John Collins:

(Novel - Extract)

John CollinsVirgin to the Life


      In life, we have the daunting task of self-discovery. I was practically on the edge of my seat aboard this airplane eagerly waiting the unfolding of the next chapter of my life anxious about what adulthood would bring my way? As I ripped open the small packet of complimentary dry roasted peanuts, I placed my head back against the headrest and gazed through the window. The slow movement of the clouds passing under the aircraft put me in a peaceful mindset as I looked back over my life thus far. I popped a few salty peanuts into my mouth. My attention then focused on my reflection within the confines of the porthole. I was looking at myself with a different pair of eyes. It’s interesting that as an Army brat, I had the privilege of meeting people from all walks of life before I was able to meet myself. Accepting my sexuality was a process. Throughout high school, I felt isolated - “different.” I felt as if I was the only boy who liked boys... Being different led me to the very definition of acceptance at the age of sixteen.

      Being different brought me closer to God – the one who knew me before I knew myself. One Sunday in church, I sat listening intently to a sermon dealing with prayer. Pastor Joyner, told us that we often pray in a repetitious manner mulling over the same issue. And though there is nothing overtly wrong with this, one doesn’t allow God to do what He needs to do. We pester Him and dwell on the same issue, which takes away from our faith. I laughed to myself thinking how I was guilty of this. Pastor stated, “You must pray, no doubt but learn how to let go, and let God. Put it in Gods hand and in his timing your prayer will be answered. You won’t have to question.” I decided to go home that night and pray a prayer that I had been afraid to pray. I was scared of what the answer might be. I was scared to even bring it to God. I felt that the sky was going to crack open with a thunderous voice shouting down at me in anger and disgust declaring,“HOW DARE YOU!”

       I waited until the family was all sound asleep. With fear and trembling and a case of cottonmouth, I kneeled down beside my bed. I tried to control my breathing while my heart pounded. I mustered up more and more courage and whispered, “Lord, I come before your throne humbly yet boldly. I am not sure what the true answer is, but I know how I feel, Father God...Lord, I want to know if I am wrong for being gay? Is this who you made me in light of your vision Lord?” I paused, took a deep breath, and felt a great weight lifted from my entire being.

      I continued, “Lord, I ask these things in your most precious and holy name. In Jesus name, I pray. Thank God. Amen.” I continued kneeling for a few minutes expecting an answer any minute. My thoughts went back to what Pastor Joyner touched on earlier. His words echoed in my head as I arose to lie down to sleep. To my surprise, the floor beneath my bed didn’t open up revealing a place of fire and brimstone Christian folk say is for people like me. I had the most peaceful week I can remember. I had my answer because something changed in my being. I felt secure in the person I was becoming. I started writing and keeping a journal of my thoughts and poetry. Since I still felt like the only gay guy in school, it was nothing for me to dwell in solitude. Even though I still worried about someone discovering“my secret,” I admitted it to myself that I was no longer different. I was simply gay. This person was no longer someone living inside of himself. He had a presence, he had a face, and he was made in His image. And his name was Jason...

      Just as I was becoming comfortable with myself, my biggest fear was realized. “My secret” was discovered and uncovered when my mom found the journal I’d been keeping. I laugh about it now as an adult, but it wasn’t so funny then. I still wonder what went through her head as she read some of the pages. Hell, how much of it did she read? My journal was filled with my inner most thoughts and fantasies of my first kiss with a guy, my erotic desires of the things I would do to him sexually if I had a chance; I wrote about other kats I had crushes on, but before all of that, I am certain her first shocking moment was when she read the first page embossed with the bold proclamation, “I’m Gay! There I said it.”

      My world changed after my secret was exposed. Suddenly, instinctively, I knew I had to fend for myself. I didn’t want my parents holding anything over my head because of how they felt about homosexuality. I had to map out my own plan, which wasn’t hard due to my independent nature. I love my parents unconditionally, but this was an area where unconditional love on their part would not manifest itself.  My dad didn’t really have much to say once my mom revealed the discovery she had made in my room on my bed. My daddy always had something to say, whether it was a joke or something profound. I looked up to my dad and admired many of the sacrifices he made for the family. He always expressed himself verbally, physically, and humbly. However, he couldn’t find the words to say what and how he truly felt the day he found out his son was gay.

      My dad was the all American highly decorated soldier - a “man’s man,” the epitome of a strong black man. How could his seed produce someone deemed “soft,” “a punk,” “weak,” – “less than a man?” I supposed this is what he thought. Perhaps he felt that this was punishment from God for some wrong turns he may have made in life. God telling him, “Now deal with that...”

      I decided to join the Navy after graduation. It wasn’t the path my dad wanted me to take, but he knew this was a choice about which I was adamant. My parents drove me to the recruiter station in Ramstein, Germany. We talked the whole way and enjoyed a really nice lunch. They watched me finalize paper work and the official swearing-in. I was excited. I wasn’t scared at all. There were kats crying and junk, but I had this smile on my face. I felt a new level of independence, more so than I ever felt before. For the first time in a long while, I knew things were going to be all right. I knew that I was making the right decision for me. As a man, I think my dad knew how I was feeling. We shared a laugh and a father/son embrace when they dropped me off at the hotel after we left the recruiting station. When I turned towards my mom she smiled and instructed me to “Be careful.” It was one of the most memorable times for me because she told me she loved me. My mother could be a bit detached emotionally, and at times, it is hard to decipher what she is thinking or how she feels about a given situation. One emotion that she exudes quite well and without question is that of anger when she dislikes or is upset about something, but that day at that moment her feelings were crystal clear. She doesn’t say it often, so when she does, it’s always refreshing and reassuring at the same time. I guess she didn’t totally hate me. When we hugged, it felt like she didn’t want to let me go. In that moment, I wished If I could take back one thing - the day she discovered I was gay! I didn’t want her to find out the way she did; the coming out story I had imaged was completely different! It was bittersweet when the three of us parted ways. I later found out from my dad that she cried in the car on the way back home. I wish I could have seen that. I have never seen that woman cry. Maybe that’s from whom I get it stoic and hardcore nature. “Tough love” was her motto. And I would learn the hard way that love was indeed tough...

      The next day my recruiter woke me up with a call and met me outside the hotel room. He treated me to breakfast, gave me my first set of orders, and my airline tickets back to the U.S. He dropped me off at the airport, and I was on my way to my new life. I continued to reflect on the past year and imagined all the possibilities ahead of me. I was so anxious that I couldn’t sleep on my long flight back. When I did finally doze off, I dreamt of the previous Christmas I had with my family. I went all out that year, spending every dime I had on the gifts I got my parents and sister. I wanted to let them know how much I loved and appreciated them. In my mind, it felt like it would be my last holiday with them, so I wanted to make sure I brought a little something special to the season so they’d remember me. So they’d see that things hadn’t changed all that much; I was still their son, their brother...although I was gay. I wished they could walk a mile in my shoes to know what I went through and why I had to distance myself thousands of miles away from them in order to find me...