31 January 2011

My friend, My brother

When I was 17, I met a 14 year old that would change my life forever. I was working at a Lil’ Grocer market, which was much like a 7-11, only worse. The night manager, David, was a great guy, always laughing and held a sense of humor that would have made it worth being there for free, let alone the minimum wage of $3.35 I was making at the time. It’s amazing to look back and remember how rich I thought myself for making such money. Ah, hindsight… my old friend!

My first night there, this young boy walks in, talks to Dave and comes to the cooler to help me stock milk and other cold products. My still being rather quiet and shy, I said very little to this kid, but he kept talking to me. He told me his name was Jason, and he was precocious and hyper, and had a natural aura of happiness and humor about him; something he got from his father, whom I found out shortly thereafter, was my Manager, David. We talked a bit, and he was scolded for wasting time, and left.

The next day, I had come into the store as a customer and saw him there again. We started talking and it was as if we had known one another our entire lives. We had an instant connection, and he came back to my parent’s house, where I still lived, and we watched the new VHS rental release of Born in East L.A. OK, not a great movie, but it cemented the foundation of a new friendship.

Over the next few years, I finally, if not slower than snot in winter, began coming out of the closet. This turned out to be very difficult for him to understand or accept, as he looked up to me as a big brother, the kind of guy he thought he should be, and I went from dressing like a hard-core rocker with torn jeans, t-shirts with profane directions and long hair falling past my shoulders, to an almost overnight preppy with collared neon shirts (Hey, it was the 80’s) and a short, neat haircut. He was confused and started avoiding me, and my heart began to crush under the weight of the distance that was developing between us.

While his father was always fun and great to me, I learned that at home, he was an abusive pot-head that kept his children second to everything; so when his mother, who lived in Kentucky, was able to afford the airline ticket, he flew out to see her for Christmas, and never came back. I lost my dearest friend, and the only person who really knew me at all. My heart felt as though a piece were taken from it, and left un-whole. But, life moved on and I went from relationship to relationship, having lost all contact with him as he was now somewhere up in the Appalachian Mountains never to be seen or heard from again. Until one night, when I came home and my boyfriend told me about a strange call he had received from someone named Jason and handed me a note with a scribbled phone number. My heart leaped as high as my spirit, and I was on the phone to him within seconds. As though no time had passed at all, we picked up right where we left off, catching one another up on our lives that had passed by. It had been several years and yet we spoke as if we had seen one another only that morning.

A few weeks later I flew out to Kentucky and visited him in Whitesburg, spent 2 weeks there and realized how much he had grown up. He was no longer that kid, and no longer looked up to me. He had surpassed me in every way possible, and in his presence, I started to feel like the small child, especially in such a foreign environment as this. If you have never been to the Deep South, then going there for the first time as a California native was much akin to visiting a foreign country; albeit, a beautiful one that I fell in love with.
Over the next 7 years Jason joined the army, and I surprised him by flying back out for his graduation from boot camp at Fort Knox, and attended his wedding that same week. We never lost contact again. His first born daughter was given my last name as her middle, and was my god-daughter. Three children and a couple more years passed, and he had made the decision that it was time for him to come home. He came out to California and in a time when no one could find work, he secured a great job and a new home in 24 hours. I flew out with him back to Kentucky and drove back to California driving the moving truck and his family. He was here again, and my life had seemed to find that missing piece that had been lost for so many years.

Today, he is the most amazing father and husband anyone could ask for. He got over his childish insecurity about my being gay, so much so that, when I got married in 2008, he stood by me as my best man, and marched for opposition against Proposition 8 that was meant to abolish gay marriage in California. To those who know us, we are simply best of friends. To one another, we are brothers joined at the thought; to me, he is the friend who saved me from a loneliness in life that no lover, family member or husband could understand or fill. He is the part of me that was missing at birth and having come full circle, he is back in my life, and we feel complete and on equal ground. We both have our families, but to one another, we will always be something very different. Beyond the relationship of lovers or friends, family or acquaintances, we have an unspoken and mutual understanding of one another, feel each other’s pain and can brighten one another’s mood with a no-holds bared understanding. Jason is not just the best friend I could hope for, but despite the constant challenges life has thrown at him, he is the best human being this world could hope to have, and because of him, my life is richer, and I am a better person for having him, a true brother, in my world.

Point of the conversation: Keep your friends close . . . full stop.

- Shaun Taylor

1 comment:

  1. Shaun, this moved me to tears! I love that he was able to move beyond his initial dismay at your coming out, even to the point of campaigning against Prop 8. Congratulations to you both on having this special bond.


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