Other Sinful Things Chapter 4
I’ve been sitting here for hours reading the New Testament for something Jesus said about homosexuality, and I can’t find one word. There is some scripture that my father uses on Sundays from the Old Testament to justify his hatred for someone being gay, but I can’t find anything that Jesus said. And I need to know because I think I’m gay, and I really don’t want to go to Hell like my father says just because of that. I’ve really tried to change, but I can’t. Since I was about thirteen, I’ve tried to avoid any thoughts of it, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult. I don’t want to be gay, but I don’t think I can change. I really don’t. So if I am gay, will you hate me?
I thought about throwing my notebook away after I read this last entry. If my father ever discovers it, I’m not sure how he’ll react. One thing I’m sure of, it won’t be good. He hates gay people. I’ve heard him say it many times over the years. Last year, when he was reading the newspaper, and it showed two guys getting married and then kissing each other on the lips, I thought my father was going to have a heart attack. He slammed the newspaper on the table, and then he made me and my mother pray with him for a half hour as he asked God to forgive our sinful nation. He prayed so hard I was sure that Jesus would appear in the sky riding a golden chariot and begin the Rapture. It kind of scared me.
So I can never tell him or my mother that I think I’m gay. I also don’t think I can deny it any longer. I’m beginning to feel like a volcano getting ready to erupt at any moment. Last night when I started thinking about Colton and I got an erection, I couldn’t just roll over and forget about it. I didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with a mess in my underwear. So I did it. I can’t describe how good it felt to think about kissing Colton as we sat in the park as it grew dark. I was breathless when I exploded all over my stomach. My chest heaved with pleasure as I wiped off the gooey mess.
But you know what? I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t panic that I would be banished to Hell for what I had just done. The only thing now I worry about is that my father will discover my secret. So I have to hide my notebook where he or my mother will never discover it. That’s why I’m going to take it to school and keep it in my locker. If I leave it in my room, my mother will surely find it when she cleans. If she does, then she will show it to my father. And then my life will be ruined.
When I went down for breakfast, my mother was alone in the kitchen. My father wasn’t at the table perusing the morning paper. I wanted to ask her where he was, but I didn’t.
“Good morning, Sweetheart,” she sang out as I sat down at the table. She leaned in to kiss my forehead, but I pulled away.
She sounded disappointed when she remarked, “I guess you think you’re getting too old for his mother to kiss him anymore.” I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t a child, but I pulled my cereal in front of me and began eating.
There was an unusual silence. She kept looking at me like she had something to ask, but she didn’t. I figured she wanted to ask where I had spent most of the day after walking out.
I got up and rushed from the room when I noticed the time on the kitchen clock. The bus would arrive in just a few minutes. I grabbed my book bag and ran toward the street just as the bus pulled up with its red warning lights.
I avoided looking at anyone as I made my way to my usual seat in the back. When the bus lurched forward, I looked out the window and waited until we came to Tiffany’s stop. I was surprised when the driver slowed down, and then he continued without stopping. I looked out the window, but I didn’t see Tiffany. I guess she had decided to let her mother drive her to school. I don’t blame her. I would have too if I had been treated like she had been yesterday morning.
I looked for Tiffany in the hall between classes during the morning, but I never saw her. If it was like yesterday morning, then she would be easy to spot. All one had to do was listen for laughter in the hallways.
During lunch, I sat with Cathy. She smiled when I sat across from her. I guess we were both happy that we wouldn’t be eating alone during the year. I watched as she thumbed frantically though a notebook. “Dammit,” she hissed.
I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t find my notes for literature,” she informed me.
I giggled and said, “You take notes in Mrs. Hawthorne’s class?”
She looked up and asked, “Yes, don’t you?”
“Well, no,” I informed her. “Everything she says in class is already in the book.”
“I like to be prepared,” she muttered as she continued to search. Finally, she opened her notebook, pointed to a page and said she had found them. I congratulated her, and then continued to eat.
As I took a bite of my sandwich, I noticed Colton come through the double doors on the other side of the cafeteria. I didn’t realize I was staring so intently until Cathy began to laugh.
“He’s really cute,” she remarked. “Don’t you think so?”
I didn’t know what to say. Panic seized me, and I was afraid I had unintentionally outed myself to her. I looked over and asked nervously, “Who?”
She giggled again and replied, “Colton.” She looked at him as he saw me and came strutting across the cafeteria. “Don’t you think he’s hot?”
I stammered out, “I..I don’t know...what...what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, look,” she remarked excitedly, “he’s coming over to the table.”
My heart was pounding out of my chest as he walked up, stood looking down at the table. “Hey, Jacob,” he smiled. He looked over at Cathy and waved. “Hi, Cathy.” She timidly waved back.
He pulled out a chair and asked if he could sit down. I was too nervous to respond, but Cathy eagerly told him to join us. “Thanks,” he said as he sat down. I avoided looking up into his face. I could imagine that Cathy and other students sitting nearby were looking at us.
Colton laughed and said, “If I had known I would get the silent treatment, I would have eaten at another table.”
Cathy giggled and informed him, “Jacob’s a little nervous.” I shot Cathy a dirty look. She seemed to be enjoying embarrassing me. She had discovered my secret, and I wasn’t sure what she would do with that information.
I wanted to hide under the table when Colton told Cathy, “He wasn’t nervous last night?”
“Oh?” replied Cathy as she gave me a suspicious look.
I quickly informed her, “We were just talking at the park last night.” I looked at Colton and with pleading eyes begged him, “Isn’t that all we did?”
I wanted to jump up from the table and rush from the cafeteria when he seriously replied, “Was that before or after we made out?” Cathy grabbed her mouth so she wouldn’t spit out the milk she had just sipped through a straw.
I shrieked softly, “We didn’t make out!”
Colton laughed, grabbed my arm and attempted to calm me. “Relax, Jacob,” he laughed. “Can’t you take a joke?”
My face began to redden with anger. “I don’t think it’s funny, Colton.” I looked over at Cathy who was watching us closely. “You make it sound like we’re...we’re gay.”
“Come on, Jacob,” pleaded Colton when he realized how upset I was. “I was just clowning around.”
“Well,” I huffed. “I don’t think it’s funny.” I grabbed what remained of my lunch, tossed my book bag over my shoulder and stormed from the table. I was almost to the door when Colton grabbed my shoulder.
“Come on, Jacob,” he pleaded. “I’m really sorry. I was just having fun. I didn’t think you would take it so seriously.”
He followed me out into the hall. When he grabbed my arm again, I turned and hollered, “Just leave me alone.” I knew I had hurt his feelings. He stood looking at me with a sad expression.
He hung his head and mumbled, “Okay.” As he walked dejectedly away, I heard him say, “I thought we were going to be friends.”
I walked down the hall and out into the commons area where students were allowed to gather outside. Some hid behind the corner to smoke cigarettes. Occasionally, a vice principal would wander around monitoring students. Smokers always had another student act as a lookout for them. He or she would start coughing loudly, and soon students would innocently reappear from around the corner.
I walked over and sat down on a bench. The sun was shining brightly, and the warmth of the sun felt soothing. I began to think about what had happened, and the more I thought about it, the angrier I became. Not with Colton, but with myself.
Colton’s remarks were harmless and meant as a joke. He had tried to elicit a laugh. My actions, however, were childish. Instead of playing along, I had become upset. If Cathy had been suspicious of my sexuality, I had certainly given her an answer. I had acted defensively, and in doing so, I had revealed my secret. And not to just Cathy, but Colton as well.
I had my head back and was letting the sun warm my face. I was still thinking about what happened in the cafeteria when suddenly I heard a voice beside me. Cathy softly said, “It’s not the end of the world, you know.”
I opened my eyes, squinted at her and asked, “What?”
She repeated, “It’s not the end of the world.”
“What are you talking about?”
A serious expression appeared on her face as she looked around to see if we were alone before stating softly, “Being gay.”
I sat up and turned toward her. “What?”
She reached out and touched my arm. I quickly pulled it away. She smiled slightly and said, “It’s okay, Jacob.”
I looked at her and asked incredulously, “Why do you think I’m gay?”
“I’m not saying you are,” she replied apologetically. “I just said that if you are, it’s okay.”
I turned my back on her and insisted, “Well, I’m not.”
Just then, the bell rang. We stood and Cathy said we should be getting to our fifth period class. As we walked toward the door, she wrapped her arm around mine.
She looked over and asked, “Do you think I’m cute?”
I looked down at her smiling face and replied, “Of course you’re cute.”
We walked about half way down a hall before she looked up and asked, “Do you think Colton is cute?” I suddenly stopped and looked down at her. Before I had time to ask her why she had asked me that, she giggled and said, “You don’t have to say anything. I was just curious. I suppose it’s really none of my business.”
“No,” I replied as we started walking down the hall with her arm wrapped around mine. “It isn’t any of your business.”
We came to another hallway and Cathy pulled away. “I have to get to class.” When she started laughing, I asked her what was so funny. She smiled and said, “You didn’t say no.” She turned and hurried down the hall. I shook my head and wondered if she would understand if I told her the truth. Maybe then I would have someone I could trust to talk about the turmoil brewing inside me.
I was lying across my bed reading an assignment for history when my mother called me to the table for dinner. Dinner before had been a quiet activity. After saying grace, we would eat without much conversation. Occasionally, my mother would ask me about school, but after several weeks my responses were generally the same. School is school. It hasn’t changed all that much since they probably attended.
They were waiting when I entered the dining room. It was the first time I had seen my father since I walked away from the table the night before when he started ranting about Tiffany. I was sure there was going to be a repeat performance.
I was surprised by the silence. After saying grace, my parents didn’t say anything to me. In fact, they didn’t speak to each other. I wondered if they were mad. I had overheard them arguing about my disruption at the table the previous evening. My mother had seemed to be more sympathetic toward Tiffany. She did finally agree with my father, but she probably did it to quiet him rather than to conform to what he was saying.
My mother was the first to break the silence. “Jacob,” she turned and looked at me nervously. “Your father and I have discussed your future.”
I frowned and asked, “My future? What about my future?”
My father continued to eat as she reached over and gently touched my arm. “We are worried,” she said, “that you may not be getting the best education at your school.”
I looked at her skeptically and asked, “What does that mean? I like my school.”
She glanced quickly at my father and stated nervously, “We’ve been talking, your father and I, and we think that it might be best if I home school you.”
“What?” I shouted. “Home school me? Why? I have one more year before I graduate.”
Her voice trembled as she spoke. I looked over at my father. I knew she was only repeating what he had ordered. “I don’t want to be home schooled,” I insisted angrily.
For the first time, my father spoke. “You don’t have a choice,” he said firmly. He looked over at my mother, and then he stated, “We have decided that it will be best if your mother teaches you here at home.”
I looked back and forth between them. “You’re kidding, right?”
He leaned over, peered angrily into my face and hissed, “Do I look like I’m kidding?”
I didn’t know what to say. They had obviously made the decision without even discussing it with me. Rage was beginning to consume me. I had never felt so angry in my life.
I stood and glared down at my father. “This is about Tiffany, isn’t it? You don’t want me to go to the same school she goes to.”
My father rose slowly. His face with red with anger. He muttered in a stern voice, “I told you never to use that name in this house.”
We stood toe to toe facing each other. My mother stood and came around the table and stood beside my father. I think she was afraid I was going to hit my father. The thought briefly occurred to me, but I refrained from the violence I felt within me. “You can’t do this,” I insisted. “I refuse to drop out of school.”
“You’re not dropping out of school,” replied my mother softly. “It’s just that I’ll be teaching you.”
I looked at her and screamed, “I don’t want you to teach me!”
“Enough!” shouted my father as he grabbed me by my shoulders and pushed me back. I stumbled over my chair and fell to the floor. I felt a searing pain in my arm, and I thought I had broken it.
My father looked down at me and shouted angrily, “Get up, Jacob!”
I held my arm as I tried to rise to my feet. The pain was excruciating. I finally managed to stand before my father. I looked into his eyes and hissed, “I hate you!”
An astonished look appeared on his face as he took a step back. I don’t think he was expecting my sudden outburst of emotion. He stepped over to his chair, and slowly sunk into it.
He then looked over at my mother. “After everything I’ve done for Jacob,” he said sadly, “He now stands before me and says he hates me.” I looked down at my mother, and she was crying.
I began to shake, and I was afraid that if I stayed, I would become too emotional. So, I turned and ran from the room. I opened the kitchen door, and took the steps two at a time. I didn’t stop running until I was two blocks from my home.
Since I had nowhere to go, I decided to go to the park. It was the closest safe place. The only problem was Colton might be there. I was too emotionally upset to talk to anyone.
When I arrived, I looked around, but he wasn’t there. I went and sat under the same tree where I had sat the day before. The same boys appeared to be playing baseball.
As I sat and idly watched them, I still couldn’t believe what happened earlier. It was unimaginable that my parents wanted to pull me out of school and have my mother teach me. My mother was an intelligent woman, but there is no way she could tutor me in some of the classes I was taking, like chemistry and Spanish. She couldn’t even pronounce some of the items on the menu at a Mexican restaurant we sometimes visited for dinner when she didn’t feel like cooking.
And my father. I don’t think that for as long as I live, I’ll ever forget the look on his face when I told him I hated him. To him, I had always been the loyal son. Until a few days ago, I had never given him any reason to doubt that I was anything but an obedient son. I attended his sermons each Sunday, and recently he had given me the task of teaching the pre-school children Sunday school. Along with Mrs. Chesterfield, a mother of five whose own children was now grown and moved away, each week we read from children’s book about the teaching of Jesus. We’d end each Sunday class singing ‘Jesus Loves Me.’
Now, I don’t know what he thinks of me. The past two evenings, I had been rude and disrespectful. Tonight, I even stood facing him and told him that I hated him. And I think I hurt him, hurt him deeply.
I didn’t mean to tell him I hated him. I really was angry at his stubborn, bigoted ways. But when I looked into his eyes and saw his eyes narrow in anger, I said what I thought at that particular moment. I did hate him. I hated him for trying to make me do something that he knew I didn’t want to do. I hated him for his unchristian views toward Tiffany. Doesn’t the New Testament teach us about love, understanding and compassion?
Then why doesn’t my father possess any compassion? He is a bitter man filled with hatred. He hates everything. He rambles on at the dinner table each night about sin and sinners. His Sunday sermons are filled with the same intolerant rants. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word, love, slip from his lips except when he talks about how the Lord loves us.
I guess there is a fine line between hating my father and hating what he stands for. After seventeen years, they have begun to blend together. So maybe I did mean it when I told him I hated him. Now, I’m afraid he will never forgive me for saying how I feel inside.
I need my notebook. I have to write to God what I’m feeling, but it is locked away in my locker at school. Writing helps me put things in order, and it helps me to see things more clearly. Right now, I’m so lost I don’t know what direction I’m being pulled. A part of me wants to crawl back to my father and beg his forgiveness. I want him to kneel down and pray for my salvation. I want him to absolve me of all my sins.
However, another part of me is telling me that I am right. I don’t need absolution, my father does. His hate has made him journey so far from the teachings of Christ. Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” He commanded his apostles to love one another. He warned to forgive others for their sins, or he would not forgive us.
Why doesn’t my father preach these things in his Sunday sermons? Instead, he rants about how people sin against God. I’m so sick of his weekly ravings about abortion, drug abuse and homosexuality. Now, he is obsessed with Tiffany and other transgender individuals.
Has he stopped for one moment and considered that he just may be wrong? Maybe some of the things he raves about are true. Maybe some people do need to look to the Lord for help, like the heroin addict on the street. But how can two people who love each other be wrong? And how can he call Tiffany a sinner when he’s never even sat down and talked to her? Without knowing her, he’s already judged her. And doesn’t that go against everything that Jesus ever preached.
So one thing bothers me deeply. If my father is right, and if God is a wrathful god who condemns sinners to Hell for the sins that my father preaches each Sunday morning, then how can I continue to believe? I am gay. According to my father, I will be banished to Hell for being gay. Even if I seek God’s forgiveness, and even if I become baptized again and become reborn, I’ll still be gay, and I’ll still be a sinner in my father’s eyes.
When I shouted, “I hate you,” my mind was embracing all these thoughts. I do hate my father for everything he stands for. And tonight, I hate him as a man of God. I may have been born of his seed, but I am nothing like him. Nor do I want to be.
I rested back on my elbows and watched the boys playing baseball. It was a mixture of ages. Some appeared to be in their twenties, and the youngest was about twelve. I giggled occasionally because the older guys seemed to tire out quickly. The beer case they had hidden under several large towels didn’t help.
I sat up when I saw a blue Toyota van pull into the parking lot near the field. It was my mother’s van. I squinted my eyes to see if anyone was with her. She sat for several minutes looking around the park. Suddenly, she noticed me sitting under the tree.
She got out and stood beside her car for a couple of minutes before closing the door. She appeared to be waiting until the inning was over so she could walk directly across the field to me.
Between innings, she started to approach me. I thought I might have to get up and fight a guy when he stopped and said something to my mother for disrupting their game. Finally, she made her way over to me, stopped and looked down.
She stated firmly, “I want you to come get in the van with me, Jacob.”
I squinted my eyes, peered up at her and asked, “Why?” She appeared nervous as she looked around to see if anyone was watching us.
She repeated, “I want you to come get in the van with me.” She then turned and headed back across the field. The boys were still playing, and several yelled at her to get off the field.
I got up and walked far enough away from where I thought it was reasonably safe to not get hit by a fly ball. I couldn’t understand how my mother had found me. She must have been driving around for an hour before spotting me.
When I reached the van, she opened her door and instructed me to get in. I hesitated before opening the door. I assumed she was taking me home. I certainly didn’t want another confrontation with my father. I planned to go directly to my room and avoid him if I could.
When I looked into the back seat, I saw two pieces of luggage that we normally packed when we went on a religious retreat. I looked at my mother and asked, “What’s going on?”
“Get in, Jacob,” she insisted as she started the van.
I climbed inside and looked back at the luggage. “Are we going somewhere?”
She didn’t look over as she said sharply, “You are.”
“Where am I going?”
“Your father and I thought it would be best if you stayed away for a while,” she informed me without emotion.
“What?” I shrieked. “Where am I going?”
“You’ll be staying with Mrs. Oliver until we think you’re ready to come home.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
She looked over and stated angrily, “No, Jacob. I’m not kidding.”
I sat back and folded my arms. “Fine,” I said angrily. Neither of us said another word.