By the time I turned 20 I had come clean to the world about the biggest secret I have ever had. Like honey in a mug filled with tea, I let this secret sink to the bottom of my soul. I did not let anyone see who I really was in the inside. More importantly whom I really loved and who I aspired to come home to and kiss as they watched over our children.
As I cried in silence my tears would soak the floor, while I released sighs that fell on deaf ears. I prayed almost every day for God to give me a sign as to why he made me the way he did. Why he would allow me to grow up in a society that teaches me to hate myself. Why he would condone violence and anger against people who just want love. Why he would make me, Chris, Gay.
Until one day I felt his word say, “just do it.” And that’s exactly what I did. I stepped into my truth and told everyone closest to me that I felt an illuminating rainbow in my heart. My soul blossomed like a flower and I grew to love myself despite being taught to do the opposite. I began to date boys, wear face mask and quite frankly twerk to any song with a beat. However, I wish this was like any other Disney fairytale that had a magnificent ending.
The small taste of this new life reminded me of a time where I would go in the woods and pick honey suckles with my older sister. I craved more and more drops of freedom in my rural town of Greenville, North Carolina. Then November came and as the leaves fell, little did I know I soon would to. It began as I smelled the sweet smell of community, friendship and inclusivity. I heard of a sanctuary that I envisioned was being crafted by magical hummingbirds that drank nectar and sang songs.
Looking back now, my eyes were blinded by a luminous light of a bright future that felt a bit more comfortable. I was lured in with a welcoming narrative and for a while I believed it. It felt so warm, so comfortable, yet so insidious. As I write this, I can feel the tears forming in my eyes while I begin to reminisce on the day that changed me forever. It was in the middle of winter when I felt like I was caught in a riptide, being whisked away from the shore. With the waves being the pain of broken trust and the shore being the world I thought I lived in.
Without beating around the bush, I’ll tell you what happened. I was objectified by someone who was supposed to be benevolent. Then I learned that his behavior was normalized by beneficiaries of him. Most importantly, I internalized my pain because I was afraid that if I spoke out, I would hinder a community that needed a break. I remember feeling a surprising slap on my back that forced me to be bent over in front of a man I didn’t even know. I remember he rubbed up against me and I heard a repulsive voice saying, “assume the position.” I remember being in a state of frozen shock and looking to my peers as they’re mouths dropped to floor. I remember turning to him and him patting my face as if I was being a good boy.
For me this sanctuary turned out to be a bed of honey, that at one point I believed to be cozy. I wore a mask of happiness for the sake of the community and I was hurting deep inside. The scenario played over and over in my head to the point where I couldn’t sleep. It was almost like I was watching reruns of my least favorite show and the remote was nowhere to be found. Whenever someone touches my back now, I can’t help but think back to the time I was violated in room full of complacent people. Now I’m stuck with scratching the dried honey residue off me as I learn to live with this new person in the mirror. As I learn to cope with not saying something sooner, because if I did, I may have protected someone from my violator. A new secret formed from my blossoming soul and as the days went on it became harder to deal with.
That riptide I got stuck in may have swept me into the deep trenches of the sea, but I learned to swim. I floated along with the dark ocean current and it felt like I wasn’t going to make it out alive. The only thing that kept me going was a humming melody that played in my head. As I exhaled the pain from within, my breaths sounded like a grieving brass instrument. As I walked, talking to God, each step felt like the beating heart of a drum. As I wrote my poems, my tears hit the page as my words created the lyrics of my new normal. A normal that consist of me tearing down walls that have once been impenetrable. A normal that makes me weary of promises and sweet smells of honey. A normal where I refuse to ever let my wings become trapped by someone who was supposed to liberate me. For I will be the only person who can free myself from this trap, or shall I say honey trap.