David, with his jaw carved out of the side of a cliff;
Malcolm, who doesn’t have secrets, just stories he owes no one;
Chris, the basketball hero with a tic,
blinks 15 times when he makes a shot.
You spend hours blinking in the mirror,
pretending you’re a star like him.
Mary Levine calls you a dyke,
and you don’t have the language to tell her she’s wrong, and right,
so you just show up to her house promising to paint your fingernails red
with what will gush from her busted face if she ever says it again.
You’re in the seventh grade.
You don’t even know you want a girlfriend.
You still believe too much in the people who believe in Jesus
to even feel that desire through its hell threat.
You just want to kick your desk on the way to the principal’s office,
slouch in detention,
want to cut your hair
and spit out whatever you don’t want in your mouth,
your own name even, skirting around the truth.
You don’t yet know the boys are building their confidence
on stolen land,
but you do worry the girls might be occupied
with things you will never understand, won’t ever ever be good at.
You take one pretty step,
and feel like you’re pouring bubbles into your own blood bath.
You don’t want a soft death,
you want a hard life that is your life.
Your life, in the locker room that doesn’t stop demanding
you keep your eyes on the floor.
Your life, at the prom, where you run home in a snowstorm,
chucking your last pair of heels in a snowbank,
realizing you are the only boy
you ever wanted to tear your dress off for.
Your life, the first Christmas you spend alone,
the years you learn to build your family out of scratch.
Your life, when someone drags you from a restroom
by the collar of your coat.
Your life, every time airport security screams, “Pink or blue? Pink or blue?”
trying to figure out what machine setting to run you through.
Choosing your life, and how that made you into someone
who now often finds it easy to explain your gender
by saying you are happiest on the road
when you’re not here or there, but in between,
that yellow line running down the center of it all
like a goddamn sunbeam.
Your name is not a song you will sing under your breath.
Your pronouns haven’t even been invented yet.
You’re going to shave your head and drive through Texas.
You’re going to kill your own God
so you can fall in love for the first time.
They’re going to keep telling you your heartbeat is a preexisting condition.
They’re going to keep telling you you are a crime of nature,
and you’re going to look at all your options and choose conviction,
choose to carve your own heart out of the side of a cliff,
choose to spend your whole life telling secrets you owe no one to everyone
’til there isn’t anyone who can insult you by calling you what you are,
you, holy blinking star, you, highway streak of light,
falling over and over for your hard life, your perfect life,
your sweet and beautiful life.
♪ (music) ♪
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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