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how i came out of the closet and ruined my life (part 1)
it all started on thursday, with grilled cheese. i closed with teena, and marie was coordinator. she didn't forget about the grilled cheese. she still thought it was fun to tease me about it, so every time she saw me, she would say, 'debbie likes grilled cheese,' and i'd smack her and tell her to shut up. it was ok. everybody thought we were being silly, just like when she steals my allen iverson, and everybody sees us fighting for that. it was no big deal. in fact, after a while, i started expecting to hear 'grilled cheese,' not 'girls,' and it didn't even bother me that she was saying it. i smacked her anyway, just to be consistent.

then gary, the policeman that always talks to me, showed up for the night. marie asked him, 'did you know that debbie likes grilled cheese?'
i smacked her. he laughed and asked, 'so what does debbie really like?'
i was scared. she hesitated, because i think she was as surprised as i was. how did he know that i really liked anything? why didn't he just think we were being stupid, like everybody else thought?
she said, 'allen iverson. debbie really likes allen iverson,' and then she reached into my pocket to get him, because if we were wrestling for allen iverson and ignoring gary, maybe he would forget that he had asked that question.

it worked, for the time being, but after a while, marie was out supervising the floor, and i was helping people at the counter, and gary went over and talked to her. then she went on break, and gary came over to me. there were no customers. he remarked, 'you shouldn't tell marie your secrets.'
i just stare at him. how does he know i told marie a secret? did marie tell him?
'what'd she say?' i ask, trying to sound casual.
'oh, she didn't say it, exactly. she told me she wasn't at liberty to discuss it, and i should figure it out.'
'you should figure it out...' i repeat.
'yeah, so i think i did.'
'you figured it out?'
'i had probably figured it out before she told me to figure it out, truthfully,' he replies, 'but i don't want to say anything, because i'm not sure. and i wouldn't want to say it, if i'm wrong.'
'oh,' i say, and then the urge to run away gets the best of me, and i turn and flee back into the office, where i frantically search for something to distract me.

i go crazy. it's just like that day in october, when jim told me that he thought he knew. gary knows, too. i don't want him to know. i'm not ready for people to know... i'm scared. i kick things and hit myself and pace in circles and i'm crazy nervous.
gary tells teena that he's going outside, and he goes. teena is starting to look at me like i'm crazy, so i go back out to the counter and go crazy out there. sam (the boy) tries to talk to me about programming, and i try to answer, but he keeps asking if i'm ok. in the middle of our conversation, marie comes back from break and comes behind the service desk, and i immediately ask her, 'why did you tell him?'
'i didn't,' she answers.
'you told him to figure it out,' i accuse.
'well he did!'
'he did not,' she tells me.
'did not.'
'he did, man, do you think i would lie? he figured it out!'
sam is looking at us like we're nuts.
marie asks, 'but how?'
'i don't know,' i tell her.
'hey,' sam jokes, 'i'm right here. you don't have to pretend you're not talking about me.'
'i don't see how he could have figured it out from that,' marie tells me.
'because i'm smart,' sam says, 'and i can figure anything out.'
sam gets a customer and i tell marie, 'me either. i don't even know how he got from grilled cheese to anything else.'
helen comes over to look at the break list, in the middle of this conversation.
'i didn't mean for him to, debbie,' marie says.
'it doesn't matter what you meant!'
'i know... are you sure, though?'
helen asks, 'what's going on?'
'nothing,' i tell her.
'is everything ok?' helen asks.
'we're fine,' marie says, 'she's fine.'
'she doesn't look fine,' helen says, 'you can tell me, it's ok.'
marie shakes her head, and helen whines, 'come on,' and i can just see helen turning into gary, and then sam, and before long it will be everywhere and i have to get away. i run back into the office again, and collapse onto a stool, and teena says, in this mysterious voice, 'i figured it out, too, debbie.'
it's like a fucking horror movie.
'shut up,' i plead.
'what did you just say?' teena asks, and i get up and i'm walking out of the office, while teena calls after me, 'what did you just tell me, debbie? what did you just say?' and i can still hear helen trying to make a bargain with marie. 'it's ok, you can tell me. what's wrong with debbie?'
i walk out the low door, and sam and helen come at me from either side, trying to stop me, and asking where i'm going, and what's wrong, so i alter my path and tell them, 'i just have to go to the bathroom.'
they can't tell if i'm lying or not, so they let me go. i fake like i'm going in there, but the bathrooms stink, so i sneak to the break room instead. there's nobody in there, and i sit down in front of a heating vent, and put my face in my arms on the table, and try to figure out what to do. does teena really know, or was she just teasing? and either way, gary knows...
i sit there and shake. i don't know what i'm thinking. actually, i can't really think. i'm just scared, and i think that over and over. he knows. i'm scared. he knows. i'm scared.
after about 5 minutes, marie comes into the room. she says, 'i've been looking everywhere for you,' and she comes over and pulls a chair up next to mine and sits down. she puts her hand on my back and says, 'debbie, it's ok. look at me.'
i can't look at her. i think it's because i'm afraid to open my eyes. when they're shut, it's just me and my thoughts and i can make believe that the world is back to happening in my mind again, but when i open my eyes, i'll realize that the world is real.
she pries my head out of my arms, and she holds my face in her hands. 'open your eyes,' she says. i don't. she says it again, and i open them, and look into her eyes, and they're all soft and tender because she's concerned. it somehow makes it worse to see how much she cares, so i look away.
'please debbie, look at me,' she says.
i try. she says, 'even if he knows, so what? he doesn't care. and it's not like he's that important to you, anyway. why does it matter?'
'because i don't want him to know!'
'debbie, everybody knows. i've known for over a year, now. jane knows. teena knows. do they care? they don't, debbie. nobody dislikes you for it. they really don't care...'
'a year?' i ask, 'how?'
'your buddy christine,' she replies. 'she told jane, jane told me, you know how gossip spreads around here...'
i'm in shock... my perfect christine told everybody that i'm gay? that just doesn't seem like something she would do... i thought she would keep my secret... 'christine told jane?' i ask quietly.
marie sighs. 'not exactly,' she says, 'but that night, she came back inside, and people were worried, and they asked her about you. and she said something like, i'm the only one who could help her with it. and jane isn't stupid. she knew what that meant.'
they know because of christine. it makes me want to smile and it makes me want to cry. she told them because she was proud, because all she wanted was to help me through it. just like all i wanted was for her to help me through it. it was the perfect solution, that i had in christine, but it was so perfect that it ended up outting me to everybody in the store...
marie says anybody who worked here with christine knows. amit and jane and teena and tasha and michelle know. she says even billie (remember billie?) knows, she bets. and rashid? why do i think he always jokes with me about being bad? do i really think it's just a joke, when it's lasted for an entire year, and we bring it up every single day? or do i think that maybe joking is just the easiest way for both of us to deal with it? how about my parents? why do i think they're always asking me about boys? do i really think that they have no suspicions? she says no offense, but i'm not exactly the most straight-acting girl. she says most people probably have their suspisions... and she says that she can't speak for my parents or for my friends, but the people here don't care. she says i see them around terrie, and i have to see that they don't have a problem with that, and i have to realize that it won't be any different with me.
she talks to me for a long time. she keeps trying to tell me that they already know, and that nothing has changed, and that they don't care, but it doesn't fix this feeling inside of me. finally, i snap, 'it has changed. it's different. you just don't get it.'
i think that hurts her feelings. she says quietly, 'debbie, i get it. i get that you have a secret, and that you're used to keeping it inside of you. and i understand that it's hard for you to realize that your secret isn't so secret any more. but i also get that nothing has changed, and you don't seem to get that. you need to realize that you can't keep running away from this. if you would keep being yourself, and keep smiling and laughing and showing off your new legos, everything would be exactly the same. but when you're moping around, and hiding in the break room for hours, that's when things become different.'
then she stands up, and says, 'come on, let's get back to work.'
i don't get up. she comes up behind me and picks me up, and drags me towards the door. i put up a small fight, but i mostly let her... until i see gary walking down the hall, coming our way. then i get terrified, and i start thrashing around like a fish out of water, and i manage to slide to the ground, scramble backwards between her legs, and crab walk all the way back to the break room. i hear marie and gary laughing, and i know they're laughing at me. i need to hide, but the break room is way too open, so i just curl up in a tiny ball in the corner next to the door, and press myself against the wall, and hope that maybe he'll poke his head in here, not see me, and assume that i just pulled a vanishing act.

he comes all the way in the room. he looks at me and asks, 'what are you doing?'
'i-i-i'm cold. i just wanted the heat. yeah, the heat,' and i scramble over to the nearest heating vent, and curl up in front of it.
he looks at me and asks, 'are you ok? i've never seen you go crazy like that before!'
'yeah, mmmmm... warmth,' i say, rubbing my hands together.
he looks at me like i've lost it. marie comes over and stands next to me and puts her hand on my shoulder and reassures gary, 'she's ok. she's just being goofy.'
he looks back and forth between the two of us, and finally he says, 'ok...' and he turns around and leaves.

marie and i look at each other, and i tell her, 'see, he thinks i'm crazy!'
'he sure does,' she agrees, 'but i don't think it has anything to do with your sexuality...'
she tells me that i need to go back up front now. i say i can't. she sighs and says, 'ok, i'll give you some time alone to think. but you can't run away forever. you need to face this, sometime,' and then she goes.

i put my head in my arms and i try to think. i decide that i need to leave. i'll go talk to teena, and i think she'll let me go. i get my coat and head out of the break room, and marie is coming down the hallway. she turns me around and pulls me back in and says, 'ok, listen, i just talked to teena and the policeman. teena has no idea what you were talking about; she was just joking. and the policeman doesn't know, either. you don't have to worry.'
she may be telling the truth about teena, but i know that she's lying about the policeman. she's just trying to make me feel better. i tell her, 'i don't believe you.'
she tries to convince me of it for a little, and then she gives up. she says it doesn't matter anyway. she says we'll go outside and smoke a cigarette, and then i need to go back to work. i find a better corner to hide in, and i don't move, so she comes back to talk to me again. she tells me that everybody has something about themselves that they're not happy with. but you have to learn to accept yourself, and not worry about what other people think. she says something about the time that she told jane that she was bisexual, and i realize that it's the first time i've heard her call herself that. until now, if i hadn't heard it from christine, i could have assumed her to be bi-curious, or BWD (bi when drunk). then she says that she struggled with her weight for a long time, and her mom calls her 'fat' and 'ugly' all the time. she says that after a while, you work past that, and you just accept yourself for who you are. she tells me she loves me, and then she helps me up and takes me up front. she tells teena that we're going outside to smoke a cigarette.
teena asks if i'm ok. i tell her that i'm sick, and i need to go home. teena says, 'you're lying, but ok.'
marie tells her, 'she doesn't need to go home. she's going to be fine,' and then we go outside.

i want to go home, home. i want to see my parents and my sister...
i tell marie that, while she smokes her cigarette. she sighs and asks, 'so you can pretend to be straight?'
'yeah,' i agree. and then i think of something funny.
'i want to go home, because there, they think i'm normal. but when i'm home, i want to get away, and come back here, because at home, they think i'm normal.'
she laughs and squeezes my hand and says, 'you know, i was talking to terrie about this the other day... i asked her if she used to date boys, and you know what? she did. she said in high school, and even in college, she dated boys, just to fit in, to try to be 'normal.' it took time to figure it out, and to get used to it, even for her. and she's about the gayest person i've ever met!'
i smile and ask, 'so do you think i'll ever be like terrie?'
'someday, you will,' she says. 'sooner or later, you'll decide to be honest with yourself, and with everybody else.'
'probably later,' i guess.
she smiles and teases, 'not if i have any say in it...'
then she gives me a hug, says, 'i love you,' lets go, puts her arm around my shoulder, and walks back inside with me.

all in all, it was over an hour and a half that i was gone. teena waited on the counter and counted tills and ran the floor, and i feel a little bad, because i hate it when people do that to me, and teena is one of the few people who never makes me do all the work. but mostly, i feel scared because i'm still messed up from gary knowing, and from the idea that the entire store knows, and that rashid knows it's not a joke, and all that. marie goes home, and i finish my night. i don't talk to teena. she tries to talk to me, and i don't answer, so finally she tells me, 'ok, i'll stop talking to you.' i still don't say anything, so she does.

i go home and i start crying. i can't stop. i just feel terrible. i realize that i'm not crying because i'm upset that gary knows. i'm crying because i'm upset that it upsets me that he knows. i thought that i was over this. all those emotions that i felt when jim found out, i thought that i wouldn't ever have to feel them again. i thought that i was finally ok with myself, and that if people found out, i could handle it. i thought i was going to tell my parents, soon. i thought that i was going to tell alana and extra as soon as i got a chance. i thought that i could take the lesbian class, and talk about myself openly. i thought that spring quarter, i would be able to join the gay group. i had been so proud of myself, and so sure that i was doing the right things, because i thought that i had made progress. but then this happens, and i realize that i'm in the exact same spot that i was a year and a half ago. all that thinking and analyzing and reading and writing and discussing and planning got me absolutely nowhere. not one thing has changed. i am still afraid of who i am, and i am still not ready to let anybody else know. and if none of that worked, i'm all out of ideas. if i haven't made any changes yet, i will never be able to make any changes. no matter how much progress i think i'm making, i will always be stuck right where i was a year and a half ago. and that is what upsets me.

i feel completely hopeless. i'm sobbing and shaking and i need to get away. i go get in my car and i drive. i drive past marie's house, and her car is in the driveway, but it's too late to go see her. i drive past my grocery store, and my udf. and then i keep driving, all the way downtown, and drive around down there, past all the gay shops, and i just cry, for what i am and for what i never will be.

after i've wasted a lot of gas, i go home. i go inside and shower and get into bed around 5, but i can't sleep. i keep tossing and turning and crying, and when one batch of tears finally subsides, the next one starts up. at 10, i'm still awake. i'm exhausted, but i know that i can't sleep. so i get up and i go to my first class. i try to take notes and i try to pay attention, but there's something in me that just wants to run away. i can't do this.

as soon as the class lets out, i leave. i run home, backpack and all. i had homework due in my next two classes, and it had completely slipped my mind, but i think that even if i had remembered it, i would have went home anyway. homework seems insignificant, compared to what i'm feeling.

i collapse onto my bed and cry some more. i think i cry myself to sleep, and i wake up about an hour later, and i cry some more. i think that i hate myself. i hate this. i don't even want to exist. i wish i was dead. i could just take a whole lot of pills, and end this right now, and i wouldn't have to deal with this any more. and i start to get up, to see how much advil i have, and then i get really scared, because i can't believe i just had that thought. i remember that i vowed, after talking to christine, that i could never kill myself, and i meant it. i haven't even considered it since then. so the fact that i just thought that is really really scary. and even if i could do it, i realize, i don't actually want to die. that's only my second choice. my first choice, what i really want, is just to be like terrie. i just want feel good about myself, and to be able to be open and honest about who i am.
[from here, it gets fuzzy. i'm not sure how one thing led to the next, because looking back on it, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. but in that moment, everything seemed simple and logical, and i was sure that i was thinking clearly.]
so i realized that i didn't want to die; i just wanted to be like terrie. but thinking and planning and analyzing and writing wasn't doing that for me. and hiding from people wasn't doing that for me. and lying to people wasn't doing that for me. and i couldn't think of anything else to try, besides to tell the truth.
and then it's like i turned into a robot. somebody entered the command, 'tell the truth,' and i have to execute that. so i walk over to my computer, sit down, open up the email program, open up my address book, and start selecting. i go down the list and i methodically select everybody that i've talked to in the past month. when i'm done selecting, the to field contains the following people:
extra, alana, lauren, my mom, my dad, my sister, cindy, nikki, brandy, jay, and t4
(the last two were on there because they both had said, directly or indirectly, to e-mail them. so i figured i'd kill two birds with one stone.)
then i type the e-mail.
    subject: just in case you were wondering...

    i'm gay. and if you weren't wondering, i'm still gay.
    if you already knew that, congratulations. if not, now you know.

    (and no, this isn't my psycho roommate playing tricks on me. this is really debbie, and i'm really gay. i just ran out of things to say, besides the truth.)

i'm not thinking about what i'm typing, really. i'm just letting the words come straight out of my fingers... they're on a mission. and when i stop typing, there's barely a moment's hesitation before i'm clicking send.

and then i snap out of it. the screen flashes up the sent message confirmation, and i'm not a robot any more. i look at the screen, and it says, 'your message has been sent to the following recipients:' and the list is so long that i have to scroll down just to see them all... and i guess that's when reality sunk in...

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Debbie, if only I could meet you right now, I would give you a hug and tell you that while you feel like the world is collapsing around you, your relations with your family and friends will be even closer once the true you is revealed. It was not honorable whatsoever for Marie to out you, regardless whether that was directly or indirectly. She shouldn't have even hinted at the fact that you are gay; nobody should make that admission, but the owner of that fact, and that was just very juvenile of her. However, it was probably out of ignorance that she did that action. I know; when my sister found out about me, she made hints about it too, and pretty much forced me to tell my parents. I wasn't ready or planning to, but it had to happen because my sister gave hints like Marie did. I don't believe she understood how serious forcing me to come out was: only after my refusal to talk with her for two solid months did she realize that she made a huge mistake. However, in reviewing that, I have to say that in a small way, she forced me to open the lines of communication with my parents, and also the lines of communications with myself. I knew that I didn't want this to be within me any longer, and while I was scared to admit the fact I was gay to my parents, my sexuality was a part of me and I wanted my parents and friends to know me, the true me. And you know what? I was scared to death of the possible consequences. Scared to death. And yes, when I made that admission to my parents, sure, they were taken aback and shocked. But Debbie, you have no idea how close I am to my friends who know, and how it seems I am closer to my parents now that they know. It's wonderful how the truth set me free. Though the issue of my homosexuality doesn't actively come up, I have more depthful conversations with my friends whom I grew closer to, I don't have to lie to my parents about my whereabouts, my parents accept me for who I am, nothing has changed between us, and I'm closer to those at work who know about me. But even moreso, though my friends treat me better now that they know the true me, it doesn't come up. Deb, your homosexuality will not be an issue with your family or friends in the long run. Sure, they might be a little surprised, taken aback, or even question you. But your family probably loves you very much, and if your family takes it like mine, it will not be an issue whatsoever. As for your friends and co-workers, they will probably take it even better, and you will grow closer to them since they will know the true you. And if you don't grow closer, than nothing will change between your friendships. It won't be an issue, and if it is, then they're not true friends and this admission will be a great test of your friendship bonds. I haven't even spoken about how good you will feel once the secret you've harbored for years is out, not entrapped within you. You will feel a release like you've never felt, like the yoke burdened on your shoulders is lifted. If you haven't already felt that burden lighten, it will. So Deb, the summary is this; apparently, your co-workers don't care, your friends probably won't care, and your family will likely not care. There may be shock at first, but it's natural-it wears off and will wear off. I felt the same way you did-defensive, angry, and sad over worrying about the consequences. But I'm telling you that there really aren't any consequences, and there isn't much basis for worry, as you should soon discover. People will react the way they do, and that's up to them. But most likely, they will support you and not think of you being "gay," but continue to consider you as "Debbie," as a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, grandchild, or friend-depending on the relevant title. Trust me, and I hope you feel better. Keep us tuned on what happens, and good luck.

Sorry...html language apparently isn't my forte..but despite the excessive italics, the message is still the same.

i don't actually want to die. that's only my second choice. my first choice, what i really want, is just to be like terrie.

I am really, reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllly glad you didn't die.

But despite everything, I found it a slightly humorous that your ranking was
1-be like terrie
it just seemed like a kind of odd comparison, you know :-p
but I guess I know what you really meant by that.

oh, the little things...

On to parts 2 and 3...the anticipation has been building all day!

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