I was shaking.
Tapping the microphone in front of me I tried to calm myself before I looked down at my notes. It was Sunday, and I was giving my sermon. Most times I was able to speak through the lump in my throat and my foggy mind, but today my distress felt worse. Regardless, I did finish my sermon and left the podium with a round of applause. The church was a bit more filled up today, we had started getting regulars from the town. I settled down beside Sam, and he didn’t turn to look at me.
He’s been cold since that day he got me to talk to him, and you could bet I was counting the time I had left until he told more people. Olivia had also been different about me. Asking me to come to her if I needed someone to talk to or pray with. I knew she had full details courtesy of Sam.
When the service was over, and we left the room I felt someone’s hand grip my wrist I turned, my eyes going wide when I saw Oliva looking at me with a small frown on her face.
“Follow me,” she said, pulling me along with her. I stumbled a bit, steading my footing as she pulled me over to an empty hallway. She looked left and right, sighing when she confirmed that we really were alone.
“You need to see someone,” she said, letting go of my hands before arranging the fabric of her long red skirt. “You need to see a counselor. I’m not sure if you can notice it yourself, but it’s getting worse. You’re in pain, and you’re confused. You need help,” she said at a go, making me feel corners. I walked back until my back was pressed against the other wall. I was now across from her, unable to bring my gaze to meet hers.
I hadn’t been expecting this conversation. I was tired, and all I wanted to do was head upstairs to my room for a lie-down, and maybe a good cry. Nath and I have been talking infrequently, and that didn’t do anything for my low self-esteem regarding how he felt about me. I knew it was because we couldn’t meet up like before, but of course, I was worried that he was using it as a way to wean me off him, and I didn’t want that at all.
I don’t know. I was just nervous like that. The fact that he assumed that I was going to be a coward about things, hurt too. Maybe it hurt even more because he was right.
“Mathew, are you listening to me?” I looked up, realizing that I had zoned out. I shook my head, being honest. Olivia sighed, folding her hands over her small chest. She bit her bottom lip, looking away from me briefly.
“You were shaking up on stage today,” she said, and I kept quiet. I didn’t know how to reply to that.
“It’s getting obvious,” she said, turning back to face me. “Sure, they don’t know what’s obvious, but people will start picking up that something is wrong with you—”
“Something is wrong with you.” Her words echoed in my head, and I started heaving. A low groan left my lips as I brought my hands to my face, trying to calm myself down. “Something is wrong with you.” Her words continued to echo, bringing me anxiety.
“Olivia,” I called out in the middle of her chatter. She had gone on to ramble about finding a good counselor and getting everything fixed. “Oliva,” I called out a little bit louder this time, and she finally stopped talking to stare at me with a confused look.
“I’m not going to see a counselor,” I said, and she frowned, opening her mouth and then closing it.
“You can’t overcome it on your own. You know that, don’t you?” she said, moving closer to me. I stepped to the side when she was right in front of me, creating a distance between us.
“You—” I started but sighed. “You won’t understand,” I finished, resting my back against the wall, and easing downwards until I was sitting on the hallway’s embroidery rug. Soon, Oliva was sitting beside me. My vision got blurred as tears gathered in my eyes. I was tired, so tired of trying to come to a consensus in my mind. I couldn’t find the right words to use and explain myself to Olivia.
“Come on,” she started, letting out a sigh. “If you catch it fast, it won’t turn t anything serious. It might feel like the end of the world now...” she trailed. She was right, it did feel like the end of the world, but not for the reasons she thought it did. “But I have your back, and God has your back. I’m sure this is a test, and you’re strong enough to overcome it—”
Her words sounded like gibberish to me. They were going through one ear and leaving through the other. I zoned her out, and soon I couldn’t see past my blurred vision. I cried in silence as she continued to talk, even though all could hear now was her muffled voice.
I was still spaced out when I felt Oliva’s hand on my shoulder. She shook me, making me blink before turning to look at her. She started talking again, and all I could do was give her a forced smile until she stopped and got up from the rug. She bid me farewell, leaving me in the hallway by myself. I sat there for a while, bringing my knees to my chest before resting my head on them.
“Something is wrong with you.” A lump formed in my throat as I remembered her words. I shut my eyes, trying to zone it out of my subconsciousness. I stood up soon after, leaving the hallway when I was sure I was no longer crying and was in good enough condition to be seen by others without raising questions.
What do you want? I asked myself in my head as I climbed up the stairs to my floor. Why are you such a coward? I could feel my heart rate increasing again as I beat myself up over it. Making it to my room, I walked in before heading for my bed. My weight sunk the mattress a bit when I sat down. went about taking off my dress shirt, and then my trousers. I was planning to take a nap and try to forget about everything that was going on — it was too overwhelming, but a part of me was restless. A part of me really didn’t want to be here saying rehearsed lines and sharing fakes smiles.
My hands were shaking again, and my eyes were blurring with tears as I thought of how odd I had felt up at the pulpit this morning, how out of place and distress I had felt with all the people looking at me. Would they judge me if they knew? Was what had been ringing in my mind. Would they understand if I attempt to explain how I felt?
I was tired of hearing how God was testing me from Olivia and Sam. I was tired of how Oliva and Sam’s hearts were in the right place, but they still couldn’t understand.
Hiding. I was tired of hiding.
A big part of me wanted to pick up my phone and talk to Nath, but he had retired from trying to discuss anything that had to do with me being gay. I had pushed him away, that was my fault. I was all on my own.
I had to make a choice on my own.
Before I knew it, I was wearing proper jeans and a shirt I just grabbed from the nearest closet. I was stuffing my bag with clothes and other necessities. I was working on automation, knowing that if I didn’t do it now I won’t have the courage to it ever. With all the haste and hurry to leave the room, I almost forgot my phone. I went back to my study desk, picking it up before scrolling to Nath’s contact information.
My finger lingered over the call icon, but I swiped away from the tab. If I called Nath he might try to make me stay back for some reason or the other. Instead, I stuffed my phone in my pocket, walking out of my room before heading down the stairs. I tried to avoid walking into anybody because someone would ask me where I was going, and I wouldn’t know what to say. After a painful few minutes of sneaking about and cutting corners because of the voices I was hearing in one hallway or the other, I made it to the main door. I walked out, stunned at myself.
I was out.
A sudden wave of panic took over and I wanted to run back, but I stood still on the spot, willing myself not to turn away. No, I needed to leave.
With the new-found bravery, I continued on my way to Nath’s place. I had soon waked far away enough that the station’s building wasn’t insight. My feet threaded on the dirt road, and my heart beat filled my ears as I got closer to the street Nath lived on. I knew he wouldn’t be home. He had work to do. When I got closer to his flat I say the stray that hung around him run from the backyard before pausing and cocking its head to the side. It had probably been expecting Nath and got me instead.
“Hey,” I said to the dog as it whimpered. It shook its tail as I dropped my bag on the floor paneling. “Nath’s not back yet,” I said, making to sit on the ground before looking out into the street. It was empty as usual. It seemed people minded their business around here. I have never actually seen anything but glimpses of Nath’s neighbors. It was early in the evening now, and by my guess probably around five in the evening. I started wondering if anyone had figured out if I was gone yet, and I wondered if Sam would come looking for me.
My lips felt dry, so I licked them before resting the back of my head on the front door of Nath’s home. I wanted him to get back soon. I took my phone out of my pocket and was relieved to find out no one had called me yet.
The dog was still walking about the porch, and it came to lay down on the floor beside me. I reached out and pat its head, smiling down at it. “He should be back soon,” I said to myself more than I said to the dog. I was a bit nervous about Nath’s reaction. I wasn’t sure what he would do. He might let me in like I hoped, or he might tell me that I was being ridiculous and that I should go back.
“I love you,” I practiced saying out loud. It felt odd on my tongue, and it sounded a bit embarrassing to say. Should I say that to him when he gets here? I felt my lips, frowning a bit before sighing and covering my face with my hands.
“I might freak him out.” Distress was beginning to take its toll on me.
“It’ll be fine,” I whispered to myself as I started to panic again. “Everything will be fine,” I tried to convince myself as I waited for Nath to get back. If anything could prove to Nath that I wasn’t messing around, this was it. I wanted him, and I had thrown everything away from him. I just hoped he saw how hard of a decision it was for me.
It started to get dark, and I sat by the doorstep, waiting with the dog that had now dozed off.