By Landon Lai
It was a humid summer morning. At about eight-thirty, I stepped off the train with such haste that I felt like the world was fading behind me. I zipped over here and zagged over there, dashing in between the suit-wearers who were equally late to wherever they needed to be. I simply refused to be late on my first day of school. Barely reaching the classroom six steps before the teacher, a relieving sigh escaped my lips as I scurried to the sole remaining seat. Just as everyone else, I immediately looked around and tried to see if there’d be any potential competitors this year. Stopping me midst of my observation, my classmate next to me reached out and gently poked me in my arms. “May I borrow a pencil please? I forgot my pencil case at home.” “Sure,” I replied thoughtlessly, “here you go,” and handed over my pencil.
It was a fleeting moment that seemed to have lasted forever: the way my lungs almost imploded; the way blood in my veins seemed to have frozen; the way our eyes glued to each other. Such true excitement mingled with a hint of disastrous beauty—and I didn’t know I needed it.
We could’ve had it all. And for one tiny fraction in time, we actually did. We were presented with an alternate universe where there is a two-story house surrounded by a white fence. Every day when the clock strikes six, they’d all come in through the front door. One by one, our little demons would rush to me and give me the biggest hug they can ever muster and ramble on about their day, the latest school gossip about Erin and Benny, how Jack pushed Taylor during recess, or how Jessica was rude to the teacher in art class. We’d sit at the dinner table: all laughing, eating, and listening. And for that moment in time, it marked the beginning of our happily ever after.
But it wasn’t supposed to be like that. We were supposed to be good schoolchildren and pay attention to class and carry on like everyone else, but no, these divine mystical forces had to pair us together as such. I didn’t focus during that class. I simply couldn’t. I couldn’t read minds, but I was pretty sure the feelings were very much mutually shared. We were so distracted.
Fifty minutes later when the bell rang, students began to clean up and leave for next class. Boisterous laughers and locker-room banter filled the atmosphere. Each molecule in the hallway shook as the cacophony seemed to only increase in crescendo. At that moment, we looked back at each other and our eyes held on to each other for one more time as if we were trying to memorize each curve and freckles and muscle on our face. Something divine inside us was stirred awake. It was hunger, and it wanted more. It was magical, but this magic reeked of desperation. The scent that brought us back to this reality, a rotting happily ever after. In this world, there wouldn’t be a house with a picket fence down the line. There would be no children and no dinner and no happily ever after. Because here’s the thing: “boys aren’t supposed to like boys.”
That was what I was taught growing up: “Boys aren’t supposed to like boys.”
But here’s the thing: what are we, boys or not, supposed to do and like and behave and dress and be—and love?
I don’t know. But I’m trying, and I’m actively searching for an answer that works for me. Thankfully, UCF offers amazing resources for students struggling with LGBTQIA+ issues. UCF Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offer individual and group counselling, crisis counselling, trans care services and more. UCF LGBTQ+ Services, Multicultural Student Center, and Lavender Council are also University-affiliated resource groups that can provide additional support to students. Moreover, UCF cares; like really, they do care. If you or someone you know are experiencing safety or wellbeing concerns, violence, or in need of mental health support, help is a few taps away.
While this story temporarily pauses here as it is one that is ongoing, I’d like to share something my mother told me after I came out to her. “It’s okay. I understand,” she said, “You can love anyone you want. What matters is that you love and have love.”
Be the one who loves.