Closets

(From the terrifying realm of my own meandering thoughts.)

The mobile home often smelled of beer and cigarettes (my parents would get drunk and smoke in the house and then yell at each other about it the next day).  It was always when we could smell the first Marlboro light up. Despite the broken windows, holes in the floor, and the fact that our mobile home was actually two mobile homes held together by flimsy caulk thereby leaving a gaping hole in the middle of our dwelling, the heavy smoke hung in the air (or maybe just onto their fingers?) enough to permeate through the place.  That’s when my brother would wake up or, if it was the weekend, tear himself from the video game on the television screen. Slowly, he’d make his way back to the room we shared. He wouldn’t say anything until the yelling started.

One particular time, who know what they were arguing about, she picked up a can of wood duster.  She held it over her head.  In that harsh feminine voice men use to belittle when mocking other, he responded, creatively reading the label on the can,”Oh Behold!”

“That’s right!  Behold the power of the Lord!” She threw the can across the room.

Although I’d been dealing with this behavior my whole life, I still didn’t know what to do in those situations. Let’s see, my brother was probably around around seven or eight, so I would have been eleven or twelve.  I always just hid us in the closet. We just waited for things to quiet down, or until one of us was hungry enough to brave the perilous journey to the kitchen. Dolls sat in the closet with us, and I was terrified of them, even so we sat in the dark with them.

Hiding in the closet became a habit – not just when my parents were fighting, but in my sleep.  I would sleepwalk into the closet.  I would wake up surrounded by walls and dolls.  I always thought I was dreaming, so when I started trying to scream and nothing came out, I thought nothing of it. It was only a nightmare.

 

Not too long after the “Behold” evening I got tired of being in the closet. So instead of hiding I would walk to the end of our dirt road. For some reason, I stopped where the dirt ended. I could never bring myself to step on the firm asphalt. I considered running back to the closet. I never did, but then it occurred to me that maybe the closet simply grew. It expanded to a road. What could I ever do with that? So I just sat there. What next?

 

Around the age of sixteen I began coming out to my friends as a lesbian. RENT and Brokeback Mountain were all the talk in the hallways, and surprisingly enough in our Podunk town, they were well received. People looked at me like I was a little less crazy when I mentioned my love for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I felt safe enough to open up. Of course, everyone was “not surprised” and “had known all along” because I wore flannel that one day when I was a freshman. And it felt good. It felt good to (in the words of Harvey Milk) “Come out, come out wherever you are.” And it felt so easy.

At school I became “the lesbian” or “the gay girl.” That’s who I was, and boy was I brave to be so obvious and out there. And if I wanted a feminine girlfriend, no wait partner, then I should dress more butch, but if I kept dressing the way I did then I’d end up being the girl in the relationship and have to find a more masculine girl to make it work. And there were a few other gay girls at our school, so clearly we were all friends and had probably made-out or slept together.

I was so happy. I had come out of the closet, so to speak. I knew who I was, and if I wasn’t sure, everyone else would tell me. Maybe I’m a little slow on the uptake, but it wasn’t until college that I began wondering how much of me should be my sexuality. I mean, it was in college that I began romantically experimenting with men. People I grew up with would introduce me as “Misty, my gay friend.” I’m not good at covering things up or lying so I would quickly interject, “Well not exactly…” And in response to confused looks, spend up to an hour explaining that I’d desired to sleep with men, had slept with men, and even enjoyed it. The conclusion, “So you’re bi?” “Technically, I guess, but that’s not how I feel,” and I always felt so strange saying that.

As I’ve gotten older I realized I don’t feel comfortable with any sexual labels for me (aside from “queer,” which feels powerful and all-inclusive). Some people understand that, but most don’t. I didn’t understand it. We have gay pride, we’ve come out of the closet, so to speak, but once that happened for me, I just felt like me again. My sexuality is a huge part of me (most of my friends know that I’m a dirty rat bastard, keen on making any inappropriate jokes I can), but it’s not all of me. I feel as though there are parts of myself I’ve had to fight harder to figure out (not to belittle how anyone else has come to identify themselves in a certain way) that I’m still trying to drag out of the closet.

 

In short, I’m not confused, or experimenting (unless, of course, you agree that all relationships end up being an experiment in one way or another – we can talk about that later), I’m not greedy…Okay, so yeah I’m all of those things, but they’re not limited, or even necessarily pertaining to, my sexuality.

 

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