Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I have finally gotten around to writing a new blog entry. A friend of mine who writes a blog about the downfalls of the educational system from an inside-the-classroom perspective asked me to write a guest blog. You should go over here and check it out, and also read her other entries. They're quite good.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Bed

It seems I always have my best ideas when I'm lying in bed, shortly after I've laid down to sleep. But I stir and roll until I realize that sleep is currently unattainable, so I open my laptop and start writing. Perhaps I will write my book completely while in bed. That's a good title, right? In Bed by Curtis W. Creekmore. Best seller.

In a related matter, let us discuss sexual health. Spring has sprung: flowers are in bloom, a light coating of pollen covers everything stationary, and hormones are raging. This post will be an advisory to all those who are sexually active.

Even before the first time I ever went to get tested for a broad array of STIs, my friends had already told me horror stories. The test for HIV and syphilis was easy; two test tubes of blood drawn from your arm and you're all set. But for gonorrhea and chlamydia, the collection method was slightly more... invasive.

For those of you unaware of the particulars of this test for a male, he is made to stand in front of a nurse who shall be no younger than 65 and always female, drop trou, stare at the ceiling and wait for the world to end as she takes her wrinkled, red-nail-polished fingers and opens the urethra so that she may insert a seemingly foot-long (but in actuality, less than an inch) cotton swab into the penis, twist it twice, and pop it out, collecting cells for her microscopic endeavor.

I was absolutely terrified. This would not be a pleasurable experience, so I wanted to avoid it at all costs. In searching the unending abyss that is the Internet, I found multiple sites indicating that gonorrhea and chlamydia could be tested through urine. Huzzah, I thought, a loophole to this penile torture.

The morning of, I woke up rather early. My friends also explained that the free clinic I would be using functioned on a first come, first served basis, so I would need to get there before it opened so I could get an early number, or run the risk of not being seen that day. Knowing that I would have blood drawn for the HIV test, and remembering from earlier years when I had my cholesterol checked, I did not eat breakfast so that it wouldn't negatively affect the test results. I also remembered not to pee that morning, so that it wouldn't be so difficult to produce a sample once I was asked.

I was the first to arrive to the office, 15 minutes early. At 8 AM sharp the doors opened, and the parade of patrons that flowed through the door amused and confused me while making me feel completely uncomfortable: women who had clearly come in from working the streets the previous evening, men high as kites from whatever they had snorted/injected/smoked before arriving, and the two other gay white college kids who had come to get tested anonymously, with baseball caps pulled low over their faces and their hoodies pulled up around their cheeks.

My number was called and I headed to the back. A short question and answer period with a worker ensued, discussing my sexual history. If I thought sitting in a waiting room full of prostitutes and drug addicts was uncomfortable, this was nearly unbearable. You don't want to lie, but you also don't want to share the deepest recesses of your soul with a gruff stranger, pen and pad in hand, ready to chronicle your sordid past. After the inquisition, I was ushered to another room where Nurse White was waiting.

Per the standards listed above, Nurse White was in her mid-sixties. She explained that today was her final day before retirement, and that I was not to muck it up. Be careful what you wish for, my dear.

She inserted the needle in my arm to draw the two vials of blood and began describing the subsequent procedure. I proudly declared that I already knew it and had come prepared. I asked if I could simply produce the urine sample to be tested, but she declined, stating that urine samples take far longer to test, and that the swabbing would be immediately reviewable.

It was as if my heart had been wrenched its comfy chair in my chest and skidded its way through my vein in to her evil little vial. There would be no peeing in a cup today. She quickly snapped the tourniquet off my arm and asked me to stand and drop my shorts so she could complete the secondary test. Upon standing, I felt somewhat woozy, but blamed it on her having taken a few vials of blood. I chose a particularly lovely ceiling tile to focus on as her gloved hand guided the swab into my pe-

I woke up staring at a different ceiling tile, along with the faces of three nurses screaming my name. I came around, and was able to respond to their frantic calls. Apparently during the procedure, I had fainted while standing. The good news was, being as graceful as I am, I managed a half twist in mid air and landed on my back instead of smashing my face into the tile floor. Two of the nurses gave me a 10 on the landing; Nurse White was representing Russia and only gave me a 6.5. The bad news was my once full bladder had decided that since my mind was no longer in control of my vital organs, it would go rogue, and had begun to slowly release its contents. Thankfully I had also managed to pull my underwear partially back up, and once I regained complete cognizance, immediately stopped the flow. The nurses helped me onto the paper-covered hospital bed and brought me apple juice and some crackers. They immediately began a barrage questions, including asking what I had eaten that morning.

"Nothing," I said. "I didn't want it to impact the results of the blood work." They laughed and said that was only for cholesterol tests, not for HIV.

Well, piss. Literally.

I was able to go to the bathroom while I waited for the results of the swab and cleaned myself up a bit. I returned to find that the results had come back negative, and I was good to go home. I thanked the nurses for their help and told Nurse White that I hoped I made her final day of work an exciting one. She warily smiled and nodded as I turned to leave.

So, a few tips*:
- If you are sexually active, get yourself tested every three to six months. Your local health department or HIV/AIDS education organization will often do these tests for limited costs, if not for free.
- Always use condoms. Always. Though the transmission of HIV is limited through oral sex, it is still suggested that you wear a condom or use a dental dam for that as well. Other STIs are just as easily transmitted this way.
- Have the difficult discussion with your sexual partner(s) about their sexual history. Stigmatizing or avoiding this conversation can lead to catastrophic results.
- Know the symptoms of different STIs, and also realize that some people go symptomless for years.
- Be aware of the statistics of STIs. Some of them are staggering.
- More than anything, be safe and have fun!

*I am not a doctor and cannot give medical advice. These tips are from years of experience, personal research and advice from a layman. If you suspect that you have an STI, seek medical assistance. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Derby Day

The first Saturday of May is an important day to the commonwealth of Kentucky. People from all over the world, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, all gather in the wonderful city of Louisville to watch a sporting event that literally lasts as long as it takes a man to orgasm: the Kentucky Derby.

What this means to everyone else in the world is incomparable to what it means for we Kentucky residents. I was told from the day I moved on campus that I should not leave my room on Derby day. The city is overwhelmed with so many people that it literally shuts down in some places.

I lived in Louisville for six years and never once did I venture a mere mile down the street to view the festivities. For one, tickets can run a little on the expensive side, even if you choose to slum it with the redneck trash (no offense [actually, yes, offense]) of the infielders, those who pay a small fortune to drink cheap beer out of styrofoam coolers and cheer as the quickest of the drunkards attempt to race across the tops of the port-a-potties.

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

And should it rain that year, the infield turns into a gigantic mud wrestling arena, and I certainly will not be venturing into that monstrosity.

So I always said that if I were to go to the Derby, I would be seated in the upper decks, alongside the millionaires and celebrities, clinking martinis and laughing through our noses at the filth below. Of course, I was a poor college student and those dreams of grandeur were about as likely to happen as the previously mentioned nightmares of inelegance. So instead, I watched it on the TV at home. I distinctly remember speaking to my father after the race was over last year as I watched multiple mud-caked, inebriated pedestrians meandering down 4th street.

The worst part of the whole event for me is the playing of the state song, "My Old Kentucky Home." Don't get me wrong, it is an eloquent tune, and the UofL marching band always does it up nice. We sang an amazing arrangement in choir. But it is the horrific, ear splitting, tone deaf shrieking by the liquored up crowd that brings me to tears. I can barely handle being around single individuals who attempt to sing karaoke, let alone thousands. And you can be sure the cameras find the people least likely to be musically inclined and broadcast the nails-on-chalkboard ballad that is my beautiful state song.

This year's Derby was sponsored in large part by Yum! brands, the largest fast food chain conglomerate in the world, stationed right there in Louisville. Yum! must be doing pretty well for itself, as it also recently financed the construction of the new KFC Yum! Center that now serves as venue to major musical acts (Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and the NKOTBSB, for example,) and the Louisville Cardinals basketball teams. I personally wish they had built it in the shape of a huge bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but alas.

In three minutes, it's all over. The run for the roses is complete, and somewhere in the crowd, an overweight, elderly businessman is jumping up and down with his beautifully festooned wife because his horse just won him millions of dollars. And somewhere else, a Purina factory starts up for this year's fresh batch.

That was wrong, I know. But who wants the horse that came in last place?

While working at the University of Louisville in Housing, it was always a tough push to get the residence halls emptied and cleaned before the Derby, as two of the freshmen halls host the extra National Guardsmen and State Troopers brought in for additional security for the event (and city.) Upon their leaving, it was we who would wade through the filth to assess the damage done to the rooms. There are some unspeakable horrors I experienced and won't terrorize you with, but I saw things. Things, man.

Derby night at the gay clubs is always a hoot, too. Everyone who is anyone shows up at the Connection, and the queens put on a good show for all the money audience members. If you can survive the stench of sweat and Aqua Di Gio, and pay the hiked up cover, it's worth your time.

And then, as quickly as it started, Derby day is gone for another year, and Louisville goes back to its old, less important self. I do miss it though. I'm still so very proud that I come from a place known world wide for a mere three minutes of horse racing. And a bucket of chicken.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Going back to getting kids to do crap for presents, let's discuss the Math-A-Thon.

When I was in elementary and middle school, each year, St. Jude's hospital for kids with incurable, heartbreaking diseases would show up at our door to hawk their cheesy wares. The point was to raise money for the hospital to aid in the research and fight against things like leukemia and other cancers. We were to con our parents and other neighbors into "sponsoring" us on a math test. For each math question answered correctly on the test, a person could donate money, like laps in a walk-a-thon. Most people would sponsor me for a penny or nickel, occasionally a dime. The first year we did it, my uncle sponsored me for a dollar a question. He was unaware that little Curtis was nicknamed "Wayne the Brain" in elementary school, and it ended up costing him somewhere around $70.

All for the sick children.

But the best part about the Math-A-Thon wasn't the fact that we were helping other children who couldn't help themselves. No, it was the swag. Just like with Accelerated Reader, the points that we racked up by answering those questions and making all that money translated into awesome prizes for us. Most of them were cheap, like pencil toppers and erasers, but some were a little swankier, like 12-inch black and white TVs, stereo sets and technicolor cordless phones. I had my eyes on that TV.

The one in my room was actually bigger, but it was one my parents had bought for my sister and that I had eventually inherited. I wanted a TV that was mine and mine alone, that I had worked my fingers to the bone for (this was the closest I would come to actually working in my youth.)

I worked the streets of Williamsburg like an old, experienced prostitute: Nickels here, dimes there, occasionally even a quarter from an old person with nothing better to do with their money. And then came the day of receiving our results from our "Funbook," the workbook full of math problems that we were to complete. I yearned so much for the TV that I had spent too much time saying goodbye to my own and had neglected a few of the problems at the end. When I saw that I was a few hundred dollars short of the TV, my heart was crushed.

Who cared about little Jimmy with fetal alcohol syndrome? I wanted that TV, dammit.

In the end, I settled for the dark teal cordless phone, a set of headphones that plugged into the phone, serving as both the receiver and the transmitter, so it was completely hands-free talking, and an awesome small duffle bag with the Math-A-Thon logo on the side, pictured below:

I used it as my backpack for the entire year. It was handy, and I felt pretty cool carrying something that announced my math prowess with such style and sophistication.

My friends, however, despised that bag. I would usually tail behind them in going anywhere, especially upstairs to our classes. The bag would swing and sway mercilessly, knocking the back of their knees and sending them tumbling onto the steps. The bag had become a weapon, and had to be destroyed.

When they thought I wasn't listening or wasn't in the room, they would plot the bag's demise. 

"We could burn it," one would say to another.
"No, it's protected by magic. Fire can't touch it," the other would reply.

(That line might instead be taken from the movie Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker, but I don't doubt that it is reminiscent of what my friends would do.)

When I finally grew out of the bag and it became too cumbersome to lug around with my heavier high school books, I relinquished it into eternal majesty. And by that, I mean I gave it to my friend and she threw it in her fireplace. 

They danced on the ashes.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I've never had a perfect smile. I thankfully avoided the pain and suffering of wearing braces through my childhood, but there were other tribulations to be had with my teeth.

Around the time of puberty when my face started taking shape of the adult skull it would become, my jaws started acting funny. Occasionally I would yawn and my lower jaw would painfully spasm and become stuck open. The only way to get it to close was to open it wider or wait for the excruciating seconds to pass before the muscle would calm down and I could once again close my mouth. After a few months of this, I had had enough. My mother took me to the orthodontist to get things checked out.

I can't remember what he said the issue was. What I can remember is that he prescribed a "stint," a yellow, opaque plastic retainer that I would have to wear constantly for the first three months of the treatment. The retainer only extended halfway up my teeth and was very thick and clearly noticeable. I despised wearing it. I rarely spoke for those months, not wanting to open my mouth to reveal the hideousness inside. I was already heckled for having a gigantic head. Balloon boy, they called me. They didn't need any additional ammunition. Thankfully after my sentence had elapsed I was released on probation, only having to wear it to sleep.

My teeth aren't particularly straight either. Most of my teeth are crooked, the front two being the worst. They used to be quite a bit more crooked, but thanks to some cheap dental work from a line drive to my mouth, they straightened up a bit. I was playing third base. The ball was hit hard at my feet and bounced quicker than I could react. It hit me so hard it nearly drove my teeth through my front lip, but I was only out for an inning before coach put me back in.

The worst experience with my dental history is probably when I had to have my wisdom teeth taken out. I was experiencing rather severe headaches, and after a few x-rays, the orthodontist said they were growing in against my jaw bone and needed to come out.  My sister had previously had hers removed, and I clearly remember listening to her sob uncontrollably from her bedroom for hours after her surgery, followed by sipping soup and eating jello for a week.

I was certainly not looking forward to that experience.

The surgery was pretty quick, and I don't remember any of it, including waking up. According to my dad (the one elected to take the day off and drive me to and from the office,) when they brought me out of the anesthesia, the nurses told me to be very careful and take small steps so I didn't fall. On the walk to the car, one nurse flanked my left side with my dad on the right for support. Remembering to be careful, I began taking small steps. Apparently I took the nurse too seriously, as each step was approximately one inch farther than the last. It took me 15 minutes to get to the car.

The waiting room cheered when they shut the car door.

On the way home, I remember finally becoming conscious of my surroundings, but I couldn't see. My eyes had crossed and no matter how hard I tried to focus, would not come uncrossed. My mouth was packed full of gauze, and when I tried to tell my dad that I couldn't see, or that I was hungry, he couldn't understand my muffled pleas. I had learned a little sign language that summer, so I tried some of that out as well. By little, I mean words like giraffe and keyboard. No syntax, grammar or anything that would really benefit me in this situation. Of course, my father does not know any sign language whatsoever, so my mumbled huffs and interpretive dance from the passenger seat were lost on him.

To make things worse, 25 yards from the on ramp to the interstate, the car died. I motioned to my dad that I could steer while he pushed, but considering I couldn't see straight or convey my thoughts to him, it probably was not the best idea. Thankfully a nice man came and helped dad push it off to the side of the road. My uncle (the mechanic) worked at a Ford dealership five minutes down the road, so we lucked out there.

I haven't had too many teeth-related issues since then. But occasionally, while intoxicated, I still attempt to speak in my own dialect of sign language.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Devil Made Me Do It

What's the best way to make children do stuff? Presents.

Or, in the case of my elementary school, trips to the roller rink. That place was made of magic.

In Kentucky, during the beginning years of KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act,) teachers were forced to increase our scores on state testing or experience the wrath of the state legislature through fund slashing and lay offs. One way that schools attempted to increase our critical thinking skills and reading comprehension was through a program called "Accelerated Reader." Each student, at the discretion of their teacher, was given a point goal for each trimester/semester that he/she was to reach. Students earned points by reading literature and then taking a standardized test on a computer that would quiz them over specifics from the book, and for students in higher grades, ploy analysis and questions about theme and voice. The larger, more difficult the read, the more points it was worth.

The system worked pretty well. It was difficult to cheat, as there was always someone in the computer lab making sure you weren't looking the answers up in a book or asking a friend while taking the test. In some grades there were "Accelerated Reader Stores," where you could cash in points for cool prizes like Troll pencil toppers and Dollar Store sunglasses.

But not every day was full of cheaply made slinkies and star-shaped erasers. In the 7th grade, my teacher (a hard ass named Mrs. Patrick) had assigned me 40 points for the trimester. This was a pretty hefty amount, one of the higher ones in the class, but I knew I could do it. I decided to work the system: I would read John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," a book worth 48 points if you scored 100% on the test, and that would be the only book I would have to read that trimester. Even if I only missed three questions, I would still get at least 38 points, and I could read four Dr. Seuss books and take the tests for the remaining two points. I didn't take into account that the book was pretty dense reading, and though it was listed as an 8th grade level read, it was much heavier than my attention-destitute mind could handle. It took the entire eight weeks to read the book, and in the final days of the trimester, I took the test. I missed four of the 10 questions, giving me a 60% and earning me zero points.

I had screwed the pooch.

I was embittered. Incensed. Frustrated. I began badmouthing my teacher, saying how much I hated her and wished she would die. Why would she give me such a high point goal? She wouldn't let me retake the test. Such a bitch.

When report cards rolled out the next week, I expected to see my first ever F. I had even forewarned my parents that they wouldn't be pleased with the grade.

She The saint gave me a C. After all the nasty things I had said, she took pity on me because she knew I had worked hard and had almost received the score I needed to get points. I can't remember if I ever thanked her for that. I do remember later that year she had a stroke and had to be removed from the teaching team for a while, and my poor little worrisome mind couldn't help but think/know that I had something to do with her near-death experience.

But I tell you that story as a precursor to this one. Three years earlier, in the 5th grade, for all the students who achieved their point goals for the grading period, the teachers had planned a trip to the roller rink. That was the cool thing to do at the time, since none of us could drive and really, even if we could, the most exciting thing to do was go to the truck stop and talk to other people who had nothing else to do.


But I digress. We went to the Skate-Away, as it was called. At least before it tragically burned down and left numerous disco-loving roller skaters without a place to boogie. I couldn't roller skate at the time, only roller blade, so I brought my own awesome black roller blades with purple snaps. I was so cool. I enjoyed my time thoroughly, rolling around while listening to the "DJ" (read 45-year-old divorcé, most likely still living at home with his parents) play Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" at least five times. Then it was time to leave.

This trip took place in the dreary days of December, with temperatures dipping low and a thick fog settling over everything. When we got onto the bus, we noticed the windows were all coated with condensation. I took my seat beside my then-friend Travis, a fragile little ginger with his orange hair cut into what looked like a speed skater helmet.

Travis had also noticed the condensation and saw others drawing faces or writing their names in it throughout the bus. We were seated a little more than halfway back in the bus, with the teachers at the front. Travis nudged me, looked over at the window, and said, "Bet you won't write the F word backwards on the window." 

This was make or break time. Travis wasn't very high on the social ladder, but hell, neither was I. I had two choices: wimp out and tell him I didn't want to get in trouble, or do it and live in infamy.

I chose the latter. 

I made it probably 3/4s of the way through the backward C when I was interrupted by my name being shrieked out of the mouth of one of the teacher's assistants. The entire bus turned at once to gawk at me. 

Turning my head slowly, finger still on the glass, my eyes met hers. Her expression told me exactly what her mouth did not say: get rid of it. I quickly wiped the window with my sleeve and all evidence of my crime was gone. I crossed my arms and brooded the rest of the ride home, half annoyed that I got caught, and 75% terrified of the punishment I would receive. 

Yes, I was 125% ed.

We got back to school and my teacher told me that I needed to go to the principal's office immediately. 

Dr. Pate was a terrifying man: 6'5"; broad shouldered; skin made of leather; deep, booming voice. The mere thought of having to stand in front of him made me pee a little. I got to his office and found him sitting behind the desk. Before he could even get out a syllable, the water works started. Tears poured forth from my eyes like rain from angry clouds, and were controlled about as easily. He glanced up from his work, looked perturbed, and asked what I did. A jarbled mess of words and snot came out, but I think I got the basics across. He looked at me with a bit of a smirk and asked, "Did the devil make you do it?" Travis did somewhat resemble the devil in my mind, so I nodded yes and wiped my nose on my sleeve. He excused me from his office and sent me back to my teacher's classroom. 

When my sister came down to pick me up and take me home, my teacher met her at the door and explained what had happened. I was still crying, and furiously scribbling "I will never do bad things again," repeatedly onto a tear soaked sheet of paper. My sister asked if that was the punishment the principal had given me and my teacher shook her head. There had been no punishment. I was punishing myself. 

I was such a badass. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Journey Out of the Closet

It's been nearly seven years since I came out of the closet to my parents and sister. You'd think my aspirations to be a rhythmic gymnast - dancing, jumping and twirling through the house with my homemade ribbon of toilet paper - would have given it away, but they were somehow surprised.

I'd like to think that I wasn't a flamboyant child, but I know for a fact that I was. As referenced in an earlier entry, I wasn't terribly strong. Many of the hobbies I held were influenced by those of my sister. I loved playing with her dolls, especially doing their hair. For a long time I wanted to grow up and be a beautician/pharmacist. That's like working in Residence Life, right?

The first time I knew I was different was in the 6th grade. I had a huge crush on a boy in my class, one that a friend of mine also had a crush on. It was hard to see her succeeding where I wanted to so badly. And then, while on an Academic Team bus ride back from a long trip to Harlan, fate swung my way. I had been cutesy flirting with him the entire trip, and in the darkened rear of the bus, I laid down with my head in his lap and repeatedly told him what a good pillow he made. He never once told me to move, pushed me away, made fun of me or called me names. It was sheer bliss. Then, in the weeks following, I suppose his friends caught wind of the way he had been treating me and took to berating him the way they did me: fag, queer, gaymo, etc. I can still remember the look in his crystal blue eyes on the day that he walked away to join his friends instead of standing by me.

The summer after my 9th grade year, I was enrolled in a program called Upward Bound. It was an amazing place that I felt much more able to be myself instead of living in the confines of what everyone else wanted me to be. It was a home. That summer, my mother needed an emergency hysterectomy and didn't want me to attend the camp so that I could stay home and help her around the house when she needed it. But I told her that if I stayed, she wouldn't get any better because she would make me do everything for her. She finally agreed to let me go, so Berea became my sanctuary. During the 6 week program, the students had to go home for a break half way through. The first night I got home, my parents and sister asked me to come into the living room for a "family meeting." Since my family didn't have "family meetings," I was a little confused and very worried. When I sat down and saw my mother holding my journal, I knew what it was about.

Since my mother had had her hysterectomy, she couldn't get in and out of her bed easily due to the wooden water bed frame it was in, so she used mine instead. She asked my sister to change the sheets on the bed for her, and while doing so, my sister found the black and white journal that we had been given in English class that I had filled with random poems and short stories, and adorned with "Curtis loves:", followed by multiple boys names (including that of the boy mentioned above.) My parents castigated me with condescending phrases: We didn't raise you that way; You don't know what love is, you're eleven; How can you love a boy?  In the end, they had scared me enough to force the closet door shut tightly. They made me promise that I would try to be straight, to give girls a chance. And I promise you I did. I prayed every night for God to change me, to make this go away, to make me normal.

As time went on and my attraction and feelings for my male classmates and role models only intensified, I began losing faith in anything or anyone that would be helping me to change. The years of constant teasing, mockery and threats hardened me. I had become angst-ridden and constantly angry, even suicidal at one point. If it weren't for my sanctuary in UB and the people that helped me there, I wouldn't be here to write this blog.

Finally, going into my senior year of high school, I had had enough. I had lost 45 pounds, was feeling good about myself, and on enrollment day when we were picking up our schedules and locker combinations, I cussed out two bullies who told me that my newly grown goatee didn't make me look any less faggy. Three teachers heard, looked at me, smiled, and continued walking. Things started looking up: I started dating a boy at a rival high school that I had met in a gay Yahoo chat room on my HP dinosaur with dial-up internet. He was the field commander of their band and I thought he was just flawless. A month into our relationship, he had dyed his hair Reba McEntire red, had stopped washing his face, and didn't look anything like what he did when we first started dating.

But I digress. Before the days of "the Reba," we would frequent our spot, a road that led to the lake marina near his house. We would sit in my Jeep and do the things that couples do, including kiss. He had an affinity for kissing my neck, something I enjoyed at first. But he would often get a little over zealous with it.

One night after our two high schools played each other in football, he and I, along with two of my best friends, went out cosmic bowling. (There wasn't much to do in rural southeastern Kentucky.) After we were finished, I drove the girls back to one of their houses, as they were having a sleepover, and Mr. McEntire and I went to our spot. That night was particularly neck-heavy, so I asked him to check and make sure there were no marks on my neck before I left to go home. He looked it over and said that I was fine.

I suppose bruises take a little while to rise to the surface.

When I walked past my mother who was playing solitaire on the computer, she asked me flippantly, "Who gave you that hickey?" Shocked, I rushed into my bedroom and looked in the mirror to see a gigantic reddish-purple mark on the right side of my neck. She asked again, and I quickly made a flimsy excuse and went to bed.

The next day, she and I went to my twin cousins' birthday party at my aunt and uncle's house. I had attempted (poorly, might I add,) to cover it with my mother's foundation, but only succeeded in making it look like I had an outbreak of poison ivy relegated to my neck. Thankfully, no one made mention of it at the party. When my mother and I were driving back home, she asked again who had given me the hickey. I said I didn't know.

"...Was it Brandi?" she said with a sheepish, inquisitive tone.
"No," I replied.
"...Was it Susanna?" she continued, raising the ends of her sentences in a playful, questioning manner.
"No," I repeated.
The conversation took a sudden, dark turn as she chose the final name.
"Was it Frank?" she asked gruffly, a slightly annoyed, yet frightened tone in her voice.

I was so tired of running. I couldn't be all of me if I wasn't honest about who I was and who I would ever love. So I chose that moment to take a stand; to not back down from my life. I finally decided to stand up for myself.


The car swerved slightly as the realization of what I had said washed over my mother. Her head snapped to the side to look at me as she spat the word, "What!?"

My confidence wavered, but as I saw other cars approaching quickly and we were listing into the on-coming lane, I asked her to wait until we got home to discuss it further.

In the 15 minutes it took to make the drive, she smoked an entire pack of cigarettes and had already started on the second when we pulled into the driveway. I made my way to the reclining rocking chair and began methodically rocking while staring off into the distance. I heard her on the phone as she called my sister.

"Get over here, he thinks he's gay." She said the word with such hatred, such malice that it sent chills through my body.

My sister arrived and went to find my mother. I heard hushed, harsh whispers from the other room, and shortly after, they both came into the living room to sit opposite me. I wouldn't look at them. I knew what was coming, especially after the previous diary incident. My heart had already begun the hardening process to protect what was left.

I won't dwell on the discussion. But one phrase still resonates through my head every now and then when I reflect.

"Curtis, it just ain't right. God made man for a woman."

My mother, who before this had never gone to church with anyone, including my father's brother who was a preacher, had suddenly become religious. Not to say that she had ever expressed an atheistic or agnostic view, and I'm now remembering one instance in which she slapped me across the face for calling someone a fool, which apparently in the Bible is a big no-no, but I can't remember her ever doing anything that was overtly Christian. The following Sunday, she and my sister started going to church. She would wake me up each Sunday morning and ask/beg me to go to church with her, but I refused. I wanted no part in going to a place full of people who would judge me, tell me that who I was (or what I was, according to them,) was wrong, and who would attempt to shove me back into the closet I had now come out of twice. Never again.

My father has never been a spiritual person either. When he found out that I was gay two days after my mother and sister, he had an emotional break down. In my life, and even my sister's life, which is seven years longer than mine, my father has never cried. At both of his parents' funerals, he teared up, but did not openly cry. The night he found out, he was a sobbing, near-alcohol poisoned wreck.

When I arrived home from being out with friends, he stumbled through the house, reeking of beer, slapped his hand on my shoulder, and through glazed, bloodshot eyes, told me he was sorry for making me gay. It became a theme between both of my parents, regardless of how many times I tried to explain this wasn't something that anyone did. They often blamed themselves between arguments with me. After apologizing, my father staggered back through the house to the back yard, where he was shortly joined by his brother, the preacher.

About an hour later, they came back in for another "family meeting." I was sitting in the living room again, this time on the couch, and my uncle came over and asked if he could read from the Bible to me. I was already livid that I was having to sit through this a second time, so I nodded and zoned out completely, my anger festering inside me. After a little while, he asked if he could pray for me. When I told him I didn't care, he put his hand on my shoulder, and the whole family bowed their heads. It was then that I heard the little lock on my heart click, all sealed up.

The months following were like autumn in Poland, circa 1939. Every day was another attack, another invasion. I couldn't leave the house without a shouting match with one of my parents. We all said a lot of hurtful things. During one heated argument, my mother told me that she would rather me drink, smoke and do drugs than be gay.  She later tried to salvage her comment by saying if it were any of those things, she could get me help, but with this, she felt helpless. But the damage was done. One night as I was leaving to go out with my boyfriend, instead of telling me she loved me and to be careful, her exact words were, "Don't do anything stupid."

It took about three months for us not to end each conversation in a screaming match. But the screams were replaced with something even worse: denial. When I moved off to college, each phone conversation of my freshman year would include the phrase, "Have you found yourself a pretty little girl yet?" This might have been more painful to hear than the shouting. After having to sternly tell her on multiple occasions that there was no girl and there never would be, she finally stopped asking all together.

For years I tried to reach out to them about relationship issues I had, but was met with cold shoulders and "I-don't-know-ask-your-sister"s. Now, seven years later, we just don't talk about it. I don't bring it up because I know it's not what they want to hear. When I start dating someone new, I don't share it with them because I'm not sure they'll care. But I do know one thing. When I find the man that I'm going to spend the rest of my life with, I'll tell them about him. I'll ask them to meet him. I'll invite them to come to our wedding, to be a part of the family I will build with him. And should they decide that they don't want a part in our life, I will have very little trouble in removing myself from theirs. That rusty lock is still firmly in place.

Seven years this September.