i used editing jimmy's essays as a means of obtaining closeness to him. something that's ironic, given that i didn't allow anybody to help me with the writing of my own personal statement for my college application. he seemed very appreciative of my help, given that i was quite the english nerd and knew a lot of big words and grammar rules like the correct use of commas in accompaniment to "which" and "that" and the semi colon.
jimmy's college entrance essay probably made a stronger impression on me than did my own. for a long time he resisted letting me read it, which reluctance built up an atmosphere of mystery that only intensified my longing to know this part of him. i felt extremely honored when he finally emailed it to me. i was sick in bed at the time, and had been banned from using my cell phone. i wasn't really sure if i was allowed to communicate via email, but because i hadn't asked i wasn't technically breaking any rules by just going ahead and checking my account. i typed furtive messages late at night, darting glances over my shoulder every so often to make sure nobody was collecting evidence from the shadows in order to tattle on me. when jimmy's personal statement popped up in my inbox, i went ahead and printed it without even looking so that i could sneak back to my room, hopefully unobserved.
i remember sitting on the mattress that served as my bed, at this point in my life, and holding the folded paper on which jimmy's words were inked out against my forehead. "please," i prayed, though i already knew what i was going to find when i opened that paper bundle, "don't let this be what i think it is." and then i whispered, over and over, under my breath as my heart seized violently within my chest and my ears rang as though i'd been struck, "no. no, no, no, no." neither my pleas nor my chanting could erase what i had seen. he entitled his personal statement, "where i stood," and the introduction paragraph read like so:
"It’s taken me seventeen years to understand my sexual orientation. I’ve spent most of the time denying who I was in fear that my family and friends would abandon me both physically and emotionally. Growing up, I felt as if my relationships with my loved ones were mere illusions; I feared that they would disappear upon revealing my homosexuality. For so long, I was confused about my attraction to the same sex and constantly denied how I felt. Through out those difficult years, I feel as though I acted as my own therapist, helplessly trying to guide myself on how to cope with my situation. "
i will not include any more of his writing, because this is my story, and not his. i did not give up or accept this information right away. jimmy was the first homosexual individual i'd ever met. before him, i believed that being gay was just something that happened on tv. i'd seen two lesbians make out for a fraction of an instant on the television show "er" before my mom, gagging, quickly changed the channel. i'd been transfixed by the image of two young girls holding hands as though they could protect each other from condemnation of the rest of the world in "v for vendetta." but really, i allowed myself to be persuaded by my mom's idea that jimmy believed he was gay because he had more estrogen than most boys, something that was actually a positive quality, for which they'd made fun of him his whole life and convinced him to believe he must be substantially different. there were these "be a man" tapes my mom listened to, in which a firry preacher praised himself for telling gay men they were going to hell because maybe he had convinced them to turn from their sin and just saved their souls. i remember how utterly stunned i was when i repeated the opinions of reverend phelps that i'd heard in a video clip in my social justice class. he'd shouted out in righteous notes of hell fire and brimstone that the whole country was going to the devil, and the tragedy of september eleventh, two thousand one, had been visited on the united states as punishment for accepting attitudes toward homosexuality. i told my mom about this conspiracy theory in tones of incredulity, because i could not believe there were really people who could blame horrific and senseless events on somebody as beautiful and kind as my friend jimmy. what my mom said in reply that instantly shut me up, was that there are always consequences for every sin.
my uncle had me convinced for a brief period that i was going to convert jimmy and make him straight because i was the only girl who wouldn't be put off by how screwed up in the head he was. i tried to keep jimmy's homosexuality a secret for as long as possible; i was realistic and knew that whether or not i ended up married to him some day really had more to do with my family's opinions about the matter than his. however, also being realistic, it's a good bet that most of them knew well before i did just from looking at his photograph in the school yearbook. my oldest sister kept saying to me, "if you're going to date a guy like that, you might as well be with a girl." even without her help, i probably would have made that cognitive leap myself, eventually.
needless to say, i kept it a secret when i began exploring lesbian erotica fiction on the website tumblr. i had my very first orgasms while reading about licking and sucking and grasping actions that did not involve a flesh and blood penis in any capacity. i'd lay in the dark, skimming the forbidden sentences until i could no longer stand it and my vision became overwhelmed by stars. then i'd get up and go play board games with my biological brother at the kitchen table, with only the faint soreness between my thighs to tell me this new pass time i'd discovered had been real at all.