It was that brown-haired boy at science camp. I was eleven.
In hindsight, I guess I always had these fleeting thoughts about other boys, even early on. God, especially early on. Those shampoo smells off of dirty blonde hair passing me in the hallway. Light reflections. Jawbones. Elbows. Insides of wrists. I pushed it down.
I wasn’t ashamed- to be ashamed I would have had to allow myself some degree of awareness. There was nothing resembling self-acceptance or even acknowledgement then. There was just terror, dull horror, the constant incessant feeling of waiting on the deck of a ship slated to sink. I was a big, gay Titanic- the closeted boy in Sunday school, a walking, stupid stereotype.
I had avoided myself fairly successfully until that summer.
Until brown hair, nameless in my head and faceless in faded-jean memories but permanent in my mind-concrete. Him in the bunk next to mine, breathing bedtime stories with every intake of breath as he slept. A pale blue catalyst to my disease. I swallowed love like rocks in my throat.
I had been told that it was easy to sin but this longing was so, so far from anything resembling easy. I had read in all of those pamphlets and children’s Bibles that it was all too simple to let the devil into your heart but I just wanted to know his favorite color, I just wanted to touch his hair. I wanted to know if he read books. I wanted to hold his hand but my fingers were tied and sewn to holiness mistranslated and I was just fat, blasphemous roadkill bloated and nailed to a crucifix.
I fell asleep every night that summer to the cadence of his breathing, soaked in sweat and realization and shame, staring out the cabin window next to my bed, looking for shooting stars, distracting myself from God and the pressing need to cry.