I stand back stage, looking out upon a crowd so large that I feel dizzy. I shake my head, and look down to the front row where Jack sits fiddling with the end of his tie, he always did hate them, so tight and restricting.
Perhaps he felt me watching because he looked up then and gave me a toothy grin. A grin that spoke volumes to my nervous soul.
Then a man walked out to the centre stage where the microphone sat.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am fortunate to introduce Wesley Simmons, a retired law professor from Phoenix.
“Now, as you know he did not fly all the way from Arizona to give a lecture in pre-law, but a proposition on how to reduce bullying in schools. He proposes we begin holding mandatory GSA, Gay Straight alliance, meetings in all schools. Not only will it create a more safe environment for LGBT youth in our schools, but will also give straight students a place to be themselves. Perhaps in the process it will lower all bullying rates. Not just that of LGBT youth.
“Anyway, before I give his whole presentation away, Wes Simmons!”
I climb onto the stage and begin to speak, but the only thing I could focus on was the day my life changed forever, some 60 odd years ago.
It had happened. I thought this over and over again, staring down at an empty piece of paper, pen in hand. But what was I to do about it? There had been no point in to trying to be civil, have a conversation, he was disgusted with me; I suppose I could have tried pleading, but I doubt it would have helped the situation much. I had no other choice then to wait and let him make his own decision about whether or not to ruin my life. Whether or not to let me loose my family, my job, everything I had worked for. The 1950’s was no place for a man like me.
I had wanted so badly to trust him enough to know that he could never do it, never be the one to have me thrown into jail, and be beaten and disgraced. The way he had looked at me though, hate in those hazel eyes.
I could remember it as sharply as if it where a film playing on a screen over and over again, unable to ever turn it off. Doomed for eternity to see the complete and total disgust on his face, as he stood there with the piece of paper in his hand, my loopy script covering it’s front and back.
His face falling as he read through it’s words, and my confusion as I saw his reactions. I had not known what the paper had been, had not known the words I had written years ago, not known that I had left them there. And that I had asked him to read through my work, and pick out his favourites for I had gotten a spot in the weekly news for a column.
I dropped the pen onto the counter and stood up, starting towards the door, then changing my mind. I should most certainly leave him to choose on his own. My presence would not have improved his opinion, in fact ruin it completely.
It had happened, as I had known it eventually had to, but I hadn’t known what to do about anything. So I sat right back down on the floor, putting my face in my hands, and feeling the wet tears pool themselves in my palms. I couldn’t loose him, the boy I had spent years figuring out, and the man who I had fallen for so completely. I tried to remember the days before he had found out, about me, and what I am.
Years ago, a green park, we had sat with coffee in hand, and listened to a violinist play on a street corner. The absolute contentment in my friend’s face, and the peace in his eyes. Music had given him peace.
Only weeks ago we had sat in this very apartment and I had listened to him play, and the joy and passion I had seen as his bow ripped across the strings of the delicate instrument.
A couple days ago his laughter ringing through my small, cluttered apartment as he had read some of my more juvenile poems.
And only hours ago, that damed piece of paper, with my scrawlings and my secrets plain for him to see. Plain for me to see how much he had come to hate me in those few precious seconds. And why shouldn’t he have hated me? I hated me, for what I am, and for what I craved. I had hated myself for the things that I had wished, and had wished of him.
But self hatred and seeing him, the only one who had ever even remotely understood me, seeing the plain disgust painted across his face. Those hatreds are two very, very different creatures.
I had begged him not to give me away, but he never once glanced at me, just rushed out the door.
And then I heard a small tap on that very same door, so I dragged myself up of the floor, and pushed my legs to walk toward it, and my hand to close around the brass knob, and my arm to twist in open.
There he had stood, in his brown golden glory, and his hands shoved deep into his pockets, and his mop of hair falling into his frowning face.
“I would never” Is all he had said before he pushed his way past me, and flopped onto my couch
“Whats for diner?” He had asked casually, looking back at me, and smiling.
I had simply stared, arms useless by my side, and only upright for the force it would have taken to pull me down was more that I could have mustered at the moment.
His face had fallen, at the sight of seeing me standing there, in total shock.
“Look” he had said, rolling off the couch and walking towards me a couple steps. “I’m sorry. I just couldn’t comprehend the information I was reading alright?” he ran a long fingered hand through his mousy hair. “I was surprised, and a little embarrassed, and I needed time to process.
“I know that, well I was angry, until I got home and realized that you have always been this right? So what is knowledge but power? I’m a reasonable man, and I will be reasonable about the situation, as long as you force none of the… queer habits… on me alright?”
Again I just stared at him, but thinking about his offer all the same. Of course I knew he would never be as comfortable with me as he once had been, but whats a little distance vs never seeing him again?
Slowly I nodded, hesitant and nervous.
“Come now Wesley, let’s head out for a diner eh? That nice little shack down by the water front? On me tonight”
I just nodded again, slipped on my black and white wingtips, tightened my tie round my neck, and headed for the door.
Perhaps we could continue as we had been, queer or not. Perhaps not everyone thought people like me where abominations against god, but just different. Somehow the thought made me relax in my own skin a little, giving me one last hope for humanity 60 years from now.
My speech had been short and sweet. Now I simply sat and thought.
Sixtey years ago I was a boy who knew nothing of himself. Lost and confused by the world, and scared the world was lost and confused by him. That humanity would have thrown itself at at me, torches lit, ready to tear me to shreds, devour me. Simply an animal needing to be put down for I was sick and the disease would have spread rapidly had I been set free.
But there was hope for humanity after all, they never found a cure of the sickness they assumed I had, but instead thought that perhaps there was no need to cure it.
And so I bow to you my society, my world, for your gracious forfeit was a noble one.