Okay, so, I’ve read what I’ve just written, and I feel compelled to let you know this is not a suicide note. I have no plans to end my life. On with the words:
This recent nihilism started during the first year of my Peace Corps service, when words lost meaning. I felt like everyone was either telling me I was lying about the things happening to me, the rocks, the words, the constant attention, the garbage, the screaming, the threats–these things are normal, or they’re only being done by people who don’t know any better, and now that you know why, doesn’t that make it all better?–or they weren’t listening. Or I couldn’t tell anyone, conscious of the covert extra listeners over the phone, their clicks as quiet as mice. We invented code words for ourselves, lest we be overheard in public; you never could be sure who might send you home for an unwise word against… There was nowhere to go, I felt, where I couldn’t be heard, couldn’t be found out if I wasn’t careful. When I came home, there was no one to understand my grief, the loss of a language I’d loved as much as I could, my lingering fear, my craving for cigarette smoke, or the dream I’d just woken up from. There were no words for that, and I wish I’d been smarter and stopped talking.
No, this recent nihilism didn’t start halfway across the world, four years ago. This recent nihilism started in an online support group for gay Christian men trying to live out a traditional sexual ethic. Frankly, we were terrible to each other, living out the love exemplified for us by a God whose mercy was borne out in violence: my body and yours, tools of the devil, our tickets to hell, our means of bringing about apocalypse. It started in the perversion of language in those messages: men healed from their homosexuality barebacked their way across the world, ‘gay’ was only a description of how faggy you were, how femme, and the worst thing to be was effeminate. I believed in those days there had to be a way to tell my story, give my testimony, say the right magic words to take away the abomination my skin was. I smoked cigarettes to burn parts of myself away, I really did, as though queerness was something I carried in pink lungs or a soft heart.
Peace Corps was like taking crazy pills and my ex-gay years were a mindfuck. It took living in a country where homosexuality was illegal for me to understand that no one should live this way. It took people telling me that those things were wrong for me to believe it; I had no instinct for self-preservation. I learned from Jesus to idealize obedience unto death, even death on a cross.
I struggle to organize my thoughts; as I’ve said, words lost meaning. I have no common language with the straight Christians I know, those for whom something like homosexuality is an issue we can disagree on. (I don’t think you affirm my humanity. I really don’t. Yes, you. How could I, that summer of 2011 when I knew it would have been better had I never been born, and 2008, when I’d had to decide between taking a vegetable knife out to the beach to stick in my arm and doing the dishes. No, no, these stories will not sway your hearts, and why should they? You don’t even believe in damage.)
I write these things out of fear for the future and of certain destruction and, perhaps, no existence after death. We get one shot, and no one gives a shit.
There is only language to approximate truth, and language is sadly faulty.
What is left for me is to do what most adults probably do when they’re younger than just-shy-of-31 and think about what it is I need and how to get it. What it feels like is I need certainty, and, if there’s no certainty outside me, I need certainty inside. I want certainty again: of words, of feelings.
One certain thing: Christianity has been very, very bad for me. A smarter person would have stopped a long time ago. I’ve tried very, very hard, and, if God is real, I hope He understands that when I die.
Another certain thing: I’m devastated to have lived and believed such a false thing–I’ve sucked down poison, believing it was nourishing me.
A third: I’m no lighter for having seen what truth there might be. I’ve only woken up from a dream.
A fourth: I live in the wrong place and have grown up largely among the wrong people.
A fifth: I left for the Peace Corps in 2012 and never came home.
There may be no life in four years, or there may be. We may not make it out, or we might. And after that?
A sixth certain thing: I don’t want to be alone, but sometimes I don’t know how people could be anything else.