My last few years of high school were a bit of a blur. The kids I met in Florida were nicer than any other place I had been. There was the occasional teasing, but it was nothing like I endured at other schools. Everyone just seemed to be in a brighter mood. I think it was the sun. By junior year of high school, my back and my walking were not major issues and I began to feel more confident, but I was still the shyest child in the history of mankind. I remember in English one year we had to give mini, 5 minute presentations in class and I was so nervous. My heart was beating out of my chest, I had butterflies out of this world, I would try to think of ways to get out of class, like maybe I could fall ill and I won’t have to get up in front of the entire class and give this presentation. Every time a student would finish their presentation, I would pray that I wouldn’t be next. Speaking was the only way kids could make fun of me. Over the years, when I would open my mouth, black kids would call me “white boy.” They said I sounded like a white person when I spoke, so instead of calling me by my name, they called me, “white boy.” And it was when I opened my mouth that kids decided I was gay and would call me things like, “fudge packer” or “faggot.” But, there was no way of escaping this presentation. On the last day of presentations, my teacher called my name. I was shaking when I walked up to the front of class. I was monotone back then and the first words out of my mouth were, “I focused my presentation on English literature, because it’s so fun.” And the class roared with laughter and I thought… “that was funny, they thought that was funny. they’re actually interested in what I have to say. They thought I was being sarcastic.” From that moment on, I knew that if you do something that people like, they will like you, regardless of you being black, gay or whatever… if you are talented, funny, a good athlete, people love you.
I spent so much time dreaming about performing and rehearsing at home, that I figured it was time for me to audition for the school play. I don’t know what possessed me, but I did. I got a small part, but I was the lead male dancer and that was exciting. I met a lot of people that way. I was still always more to myself than part of the group, but I didn’t mind because I thought most of the kids my age were immature. I was good at dancing, so I wasn’t very nervous. I also had 3 law classes with the same teacher and that class helped me the most. The mock trial scenarios we did in class helped me to be more confident, because I was good at it and other kids wanted me on their team. I suddenly felt desirable, like people wanted to be around me and I loved playing a witness. It was acting, it was what I dreamed of doing for so long. I could be confident, because I was being someone else and I was good at it.
My senior year I decided to perform in the talent show. I spent so much time dancing in my living room, I figured I was good enough to at least not get booed off stage. I rehearsed with a friend of mine for at least a month. We would rehearse our 4 minute set in the garage over and over again. If my dad taught me anything it was to be prepared and do my best. In the past I was always afraid of doing my best, afraid that it would draw more attention to me. So, I intentionally ran slower, I knew the answer to the question the teacher was asking the class that no one was raising their hand for, but I was too afraid of being better than other people. But, now that my confidence was rising, I was ready to at least try. I remember 2 nights before the talent show, my step-mother was talking to me about the talent show. She said, “I saw you and your little girl friend rehearsing in the garage. It was cute, but it’s not original. I’ve seen those moves before, you’re not the first person to do them. And you know you’re never going to dance like J.Lo. Sean, some people were meant to be in front of the camera and some were meant to be behind the camera. You were meant to be behind the camera.” I almost cried when she said that, but I didn’t want her to know she had hurt my feelings. Any other time, I would have just dropped out of the talent show. I was easily shaken. You see, I was the type of kid who would go to a new friends house for the first time and be so scared to go to the door that I would walk around the block five times before actually ringing the bell. I was they type of person who would go to an audition and then once I got there, just sit outside and not go in and then tell everyone that I just didn’t make the cut. But, now I had this confidence that grew the more people were negative towards me, so the only thing her comment did, was solidify the fact that I was performing in that talent show and I was going to be the best I could!
I wasn’t very nervous the day of the talent show, because we rehearsed the dance so many times, I could do it blindfolded. The auditorium was packed, it felt like at least half of the three thousand kids that went to my school were there that night. When my friend and I hit the stage, I was so excited. Everyone was screaming. When the music was audible I knew right away that they had started playing the track at a lower volume and then raised it. The same musical phrase is repeated 4 times in the track we were dancing to and then the song would continue, but when we started, we thought we were on the first, but it was actually the second. So, to put this more clearly when the song started, the “1,2,3,4” was not audible to us and we first heard the “5,6,7,8,” thinking it was the “1,2,3,4.” But it was like I had some sort of special spidey-sense and I knew right away that something was off, so I skipped ahead in the dance. My friend mumbled, “what are you doing?” But she too realized what I realized once the bass dropped and then we were both back in time. I was so afraid that because of someone else’s error, my first time putting myself out there on stage was going to be ruined… but it wasn’t! We fixed it and no one even noticed. During the entire dance the crowd was literally losing their minds. Their brains were crawling out of their ears and racing across the floor. I never felt that good in my entire life. We didn’t win, although…, but we felt like we were on top of the world.
I remember my dance partners parents being so proud of us and it felt so great. I wished my parents had come, but of course the time I do something amazing, they’re not there to see it. But, I felt so much better when my friends parents dropped me off at home. They came in the house and said, “why weren’t you at the talent show. you’re son is an amazing dancer. He’s so good.” I didn’t listen to the rest of that conversations, I didn’t care. Having someone else tell my parents that I was in some way valuable, was a personal victory in itself. Plus, whenever I was with a parent of a friend they would always tell me how much they hated my step-mother, so having her talk to them and her not know how much they hated her was another victory. When I went back to school everyone was talking about the talent show and how amazed they were that I could dance. It was crazy. It was like everyone knew me all of a sudden and they liked me. WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN THE LAST SEMESTER OF MY SENIOR YEAR? We had a month left in school and now everyone wants to be my friend?! I didn’t care, I just soaked it all in and for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was accepted.
I got invited to 3 or 4 graduation parties, which was crazy for me. The only party I went to in high school was after prom and that was a fiasco, because I didn’t tell my parents I was going, because I figured they wouldn’t let me AND I spent the night. Surprisingly I was not murdered… but, I think that was only because my uncle was in town and he came to my defense, “he’s young. kids do stupid things. It was prom.” Praise Jesus. But, I couldn’t go to any of the parties, because we literally moved right after graduation ended. Everyone threw their caps in the air and we got in a car and drove to a new house in Warner Robins, GA. I finally was accepted by the masses and I had to leave. My mother didn’t come to my graduation, which at the time I didn’t think anything of. My mother never came to anything in my life, but again, I was young and she was still the woman from 10 years ago in my mind. At this point, I was 17 years old, living in the middle of nowhere Georgia with these people I hated. I needed to get out, but I didn’t know how. I was accepted to a college in FL, but I was too afraid to go back to FL by myself…. I hate myself for ever feeling that way now, I wish I would have just done it, but I was scared and when I was scared as a child, I was scared to death. But, I knew if I didn’t get out of that house, I was never going to get out. So, I came up with a plan.
I hadn’t seen my mother or sisters in years at this point, so I asked my father if I could visit them. At first, he said no. But, a week later, they said, “you’re almost 18 anyway, so yeah, you can visit your family.” I was so excited! It had been years since I saw these people that I thought of every second of everyday. I racked up hundreds of dollars in phone bills sneaking to pay-phones to call them collect every morning before school. And I was finally going to see them, but what my father and step-mother didn’t know was, I was never planning to come back. I wanted to be myself. I wanted to perform, they thought I was no good at it. I wanted to be friends with whoever I wanted, they didn’t agree. I wanted to date guys, they put me down for being too “feminine”. As a matter of fact, the only guy I had ever had a crush on was a boy named Sam. I remember him so well, although I didn’t know him so well. We went to middle school together. I remember how I realized he existed. In 8th grade, we came up with these things called “hot lists” where you listed the hottest people of the opposite sex. I was number one on almost every girls list, mostly because I think it was safe, we were friends, totally not into each other, but we all knew I was cute. But, I noticed on some people’s list, Sam was number one and I remembered thinking, “who the fuck is Sam?” My friend pointed him out, and I immediately had a crush on this boy. If I was in this situation today, I would have perceived that he was gay too, but back then I thought I was the only gay person on the planet. And I admired him from afar. But, I didn’t want that to happen anymore and I knew as long as I lived with these people who did not support me for who I was…. I would never be happy. So, I got on the plane and never came back.