I want to dedicate this story to the memory of a guy whose name I do not even know. He was the friend of a friend of a friend, and he hanged himself, because he just could not come out of the closet. He was sure his friends would not accept who he was. Hearing his story, I was deeply affected; I so know how he felt. I was saved by a guy who has become my brother... and his 'orchestra' . I don't know what the answer is. Do we reach out to those we THINK might be gay and risk being wrong...or scaring them off, because they're not ready to accept the fact themselves? I cry at the thought of this beautiful man thinking the world would be a better place without him. My world has been lessened, and I didn't even know him!!!! Live, love and laugh...our time here is short!
The gunmetal seemed unnaturally cold in my lap, as I sat on the edge of my bed. I had written the note days ago, in anticipation of this evening. As many times as I had gone over this in my mind, I had always pictured myself crying. I kind of figured I would be the only person who did. I'm a fag, after all, and, of course, everyone hates fags.
My mind wandered to my daughter. She'd be the only person who might be a little sad when she found out I was gone. Who am I kidding? After she read the letter, she'd hate me, too. Everybody hates fags...even daughters.
All right, now I'm crying. Why the hell couldn't I change myself? I tried so hard. I went out with girls, I was even married. I spent years hating who I really was. This is supposed to be some kind of choice, isn't it? I made my CHOICE, years ago, yet these urges...these damn urges just kept coming back. Every time they came back, they were more intense than they were the last time. I hated them; I hated me...I hated feeling so damned alone.
Now, here I was. The sky was darkening, as the evening moved on. My plan was to dial 911 and, as soon as they answered, I'd set the phone down and do it. That assured that the professionals would find what was left of me, and not my daughter coming in and finding the mess. The Redhawk not only felt cold, but it was so heavy, it was hard to pick up. I opened the cylinder yet again, just to make sure it was loaded. I know, a .44 mag. seems like a lot of gun, but I wanted no mistakes.
I brought the gun to my chest, almost hugging it. I was pretty much bawling by then. Looking back on it, I think that was the part of me that didn't want to die. I sat there well into the night, frozen, hugging the Ruger and crying. Somewhere around 10:30, I accepted the fact that that was not going to be the night. I still had one task left, and I was too much of a pussy to even do that. I slid the gun back into the holster and closed the nightstand drawer. The note went back to the bottom of my underwear drawer, and I lay down in bed, still dressed, and eventually fell asleep.
The alarm went off at five, as it always did. The morning routine found me showering, grabbing a bite to eat, and then I was off to work. I'm not really sure why, but for some strange reason I knew that I would only do 'the deed' at night.
I had stopped talking to 'my friends' a couple of days before. They had been really good friends, the kind of friends who were always there when you needed them...even when I moved, they helped. I had to let them go too. I say 'my friends' in quotations, because they, more than anyone, would turn on me if they knew my secret. The fact that I worked with them made the situation even more untenable.
My desk was a mess, as usual. I was spending a lot more time there, sometimes just looking off into space. Right now, I was "working" on a quote... more or less just staring at the blueprint, when I noticed movement in front of me.
"Ok, what the fuck is your problem?" Brad asked. Brad was one of those friends I told you about. He was standing there next to his brother Zach, both of them looking at me as if they were not happy.
"Huh?" Was my only response.
Zach's turn, "Is something wrong? You haven't said shit to either of us in two days."
"Nothing's wrong. I've just been really busy with all these quotes." I tried to tell the lie in a way they would believe. I could tell they didn't, especially Brad. He has a keen 'bullshit detector'. Thankfully, he didn't push.
"Well, if I don't eat soon, I'm going to die. I think my blood sugar is seven. What's for lunch?" Zach broke the silence.
We ended up getting Taco Bell. We sat at the table in my office, as usual. I tried to keep up my part of the conversation, but I really didn't say much. Later on, I went out in the shop a couple of times, trying to make it look good. Every time I talked to one or both of them, I felt so phony; as if I were two words from an asswhooping, and, trust me, either of them could do that without working up a sweat. Those two words? ...'I'm gay'.
The day ended, and the drive home was peaceful. Dean, Brad's and Zach's older brother, and my best friend called to see "what's up". "You haven't called in a couple of days, and my brothers tell me to haven't been saying shit to them, either."
"I'm fine. You know me; I just need to hermit up sometimes." I hated lying to him, but lying was better than hearing him tell me he hated me.
"That's BS, and you know it." Thankfully, he didn't push it, either. "We're thinking about going to Chicago this weekend. You wanna come with?"
"Sure...call me." I lied, figuring I'd work up the courage to do what needed to be done by this weekend.
We chatted for a few more minutes, and then I was home. I picked up some fast food and sat in front to the TV to eat. As was so often the case, I found nothing that interested me, so I headed upstairs to read a few more chapters of a story I had been enjoying online. A couple hours, and several chapters, later, I was rubbing my eyes and thinking of bed.
I decided to write to the author of the story and tell him how much I was enjoying it. For some reason, I also told him I was gay. It was a "gay story," so I figured 'what the hell'. Maybe being told by some anonymous person online that I was useless would help give me the courage I needed. This was the first time I had ever admitted to ANYONE that I was gay. I hit 'send' and trudged off to bed.
I suppose now would be a good time to tell you I had only recently admitted to myself that I was gay. I spent my whole adult life trying to fix myself, self-loathing, and running from who I was. A few months ago, I stopped fighting it and told myself, "you're gay, get used to it." That set off a tailspin in my emotions. I might be gay, but all my friends were straight...very straight, and I just knew they would never accept a gay friend in this circle. Looking back, they had never said anything to make me believe that. There were no 'fag' jokes, and I never saw them abuse someone they thought was gay. Hell, the subject almost never came up. I do remember that Billy, the other guy in our group of five, said something 'was gay' once, and I thought I saw Brad flash him a look like 'knock that off', which at the time made no sense to me.
Morning came, and I was surprised to find an email from the guy who wrote the story. It was more than the 'thank you for saying thank you' obligatory response. He asked me questions about myself; he seemed interested, especially in the fact that I had just figured out I was gay. Interested, and not damning...this was new (in my mind, anyway). I sent a response, a flicker of excitement at telling someone my deep dark secret and finding that they didn't run away screaming.
I rushed home after work, heading straight for the computer. Would there be another email? I was scared to look. My mind was telling me all day that there was no way this guy was going to write back. I was sure he was way too busy to spend any more time on the likes of me, but there it was...another email!
I opened it and had to read it twice. He was still being nice, still interested, and to my utter astonishment, he put his phone number in there telling me to "call anytime I wanted to talk." I went back to my original email to him...yes, I did tell him I was gay. I never expected a response like this, from anyone.
I think it was the next day when I called. Who was this guy? He was okay with who I was? How could this be? As the phone rang, I suddenly got cold feet, I was about to hang up, when I heard this rather deep voice say "hello?"
"Could I speak to Darryn? I asked in a rather shaky voice.
"This is he, is this Scott?"
"Yeah, I hope I'm not bothering you."
"Not at all! How are you?"
We talked like old friends. He told me about himself and his partner. He seemed interested in me and my life. He talked of my epiphany about being gay as if it were a good thing. I even told him of my friends, called them 'superhetero alpha males' and my fears regarding them finding out about me. From that first conversation, he told me that "if they're your friends, they won't care if you're gay." I was nowhere near ready to believe that, but he was adamant...sounding so sure. I told him he "just didn't know 'my friends'".
Over the next few conversations, he told me about this place on the net called "The Fort". He offered to introduce me to a few people, and he told me that these were, for the most part, really nice people, who don't judge and really do care. I found it hard to believe, but I trusted him, not only because he made it easy, but, I suppose, the inner me knew I had to trust someone. I found the site, made a few posts, and two days later, I was buying a headset.
The next thing I knew, I was on Skype, talking to several people, authors of stories that I had read or would read. They were all really nice. They all agreed with Darryn, that my friends would be okay with who I was. They were never pushy, but they always gently coaxed me to trust my boys and to tell them. They promised that, no matter what happened, they would be there for me, and so, they thought, would my boys.
Over the coming days/weeks/months, I spent less time thinking about killing myself and more time looking forward to talking to my new friends and spending some time with my old ones. I was feeling pretty good, for the most part, but I still was quite sure that the guys would hate me, if they knew. Then came the scare of my life! I walked into my office after lunch and found Brad sitting at my desk.
"You wanna know how I know you're gay?" He asked, a small smile playing around his lips.
I almost panicked! I was about to turn and run, when he answered his own question.
"Because you've got a rainbow bumper sticker on your car that says 'I love balls'!".
I recognized the line from a movie, and, while my heart was racing, I just said, "ha ha...you're a riot." That was WAY too close. I grabbed a piece of paper off my desk and took off...shaken badly by his joke, but trying really hard not to let it show.
The weeks passed; I tried to be normal at work, or when we got together, but I always had a level of fear when I was with my friends. This fear seemed to grow more intense over time. I even had what I call a panic attack one afternoon, sitting on Zach's sofa, watching a ball game. This was something we had done a thousand times. In the blink of an eye, I just got scared. It was actually hard to breathe. I just stood up and said, "I've got to go...see ya, bro." Out the door I went, Zach sitting there looking at me like 'what the hell?' I sat at the stop sign down the street from his house, clutching the steering wheel and feeling like a fool.
I looked forward to almost nightly talks with my new found friends. It was so liberating to have people to talk to who didn't care that I was gay. Hell, they encouraged my "gayness". No, that's not right. They encouraged me to be ME, and to trust those around me. I know I trusted them, they made that so easy.
I no longer felt like I needed to take my life—most of the time—but the pressure within myself was immense. I was coming to the realization that I was going to have to tell the boys. Sink or swim; I didn't want to die, but I couldn't live like this. I vacillated wildly on this subject. Darryn and the guys just kept a steady tone, always loving, always telling me that it really would be okay, that no matter what, they were there for me.
I'll never forget the day, August 25th. I was pretty hyper all day and I really didn't know why. I had reached the breaking point, I suppose, and around 3:00 in the afternoon, I called Dean at work and asked if I could stop by his house later. "We need to talk," was all I told him.
"Sure. I need to stop by the store on the way home; see you about 5:00?"
"Ok, thanks," was my response.
Oh shit, I've done it now. I have to go tell him...I have to step off the cliff and I have no idea if the fall will be six inches or six miles. I've told everyone that if this goes bad, I'm packing my stuff and moving to New York. I have friends there who, I hope, won't care if I'm gay.
The next couple of hours were brutal. I snapped at the secretary, when she came into my office to ask a mundane question. I sent an email to Darryn and the guys that this "is it". I warned Darryn that I would probably be at his house tonight, he only lives about three hours from me and I was going to need a shoulder to cry on.
4:45...Oh shit! This is it! My head was spinning; my heart was pounding as I drove the ten minutes to Dean's house. His girlfriend's car was in the driveway. I really wanted to do this, just the two of us. As I got out of the car, he came out the front door. "I need to go get cat food; let's go for a ride."
I tossed him the keys and said, "No problem, you drive."
As we backed out of the driveway, he looked over for a second and said, "Okay, what do you need to talk about?"
Shit...no dancing around the Christmas tree, I guess. My heart was pounding and there was a buzzing in my ear. I think this just might be the most afraid I have ever been. "Do you know why I always seem to be afraid of losing my friends?"
He thought for a minute, and then said, "Are you talking about when you and I stopped talking to each other?"
He wasn't getting where I was going, "No, bigger picture."
"Then, no, why would that worry you?" He looked confused and shrugged his shoulders as he said this.
My ears had gone from buzzing to ringing, and I felt almost nauseous. Here I go, stepping off the cliff... "Because that happens a lot, when people tell their friends they're gay."
There was a moment of silence; then he started to ask a question, as if he didn't hear what I just said. I interrupted, "Dean, did you hear what I just said?"
There was a moment, when I thought my worst fears were about to be realized. Then I saw him look over. He didn't look angry, there was no hate in his eyes. He just said, "Scott, I have to be 100% honest with you...everybody you hang out with already knows, and no one cares."
I think the only word that will work here is gobsmacked. I was totally gobsmacked! "You mean Brad knows?"
He was smiling, "Yeah."
"We all know...it's really no big deal. To be honest, Billy had a hard time at first, but Brad told him if he had a problem with you, he had a problem with him; and you know, nobody wants a problem with my brother."
The rest of the ride was pretty much a blur. I know we talked about this, like no big deal. He told me they HAD discussed it, on more than one occasion, and they had always figured I would tell them whenever I was ready; that they liked me for who I was; being gay had nothing to do with that. Gobsmacked...
The feeling of relief was indescribable. I left his house, and the drive home was thrilling. I called one of the guys who talked to me on his cell while talking to the others on
Skype. Word went out to my author circle like wildfire. By the time I got home and signed on to Skype, everyone knew, and they rejoiced with me.
I was on cloud ten...nine was too small for the way I felt! I went to bed, and, for the first time in a long time, I couldn't sleep because I was so damn happy. 'They like me, they really really like me!' ran through my head. Me and Sally Fields!
The next morning, I sat at my desk, still happy, but my scared self was creeping back in. What if Dean had lied? What if they really didn't know? My plan the night before had been to march into work and proudly be me. Today, my fear said 'Hold on, pardner...not so fast!'
It took until about 1:30 in the afternoon for me to work up the courage to approach Brad. He was standing at the counter, and I said, "You talk to Dean today?"
"No." He didn't look up. "Why?"
"We had a rather interesting conversation last night." There was fear in my voice, I'm sure.
Now he looked up. "Really...what's that?"
"We talked about the fact that for years, I've been scared to death that you guys would find out who I really was. Come to find out, you already knew."
He smiled, but didn't say anything. "Do you know what I'm talking about?" I had to make sure; I was leaving nothing to chance here.
His smile grew, "oh yeah...I know what you're talking about."
My god, even Brad, probably the straightest person on the planet, was smiling at the thought of me being gay. The antithesis to what I expected. We talked about it for a good 45 minutes. We talked the way we had always talked, but the topic of conversation was me, and the fact that I was gay. How could this be such a non-issue?
One more for today. I walked into the lab and Zach was sitting at his desk. I asked him the same question I had asked Brad. No, he hadn't talked to Dean. I said the same words again, that I had said to Brad. He just looked up at me, smiled and said, "Friends is friends".
My only response was, “Twenty-seven therapists....and you fucks knew”!
I really do not remember too much after that. I was walking twelve inches off the ground. We talked for a few minutes and I left for the day. I was on emotional overload. These guys, my friends, who I had assumed would throw me under the bus, or break me in half with their bare hands, still liked me; they looked at me as if they had no clue why I would be scared to tell them...they had known for years...it was NOT a big deal.
Well, I had one left, Billy. I was on such a rush; I figured he would be a piece of cake. While dinner was in the oven, I called him.
"Hey Bro, how's it going?" I asked.
"Just drivin' home from work, I ain't heard from you in like a week. Where the hell have you been?"
"Just dealing with some shit. Listen, Dean tells me you already know about my deep dark secret...the one I've been scared to death you'd find out. He tells me you've all known for years."
"Umm" was his only response.
"You know what I'm talking about?"
"Yeah, I think so. Dude, your freaking me out! That's for real?" Was that anger in his voice?
I got a more than a little scared here. "I thought you knew all about it."
"Oh man...we talked about it, but I didn't believe it."
"Billy, I'm sorry. I thought you knew...I thought it was all good." My voice quivered, I was on the verge of tears.
"Listen, I'm a little freaked...I can't talk now...I gotta go..." and the line went dead. My heart sank. I had just lost a friend. I sat on the couch, feeling sorry for myself. I tried to remember that the other three were fine, but the thought of Billy sitting in his house fuming saddened me, and scared me at the same time. Billy was a big guy, every bit as tall as me and worked out at the gym like a madman. He could put me in a headlock and pop my head like a pimple.
My cell went off about an hour later. 'Billy' was the name on the screen. I did not need to deal with this now. I didn't need to hear how he hated me and never wanted me to call him again. No fags in his life, thank you very much! I didn't answer, and when it beeped telling me I have a voicemail, I couldn't listen to it. I would deal with letting him go tomorrow.
At work the next day I was telling Zach about what had happened with Billy the night before. He was surprised. Trying to find the silver lining, I just said, "three outa four is pretty good." Brad came in, and I started to tell him, but he said "Yeah, I heard He called me."
My phone went off. Oh, shit, it was Billy! I looked the name on the screen and couldn't answer it. Brad saw who it was and said, "Answer it."
"I can't." I mumbled.
"ANSWER THE FUCKING PHONE, ASSHOLE!" His eyes bored in on me...he was not kidding.
I flipped it open, and in a shaky voice said, "Hello?"
"Didn't you get my voicemail last night?" He seemed calm.
"No, I was afraid to listen to it."
"Well, go listen to it; then call me back." He hung up.
I walked into the hall and held the 1 key down. "You have one new message" the voice said. "Scott, I love you anyway, mother fucker, and I don't look at you any different...You hear me? Call me!"
I called him and we talked for a good hour. He told me several times during that conversation that he loved me. He used the words! He also told me that if anyone ever did give me shit for being gay, I was to tell him and Brad and let them deal with it. "You're our guy...that never changes." I had hit a home run. After we hung up, I sat there and wondered how in the world did I get so lucky? Then it dawned on me...I had come so close to killing myself. I was sure everyone would hate me as much as I hated myself. That was simply not true. I had the shakes for some time over that thought.
After several months out of that damn closet, I am still amazed at how well these guys took my being gay. I guess it was because they had accepted it long before I did. We are back to our normal selves. Hitting each other with verbal jabs, and making fun of each other, but now they have a whole new repertoire of things to hit me with...and I LOVE IT!
Editor's Notes: I am so glad that you didn't manage to succeed that night you were sitting on the bed with the gun on your lap.
I am so very glad that you decided to write that letter, because we are all better off, having you around. I only wish that somehow we could have been there for that young man who took the ultimate step without having given his friends a chance.
I know that we are all part of one huge family, and we will all do our best to help anyone who lets us know they need help. That's just what we do.
When I got your first letter, my heart skipped a beat, and I somehow knew that you needed help, and that I NEEDED to let you know that you were not alone and that you were WORTH helping. I don't think I really knew how close you were to putting an end to it all, but something told me to answer you as soon as possible, so I did. Thank God I did. After all, "Friends is friends."
Darryn AKA The Radon Raunchier
Associate Editor's Notes: Even though I had heard this story from the author himself, it was still painful to read. Seeing the stark details on the screen brought back a lot of very painful memories for me, because I was there, too, quite a few years ago.
I was one of the lucky ones. I was pulled back in time. But I know now why babies scream and cry when they're born! They dragged me out of that dark place of peacefulness and into the light. When I woke up, with twenty-seven stitches in my arm, I was just plain mad at the world! But I decided right then, that, if they wouldn't let me die, I was going to live on my terms! And I have! It's taken me thirty years to get here, but I'm perfectly comfortable with myself. Some people know I'm gay, some suspect, and some couldn't care less either way.
I did learn one important lesson, though. There is only one person in your world WHO really matters. That's the person you see in the mirror in the morning, and fall asleep with at night. What other people think about you really doesn't matter. It's what you think of yourself. Love is the great healer, they say, and the first person you need to love, the most important person, is yourself. You are a unique and precious gift to this world. You have something special to offer. You have a job in this world, and if you don't do it, it won't get done, and the world will be diminished because of that. I'm not an important person, and I don't have a lot of power or wealth in this world, but I've got one thing to offer. I can love people who need love—whether they return that love, or not!—because I've learned to love me. To quote a phrase that was popular some years ago, "Try it; you'll like it!"
Original Host's Notes: I never thought of us as an orchestra but since we all 'play the same notes' I guess the metaphor fits. The world is a much better place with you in it David Miller and there would have been a big gap without you. When I wrote my poem "The Ones You Left Behind" it was people like you I was thinking of. I am very glad that you took the step and reached out to 'Darryn'. The most important thing we did was offer our love; the most import thing we said was "we are here for you and are your friends".
I went through a slightly similar soul searching myself and a very good straight friend of mine set me 'straight'. She told me a very simple truth and then gave me a copy of the book it came from, "What you think of me is none of my business"! Or in plain English what I think of myself is more important than what someone else thinks. The book is titled "What you think of me is none of my business" by Terry Cole-Whittaker. This book helped me immensely in dealing with my issue of coming out and losing friends. The basic premise is that if you lose a friend when they find out they weren't your friend in the first place. I didn't have an 'orchestra' to help but a small circle of friends and an adopted family to help. I truly wish that there was such a thing as "The Fort" then.
David thank you for such a heartwarming and emotional story that proves that love and listening are very powerful tools in dealing with serious issues. Thanks for being my friend.
The Story Lover
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