Back when I went to Red Lion
Christian School, two towns over,
because my parents insisted
it was the only good one around,
even when Dad had to wake me up
before daybreak so I could be
the first one on that bus
out of the middle of nowhere—
back when school still
meant recess, and the other
first-grade boys foamed at the mouth
for it like caged animals,
I used to avoid their kickball games
and enter the girls’ world
of pretend instead, as a prince
or a superhero,
because I knew if one day
I stood in the outfield, I’d just draw
in the sand as Zachary caught
the ball, scoring the third out—
and I hadn’t yet even imagined how uninvited
I’d feel years later, in my high school
Bible study, or the locker room
before track practice.
I remember how quickly
I laughed it off when
that javelin thrower asked me,
Hey Justin, you’re gay, right?
It was nearly impossible not to notice Patrick—
I could hear his energetic, high-pitched voice even
when he sat on the other side of the staff tables
in the camp dining hall. I aspired to be as confident as him.
I only said to Patrick when I came back
that second summer. I joined the staff Bible study.
I had crushes on a lifeguard, the pottery instructor,
my cabinmate. I kept it to myself.
I’ve been thinking I might be gay, I said
to Patrick the day before we left for the summer,
as we took apart a campsite. He hugged me
in the trees, where no one else could see us.
Maybe I’ll get to thank Patrick this summer,
in the city, when I run into him at a bar
on a Saturday night, our boyfriends
in tow. Maybe he won’t recognize me.
I tend to like a boy who looks
how I wish I did, like the characters
I used to make in video games—build him thin
but add some muscle, pick the hair
that’s messy in just
the right way, which eye color
is the best for staring into?—
as if I could inhale
some of his style and charm
every time we kissed.