The Renegade Rip

Column: That one night

The Gay Agenda: Life and times of a modern gay man.

J.R. Hensley

J.R. Hensley

J.R. Hensley, Photo Editor

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On Dec. 22, 2002 I uttered the words I thought would never leave the dark recesses of my mind. For the first time I told another human being that I was gay. Well, I said “bi” but that was only because saying I was bisexual felt safer; one still has a foot in the cool waters of the hetero pool so no one really makes waves.
The reason I know the precise date is because I did it at my friend’s, Becky, birthday party.
What’s weird is this friend of mine and I hadn’t spoken for a few years. At one point she and I briefly “dated” which was only a conversation and a quick walk around the mall, and her left breast was the first one I ever grabbed (ah memories) but we hadn’t really spoken or hung out in a long while. And the last time, before the party, was in freshman year at the fair when we happened upon each other. That event had been two years prior to this birthday bash. I say this because I don’t remember how I got an invite.
At one point I knew every detail of this night down to what I had been wearing (a blue and white check button up shirt, open with a white undershirt, jeans, knock off vans, and a silver beaded necklace with a mood ring star trinket.) I was hesitant to go to the party because she and I hadn’t really spent any time together in a long while. So as a safety-buffer I invited another friend of mine, Jenny, to make sure I wasn’t the awkward kid out.
Becky held her birthday party at a bowling alley and Jenny came prepared with her own league bowling ball, shirt, and wrist brace. I came to bullshit and hang out.
The actual party portion was a bust. I bowled, barely spoke to Becky other than a few meaningless pieces of conversation, and then after I had had enough with getting continuous gutterballs, I made my way to my car to leave.
It is this moment that I credit to completely changing the course of my entire life.
At the time I drove this aquamarine station wagon which I lovingly referred to as the “bitch mobile,” not because of misogynistic reason that I drove around “picking up bitches.” Oh no, it was because I and my friends had a tendency to complain a lot when we got together and the car itself even complained because the sensor that lets you know that you’re keys are still in the ignition or that your lights are still on was broken. The car literally “bitched” at you. However being a hand-me-down vehicle, that wasn’t the only thing that needed fixing. The car was notoriously unreliable and this particular night it did not disappoint.
When I went to start my car my battery was completely dead. Nothing was coming on. I don’t know if the battery chose this night to die or if I left the lights on and snuffed out what little life was left. Jenny lent me her grey brick Nokia phone and I called my parents to come help me out. After which time she left because she had a curfew.
I sat in my car for a while waiting for my parents to arrive, luckily we lived only a few blocks over and up, and they got there fast and we waited for AAA to arrive. That’s when I snuck back inside to the party.
Becky was surprised that I was still there, I hadn’t been the only one to leave and only she and three other guys were still there. I bored her with the mundane details of my predicament. She laughed, I laughed, fun was had. It was at this time that I felt this growing warm cloud in my chest and I blurted out, without thinking, that I thought one of her friends was cute. She asked which one and I told her the Hispanic guy decked from head to toe in goth attire. She genuinely laughed and I was mortified for a second, scared what she would say. She stopped, got very serious and told me he too was “bi” and only she knew. My entire body was shaking as I asked her to set something up, to which she obliged. I felt liberated and terrified. “Good, God, What had I done?” I thought.
My dad came in and interrupted us to tell me the car was fixed and it was time to go. I bid Becky farewell for the evening and left.
The next day I was so angry with myself that I had said I was bi. I wasn’t bisexual. I was straight. Completely heterosexual. I had decided that I wasn’t going to talk to Becky again and if she called I would ignore her.
The following days I felt no shame. I met up with Becky again during winter break at the mall and she introduced me to the boy that would be my first true heartbreak. I fell head over converse for that guy. Looking at him now I have no idea what I was thinking.
This happened in my junior year of high school and I would look at that night with an inquisitive eye to try and pick it apart. No matter how I sliced it, it was truly mystical and destiny defining. It was as if something was in the air or that the universe had split in two and one version of me went to my car and drove home never having told anyone and I was the version that didn’t. I was very insightful for only 17.
I sometimes still wonder what if I had gone out to a working car? I think my life would have been entirely different. Would I be writing this column? Married to a man? More than likely I would have folded under the pressure of my faith and ended up marrying a woman and having affairs with men on the side. That’s the most common scenario. At least in my limited experience.
I love searching for those defining moments in my life, or even others’. Our entire reality is built on these flashpoint events.
So on this Dec. 22 I say happy birthday to my friend Becky and happy garthday, or gay day, or rainbow-sparkle day (whatever day) to me.

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Column: That one night