WHAT LIES WITHIN: CHAPTER 2.
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
-- Henry David Thoreau
"Pass the margarine please, dad?" I asked.
"Sure Ian," he replied, sending the tub my way.
I cringe to myself every time I have to say that word, lately. Dad. You see, I've known I was adopted since before I was really old enough to even understand what it meant. Apparently `the parents' were unable to have kids of their own, and I guess their life just felt incomplete without one. So, they adopted me. But, I'm the only one. Maybe they learned their lesson, and quit while they still had a chance to keep their sanity.
As I've grown up, they've answered all of the inevitable questions I've had about my real parents...always with seemingly infinite patience. But, they've never really said much about my father, so I always just assumed that they didn't really know anything about him. I was told that my mother looked pretty much like me. Before she gave me up for adoption, her only demand was that I keep the first and middle names she had given me at birth. I could have the last name of my adoptive parents, but they said she absolutely insisted on the rest. Thus, I became Ian Sullivan Finestra shortly after I was born (although IAN is really a modern variation of the ancient Irish/Gaelic name EOIN, which is actually pronounced `Owen'...but enough digression...).
Recently it's been bugging me. The adoption thing, I mean. Here I am, sitting with these people, eating dinner...looking like something off a Norman Rockwell poster of the "perfectly average American family," but at times I feel like I don't really even know them...like, the only thing we have in common is that we accidentally happen to live in the same house. I just have this vague sense that in `real' families people actually kinda know each other...that they have some underlying sense of connection...they can kinda tell how the other one is feeling, thinking...stuff like that. I dunno how to really describe it, I guess. They're just family. Maybe I watch too much TV...
Don't get me wrong; they've been great to me. They've fed me, clothed me, given me a really nice home to live in and all...practically since the day I was born. I don't want to sound ungrateful. Really. But, lately things just haven't felt right to me. I have this uncomfortable, gnawing sense of frustration, confusion...I'm not sure exactly how to best describe it, really...but, deep down in my gut, things are just NOT OK. Something seems wrong. Incomplete. But, I have absolutely no idea why.
My shrink, Jack, (ya, I go to `counseling,' but we'll get to that a little later...) says it's just a phase of growing up that we all go through. The need to feel more independent and less attached to our parents and family...subconsciously preparing ourselves for that day when we all eventually have to head out into the big bad ugly world all by ourselves. But, I don't really think that's it for me. Mainly, I just look at myself sometimes and I realize how different I am than most people, and them in particular. I wonder how I got to be this way...what made me like this?
Nothing about me seems to be normal. At least, what's `normal' for me seems to be quite a stretch for everyone else. Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with me exactly, but I'd have to be pretty dumb not to notice that other people seem to do most things a little differently than I do. When I was in 2nd grade, they decided that I had Attention Deficit Disorder without hyperactivity (well, at least I'm not that bad...LOL). At the same time, they also said my IQ tested out 20 points higher than Einstein, for what that's worth. What all this really means is that sometimes I look like a genius, and other times I look like an idiot. Take your pick, because the chance is just about even for both at any given moment.
Basically, in school I get totally bored with anything that doesn't interest me (or with stuff that any idiot should already know, in my opinion), and my brain gets so impatient with the painfully tedious, boring, everyday bullshit that sometimes it feels like it's just gonna explode if I don't do something. In most of my classes, everything the teachers talk about is usually stuff I already know (hey, all I have to do is read the textbook one stupid time, because it's like, all in there, duh!). So, mostly in class I just sit in the back and read. Good stuff. Mostly classic Sci-Fi; like Azimov, Heinlein, LeGuin, or Herbert. The problem is, I can read a book or two in a day sometimes. Ya, I spend a lot of time at the used bookstore...
But, I've learned that having ADD is like a blessing and a curse at the same time. I think my wiring is just a little different than most people, ya know? For example, I can do long division in my head to five or six places in a matter of a few seconds (no, I don't really consciously go through all the steps that fast...I just kinda relax my mind and the answer just sorta pops in there...). But, I almost failed algebra last year because I could never remember all the stupid little rules, formulas and equations and stuff. Go figure. It's totally not fair. They should give you the damn equations, and let you do the rest. I mean, in kindergarten don't they show you what all the letters look like on the wall? They don't expect you to already know all 26 of them, right? (There are 26, aren't there?).
I also have trouble remembering the simplest little everyday things at times. Like, did I remember to eat breakfast this morning? Did I remember to bring my homework? Did I remember to tie my shoes? Put on clean underwear? My teachers have all learned that if a paper gets turned in that has no name on it, with virtually unreadable handwriting, and is 100% correct, then it's probably mine. Sometimes, other people's names totally elude me as well. For some strange reason, they seem to get really annoyed with me after a while, especially when I ask them for like, the twentieth time, "hey you...uhhh...what's your name again?" On the other hand, I am also blessed with a nearly photographic memory. I can basically recite at will just about anything I've ever read in a book (that I actually liked reading—and no, math books don't count!), saw on TV, or heard on the radio, or was just basically interested enough to pay attention to, etc. I can describe in great detail anything I can picture in my mind from a past event. Ask me any fact about Star Trek...TNG, Voyager, DS-9, or original...and you'll get an immediate answer. The correct one, of course.
At other times, my mouth just seems to have a mind of it's own. Things just kinda come out without any warning. Hey, I'm just as surprised as everyone else when that happens! Sometimes I just sound stupid...at other times, rude or insensitive. It really kills me inside when that stuff happens, because I feel like the picture that people end up getting isn't really me. It's so frustrating. Once people get the wrong impression in their head about you, you can just forget it. You can never change it. You're just basically fucked forever. To that person, you're an idiot, or an asshole, for life. Like they say, you can only make one first impression...I just wish I could act like my normal self around new people. The problem is, I can't do that until I get comfortable enough around them to relax. But, I always manage to piss-off or offend everyone before I can get to that point. Like I said, hardly anybody actually knows the real me. Except Jack, maybe.
The other major ADD affliction I have is the dreaded `brain freeze.' When things get too stressful or emotionally threatening for me to handle, my brain just locks up, and refuses to go anywhere. I'll just stand there with a blank look on my face for a few moments, unable to move or to speak...or do anything. But, even if I can't make myself do or say what I want, my input senses are still at work. I can see and hear everything that's happening...I just can't do anything about it. People think I'm such a complete retard when that shit happens. I hate that. I think that rather than deal with difficult emotions sometimes my brain just turns off in order to avoid them altogether.
God, I have absolutely nothing in common with my adopted `parents.' We don't dress alike, we don't think alike, and we don't even like any of the same kinds of food. Nothing. Nada. For example, I enjoy cool things like science fiction books, old black & white horror movies, art museums, photography, Mexican food...things that they apparently just can't seem to grasp the importance of in the grand scheme of the universe, ya know? Oh, they try and humor me at times by doing things I want to do, but I can see how much of a struggle it is for them. I appreciate the sacrifice they're making for me, but at some point I just end up feeling guilty about it. Fine...I mean, if you hate it that much, then don't do it for cryin' out loud!
Of course, being adopted, I look nothing like my parents either. When the inevitable school gatherings come up, it's always soooo painfully obvious, which kids belong to which parents. Except mine. Nobody ever manages to successfully hide that little momentary look of surprise or confusion on their face when they meet my parents. It's always been like a little kick in the stomach to me when that happens, no matter how much I tell myself to be ready for it. But, it always happens, anyway. I hate that.
So ya, George & Judy Finestra are my parents. They both have pretty dark (almost black) curly-ish hair and dark-eyes, with an olive complexion that tells of their French/Italian/Portuguese backgrounds (but don't let that fool you—they both are painfully and boringly true to their Midwestern upbringings...). My own features are typical to my Irish heritage, I'm told...very fair skinned (a nice way of saying that I'm naturally as pale as a ghost, I guess), freckle-cheeked, pale blue eyes, and absolutely straight brown hair (ya, brown...As in just plain brown...no, it couldn't be an interesting shade of brown like perhaps `sandy brown,' or `dark brown,' or something like that...nope! Just plain brown). Until recently, my hair was always found in the traditional `bowl' cut. God, how can people do that to their kids? Isn't there, like, some kind of law against that? Well, there should be, anyway...These days, I have a little `cooler' hair style...kind of a step-cut, parted in the center, with really long bangs that hang straight down over my eyes all the time, and drive my `mom' crazy. I like it, because I'm naturally shy anyway, and I can always hide behind my bangs when I get nervous.
My build is totally different from the parents as well. I'm really skinny compared to their shorter and `rounder' build. I'm only an inch taller than my `dad,' but being so thin it makes me look taller than I really am, I guess...I'm only 5-10 on a good hair day. I Thank god I really don't look anything like my `dad,' because...well, he's kinda one of those really hairy guys...and it just totally creeps me out. It's just so gross to me. I shudder every time I think about having a body totally covered with black curly fur like that...eeeewwwwww!
Anyway, I like my Irish blood. At least that's something that's really me, ya know? Something I can say that's really a part of who I am. I mean, heck; I was born there after all (I think I might even be able to claim dual citizenship when I get older...cool, huh?). I really wish I had a cool Irish accent too, but no such luck. I act and talk just like the California kid that I am (and despite what you all might think, people from California do not have an accent...we all just talk normal, dude).
If all that wasn't enough, I had to go and be gay on top of everything else. Hey, it wasn't like I chose to be this way! I've read tons of stuff about being gay, and it's pretty much an indisputable fact that it's largely genetic (well, and so is ADD...). I was born that way. So there! In some ways, having ADD is actually a lot like being gay, I think. At times, people have called both of them some kind of an abnormal condition...a sickness, or a `disorder.' It's really just a different way of being...a different way of seeing things, mostly.
I wasn't ready to come out at all; but at some point last year, Jack just figured out that there was something else bothering me besides the ADD stuff. He kept on poking, and prodding me (figuratively speaking, of course) until I finally admitted that I was gay just to get him off my back, you know? So, we've spent a lot of time talking about that in my sessions since then.
It's not like I haven't wished a million times that I could at least be `normal' in that one small way. But no, I have to do everything differently (and I mean everything—I'm even left-handed!). Actually, the `parents' seemed to take it pretty well when I came out to them a couple of months ago (well, Jack insisted that I do it...hell, he probably already told them long before I found the courage to do it...).
Man, what a day. I walk in the door after another exhilarating (ya, right...see above) day at school, and they decide to hit me with this.
I knew something strange was going on when I noticed both of the parents were home from work at this time of the afternoon. As I headed upstairs to my room, I noticed a medium sized FedEx package on the dining room table, and thought nothing of it. But, when Jack showed up at our house a few minutes later, I was totally beginning to get freaked.
So, we had this big `family talk' thing, and I could tell everyone was really nervous about how I would react. It turns out that it wasn't really anything all that bad. Well, it was and it wasn't. The whole thing was about the death of my birth mother. She died last week from breast cancer, I was told. I mean, I didn't actually know her, so I couldn't really miss her in the normal sense. Of course I felt sad, though...kinda like when someone famous you really admired dies unexpectedly...an unfortunate thing for sure, but it doesn't affect your life in any direct way, ya know?
When the lawyers contacted my adoptive parents, they told them that they had the option to wait until I was 18 to tell me about it, and to give me the package then; or, to just do it now. My parents discussed it with Jack, and decided to let me deal with it now. I'm glad they did, because it actually answered a lot of questions for me. When they explained the whole deal to me, I thanked them for having the faith that I was mature enough to handle it. I took my box, went upstairs to my room, and locked the door. For some reason, I wasn't quite ready to share any of this with them yet...at least not until I knew what this was really all about...and what was in the box!
I cautiously opened it, sitting on the edge of my bed as I held it in my lap. On the top of the stack of things in there was a large legal looking envelope with my name on it. I could see that it was apparently from the lawyers who handled my mother's estate, and I opened it and read on. Turns out that I had inherited the proceeds from a small life insurance policy she had, which was put away in a trust for me until I turned 21. I also received a small parcel of materials, the contents of which nobody except myself had actually seen since my birth mother sealed them away. In the box I found a letter, some photographs, and a small reddish-brown teddy bear. As I began to read the letter, I realized that she had written it to me shortly before she died. I guess she knew I would want to know a little bit more about my own story, so to speak. As I read on, I felt a tear forming in my eyes. The way she wrote, it sounded just like she had known me all my life...kinda like a letter to an old friend. Jeez. Maybe I was missing her just a little bit more than I realized.
It turned out to be quite a story. My mother, Elaine Sullivan, was an Irish exchange student, attending college here in the States. She fell in love with a handsome young American guy (who was to become my biological father) who attended the same university. According to her story, he was a brilliant (and soon to be famous) artist/writer from a prominent and wealthy American family on the East Coast. They had a brief romance, and she got pregnant. My father's family was adamant that she have an abortion, because they wanted no illegitimate heirs coming forward at some time in the future to lay claim on the family fortune. However, my mother was from a good Irish Catholic family, and they wouldn't hear of it. So, the two families made an agreement. My mother would return to Ireland to have the baby, and my real father's name would never appear on the birth certificate, or in any reference in the future. I was never to be told his identity. But, his family did apparently help me get placed by an American adoption agency, behind the scenes.
She included just one photograph of herself, when she was apparently much younger. I could see right away that I did indeed get my eyes from her...as well as my facial features, including my pale complexion. The rest, I have to assume, is from my dad/sperm donor, LOL. By her description, it sounds like I take after him in more ways than one. Ya, it turns out I that inherited a few things from my father, it seems. In the letter she wrote quite a lot about him...his personality, his love of art and literature, other personal likes and dislikes, etc. It was clear that she loved him a great deal. But tragically for her, he was gay. In the end, she simply had to accept the fact that she had fallen in love with a gay man who cared a lot for her, but just couldn't give her what she deserved. According to her letter, he died from AIDS about five years ago, just as he was becoming well known for his artwork. Another life ended all too short by that awful plague.
After I was born, she remained in Ireland for the rest of her life, working as a nurse. She never married, and never had another child. I think she still loved him until the day she died, judging by her letter. My mother was also an only child, and so she wanted to be sure I knew that I carried with me the only branch still remaining from our part of the Sullivan family tree. Both of her parents had already passed away before she died. It made me a little sad to think I would never know my real grandparents. In her letter she explained that I was named after my great-grandfather, the original Ian Sullivan. I picked up the other two photographs. The first was a picture of her parents (my grandparents), according to her letter. The last photo was a picture of my namesake great-grandfather all dressed in military uniform, just before he left Ireland to go fight in France during World War I; where he died, and is buried still.
Like I said, I think I inherited a few things from my good ol' sperm donor dad. Like my fondness for the boys (I'm sorry Mom...but it looks like this is the end of the branch. I just can't picture any more Sullivan children running about during my lifetime...not that I don't like kids or anything; they can be kinda cute sometimes, but...), and judging by her description of his personality and stuff, his ADD as well. It hurts a little to think that I'll be the end of my line, genetically speaking. But, maybe that's for the best. Maybe that's God's plan.
I peered into the box, and studied the only thing that still remained: the little red-brown teddy bear. I could almost imagine myself as an infant snuggled up to the little bear; but of course I had no direct memories of it. Still, it felt very special to me somehow. I guess it's because it was the only tangible thing I had left of my birth mother. I picked it up, and gave it a little squeeze...rubbing my cheek on its head, as a tear finally leaked out of my eyes and ran down my face. It felt good; kind of a warm feeling inside that just told you everything would be ok. I sat there for a while, lost in the feelings of the moment. Eventually I let out a deep sigh, and set the little bear down next to the pillow on my bed.
Knowing my father had been gay, everything started to make a little more sense to me. Man, I had really tried not to be gay. I tried sooo hard. I wanted so badly to convince myself that I could muster even just the slightest interest in some girl at school. Any girl. Heck, I'd even settle for being bisexual. But, no way...I couldn't even get a twitch out of my dick, let alone a semi-boner. Hell, one time when I was jerkin off I even tried thinking about a girl. Man, I went soft so fast, it was like someone stuck a pin in my balloon, ya know?
I thought maybe that getting excited about girls was something that just came to you as you got older...but hey, I'm already in 10th grade, and it still ain't getting up for no chicks. I mean, if you're 15, and you can't get a boner for a hot girl, you pretty much have to accept the fact that you're different. Most 15-year-olds can get a boner from a slight breeze! But sadly, I've known I was attracted to boys ever since I was in elementary school. It was only other boys I felt the urgent need to be friends with, somehow. It was only other boys I felt the pressing need to be physically close to...to touch, to play-wrestle with, to hang my arm around their shoulder. Shit, I've had crushes on so many cute boys over the years; I can hardly find the courage to speak to anyone in my class now. I live in a pretty small town, and it seems like I've had a crush on almost all of them at one time or another. Or, at least a good wank! Anyway, I mostly just avoid eye contact with other guys these days. Oh, I'll sneak a few quick looks when I'm really sure they aren't looking. But, I always have to be careful. I am totally aware of the fact that I have this bad habit of kinda spacing out while staring at a cute guy...and after, like, 30 minutes have somehow passed by (to my complete surprise!), they tend to notice me staring at them. Some guys seem a little pissed; others just look disgusted.
Thankfully, since I came out to the `parents' the subject of me being gay hasn't really come up again at home. I still don't feel very comfortable talking about it, even to Jack. But, it's not like I've been bringing boyfriends home after school for make-out sessions or anything. Ya, right! Everyone in my class already thinks I'm strange...I don't think I'm gonna land a boyfriend here any time soon. And, as a lowly sophomore (the first year at our 3-year high school), the older guys are pretty much just a fantasy anyway. No, I think I'm gonna remain a virgin until I get out of this stupid place when I graduate. I just don't see any other logical choice. Well, I've tried like, chat room cyber sex and stuff, but that's still just beatin' off when you get down to it, ya know?
Oh well...another painful and boring day at school, and another awkward family dinner. Mercifully, it eventually ended, and I trudged back up the stairs to my room. My sanctuary. I've trained the `parents' pretty well. They won't disturb me in my room, unless, like, the house is on fire or something. Maybe they're just afraid to come in because they think I'll be jerkin' off, LOL. Nope. They're safe. I never jerk off in my room, as a rule. I've always preferred the shower. Soap makes for better lubrication, and there's no messy clean up. Besides, I have my own bathroom attached to my bedroom, and I can hop in the shower any time I feel like it, ya know? Ok, so maybe the water bill is a little high sometimes, but so far they haven't complained. Hey, at least I'm always clean!
Upon entering my room, I immediately flopped down on my bed, and kicked my shoes off onto the floor. God, I just don't know what's wrong with me lately. Everything in my life just feels strange to me...I live in this constant state of anxiety and frustration with the world...like I woke up one day and found out that I got cast in the wrong movie...my script just doesn't seem to match with anyone else's. In my heart, I just know that things aren't supposed to be this way! I think I'm permanently stuck in the twilight zone. Somebody must have made a mistake somewhere, I'm sure.
I just have this growing sense of despair inside of me. It feels like a huge chasm growing between myself and the rest of the world, that slowly keeps getting wider and wider. I'm worried that pretty soon I won't be able to see across to the other side. I guess I'm afraid I'm losing touch with reality...their reality, not mine. I just feel really alone, I guess. I'm totally convinced that I must be the only gay teenage boy for at least a fifty-mile radius, because I just can't find another guy at my school who even remotely sets off my `gaydar', if there even is such a thing. I don't even bother trying to explain it to anyone else besides Jack. Who else is gonna understand even just a little bit of what goes on inside my messed up head?
It totally struck me when I was sitting in my homeroom class this morning. As I looked around the room, I realized that I didn't really know any of these people, and I had been going to school with most of them practically all my life. And, of course, they didn't really know me either. Oh, they might think they know what I'm like as a person, but you can bet they're wrong. Nobody seems to really know who I am. And worse yet, nobody seems to really care. But, I guess I don't do anything to make anybody want to know me, either. I think that deep down I'm afraid that even after they really do get to know me, they won't like me anyway. At least this way, I have a good excuse for nobody liking me, right?
And another thing: a lot of people have been getting pissed off with me lately. I guess it's mostly because I've been even more distracted than usual. I just can't help it. When my mind is totally consumed with something, I have a hard time paying much attention to the outside world. I bump into things when I walk...other people...drinking fountains...walls. Stuff like that. My teachers keep telling me that I'm not working `up to my potential.' Heck, like how would they even know?
If things don't get any better, I guess I'll just have to spill my guts in my counseling session with Jack tomorrow. Part of me really wants to, but I know it won't come easy. Sometimes, after a really draining session, I feel like I just lost a 10 round fight with Mike Tyson...emotionally beat up (but, thankfully, with ears still intact!). But, it's always the same. I spend a few weeks trying to run away and hide from my innermost feelings, but sooner or later they catch up with me. Then, there's hell to pay. You think I'd learn after a while. Jack really does his best to help me through it, but it's still tough for me. Man, I'm gettin' real tired of kicking my own ass, here.
Too bad I'm so good at it!