We grew up in government housing, though I still have a very small understanding of what that means. We always had food to eat, yet we often went without the things money could buy. My parents were given six children together, and at times our home felt like Grand Central Station. In a household of eight, it can be rather easy to be forgotten. As sand falls between floor boards, so does a child fall into reclusiveness. Yet, for me, if I ever happen to fall behind, I was blessed with a personal guardian from God. His face was a reflection of mine, and there between the floor boards, I never failed to feel his hand grasp mine. We were not friends. We were not lovers. We were not siblings. We were twins, and we shared emotions.
Poverty can be a dangerous space to grow into a mature adult, and often children are more apt to garner hopelessness, mostly in the space meant for friendship and companionship. I cannot possibly begin to express how thankful I am to have had such a guardian on this battlefield for social survival. Having a twin is having an upper hand in life. I did not learn life lessons alone, it was not always my own actions that taught me. He was my cushion for constant, reckless crashes. All of our pain was dealt with together, all our smiles learned from one another. We are similar in genetics, identical in spirit.
Beyond being twins, David and I were distinct reds in the Mississippi shades of grey school system. As we developed, so did our free thinking minds. I admit that it was easier to go against the grain with David at my side, without a doubt, criticism became more manageable. Yet, the more one ignored the vicious taunts of our peers, the heavier their words would become. Although we were active at a young age, David and I were certainly not athletic and never were we interested in football, the heart of every southern school. More often than not, I was a pariah. Outcasted purposely, and reminded daily. Others began to question our sexuality before we were even aware of the concept.
"Fag", "Faggot", "Queer", "Gaywad". All of these words painted my childhood, all of them defined me against my will. I protested, daily and from roof tops. I prayed that my God would paint truths in the sky, but he never would. Frequently, I felt the hot rush of angry tears take over my face. I tried to change me, my clothes, my voice, my mannerisms. Sexuality was a sea and I was choking on its reality, a reality handed to me by my peers. For the longest, I assumed that David and I were waging this label war together; we were not. Unbeknownst to me, David had accepted his name tag.
David had his first liberating experience in high school, forming a relationship with a fellow Mississippi fugitive. Though his encounters with this individual were secret, David's happiness was sudden and apparent even to the blind. He smiled when there was not a given reason, he smiled just to smile and this gave me worry. Twins were supposed to know the completeness of one another, and I was outraged by my lack of insight. I began my search for the root of his joy. Scouring his room, ripping open journals, my search was long and fruitless. Then one day I saw it for myself. It played out in front of me like a Broadway show, a smile exchange. It was small and happened with in a blink of an eye, yet I was there for it and I now knew.
Regretfully, I was very critical of David. Once the person he could divulge himself to, a safe haven for his true feelings, I now presented only coldness and harsh, disapproving glances.
He did not consider my feelings on the matter, did not once ask for my approval. David would go on many dates; he would continue to search for my foundation. Too slowly, I began to love past my fears of a hateful society. It would not be until I was in college, nearly 75 miles displaced, that I would reestablish my incessant support for him and all that he endeavored. A great dreadfulness fills me when I think back on those days and I long for forgiveness, not just from David, but from myself.
David grew beyond standards and boundaries. He managed a good paying job and is putting himself through nursing school. Barely a shadow of the boy that used to hold my hand under the floor boards, even though I know he would still if I needed it. In my absence, or more appropriately, in his found freedom, David met and fell in love with a wonderful, kind man. Grant Young was a member of the Justice League, as drawn through David's words about him. In person, he was meek and mild. Seeing them together, you may never realize the pain it took to buy their freedom.
In their midtown Memphis apartment, there is little trace of angry words said with no known purpose. It is an odd, yet perfect feeling to not have to look around your shoulder. The soft sounds of police sirens are no longer heard from his window. There is an overall feeling of love and acceptance that hangs in the air like the fragrance of some past meal. Laughs seem to flow like the Mississippi, perpetual and with no end in sight. All over the walls you can find pictures of a journey together. A twentieth birthday, a first year anniversary, an engagement, and one set by the door in a purple t-shirt, aptly labeled "It Gets Better."