Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Evolution of Indifference (Repost)

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4: The Mask

The crying had to stop. I knew it did; certainly, I couldn’t grow up and be a grown man who cried all the time. But I needed another coping mechanism. I didn’t exactly know the right terminology then, but I knew I needed something. Something outside of my family, because my family could never understand. My mother wasn’t what I would call motherly, and so I needed something that would make me feel like someone was taking care of me. I remember telling my mother one day that I wanted to go to church.

She sent me with a neighbor to a Catholic mass. It was grueling. I sat through the service and found it empty – not the church, because it was full of people. But the place was missing something. There was no one to connect to and that’s really what I needed. So, although I was sure that church was the answer, this particular church wasn’t.

One day, I was looking out of the front window and saw a blur of color run across the street. Now, this doesn’t happen often in the residential neighborhoods of New York City. It was definitely different. It was a clown. Clown suit, face paint and all, running across the street and disappearing into the backyard. I went to investigate. (Did Steve King move in down the street?!?)

With some trepidation, I walked down the street and into the backyard where IT went. When I got back there, I saw rows of chairs, a lectern and a microphone. I was welcomed by two ladies who explained that they were having a church gathering. For kids. Hmmmmm, I thought. Ok. So, I stayed – and met Mr. Scriptures, the Gospel Clown.

For all the ridiculousness it sounds like, several things are important here. First, they were glad I was there. Second, it was actually kind of fun. Third, I was a nerd and was totally given, even at 10, to the notion that knowledge was power. So, I stayed and met tons of new people – and of all the people on my block that showed up that day, I was the only one that kept coming back. And there I began to construct a new family, new friends a new life where no one knew I was really a confused little boy that cried all the time just to get attention.

So, with all this newfound attention, the crying itself actually stopped. I think that’s what convinced my parents to let me continue to attend this church – they figured it was good for me. And to a very large extent, it was. The good things to say that were buried deep within me began to surface because people actually began to listen. I learned to sing, I learned lots of Bible and found my first real girlfriend.

I really liked her. We held hands and all and she made me feel good, special. She thought I was the cutest thing ever and I really thought she was pretty. And I began to think that the confusion was lifting – I really liked this girl. It didn’t matter to me at the time that the confusing fantasies about boys never left or subsided; all that mattered is that I really liked this girl, I didn’t have to kiss her because it was strictly forbidden in church and all the confines to that puppy-love relationship made it just perfect for me.

I really loved that church. For a while, I would attend in the winters and disappear during the summers because there was so much else to do around the neighborhood. That became an issue in that church because I needed to be more consistent. Well, I had to give that some thought – but the reality of my life was that I was living a duality. Another one.

Not only was I hiding my attraction to the same sex, and learning to stifle it away and not deal with it … I was developing relationships with a church family who didn’t know anyone in my biological family … and my biological family never went to church with me and didn’t know my church family. There was no cross-contamination there for me. My parents let me go to church because it kept me off the streets and I was maturing, growing out of the crybaby phase. And my pastors began to feel like I was their kid and treated me as such.

The real me was buried down deeper than before. I wasn’t trying to deal with anything, so I wore this crybaby image for a while and let it go for this devout Christian image. But even then, there was the real me – that only the people at school knew. I had a trunk full of facemasks that I interchanged at will. And everywhere I went I fit in perfectly.

Except when I was by myself.


fuzzy said...

I can really get with this on so many levels! I feel like you were talking about me here!