Gritty Details

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tonight's Poet Corner: To Ethan Galloway

To Ethan Galloway
by Belinda Roddie

You meant so much to me. You
were the vibrant addition to
my stilted reality, and the
harbinger of my homosexuality.
Ethan Galloway. You had that name
because it fit you, and also because,
if I had been you, it would have fit me
to a tee. You got the chance to speak

in a charming, rugged Scottish brogue as
an exchange student at an all-American
high school, and later, an all-American
university. You were the epitome of
the cool European, somehow gaining a bad boy
reputation while breaking exactly zero
percent of the rules. And you were quite
the looker, too. You had beautiful brown

hair with all the right curls. You made
a T-shirt and torn jeans look like
the sweetest wardrobe in the world,
and you could play every single
instrument, and well, too. Now,
of course, by "every single instrument,"
I mean the popular ones, like guitar,
and piano, and drums, and maybe bass,

too, because as we all know, sometimes
it's hard to bet on a girl liking you
when you're a pro at the marimba
or the clarinet. But you sure knew
how to get girls' attention, Ethan -
in the band room, with your buddies,
pounding out an original song
that could turn any heart into silly

puddy. On the stage, with your
hands outstretched, your voice
lifted into the air, thrown out
past your crush's head as if to say,
"Here. Fetch." And once she recovered,
you became the perfect teenage lovers,
a pairing that could turn quirky, nerdy,
but also still suave and handsome you

into the homecoming king. I knew you,
Ethan, but you never knew me. How could you,
when on the riddled canvas of my subconscious,
I painted your personality, your idiosyncrasies,
and used your dashing image as the protagonist
of my daydreams due to my inability
to be authentic? I was you, if I had just
been a little bit taller,
if my jaw had just been

a bit squarer and my hips a little bit
smaller. I was you if I had learned how
to play the keys and bass. I was you if
I had come from Edinburgh and understood
social grace. I was you if I had been bolder,
instead of waiting to be honest until
I was just a little older. If I had known
how to impress a girl while on the stage,

instead of keeping my real feelings locked
up in a rusted metal cage. I was you with
longer hair, which I always wanted
to get cut but was told, "That's too
masculine. You're can't be mistaken
for a boy anymore." I didn't have
the stubble, or the cheeky smile, or
that slight shade of mischief

that people always connect
with macho cis guys, but I had
your eyes,
your skin,
your voice,
your words,
and yet you had all the power. You could
communicate the things I couldn't

communicate, and it made me feel safe.
You said the words I wanted to say.
You thought the thoughts I wanted to think.
You did the things I wanted to do,
and you sank all the fears I wanted to sink.
I only wish that I had had the choice
back then that you had, to be open
about who I loved, without

being told that I just wanted
to be friends with girls. That
my feelings were just a phase,
and once I got past puberty,
I'd join the same boy craze as
most of my friends. I had just
broken up with my boyfriend when
you arrived, and I will admit,

the bromance he and I had, full of
bowling and pool and Mortal Kombat
rounds was totally lit. You would
have been good friends with my ex,
Ethan, if only you were actually around
to enjoy the fraternity. I stayed hidden
while you shone in my mind for over
four years. Even after my therapist

asked me to be brave, I was convinced
that I was going to take my fabulousness
straight to the grave. I figured,
as long as I had you, Ethan, as long
as I disconnected my infatuations from
the real world and kept it all in my head
and away from the land of both
the living and the dead that

I could finally feel normal. Because
I didn't have feelings for girls: Ethan
did! And if I pretended that it was a character
swooning for the forbidden fruit instead
of me, then it wasn't actually so forbidden
anymore, now, was it? I thought
that displacing my urges onto
an imaginary cisgender, heterosexual

boy would somehow purge my soul
of evil. Because it was okay
for you to like girls, Ethan. Not
me. Not if I still wanted to be
cool with God and certain members
of my family. I gave you your name,
Ethan. I built you from wet clay,
and I breathed life

into your nose and mouth, and once
you started singing aloud, I shushed
you only for a moment, so I could
tell you, "Be thankful for the gift
I've given you. Be thankful that,
in my cerebral fantasy land, you
bear all the privilege that I wish I had.
You are allowed to be yourself, love

yourself, go for all the ladies
your heart desires, without
having to worry about the social
consequences. Any apprehension
you feel around those that make
your heart rattle like a Gatling gun
will simply be the butterflies talking
for you from your gut: Will

she like me? Instead of Am I
going to Hell for this identity?
You finally moved out once I kicked
down the closet doors. I was twenty-one,
and you had dwelt in my house of dreams
for longer than either of us bargained for.
You spent a lot of time covering for me
and making me feel sane. Now

you must be breathing easier, having
exited the limited living space
inside my brain. For what it's worth,
I'm not angry with you. You did
exactly the job I wanted you to do.
You were the boy that I wasn't, with that
red hot attitude that I didn't even realize
was already mine. I'll offer you gratitude,

though in truth, you had no say in it.
But I'll still thank you, Ethan Galloway,
for being patient with me
until I finally set you free
and gathered the courage to be gay.

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