Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. Eve’s poetry can be found here on the Dead Mule.
Don’t Mess With Texas
In sixth grade I started middle school. I was terrified to go to Garner, my local public junior high, and I’d been bullied all throughout elementary school. So I went to Keystone, a private K-12 school, because my dad taught there: We got free tuition. But it was also a math and science school, and I was an art and theater kind of kid. Natalia was instantly welcoming to me, in a way that was unfamiliar to me. She was also very, very wealthy, in a way that was very unfamiliar, and alienating. But I noticed right away that there were certain kids in my small sixth grade class who were not invited to Natalia’s house, or her parties. Kids like Cathy, who was sort of weird and awkward. Kids who were poor. I remember making a distinctive, conscious choice that year to reject the Natalias of my class, and of the world, and to seek out the Cathys instead. And while that fact about myself is often one I wear with pride, it hasn’t always made my life easier.
When I look at my three-year-old son, he is happy to play with just about any kid who is nice to him, and it doesn’t even matter where he is. The only word I can come up with to describe this quality is elastic.
For me, in elementary school, some of my friendships were rigid, but some were elastic. I pretty much only played Barbies with Barbie (no, really) and Dawn. With Kat and Pam I did a lot of different things, we were looser and more elastic.
In sixth grade my friendship with Cathy was definitely not elastic. In fact, it felt so confining, I eventually drifted away.
In high school I moved between crowds, and this was somewhat less elastic – I hung with the stoners, the theater kids, the artists, and only did those things with those kids. On the other hand, my friendship with Amy was more elastic, which is probably why it grew deeper and was more meaningful.
Amy was one of the first people I know who came out to me. No, that’s wrong. I knew lots of gay boys – David and Glen and Devin and Lee…they all seemed so comfortable with who they were, by the time I knew them. Of course, reading David’s book Bad Kid I see now that he wasn’t so comfortable with who he was, and probably the others weren’t as well. Probably that says something about how well I really knew them, maybe how well we really know anyone when we are sixteen. So Amy. She wasn’t even the first girl who came out to me, I realize, that honor belongs to Juanita, who came out as bisexual a year earlier. But that seemed relatively easy for her too, though I knew her well enough to know it wasn’t. Amy was where the shit got real.
I spent most of my lunch periods my senior year at Amy’s house. She lived around the corner from our high school, so we’d just leave campus and not come back. No one cared unless there was a pep rally – then they guarded the exits like hyenas guarding a carcass. You don’t fuck around with pep rallies in Texas. I spent the night with her many a time, and it was always platonic. Her father was a scary, Texas good old boy, but he wasn’t around much, so we had the house to ourselves. You’d think having that many people coming out to me in high school it might have occurred to me that I too was queer, but no, I happily went along making out with boys, ignoring the tingle I got when certain girls were present. I guess that’s bisexual privilege.
Amy was a year younger than me, so I would come back from college and we’d still hang out. It was that year that things are a bit of a blur, and probably not coincidentally there was a shit ton of alcohol and pot being consumed. Mostly in the back of Tommy’s house with a bunch of other gay boys who’d come out since I left high school. I seriously don’t remember any of that crew except Amy. But shit got more real – Amy was drinking so much her stomach was bleeding, I remember that. I was drinking so much I was blacking out.
Late in her senior year she started dating Amanda. Shortly thereafter, her father found some letters she wrote to Amanda. And shit hit the fan. I met Amy for an urgent meeting in the traffic circle of our high school, and she disappeared off to Austin where her mother lived after that. Which is how I lost touch with her, until I found her again on Facebook.
Turns out, now she lives in Massachusetts, is happily married to a woman, and has a family. Same as me. I’m glad we both survived.