STORY: I had looked into those blue eyes many times before. When he would jump on me to wake me up whilst still in just his briefs, laughing and pushing his face into mine. Wrestling me to the point that I was unable to move, my eyes would make quick glances over his half-naked body. I could feel all of my senses coming to life, but I had no idea what this meant.
And when Aiden walks into a room I am drawn by his presence. That smile, the quiff of his hair that never stays up. There is always without a doubt the point where he acknowledges me and winks or smiles at me. When he’s at a prayer meeting, I wait up for him to stop by, knowing we will most probably end up with his head on my chest and his legs over mine whilst watching late-night TV. And on tour, when we get housed by families that belong to whichever church we’re at for that week, he always makes sure that we end up staying at the same house together.
I first met Aiden when I was twenty, through a Christian Youth Outreach group I had recently joined with much excitement after several interviews by a group of pastors from different churches. For some strange reason, I didn’t think I’d get in, but there I was. I’d never been a part of such a big group before. Sixteen Christian girls and boys, we were spreading the Word of God to the youth of South Africa.
“We rebuke this spirit of homosexuality!” The slam from the pastor’s hand on the table brings me back to the room where all eyes are on me. All the leaders from different churches are looking at me, either blank-faced or with utter disgust.
What do they mean by this? I’m not gay! After all, I was dating my high school sweetheart Carin for almost six years now.
I turn to Aiden who stands by the window, with his back to me.
“Aiden please tell them the truth!” I plead. “Tell them there is nothing between you and me!”
He turns and his blue eyes meet mine. He looks sad and pensive.
“I’m sorry James…” His voice trails off. He rubs his hands over his face and looks away.
He knows nothing has ever happened between us. And even everyone in our group is always joking about our bromance.
But I’m also very aware that I’ve been called rebellious by some of the church leaders before. Instead of just going with the flow, I ask questions. And over the past few months, I openly expressed my different opinion and beliefs, like the time I shared my thoughts on couples within the group who were having sex, but at the same time, preaching to other people about what good Christians do and do not do.
There is even a guy in our group who is now a converted gay guy, but still sleeps with men whenever we are on the road and doesn’t do much to hide it.
I was straight during all my time in the Christian Youth Outreach group. Looking back, perhaps a better term to explain my condition is “aspirationally straight.” The church had taught me then that with prayer and faith in the Almighty, a person can overcome the feelings for men l occasionally had. I prayed and tried to believe, but was so conflicted in myself. So much so that once, I knelt down with a beautiful young man who had asked me to pray for him because he was gay. I couldn’t do it. He was captain of his rugby team, exquisitely handsome with bright green eyes, and had the brightest smile. He pleaded with me for God to take away his gay feelings. I prayed “around it.”
My eyes return to the view of these holy men passing judgment over my “crime.” One that I had never committed, They were filled with anger and frustration.
“How has it come to this? Aiden? Aiden, please tell them there is nothing between us!”
Aiden looks downward in silence. Tears begin to well up in my eyes.
“I resign with immediate effect.”
Pastor Durrant says something, but I’m not even sure what. I don’t really care. Resigning is a very easy decision for me to make. Aiden’s eyes meet mine one more time. He looks lost. I turn my back to him and walk out of the office, tears stream down my face. My sobbing attracts the rest of my group. Their condolences seemed muffled and blurred. All I feel is that my heart is broken into a thousand pieces. And all I can see is Aiden’s eyes.