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Random Wisdom

“Embrace your uniqueness. Time is much too short to be living someone else’s life.” — Komi Yamada

The Loss of Solitude

By J. D. Moss

A sunset in the middle of nowhere is breathtaking, even if taken for granted. I had viewed many sunsets while living in a farmhouse that seemed like it had been abandoned in the middle of a field. These sunsets were unspoiled by city lights and were never overshadowed by noise from traffic or neighbors. My brother and sister were not happy with this type of isolation, yet I welcomed the solitude it offered, for in this place I could hide from the world I feared.

A beautiful wilderness fence surrounded our home. Three sides of this fence consisted of pasture sprinkled with trees and wild brush. It had once been used for cattle, yet now was reserved for nature. A few old structures remained – none seemed safe. They were perfect models for oil paintings; weathered, rotting, and most leaning, barely able to hold their form. There was a cow trough filled with dirty water and overgrown with dark green moss. An old barn still served a useful purpose, both for the storing of a neighbor’s hay and as a playground for my family. A mile or two away there was a creek we used for swimming and an old gravel pit where we played. The fourth fence was the grand entrance. It consisted of a road about a quarter of a mile long, which split a large field in two. Both fields had neat rows of dirt that would slowly turn in to neat rows of tall corn. When viewing a sunset from our home, you never needed to choose which side of the house to use, for every view was a delight to the eye.

Living in the city meant being surrounded by other homes, concrete sidewalks and asphalt roads. Neat lawns and planned rows of flowers took the place of wild flowers and brush. The sounds of nature were replaced by man-made noise. Despite this contrast, what I disliked and feared most were other people. I felt out of place no matter the setting. My peers spent their time dating or talking about sex. I did not relate. I had no desire to do the things they discussed. I did not understand their passion or their lust. Every second I spent with them was a reminder that something was wrong with me. On the farm, I did not need to compare myself to anyone. This meant I had no reason to feel shame and no need to worry about fitting in.

My feelings of safety changed after one ignored sunset. On this evening my parents and sister had gone into the city, leaving me alone with my brother and a friend he had invited to stay overnight. I was left alone in the living room, watching TV, while they were in the bedroom. I did not mind; in fact, I enjoyed it because there was no one to bother me or compete for what I wanted to watch. This solitude was soon interrupted.

The living room window had a perfect view of our grand entrance, and in the dark, I could see the lights of a car approaching. It was too soon for my parents return. I broke away from the television and reached the front door as the car came to a stop. I did not recognize the car or the two young men who got out. They were soldiers from Fort Hood, a military base a good thirty-minute drive away. They were handsome, with extremely short hair and well-defined muscles showing through their pale-green army t-shirts.

My brother and his friend reached the door about the time the two young men reached the front porch. I was brushed aside, as my brother opened the door and invited them in. From their introductions, I could tell they did not know each other very well. All four were excited and grinning. Even at sixteen, I knew what was going on. My brother had invited them over to have sex. My brother’s homosexuality was no secret. It was not talked about, yet we all knew.

There was an extended silence as one-by-one each pair of eyes turned toward me. My brother had counted on our parents and sister not being home; however, in all his excitement he had not planned on me. I was the fly in his soup. If they went to the bedroom, what would I do? Would I allow it? Would I tell? It was certain he did not even know what to say to me.

The silence was broken by one of the young soldiers who stepped forward and put his hand on my shoulder.

“He’s ok,” He told the others, “He understands what its about. Go to the room, I’ll be right there.” The others obeyed and shuffled out as if they were schools kids headed to an ice cream truck.

The soldier’s smile was warm and directed at me. With the smile came a wink and an understanding: This man saw the real me. I had always hid from my sexuality, unwilling to accept a part of me that I had always been told was wrong. My fear had always been that someone would discover my dark secret and I would be rejected by my family, friends, and God. My brother had lost friends, been excommunicated from the church and was cut off from my grandparents because of his homosexuality. I saw how horrified my parents were when they had to face this aspect of his life. My fear was this would happen to me and it was a fear I choose not to face.

Now I stood alone with a young man who knew I was gay, yet I was not afraid. He gave my shoulder a firm squeeze and gently guided me across the room before letting go. Instantly I missed his touch. He smiled and started toward the bedroom, “Thanks and let us know if your parents come home.” I said nothing as he disappeared through the kitchen.

I sat in the living room pretending to watch TV. My thoughts were only of the world in the bedroom, which I wanted to be a part. Not because of the sex, but because in that room someone seemed to understand me, to accept me in a way even I could not. I craved and feared that world. The darkness tightened its grip around our 100-year-old home, isolating me even more from the world where everyone else lived. I watched for the family car, waiting for the two worlds to collide. I thought little. I was numb. I had no answers to consider because I did not know the questions. I understood practically nothing.

I could see the headlights in the darkness long before I could hear the tires running over the dirt and gravel road. I arose and quietly walked to the back of the house. I hesitated, and then gently knocked on the door. There was no answer. I waited. I knocked again and spoke plainly, “They’re home.” The calm friendly voice of the young soldier responded with a quiet, “Thank you.”

I returned to the living room and set back down, again pretending to watch TV. A few moments passed and the family car came to a rest along side the soldier’s car.

My mind can no longer recall what happened next. My parents must have wondered why these young men were visiting my brother and his friend. Maybe the two worlds did crash that night. Maybe they just passed each other with distrust. It did not matter to me, for I was not noticed. I was simply there, a body that was seen, yet not understood. I could not be a part of the world I desired and did not belong in the world of my reality. The unfortunate truth was I alone knew this.

The solitude I once viewed as a wondrous place had revealed its true meaning; it was not a peaceful place, it was a lonely place. No one knew or understood my emptiness. I sat in isolation. Family members walked around me, talked at me, and sent me to bed, never knowing I had uncovered a frightening truth: I was alone.


The Loss of Solitude * By J. D. Moss * Published in the Rio Review in 2004

Copyright ©2004 by J.D. Moss –All Rights Reserved

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