooping on Facebook to see what he was doing and who he was with. I fell deeper into my black hole of regret, self-pity and self-loathing. Comforting myself with the thought that these guys he was with were ugly as hell. He made a mistake by not claiming this wreck.
Three months later. I have HIV.
I went for a blood test, the result of one of those occasions when my mind was using itself as a punching bag, for all the ill decisions I had made. I knew from the time the nurse said she had to rerun the test that something was wrong. My result showed it was reactive for HIV antibodies. Even when the doctor read the results to me. I had no emotions. No anger, no sadness, nothing. I sat in the chair almost feeling that I was not at this moment in time. I am not sure if it was shock or the onset of fainting. But I was there. Partly wanting to not believe that it was true and partly charting out my death, possibly by suicide. It’s interesting being in the moment where you never thought that certain things would happen. You think those situations in life are always for someone else, that they can’t penetrate your little bubble of existence. When it does, the knowledge that life and death are in the realm of possibilities becomes an ever-present thought. I had the feeling of sitting in utter loneliness. It was the most surreal and enveloping chaotic calmness I have ever felt. I was in the middle of a great empty plain, a flat desert drenched with sunlight, yet darkness ravenously consumed the horizon. I felt non-existent as if sound and light, music and movement were tied on a string that was unattainable. There I was reaching out into the darkness for some form of support and realising once again in life I am alone. I sat there in an awkward state of reverie as if I was on death row awaiting that bullet to the back of my head that would claim my life, that would somehow save me from what I thought my life with this virus, later on, would be. Knowing that it was coming, the monolithic uncertainty of my future was deadening. Everywhere I turned, the shadow of death obscured the meaning of any action, of every action.
The first thing that crossed my mind was that I didn’t want my parents to bury me. Besides the financial cost and the tears and drama. My little world of secrets would definitely be exposed. How their little boy not only was engaging in homosexual activities but he acquired that “Gay Disease.” Or them having to take care of this frail, incontinent, waste who is supposed to be in the prime of his life. I remember this conversation I had with my father when he first heard about my “gayness.” He said, “I doh want my son, bending over for no hardback man to get AIDS.” I don’t know if I should laugh or feel sorry for him because I am pretty sure that is how things went down.
I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed everything, a perplexing juxtaposition meandered through my mind. What if this was the universe’s call for me to live my life. I can’t honestly say that I haven’t been living but merely existing. A floating worry robot. I have always heard that you are so young, you’re still young. You have so much time still, a long future. Yet I have never felt that way. I have always felt and acted as if I was an old man. Concerned about the future, starving himself so I didn’t have to buy food to spend money. Walking home even when I am dead bone tired just to save five dollars. All sorts of crazy behaviours, I would think, now here I am faced with the reality of mortality and having to either call it quits or make the best of it. The uncertainty loomed. Who would I be, going forward, and for how long?
It is an intense and confusing feeling when your eyes are burning, knowing that every ounce of moisture in the universe is trapped behind it and yet nothing. It’s like that scene you look down in your washbasin and see the sink is backed up, but that little piece of hair in the drain pipe stops everything. What was my hair clogging? I have never been the expressive person especially about how I feel, my father jokes often of the times we go out and clearly, I am enjoying myself but I put on the face that I am having a terrible time, so no one would know.
The mantra in my head this Vince from the beginning was always trouble. Yet again he won’t reply to my messages. I am so stupid. These conflicting emotions of if things were different would I even act differently. I had another guy who said he also loved me and treated me so well yet for some reason that was not enough. Interestingly enough, I don’t think I have any regrets. But I do ask myself if I had just cut Vince off no matter how attached I felt toward him and settle for this other guy how much different would my current state be? Part of me wanted to be a part of Vince’s life so much that I disregarded everything. He spun so many things in my head that he was clean and that I was the only one, that I was loved. Words, meaningless words. Words that can’t comfort this body when I lie tortured in bed at night. Words that can’t warm my frail body. Words that won’t sustain this sickly body. Words like dust to the wind.
I can now say that I have been elevated to the pinnacle of dysfunction. I craved love so badly that I was greedy. I gambled with attention and betted my bottom and I am left again where I started. Alone, less than worthless and now damaged beyond repair. Coupled with the mental torture that I may have unintentionally infected someone who has been so good to me.
Again I ask. How many good deeds to save a damned soul?
Last week I visited Miami on my own. I was so excited, said I’ll be free from the parents or siblings I am going to hit the gay clubs, sleep in the hotel naked, get my dick pierced, go and be gay and expressive. Didn’t quite go that way. I went to this club called Twist after that I said I would quit the gay club hopping. From the moment I stepped in, I regretted going. Clique upon cliques of white gay guys. Not warm, not friendly. I ordered a beer and I couldn’t finish it I was that uncomfortable. I grudgingly walked by to the hotel disappointed. I remember boasting to my friend I am going to Miami I am going dance with some hot guys. Get drunk have a blast. Disappointed. I had all these grand ideas of how gay clubs abroad would be. Yet it was the same as back home. I so wanted to feel accepted. I so wanted to feel that I was among people who I belonged with. I so wanted to feel that I could express myself and feel how it feels to be so completely free with yourself. I so wanted to feel loved.
It is interesting that my experiences in life seem to all revolve around me wanting to feel loved and to experience love, but the question I think I am dodging is whether I love myself or not. Surely it seems I don’t, or else why am I acting so stupidly?
I switch off the lights. Scrub my face vengefully till I can feel it bleeding with the hot water from the tap. I can’t bear to face him in the mirror. I leave, vacillating. Slap my stinging face and clench my eyes as I am assaulted by the bright light of the outside world.
Poker face on.
“Hi. Good morning, Helen.”
Story by Julius
Illustration by Elizabeth Watkin.