How Sean Became Sebastian – Part VI

Sebastian Cummings as a teenager

Flying from Atlanta, GA to Philadelphia, PA, I had the song “Best of You” by Foo Fighters on repeat in my mind. To this day, that song is a song of independence, of escape, of freedom. I can still see my view from the plane as we pulled into the gate. I couldn’t believe I was in Philadelphia and I was going to see my mom and my sisters again. It seemed like a dream that was never going to come true. I was afraid I was going to die before I managed to get off the plane, because it felt too good to be true. I remember my mom pulling up to the airport in her Honda Element and because she had one, it was now the car of freedom. It was a happy car. People who had this car were happy. I remember my mom and my sister screaming with excitement when I got in the car. I finally felt like I was surrounded by love. The first thing my mother asked me was, “What do you want to eat?” And while this sounds like a simple question, I had no idea how to answer it. No one ever asked me what I wanted, even when it came to eating. I didn’t have an opinion, my father and step-mother chose everything for me, I ate what they wanted to eat. My first response was, “whatever you want.” My mom asked, “but what do you want?” And from the backseat of the my mother’s Honda Element, a tear fell from my eye. This was the world that everyone else lived in, where people care what you want, where you have a choice.
My mother had no idea I planned on staying forever and I was too afraid to mention it, so I waited. We visited every family member in the area, all of which were so happy to see me. I was like a celebrity, because I had spent so much time away from Philadelphia, it was a special occasion to see me. I remember being called handsome, this was something I wasn’t very used to. I remember the first time I was called handsome as a teenager. I was 16 years old and my father’s sister was visiting and when she saw me, she said, “Sean, you look like a model. He’s so handsome, isn’t he?” And my step-mother replied, “I don’t think he’s that handsome, I think his nose is too wide.” And just like that, my bubble burst, the little bit of happiness I had, destroyed. But, now when people called me handsome, there was no one there to spoil that moment for me. I finally got to spend time with my sisters. My younger sister was harder to spend time with because my step-father had a schedule for her that did not shift just because I was there. She was 12 years old and an active soccer player and our hang outs would be cut short for her to take a nap, eat her snack or anything else. I remembered instantly feeling a sense of separation my step-father created between my sister and everyone else and it felt strange, because she was my sister. We have the same blood, we are almost the same person, but this stranger could come in and tell me to leave my sister alone. But, no one could keep me from hanging out with my older sister. My older sister was always the most protective person in my life, probably because everyone else in my life spent so much time bringing me down. Over the course of that week, my sister, mother and I caught up and had, what at that time was, the time of my life.
The day before I was to leave, my mother, step-father, sisters, aunt, uncle and cousin all went to Hershey Park. I still hadn’t asked if I could stay because I was afraid to. I was always afraid to ask for anything, but I thought this would come easy. More than anything in life, I did not want to go back to Georgia, but second to that, I didn’t want to be told that I couldn’t stay. That day at Hershey Park was one of the best days of my life, I felt free and I was surrounded by people who loved me and it only got better. It was still daylight out and my step-father said we were leaving and I thought it was strange, but I didn’t think anything of it, but, it turns out, we were actually leaving the park to go to a Destiny’s Child concert. Yes, I was 16 years old and my parents SURPRISED me with a Destiny’s Child concert. Anyone who knows me today, knows I am a Beyoncé fan. But, before I was getting down with the Single Ladies, I was an Independent Woman. I LOVED DESTINY’S CHILD. This day couldn’t get any better. I could, with my own eyes, see Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. I was the happiest 17 year old, gay boy in the world.
When we went home that night, I knew it was my last chance to begin make my case for staying. When my mother came to my bed to give me a kiss goodnight, I began the conversation. Side-note – a kiss goodnight was something I was very unused to, no one ever gave me a kiss… ever, no one ever showed me affection except for my mother, the person I saw the least in life. I stated as plainly as possible, “Mommy, I don’t want to go back, can I please stay?” My mother looked at me in silence for maybe 5 seconds and said, “of course, sweetie.” I couldn’t believe it. You know people say that all the time, “I can’t believe it,” and it’s more of a hyperbole, but I honestly could not believe it. I could stay. I didn’t have to go back. No more sweeping, mopping, cleaning baseboards, dusting, vacuuming, taking care of children, mowing the lawn, being told how unusual I was… no more. When I woke up in the morning, I experienced it all again. I remembered everything and it wasn’t a dream this time. It was true. It was real life. Imagine your biggest dream, the thing you hope for everyday for 10 years, the thing you would do anything for. Now, imagine someone giving it to you one day, by simply saying, “of course, sweetie.” I couldn’t believe it!
I was afraid to call my father the next day to tell him. I didn’t know what he would say or do and I knew he would be upset. My mother sat next to me when I called him, but the conversation was surprisingly short. I told him I was staying and he said, “send your cell phone back in the mail,” and that was pretty much the entire conversation and that was the last time I spoke to him for 5 years. The first week or so, was like a dream. No one was there to criticize me or put me down. I could listen to whatever music I wanted, watch whatever show I wanted, stay up as late as I wanted (I had a bedtime of 10pm when I lived with my father). After a week or so, I began experiencing post-achievement depression. When you spend so much time and energy working toward a goal and finally reach it, it’s easy to be overcome with the sense that there is nothing else to live for. It may not make much sense to someone on the outside, but it’s real and it feels real. Finding out I was accepted to Rutgers University helped me to escape that depression.

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