The time was of laughter and fun. Atlanta had recently won the right to hold the 1996 Olympics games. I was 14 and High School was a new experience for me, but my grades were good, and my 'surface life' in general was OK. By 'surface life' I am talking about the 'me' that everyone, save my closest friends, saw on a day to day basis. I was an innocent, young, Christian boy... struggling to understand myself and my sexuality. As a consequence of this I was lonely, and withdrawn, aching for love and acceptance. That was my real life, lonely and scared.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist family, learning the values of the Christian God, and learning, according to the Southern Baptist beliefs, that my 'real life' was sinful and wrong. This was a major blow to me, and I struggled to understand myself even more. I shielded myself from everyone for years. Not even my closest friends knew of my sexuality. I was a member of The Boy Scouts of America, and worked hard to learn the skills needed to earn rank and privilege in that Order. This was a weekly thing... a meeting every Tuesday sufficed.
I began to despise the Boy Scouts because every meeting I felt odd, being there around many boys of my own age and fighting the feelings inside me. It nearly tore me apart, and I began to loose track of school and church, and other things that I thought should be important in my life. Little did I know that I was ignoring the most important thing of all... the feeling inside me. I began to get this feeling more and more... especially for some of the boys in the Troop. But there was one boy who really threw me into a babbling mound of young confusion. A young man who I now know was experiencing the same confusion I was. His name was Jason. He was the same age as me, a skinny, beautiful, young blond. He was very much like me, quiet, subdued... but very involved in things at school and elsewhere. He joined my Scout Troop when both of us were 12. From the first day I saw him he made my stomach curl. My emotions got tangled up inside me... and I didn't understand it. I wanted so bad to be 'normal'... but deep inside me I knew it was not true, and this hurt.
One fateful weekend the was a campout. The entire troop went out to Providence Canyon in Georgia... a bit south of Columbus. After the troop arrived and things were settled, such as tents thrown up and cookwares settled under a tarp, one boy got suddenly very sick. This was Jason's tent partner. I was tenting alone, since I was a Patrol leader and the were an odd number of people in my patrol. Both Jason and the sick boy were in my patrol. The boy got so sick that he had to be taken to a local hospital, and now there were two tent partners in the same Patrol that were alone... so logically we packed up one tent and Jason and I wound up as tent partners.
The day was spent romping around in the canyon and generally being immature young teenagers. Up to this day, Jason and I had never really spoken on a person to person basis, and even up to this point we had exchanged very few words. The day passed... and dinnertime came... of course after that was the evening campfire gathering... and then lights out.
As is always the case after all the lamps have been shut off and everyone is in their tents, tent partners always talk to each other until one or both are fast asleep. This was true for Jason and I... we made jokes and whatnot until after all the other campers were snoring away. Then the topic turned serious... Jason confided in me that he was confused about how he felt sometimes, when around the girls that he should be attracted to, and around the guys that he actually was attracted to. After he confided in me his secret, I lay there in silence for a bit, because I knew that I felt the same way. After a few minutes of silence I burst into tears, telling him of all my own secrets, which were much the same as his. The last surge of tears passed for us both, and we both knew that we had found something truly special. We had found someone that we could talk to, someone who we could lean on. A person whose shoulders had but one purpose... a place for buried faces and tears. We lay there for a bit, panting and sniffling because the weeping had been fierce, and Jason rolled over and hugged me. For what reason I do not know I kissed his forehead, and we fell fast asleep in an embrace that was held together by sheer love.
From that night forward we were together, if not in body, then in mind. I couldn't think of anything but Jason, and I visited his house frequently. After a month of tears and pain we sat in the woods after a quick game of Manhunt with the local kids and talked. We talked a bit more of things along the sexual nature than we had ever discussed before. We finally began to realize our sexuality and this led to simple experimentation in the next few weeks. After this initial intimacy our relationship bloomed into a powerful bond of love. We became one in spirit, soul, and often enough, body.
For seven months our bond grew. We devoted ourselves to each other, and both would lay down their lives for the other. Every available moment was spent with the other... I was in his home as much as possible... and Jason was in mine. We spent the night at each others houses, camped out together on scout trips, and took hiking trips into the woods for overnight stays. Eventually we pulled the old, but meaningful, blood-brother trick. We sliced some skin on our palms and shook hands... letting the blood of one mix with the other. Life was great, and I didn't give a damn what any of my friends thought. I was in love, I lived in love, and I was happy.
In February of 1992 Jason's dad caught us together in his room. I have never seen so much hate and contempt show in the face of a single man. We were both thrown out instantly, clad only in boxers and tee-shirts, into the February cold. We snuck into my house later that night, freezing solid. I gave him some of my clothes to wear. By morning my parents awoke and we had to leave lest we be found. We took a stroll through the woods and talked... cried... Time passed into the afternoon. I knew my parents would be expecting me home so I had to leave him there. We built a shelter as best we could and I promised to be back as soon as I could. Later that evening when I did make it back into the forest and to the makeshift shelter but when I got there he was gone. I searched the nearby woods until nightfall, and past.
I went home sullen and guarded. I made it to my room without seeing anyone else in the house, and I closed my door and locked it. Crawling into bed I wept... mourning for him... hoping against all odds that he was OK. I never saw him or heard from him again until that fateful day about a month later, March 12 to be exact, that he died. A phone call from Jason's parents to inform my parents of the news. I soon found out that Jason's dad had told mine not to tell me of his death, but my father knew better that to take orders from someone else concerning his son, and in a few minutes of the call my Mom was in my room in tears... soon I was an uncontrollable sobbing little boy. The police investigation showed a stabbing in the back and the file went into the unsolved murders list.
Friday afternoon was the visitation. I was there the whole day, standing across from Jason's parents in the room. Every few minutes my eyes cast over the beautiful face of a boy that understood more about true love than most people in this country learn of it their entire life. Every few minutes a tear rolled down my cheek and plopped onto the floor. Jason's closest friends came by, no others took time away from school to see that even one of them could die. No one know this, but as an innocent 14 year old boy I was very sentimental, and I took a stone that I had kept from that trip to Providence Canyon, one that Jason had found and given to me in youthful abandon, and dropped it into the coffin, hiding it beside his small frame, under some of the laces inside.
Evening came, and I slept with fitful dreams, waking up in chills and sweating as I awaited the morning. The funeral was scheduled for noon, and we gathered in that little funeral home chapel, friends, loved ones, family... then me. I can't remember any of the actual funeral service, I was too wrapped up in a constant movie going on in my mind. The title was "Jason and me" and it played on and on. I remember getting into the front limousine, the hearse just in front of us. I remember the passing scenery as we rode to a small cemetery a long way away. I remember the voices there at the graveside. I can see the tears of people in my mind. But those tears I see are blurred. I am startled to realize that they are blurred by my own tears. I wept...
Several days later I received a letter in the mail with no return address. My parents didn't know who it was from but I recognized the handwriting. It was from Jason... written to me before his death. In it he revealed what he had done those past weeks after our separation. He told me of his exploits with a under-age porn studio that was surprisingly nearby. He ran away from that, too... with the bare clothing I had given him to wear on that Saturday in February. He found his way to the streets of Atlanta, stole a pen and paper to write me this letter, and stole the bowie knife found in his body. He committed suicide in that alley... wiped the fingerprints from the knife and backed up against the wall with the knife between.
Throughout the 14-page letter Jason expressed his love for me... and his true sorrow at not being able to spend the rest of his life with me. At the end of the last page I could see where his tear stains had made his signature bleed. There are now more tear stains on that last page. To this day my parents know not of the relationship between Jason and I... only that it was very close friendship. But I know it was more. And Jason knew it was more. And that's all that matters.
In honor of the horrible decisions Jason had to deal with, and in honor of his choices, I try to visit his gravesite every March 12. I visit it to help with my wounds. I visit it to see someone who I dearly love. And by being there I feel better. Each passing year I slit some of my palm and let the blood flow freely into the grass at his stone. This singular action helps me to understand the pain of so many young gays like myself, and like Jason. And I always know that I have this person inside me. He lives there now, sheltered from the world. He helps me in my journeys. He aids me in my decisions. He tells me one thing over and over, pounding it into my skull. A sentence that means so much to a lost young gay:
"You will never be alone."