When the war started we were all sitting at the lunch table, the other boys in my class and I, all of us huddled together, six of us on each side, on benches that were attached to the gray Formica top by a chrome metal frame that enabled the table to fold up flat and be stored against the back wall of the school cafeteria. All of my classmates were leaning forward with their eyes and ears focused on the pale chubby face and blue eyes and red hair of Albert Finney, who had appointed himself early in the school year as the authority on what boys our age were most interested in learning about: sex.
On that day he had gotten all of their attention when he said, “I’ve got something to tell you that I bet none of you know anything about.” He paused and looked at me with a snicker so when he smiled the braces on his teeth showed. “Well maybe not all of you.”
He watched my right hand that was sitting on the table top as it slowly closed into a fist, but his expression never changed as he went on loving the attention of those gathered around him and he finished what he had to say.
“I wanted to tell you about homos.”
He looked at my face again with that same snicker which drew the attention of the other boys who watched as I moved my right hand still in a fist off of the table and held it up in front of me. There was a slight hesitation in Albert voice as he continued, “Homos are two guys in bed doing what a guy does with a girl.”
Now I think all the guys in my class knew what a guy and a girl do in bed, but I wasn’t so sure they knew what two guys would do and suddenly I was the center of attention as they waited for me to give them the answer.
I so much wanted to punch Albert in the mouth and knock all of those shiny braces down his throat; or better yet I could slouch down and swing my leg back and kick him in the balls. I could tell by the way his expression had changed as I moved my hand still clenched in a fist and started to swing it back that he was getting scared; but lucky for him I stopped at the edge of the table and used it along with my other to lift myself up.
I would have gone through with it if he said anything else. I did give this kid that was sitting next to me a push when I heard him whispering to the boy next to him, "Jason Clarke’s a homo;" and that’s when the battle inside of me started.
I knew I was a homo and up until Albert said what he said and all the other boys stared at me I really hadn’t thought about changing. But when I heard those words “Jason Clarks a homo” something inside started trying to prove I wasn’t.
Kissing, no I had never kissed another boy, feeling them up, no guys don’t have boobs, even though I did enjoy looking at other boys chest.
But that was as far as I could go; when I got below the waist I couldn’t answer no any longer. My thoughts tried to justify what I had done:
It was only with Matthew. But it was almost every day after school; yeah, that did it, I must be a homo.
No you’re not, you can change. Remember the Bible, what you did is bad, and if you do it again you will go to Hell!
I wanted to believe that side of me was right but I just couldn’t. As soon as Matt and I were together the part of me that wanted to be a homo proved stronger every time. I even looked homo up in the dictionary to try to prove I wasn’t.
I went to my room and found my dictionary. I opened to the H’s and turn the pages until I reached the column that was headed homoeomorphous. I read down the page and there it was homo-the same, equal. Well that was right Matt and I were both boys, but I knew that couldn’t be why they called me homo and I continued to read the page and every word that began with homo. None of them made any sense to me until I reach homosexual-sexual feelings for one of the same sex. I knew that’s what it must be. The other boys thought I was homosexual and I knew they were right. But even with all the proof the conflict inside me continued.
I still tried to convince myself I wasn’t a queer:
I dated girls.
But I was afraid to even hold their hand.
I had held Matt’s hand and a lot more.
But then I felt ashamed.
What if my parents found out?
OK, I’ll never do it again.
Who was I kidding?
And that’s the way the battle began over and over again. Each Saturday I’d think about Matt as soon as I woke up. I’d even masturbate to try to calm my raging hormones, but a couple of hours later I’d be in bed with Matt, and when he left I swear I’d never do it again. But it never worked.
Any time I thought about Matt, my brain would be telling me, You can change. Remember the Bible, what you did is bad, if you do it again you will go to Hell! But come that next Saturday or sometimes even before we’d be naked together in my bed.
I enjoyed everything Matt and I did so much, that the other voice was always quiet and I thought, even if ever so briefly, I had beat it into submission. But it always came back as soon as Matt was gone. I must be crazy to let this go on and live rent free in my brain. But I did and it made the closet a war zone.