Inside our cafeteria, we have short tables each accompanied by two chairs sitting on both sides, “date tables” as we call them, ideal for a laid-back and highly unromantic date in the university cafeteria. That’s not why we are here though.
Sometimes, outstanding individuals catch you off-guard. I met this guy who was a character of love, or so I thought at the time. Whether it was random road trips, artistic bouts, studying, or philosophical discussion, much of our time was spent together. He became the friend I had continually asked for. He seemed to be one that was on my side and could something was wrong, but I still could not tear down the walls.
Two years beforehand when I initially built these walls, they held firm, but the autumn following their construction, I left for school in sunny San Diego: “This is staying in Portland. There is no way this coming to San Diego.” I would tell myself that eventually, it would go away. I was wrong. It followed me.
We sat at one of these date tables when I prepared for one of the most difficult conversations I would have in over two years.
Suppressing my feelings for so long only made them stronger. Closing myself off only made me more insecure. I longed to be known, but I failed to let them in.
“Oh, Sean, the track guy,” people would say. I cringe and anxiety builds when I become associated with track. To me, it holds only a small portion of my life. I like music. I like art. I like feeling my heart melt as I sit at Filter Coffee House, listening to Bon Iver and pouring my life out into a red, Bible-sized notebook filled with graph paper.
Embarrassed, I thought if only they knew me, they would want nothing to do with me as I replayed the toxic tape once more: “I don’t like the way you live and don’t feel like associating with you. I was just blind to the way you are I guess. Sorry man.”
To liberate myself, I had to be there. I had to be sitting with my friend staring at him in silence, scrambling for the words I wanted to say. I had to release those tears that I kept tucked away.
Finally, I said it, chiseling at my walls: “I have this gay struggle.” Seeing a perplexed look on his face, I continued, “It plays into so many areas of my life, and I don’t know what to do. You have no idea.” I vented about past problems with my father and betrayals by friends, the reasons I had these walls.
Time finally started to pass, and we glanced at the clock. It was two minutes past 1:30pm, and we were late to class already. We parted ways, and there it stopped.
We didn’t talk for a while. I’ll blame it on busyness, but I still take it personally. The next week was finals week, loaded with studying. After that, school was out, and he was gone. Our conversation was never finished, and I almost felt it again, abandoned. The walls still remained, and I continued with my normal pattern, reservation.
A month and a half later, my phone rings. He called, and we caught up, on the surface level, getting nowhere, but at least I knew he didn’t completely leave me, shutting me out. At least, he contained an ounce of compassion, but hollow words only last so long.