BY AARON STELLA Welcome back to another long awaited edition of GAYDAR! Let’s do a little recap on the parts of my crazy so-called life I have shared thus far: My family had extricated themselves from a crazy Christian cult in Augusta, GA, and have fled to Alabama to wait out the imminent apocalyptic storm of Y2K. We were, disappointed, to say the least, with the grand finale. Fast forward to 2003, I no longer live with my family. My homosexuality being one of the many reasons. My friend Andrew’s family has taken me in, and I’ve just heard word that my parents have divorced. Being that I was the scapegoat in the family, hearing that my father was finally incurring the blame that he deserved, I was imbued with a satisfying sense of justice served, and took no qualms severing any remaining sentimental ties with my biological family. Heretofore, I believed my family, particularly my parents, to be the most detrimental factor in my life. Conversely, Andrew’s family was heaven-sent. And as time went on, I began to treat them as my new family, my permanent family, the family that was everything I believed a good family should be. At last, I believed I was loved unconditionally. Coming from a family where I was nothing but a problem, my fantasies of a happy life had finally become a reality.
Or so I thought.
I mentioned in past posts that the person I grew closest with in Andrew’s family was Andrew’s father. More than likely, this extra intimacy, or, subconscious desire for intimacy, resulted from my extant lack of fatherly love. We spent many evenings talking well into the night, conversing about whatever the wind blew in. Of course, I dominated most of our exchanges with accounts of life with my family, to which Andrew’s father would readily commiserate. Although I didn’t notice it at the time, he always went out of his way to volley his perception of my past circumstances back to me with extra hyperbole so as to goad my already fervent anger towards my family. He was hatching a plan: to win my trust, and ultimately, guardianship of me. I had no idea why he wanted this. Even in retrospect, I can only speculate. All I know is that this is what he, and purportedly, what the rest of his family wanted.
I touched on the issue of my incontinence in the last post. Although it was waning, I still had nighttime “accidents”. One day, Andrew’s father told me he was going to take me to see a friend of his in Atlanta who was an urologist. He thought that he might be able to determine the source of my incontinence, and perhaps be able to assuage it. During the drive to Atlanta, Andrew’s father divulged his knowledge of my other nocturnal habits: perusing gay porn on the Internet. Obviously, I was startled and scared by his discovery, remembering how my family had reacted to the same discovery. Instead of a harsh haranguing, which I expected, Andrew’s father smiled, and began to disclose to me a secret of his past. He told me that he had been a victim of molestation, from a priest actually. He told me that this experience made him feel confused about his sexuality; confusion that has lasted to this very day. At that admittance, he put his arm around my shoulder and started to massage it tenderly. He asked me, “Is this alright?” I nodded. I admit, I was both curious as to what more he had to say, as well as happy that I had found someone with whom I could talk openly about my homosexuality. I was impressed that the staunchness of his Catholicism didn’t discourage him from volunteering his past experience and currents feelings, which, if exposed, could devastate his whole life. Of course, he told me not to breathe a word of it to anyone, especially to his wife.
Coincidentally, Andrew’s father’s urologist friend was also homosexual. After his assistants made a culture of my urine, which was done on the spot since he was such close friends with Andrew’s father, the urologist discovered that I had a staff infection in my urinary track. He said, however, that it was not the source of my incontinence. Staff, does not cause incontinence. On the trip back, I disclosed more intimate information about my past to Andrew’s father. Again, it felt good to have somebody listen and not judge me.
March 3rd, 2003. The day that my life took an unexpected turn for the worse. It was annual picture day at the Catholic high school I attended. It’s when the school gathers together for pictures to be put in the yearbook. I was never a big fan. Last year, I skipped picture day, and since the school didn’t seem to mind last year, I figured I could follow suit this year. Once the half-day of classes had concluded, Andrew picked me up and I went home with him. About an hour later I received a call from the school disciplinarian. He said that I had forgotten to sign out before I left, and that I had broken a school rule by leaving campus. I explained to him what I had done the year prior, and apologized for not signing out and for worrying them, emphasizing the fact that I had no idea that I had breached protocol. My record spoke for itself. I had never received a single detention, and I was known as a courteous student. I expected a few detentions at worst. Boy, was I wrong. The disciplinarian told me that because of my blatant disregard for the rules that I had incurred 45 detentions!
I was furious. Notwithstanding my already simmering resentment of authority of any kind, I had done nothing to deserve the level of punishment I had received. There was no way in hell I was going to serve those detentions. Not only were there 45 of them, but detentions at the catholic high school I attended were utterly fascist. You served detention during lunch period, which lasted an hour. You eat lunch alone, and had to maintain perfect posture without allowing your elbows to touch the table while you ate. If you were to slouch, fall asleep, let your elbows inadvertently touch the table, or did anything that registered as illicit to the disciplinarian, you incurred another detention. Some students spent most of the school year in detention.
As I lamented my loss of freedom, Andrew’s father, who more than comprehended the gravity of my ire, approached me with an intriguing proposition: “What say you withdraw from high school, get your GED, and apply for early admission at Wallace Community College.” (named after George Wallace, the notorious segregationist, which was code in Alabama for racist) Andrew’s father went onto explain that since my parents still held legal guardianship of me, I would have to legally emancipate myself, since my parents would certainly oppose the truncation of my private education. The next day I went back to school and notified the headmaster of my plans to withdraw, and despite his protestations, I remained firm in my resolve.
I returned to Andrew’s house with newfound sense of power and self-confidence. I knew I was headed into uncharted waters, but at least they were my steps, my own courageous strides into a future that I had decided myself. The next step was to pursue emancipation. Andrew’s father told me that if I could obtain a signature from my erstwhile psychiatrist on the proper legal document I could approach a judge with an appeal for my emancipation. I called my old psychiatrist and explained my situation to him. He told me that he would be happy to help, and that I should come to his office in Birmingham immediately so we could expedite the process forthwith. At that, Andrew’s whole family piled in the car.
We parked in the parking lot outside the psychiatrist’s office. We walked in; Andrew’s family took a seat in the waiting room while the receptionist escorted me upstairs. Once inside the psychiatrist’s office, I shook his hand and thanked him for meeting me on such short notice. He said it was fine. We then proceeded to another room in the two-story building reserved for more private meetings. As we made our way to the room, I heard the shuffling thuds of footsteps behind me. I glanced back, only to find two policemen and my parents in tow. Before I could react, we had all congregated in the back room, whereupon the psychiatrist said, “This is for your own good.” The policemen then followed with, “Now we don’t want any trouble Mr. Stella.” My parents stood expressionless with their arms folded across their chests. Then I heard the squeal of tires as Andrew’s family peeled out of the parking lot. The police spooked them, and for good reason. Later I would learn that Andrew’s family was wanted in three states for child abduction. So it wasn’t they who called the police on me; it was my parents. Inside the back room, my parents delivered me their ultimatum: either I go home with them, or be put in a psych ward. Obviously, I chose to go home with them. My parents looked at each other and shook their heads. My mother then said that they actually preferred that I be put in a psych ward, and that I had no choice in the matter. Then they said that if I chose to flee, that the police would handcuff me, and I would be committed to the ward anyway.
TO BE CONTINUED