I awake to the scent of incense burning. I sprawl my body against the sheets as my eyes come into focus. My butt cheeks slide against the sheets like a child thickly applying glue stick to an art collage. My vision is slightly hazy. The remains of a joint slowly simmer on a bedside table next to what looks like lube. A strange leather studded cock ring hangs above and as my eyes scan downwards ripped condom packets juxtapose against the worn cream carpet. I attempt to stand but fall back onto the bed in a disorientated motion. I lean over for my broadies and T-Shirt. Put on my briefs and find my Chucks. There’s a small window. I can hear a shower running. Maybe I’ll have time to dart out the door. I have no time to start asking the how did this happens, all I have time for is the how will I get out of this situations. I do it. I sprint out the door through the dishevelled living room and unbolt the deadlock. I run as fast as my legs can carry me but the gate won’t open and a dog begins to bark erratically. Shouting begins. I leap up the fence but the Pit-Bull begins to leap at my feet. He resurfaces yelling abuse with a crowbar in his hand. I jar my legs over the fence, leap to the footpath and sprint up an alleyway. I look back for a moment. My sight meets his as he aggressively shouts “tell anyone about this and you’re fuck’n dead kid”. That sensation of my heart pounding, the aggression on his face and the moments after as I ran down Karangahape Road, crying profusely but refusing to stop until I reached the building site that I was working with my Dad. That distorted slideshow of adolescent emotion. Looking back was the moment when I came out of the closet I guess, or at least began my journey towards becoming a gay male.
I didn’t go looking for sex with a man. I didn’t even know I was gay. In fact at the nubile age of 14 my bedroom walls were coated with life-sized Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar posters. I was attracted to girls. I had kissed girls and I had even lost my virginity that year to a less than memorable older woman. My innocence met his experience simply because I wanted marijuana to share with my mates on our Year 10 camp. I found a place that looked like a tinnie house, was reassured by the shoes tied to the power lines and waited for a tenant to emerge. We shared a joint. I could tell he was slightly bizarre but all that was on my mind was teen escapism and securing the elusive ingredient needed for the ultimate high school adventure. It’s strange how simple decisions. Simple calculations towards attaining an outcome can often haunt you for the rest of your life. Trumpets don’t sound when the crucial decisions are made, instead we observe as destiny meekly evolves.
My father’s facial expressions in that moment when I arrived at the building site with a waterfall of tears flooding my bony chest are ingrained in my corneas. I can’t imagine how it must have felt as a father to know that some cunt had messed with your son sexually. I can recall the sunken stomach look Dad had initially, then the hunger to almost kill that overcame him as he furiously banged on the door of that empty tinnie house. This rage quickly turned to sorrow as he witnessed a nurse taking rape kit swabs from his son’s body and watched his eldest child’s fingertips touching black ink for a crime committed by someone else. Then shame shattered my father’s veneer as police interrogated him questioning if he had sent me to source his own supply. Even now when nerves overcome me I see Dads face and the unspoken body language exchanged between us when I took the stand in that courtroom. The moment I heard his voice from beyond a screen in that courtroom, the phantom pain of that day viscerally overtook every limb of my body. But Dads assuring facial expressions from across the room invigorated a fearless sense of composure within me. After all I wasn’t just taking the stand for me. I was doing it to prevent him from tarnishing anyone else with this pain. Years later when I finally accepted that I did love my partner and was a queer male, the thought of telling Dad the truth about my sexuality promoted the sticky black shame to rise again. I knew Dad would accept my homosexuality, yet I feared that my coming out was an admission that I wanted that stranger to enter my body on that day that he gave me that laced smoke.
At the ripe age of 20 Lennon entered my world, he was no different to any other guy I had attempted to get close to physically, except of course for the invisible fireflies that would flutter from my lip crevices every time his emerald green eyes would search the corridors of my mind. The texture of his licorice black locks and the sight of his swimmers chest at my bedroom door was like lithium to Cobain, in his arms finally the world was tranquil and in his company all I could do was ignite like kernels to popcorn each time his fingertips interlocked with mine. I finally had what all my straight friends had showcased in front of me for so many years, a salt and pepper shaker for group barbeques and a pillow whose beating heart was the sweetest lullaby I had ever heard. No discomfort was felt when he touched me, no guilt swirled in my stomach when his tongue deep throated me and for the first time inside of each other felt like a haven where I could spend eternity. Lennon and my love may not have been everlasting. But the comfort, connection and sense of belonging that we shared did assure me that I was allowed to love a man without that stranger sleeping beside me and objectifying every movement I made.
When I came out to my mates, the same motley crew of skaters who I was I trying to secure marijuana for on that fateful day. They all echoed the same unified sentiment, “Scoobs we knew you were gay before you did” and 14 years later those lads are still my best friends. It’s strange to think that such an unfortunate event can be the decision that fuels your creativity and makes you blossom into the man you’re today. The emotional scars of it don’t flaw you, instead they end up empowering you and strengthening your perseverance and drive to live, succeed and overcome whatever the world throws at you. That naïve adolescent decision to enter that strangers home lead me to win 1st place in a regional high school writing competition and it gifted me with an official selection into a Canadian documentary festival post creating a poetic piece in my undergraduate years at university. That simple mistake restored the lost bond between father and son that puberty had sabotaged too; because I realized that my Dad was not my enemy he was in fact my guardian angel. We all need a place where we can go and feel over the rainbow, arms that naturally coil around us and feel like home. It may have taken me a lot longer than most to feel comfortable in a guys arms, to let myself fall in love with a guy and to share a bed with another without that strangers voice caressing my earlobes; but that stupid choice I made, turned out to be the most dysfunctionally radiant lesson life could have ever gifted me.
Written by Samuel Elliot Snowden
(The Bic Runga song below was the track that got me through the above learning in 1999)