Stuart left the schoolyard with his head in turmoil. A few kids were still kicking around, waiting for lifts or hanging with nothing better to do than sharing a smoke. He ignored them and they didn’t bother him. He had something important on his mind. He had come to an important decision, in the middle of double geography. Today would be the day. He would tell his family. His secret would finally be out. The thought excited him yet made him nervous at the same time. He needed to get it out in the open, but he didn’t know how they would take it. They’d be shocked, of course, initially. But would they be able to accept it and come to terms with it? Perhaps they already suspected. God knows there were enough clues, if you looked hard enough.
A car horn shocked him back to awareness. He had stepped into the road without looking. He waved an apology and received a one-fingered salute in response. Usually, it would have upset him, but today there were more pressing matters to consider. As early as he could remember, he had realised that there was something different about him. He tried to think back to when he’d realised that it was to do with his sexuality. Not when he’d preferred to play with his sister’s dolls rather than his tank and soldiers. At that age, he’d barely begun to realise that boys and girls were different. Perhaps when, at age eight, his neighbour took him swimming on a Saturday morning. Steve Wilson was the same age. They’d sort of hung out together by default, after Stuart’s Dad died. He had found the sight of Mr Wilson’s naked body strangely exciting. He hadn’t understood why at the time. No, it was definitely in High School that the realisation began to dawn. He had watched his classmates developing bodies with enormous interest; almost as much as he had watched his own. Steve seemed to mature so much earlier and faster. He had developed a crush on his best friend. He didn’t think that Steve had ever known about it. He had been good at hiding his secret. Changing for gym and sports had become both an exciting adventure and a nightmare. Perving: that was the only way he could describe the pleasure he got from seeing the other boys’ naked bodies. On the other hand, he was petrified in case he got found out. Fortunately, spontaneous erections were an occupational hazard for a teenager. They might lead to a bit of teasing, but nothing more serious.
He remembered when that realisation had sunk in. There was a word now for what he was. That word was homosexual. It meant that he was a perversion, he would never go to heaven but would burn in hell for eternity, and, if his friends found out, he’d be ostracised and bullied. Daniel Smith was a homosexual. He had no friends and was always getting beaten up. Why would Daniel come out and admit it? He seemed to be proud of it. Stuart almost had second thoughts as his resolve wavered. He had joined in with his classmates jokes at Daniel’s expense. He had looked at the porn mags behind the bike sheds, albeit focussing more on the men than the women. He had joined in the discussions about the girls’ suitability for shagging. He had even started going out on dates. What did that make him? He was a homosexual hypocrite.
He successfully crossed another street, without incident. It was a warm, sunny day. He had left his bag and jacket at school. He didn’t intend to do any work tonight. He had a lot of talking to do. He should have felt light, but instead he felt as if a huge weight were bearing down on him. He stopped for a moment and massaged his temples. ‘It’s the stress, it will go as soon as you’ve finally admitted it,’ he thought to himself. Fortunately, he didn’t live far from his school. He was almost home now. As much as his courage was faltering, he couldn’t put it off. His mind jumped to why it was so important to come out now. Peter Somerton was the chemistry teacher. He had rarely paid him much attention, as their paths didn’t cross that often. He was in his early thirties, reasonably slim and good looking, and by all accounts a bachelor. He was quiet and kept pretty much to himself. He couldn’t remember how they had ended up in the preparation room at the back of the chemistry laboratory, last Wednesday after final period. It had seemed an innocent enough request for help that had got him in there. His cover must have been blown. Peter Somerton knew instinctively what he was. He had casually left the gay porn there, for Stuart to find. He had used it as an excuse to initiate an intimate conversation. It had snowballed from there, leading to Stuart’s first gay sexual experience. It had been awesome. Just the memory of it gave him an instant erection, which he struggled to hide from old Mrs Robinson, pruning the roses in her front yard. From that instant he had known. It was like coming home. He knew who he was and where his destiny lay. Nothing else in his life came close to that moment, to the absolute clarity of his realisation. He wouldn’t hide any longer. He would tell the truth and be proud of himself.
He took a deep breath and nervously entered the house. It was a picture of normality. This must have been what Hiroshima had been like, moments before the bomb exploded. They would never experience that normality again. The world would change forever. Was he really ready to change his world so much? He must, otherwise he would always remain a hypocrite.David was in front of the computer as usual, school bag and books tossed casually around. Susie was playing with her new kitten, teasing him with a piece of string. A warm welcoming smell of roast chicken and the clattering of cutlery told him that dinner was almost ready. That was it then, he’d do it at the dinner table when he had a captive audience.
He washed his hands and took his usual place at the dining table. The normal pleasantries of the day passed over him like background chatter on a train. He toyed with his food for a while, barely able to eat any of it. His chest was constricted. His stomach felt like it was tied in knots and churning at the same time. His throat was dry and tight. He took a sip of water and cleared his throat. ‘It’s now or never,’ he thought. He’d practiced this speech, in his mind, a thousand times. He wanted to lay out his past, in a logical manner, to explain his ‘condition’ through his life experiences. He needed them to understand what a battle he had fought. They had to realise how he had struggled, on their behalf, to be normal.
He didn’t know how to start. Three faces looked expectantly at him. He turned pale and then blushed red. He felt the sweat running down his back. His hands were clammy. In the end all he could say was, “I have something important to tell you. I’m gay.”
Were it not for his unusual physical appearance, they would probably have laughed it off as a joke. However, they all recognised the seriousness of the situation.
“Cool, my best friend is a lesbian,” Susie said. “Mum, can I have some new shoes for Kylie’s party?”
“As long as it doesn’t affect me, I couldn’t care less,” David said. “Just don’t spread it all around the school or I’ll have to disown you.”
Stuart’s heart, which had been beating rapidly, was now approaching normal speed. The throbbing in his head was beginning to dissipate. The responses had been so much better than he’d imagined. He looked across the table at Sarah. Her face had totally drained of colour. She was trying to say something, but no words were coming out. Eventually, she managed to get control. “You mean, all of these years, I’ve been married to a queer?”