Matt's response was that he never thought I'd have the balls to do it.
Matt himself had come out, at least to me, our sophomore year in college. We were roommates for three years. The director of admissions had put us in the same room because we were both leaders in our high schools. And we worked well as roommates, so we stayed together.
Our room that year was your basic square. In the SW corner was the door; the bathroom door in the NW corner. The bunkbed was along the north wall, perpendicular to it at the mid-point. Matt's stuff was on the west side, mine on the east. I was sitting in the bean bag on my side of the room when he told me. I don't remember what had precipitated him telling me in that moment. A few months before, the school had discovered that our friend Sean was gay. We had been through months of fighting with university administration. Also, one of our suitemates had moved to another room over the whole ordeal. So we'd been having lots of conversations about the topic in recent months. I guess Matt was finally ready to really deal with it (he had dated seven girls our freshman year).
That time and process with Matt was tough. I wasn't prepared for it at all. As friends we had walked that journey, and I now wanted him to be the first person to know about me.
Back in November after my day of private retreat, when I had prayed and meditated on the topic for hours, I left feeling tranquil and joyful. If I hadn't had plans that night I probably would have called John that afternoon. Instead, I went to see two of my youth play football, and the whole time I was in this great mood. The mood persisted the next day as I went to dinner at the Lucketts' (I had just recruited them to teach in the youth Sunday school). I was bursting with excitement, and it's a wonder I didn't tell people then.
That night I woke up in the middle of the night. I can't do this. What was I thinking. Glad I didn't do anything stupid.
But it wouldn't go away. So for the rest of November I pondered the question.
What I had felt during the day of prayer seemed right. My anxieties and fears were what seemed wrong. Should I talk to someone? Who? Marty I decided. At Thanksgiving, when we would all be home in Shawnee. As the days played out I spent time with Marty, but there were always other people around, and I wanted to have this conversation in private. I wanted his input, his blessing. We never did get to talk then.
The Vickreys hold an open house every year in December for all of the church members. It is a fun event, with great snacks. Sharon wanted me to come stay for most of it so that I could get to know more church members in an informal setting. Most of the day I stood at the door taking coats. I left a little early in order to make it home by seven p.m. so that I could watch Angels in America on HBO. I hurried home. When I got in, I turned the tv on, changed the channel to HBO and . . . nothing. The image was blurred and the sound was garbled. Try the other HBO channels. The same. Except for the Spanish-language. I called the cable company. Having some problem with the line. I watched for about 30 minutes in Spanish (I don't speak Spanish) but gave up and went to bed.
Luckily they played the first three hours over many times that week, and I watched them over and over again. I watched the second three hours the next Sunday night. And I've seen the whole thing or parts of it multiple times since. Every time it's on tv, I watch part of it. And I own a copy and watch it now and then.
The Angels in America film, based on Tony Kushner's play, was simply a revelation. I identified with the characters. And I was inspired. Words are inadequate to describe the feelings I get watching this film.
Sitting in my house in mid-December 2003 I watched the final installment. In the closing scene, it is five years after the main action and some of the major characters are meeting. Prior speaks directly into the camera giving this benediction:
We are not going away.
We will not die secret deaths anymore.
The world only spins forward.
We will be citizens. Time has come.
You are fabulous, each and every one.
And I bless you.
The Great Work begins.
I stood up from the couch and knew that I had the courage to do this.