This is a short list submission for the ROSA Award.
My trembling fingers grasped the trigger as I felt my life slip away. I was supposed to be the womanizing all star of my high school’s baseball team. I was supposed to grow up to become a lawyer who would shower my trophy wife and kids with cash. I was supposed to live the life I’d always planned. But I was gay.
I realized in sophomore year, after watching Rebecca Stone get picked on during chemistry. The teacher was rambling on, deaf to the malicious students who mocked the girl with a girlfriend. Even if Rachel wasn’t my neighbor, it would be impossible not to know her. She had inextinguishable red hair that rippled down her back, silky skin of gold, and a voice that soothed like the sweetest melody.
Rebecca had a dozen boyfriends when she was younger; her daintiness was a testosterone magnet. But when she came out as a lesbian, her popularity morphed to infamy. Heartbroken classmates called her a liar and a tease for pretending she was straight for so long, for pretending they had a chance. They assumed she kept the secret hidden since childhood. No one understood that it took her until high school to uncover the truth. Except me.
When our conservative school’s beauty queen shattered teenage conduct, it made me question myself. I dug up concealed thoughts, discovering a treasure chest of feelings. Feelings I didn’t want to have. My mind screamed for normalcy, but reburying the thoughts was impossible.
When I told my parents, they treated me like a criminal, punishing me by taking away my car. They thought it was a choice and I’d made the wrong one. Who would choose to have a difficult life? Who would choose to be made fun of, scoffed at, and beaten up? Who would choose to be isolated? I had no choice in my sexuality. It was unchangeable.
The gun was my choice. I could make my problems disappear with a jolt of my index finger. The universe would evaporate; my issues would decompose alongside my body. Facing the window, I used my remaining moments to stare out at the world I felt separated from.
I didn’t want to be gay.
My courage (or cowardice?) gathered, I moved the gun to my temple and braced for the bullet’s impact. Then I saw the river of red hair. Out the window, across the road on her porch, Rachel sat with her girlfriend. The pair shimmered against the orange sunset as their laughter seeped through my walls. The gun dropped to my side as I watched them engage in a kiss so innocent; so pure.
A group rode past on bikes, lost in their own world, unconcerned about the lesbian couple. Unlike kids at school, they were free of judgment. Thinking back to the day in chemistry where Rachel was harassed by our classmates, the scene came back with more clarity. As her ‘friends’ snickered, she kept her composure. There was no defense; no tears; no apology. Her strength allowed her to bask in unashamed pride. When she was wrapped in a man’s arms, she was holding a chunk of herself back. But as she held hands with a girl of equal beauty, she beamed. Her joy was genuine.
When an elderly couple walked down the street, my gun clanked against the floor. Although they were from the generation of homophobia, they smiled at the petite couple.
“You remind me of my wife and I when we first met. So much in love,” the faint sound of the man said. “How long have you been together?”
As they engaged in conversation, I was met with a fresh reality. I believed society was swarming with cold, menacing individuals who aimed to make others miserable. I expected life as a homosexual to be rigged with impassable barriers. But I was ignorant of the acceptance.
Rebecca’s voice carried across the street when she said, “It’s so nice to speak to people who treat us like we’re actually normal.”
“Why wouldn’t we? You’re just like anyone else. It’s unfortunate some people don’t realize that yet,” the man said. “I guess we’re just ahead of the game.”
With a wink, he and his wife vanished. But his words never did.