I used to be friends with a kid named Chris. I lived with him for a short while. Actually, we roomed together in a facility up a place in the town of Liberty, New York.
Chris was a tough kid. He was physically capable and good looking. The girls liked him. Safe to say everyone liked Chris (except for Chris.)
He played basketball. They said he had the ability to take his game to the next level. All he needed to do was learn to get out of his own way.
Chris had an anger problem. He drank too much and partied too often. Chris came from a history of abuse.
He was a street kid with a tough exterior.
Safe to say I admired him.
One day, Chris had a breakdown.
Since I was his roommate, he and I knew each other well enough that I was able to help calm him down.
He was warned, however, and placed on a probationary status.
One slip up, and this meant back to the boy’s home. This meant back to fighting for his things. This meant back to the life Chris wanted to get away from
He couldn’t take it anymore.
Chris was all of these great things but one thing Chris could never be was himself (or happy.)
Chris once told me that he wanted to break away from everything. He wanted to get away from everyone.
This way he could be free.
This way Chris could escape the pressure.
If he were to run, Chris could be Chris. The idea of him or his sexual preference would never come into question.
“I have to tell you something,” Chris said.
“And you are like . . . the second person I told, but since we room together, I figured you should know.”
I waited . . .
Chris explained, “I’m gay . . .”
There was a moment of silence after Chris told me. We were in the dorm after lights out.
I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t surprised. I as more impressed by his bravery to be honest. I thought about me and my life and how I never dared to be as brave as Chris.
I wondered what it must have been like for him.
What was it like to live the way he lived?
He was always fighting, always angry, and always wishing he could be free without being afraid.
It was amazing for me to hear that Chris was afraid because I could never understand why anyone so strong and physically capable would ever be afraid of anything.
In my eyes, I saw myself as weak and pitiful. In my eyes, I swore, I couldn’t fight my way out of a wet paper bag; yet, meanwhile, Chris with all of his abilities saw himself the same way as I saw myself.
He saw himself as shameful and different. I suppose Chris expected I would disown our friendship.
But I did not.
I couldn’t. loved him. I say this in the full expression of the word. I loved Chris. I admired him. We were two young men in troubled times. We both had our own scars and we both had our own fears.
We grew close.
I loved him; and I say I loved him, not in the way of physical intimacy or in the romantic sense. More so, I loved Chris because I knew him.
I knew about his history of physical abuse. I knew about the life he endured. I knew about his family. I knew about the way he lived and wondered how exhausting it must have been to keep up his crazy facade.
He was living a lie. He had to fight to hide the truths of who he really was. What a truly painful existence this must be.
I know living like this is painful because look at me. I was always trying to be someone else. I was angry.
No, I was pissed off because no matter how I tried to fit, nothing seemed to work.
I always felt out of sorts or mismatched. I never felt like I fit in.
To break the silence, Chris said, “I understand if you want to see if they can switch your room.”
”Why would I want to do that,” I asked.
”Because you don’t want to room with a fag,” answered Chris.
“But you’re not a fag. You’re Chris,” I said.
He yelled, “Don’t you understand, I’M GAY!” expecting me to reject him the same way he had always rejected himself.
But I didn’t.
I watched him unravel. He was angry. He often reacted, but Chris rarely wept. On this night, however, Chris wept.
I am not sure if he was relieved or if he felt worse. Either way, Chris decided to come out.
I admit to my young homophobic ignorance back then. At the time, I was only 17. Back then, no one talked about things like this.
Hell, we hardly talked about masturbation. At least, I never did. And neither did Chris. He was afraid too.
Sexual preference aside, I see life this way:
Whenever we live a life we never wanted or whenever we pretend to be someone else; it is impossible to be happy.
At best, happiness like this can only come on a temporary basis.
To thine own self be true”
There is no line more true than the above.
Truth is it is hard to be yourself sometimes.
It is hard when we feel uncomfortable in our own skin. Awkwardness is painful. Insecurity is hard to live with. I am sure we can all relate to this regardless to our romantic preferences
A few weeks in, Chris lost his temper. Someone called him a fag.
Chris explained, “I may be a fag but I am still a man,” and violated his probationary status at the treatment facility. They were strct about their “No Violence,” rules.
Chris hugged me before he left.
“Take care,” I told him.
I said this because I knew the life he was going back to.
I never heard anything about Chris again but I remember him well. I am still proud to say I lived with him. I roomed with him. And yeah, I got sober with him. He was my very good friend.
In a time when I was cowardly:
Chris taught me about the bravery of being me,
To thine own self be true . . .
No other words are more true than this
Not sure where you are now.
Just hope wherever it is, at last, you found the freedom you were always looking for.
Be well . . .