I sit at the Commodore 64 and write, “God, please forgive me of my sins. I pray you give me a new virginity. I don’t want to masturbate thinking of boys anymore. I don’t want to go to hell and suffer in the fiery lake where you send people…like me. I mean, people like that. I am not that. Actually, I don’t want to masturbate at all any more! I know masturbation itself is a sin!” I am thirteen, the time when the christian guilt inculcated into my soul from birth destroyed any hope of sexual normalcy for the remaining years of my childhood.
This is what I think about today – life way back then. I’m sitting here, reading through Letters to Ryan, a book from the free book box in the lobby of the Rancho Inn here in Apalachicola, FL where I am stranded until Tropical Storm Debby passes. There’s no power in my room, so I went to the lobby of the motel where there is electricity, thanks to the generator they have somewhere on site. There I was charging my laptop, while trying to complete my marathon of The Office. I’m on season seven. Since west Texas I’ve been watching every episode from season one all the way through. But the show is wearing on me. So, I shut the lid of the computer and look around the small 10’ x 20’ motel office for something to take my attention away from my feelings of frustration and boredom – frustration for not being able to keep moving, for being stuck in a motel without power (which is much better than being stuck under a bridge somewhere – but still frustrating) and boredom because – I’m stuck in a motel without power!
I start reading these poems in Letters to Ryan. How random is it that a book like this is here in this motel lobby? It’s about two gay men, unrequited love, growing up gay in America and trying to find love and normalcy in a society that treats gay people like shit, or something like that. I really don’t know. I’ve only read a few poems so far and the book’s forward. But it triggered childhood memories. At 35 and alone – A LOT – I keep coming back to these awkward and often painful memories from my fucked up past.
About this one…
We had a Commodore 64 computer hooked up to the 1980s TV our family kept in the Florida Room, a kitschy name for an add-on screen room. This was when I was living in Orlando. All I knew of the capabilities of this archaic (even for the early 90s) machine was its word processing program. So, I hopped on it and started typing stream of consciousness style, much like I’m doing right now.
I had been masturbating since age twelve, when I lived in Bellingham, MA. At the end of 1989, my mother, stepfather, sister, and myself moved from Massachusetts to Orlando, FL. My stepdad got a job transfer and we ended up in Orlando. There’s a lot more to the story of the transfer and why we moved to Orlando – or why we were told we moved there and of course, the real story of why we moved 1200 miles away. But that’s not something I want to get into right now.
From the first time I jacked off until I was eighteen, I had the same ritual.
Step one: Find a place to be alone – the shower, my bedroom, the single-stall bathroom at work – wherever!
Step two: Fantasize about guys I was attracted to – guys at school, guys I saw out and about around town, on TV – again – wherever – and pleasure myself.
Step three: Clean up.
Step four: Pray to god (intentional lowercase) to forgive me of my sin, ask him (again, intentional lowercase) to save me from the fiery lake, blah, blah, blah, and then ask him to come into my heart again, all that fundamentalist christian crap.
The day I ended this ritual was the day I started to learn how to be a normal sexual creature. At 35 I’m still learning. For the past year I have had some meaningful sexual encounters. But I have not had the freedom of taking the time to get to know anyone for more than a few days, maybe a week. And I’ve had my share of relationships since my initial coming out at age 19. But still, at 35 I feel behind the curve. Like so many queer folk, I got a late start learning how to love and be sexual in a healthy way. All of this time alone has helped me sort through some of this, continue healing from past wounds, and vision towards the future. At 35 I also think of the future being in almost equal parts to the past. Well, maybe not so yet. But I am a thirty-something. Will I ever have decades of memories with someone? Do I want something different? Polyamory maybe? I’ve left my heart in handful of places this past year particularly. Will I get it back? Will I find love in a way that supports my physical fluidity? Will I only find love in me? Will the melodramatics ever end! ☺
In any case, it is good to know at 35 I can hope for mature love, with myself, with others. The fuckedupness of my childhood continues to heal with each passing reflection.
I write this reflection in my room, watching and listening to Debby blow about outside my large sliding window. Time to get back to Letters to Ryan while I watch Debby do her thang. I’ve nowhere else to go tonight anyway but to the convenience store across the street. That is, if I need another six-pack of tropical storm medicine. (About all I could buy right now anyway!) So I sit and read about someone else’s failings at love – sounds like a fine plan! Wait, who was that hottie who just passed by my window? Another stranded traveller? He’s probably straight – maybe straightish. Should I risk it? I could be killed.