The World Behind Closed doors (part 8)

3 12 2011

A few days later, we met again to talk things out.  I told him everything on my mind – about how I felt like a friend to him, about how I felt like I was going back in the closet because of it.  Every other word from him was “sorry”, and I knew he really meant it, but words were only words.  We mutually decided to break up.  He tore his world away from the one we had created shut the door behind him.

The last I heard from Kem, he is still in the closet.  I truly hope one day I will look back at this essay and remember the time he wasn’t out and how he eventually found the courage to open the door.  I hope I will remember how his mother knew all along and accepted it, even after much difficulty.  I hope he won’t have to resort to being with a woman like he said he might.  I hope for both their sakes.

We all live in different worlds.  The world Kem and I constructed, though a flawed paradise, could not have survived.  Worlds should co-exist, not be hindered by each other.  They shouldn’t be restrained by hinges or doors.  Worlds should be open, ready and willing to be explored, and most importantly, boundless.  What good is a world – a life – if no one can see it?

The End

[I’m not super happy about how I wrote this ending but it’ll do for now.  Thanks to those to read the whole thing.]

The World Behind Closed Doors (part 7)

1 12 2011

This went on for weeks; I was introduced as a friend and saw Kem maybe a few hours a week if I was lucky.  When we were together I respected his boundaries and restrained myself from tearing off his clothes and mauling him.  I rationalized in my head that even though it made me feel shitty to be known as a friend in his circle and to not see him as much as I could, he was worth it for me.  He understood what it was like to be Chinese and gay (though not out, obviously) and strongly supported me in everything that I did.  But gradually, his world had been merging with mine, shrinking it, and pulling it into his.  I felt more and more like what he was introducing me as: merely a friend.

One night, Kem was over at my place again.  It was in the evening, and he was sitting at my desk, using my computer for homework.  My bedroom door was slightly open on his insistence again, and I was on my bed, reading a copy of Xtra West, the local LGBT newspaper.  I spotted an ad for the upcoming Pride Parade.

“Are you going to the Pride Parade this year?”  I thought this as a legitimate question.  His face said otherwise; it was a combination of “Are you seriously asking me this?” and “Uh… hell no.”  I tried my best to hide my disappointment but sighed.

“Okay,” I replied.  What else could I do?  I certainly wasn’t going to force him to come.  But his immediate dismissal repeatedly pounded on the door of my mind, not going away.  After about a minute, I reasoned, “Why not?  Lots of straight people go.  It doesn’t mean everyone there is automatically gay.”

But apparently that wasn’t safe enough.  In his mind, Kem believed that were he to tell his mother that he was going out that day, she would somehow figure out he was going to the Pride Parade (since, of course, there are zero other activities going on in the city at that time), would discover he was gay, and would then proceed to sharpen her butcher’s knife and wait for him to come home with mardi gras beads around his neck.

He went on to tell me about how his mom had given him everything in his life – support, shelter, love, etc.  If he were to come out to her, he believed he would be throwing it all back in her face, that he wasn’t respecting her – that he would truly be hurting her.  So by keeping this secret to himself, he was sparing her from the pain.

“What’s the worst thing that could happen if you went?”

He sat there, staring at the floor, unable to look at my eyes for several seconds.

“I don’t know.  I don’t have an answer for that.  I’m from a different background than you,” he said, “and my mom is too.  I don’t expect you to understand.”

“I want to understand!  You’re not giving me answers or explaining so I can’t.”

Then we both sat there and avoided each other’s gazes.  The idea behind the Pride Parade is, well, pride.  People are able to be themselves and be proud of it.  I can’t remember his exact words, but Kem told me that night that he wasn’t proud of being gay, of who he is.

“Wait, so you’re never going to come out?”  My eyes fixed upon him, waiting for a response.
“As long as I’m living in Vancouver, no, I’m not going to come out.”

Usually at this point in a story, some cliché phrase like “my world collapsed at that moment” would make its way onto the page.  And though I did feel some devastation, I felt a revelation.  All the pieces made sense.  I always thought he was worth it but to be known as a “friend” the rest of our relationship?  That didn’t make sense.  We couldn’t do this anymore.

(concluded in part 8…)

The World Behind Closed Doors (part 6)

30 11 2011

While his father was mainly away on business in Hong Kong, his mother was suspicious of anyone he would have over, even friends.  Her world consisted of God and suspicion.  She was perceptive of people and lies.  She was – and still is – extremely conservative; Kem had told me that were he to come out to his parents, he truly believed his mom would kill him.  Her conservatism made my mother seem like Siddhartha Gautama.

After Kem’s graduation ceremony in April, there was a reception in the music building where parents and now post-graduates took pictures, told each other of future plans, and thanked teachers that they had known since freshman year.  I somehow found myself standing across from his mom, who I recognized from earlier when he was taking pictures with his family.

“You must be so proud of him,” I said.

She smiled at me, and I wondered if Kem’s description of his mother as a follower of the Westboro Baptist Church might be an exaggeration.

“I am.  He’s tried to teach me music but I don’t understand it.  I just like to listen to it,” she replied in Cantonese, chuckling.

Unlike Kem, my Cantonese is very much broken.  I can understand it fairly well but when I speak, it often comes out in fragments and I’m usually left to say what I mean in English, hoping the other person knows what I’m talking about.  I knew my flawed Cantonese would not impress her.

“That’s good,” I managed to say, beginning to sweat from high use of translating power.

There was a brief pause before the expected, yet unexpected, question: “How did you two meet?  Do you go to school here too?”

Being accustomed to the lie by now, I casually responded, “No, I’m going to film school.  Kem’s helping me with applying to UBC next year.”

“Oh.  So how did you two meet if you don’t go here?”

In that moment, I realized what Kem meant when he told me his mother was a perceptive person.  I saw her take a glance at my shoulder bag, which, among other things, had a Mickey Mouse pin coloured with rainbow colors and another one that said “Queer” on it.  I swallowed hard, not knowing if she was going to bludgeon me with her purse right then and there.

“Ohhh, yeah, I don’t go here.  I met him through a friend,” I said, managing a half-smile and nodding along as if I was just clarifying myself while her eyes bore into me, a lie detector trying to decide if what I was saying was real or not.

“Oh.   Okay.”  Her eyes left mine and it appeared I was out of the clear.


“Do you think she knows?” I asked Kem one night while we were lying in my bed, the lamp on my table illuminating his face.

“I don’t know.  Do you think your mom knows?”

“I don’t know.”

We certainly weren’t going to be addressing the issue anytime soon and like Chinese mothers, if they did know, they wouldn’t say anything either.  It was a stalemate.

(continued in part 7…)

The World Behind Closed Doors (part 5)

29 11 2011

Because of his busy schedule with school, organizing events and concerts, and teaching piano, Kem would visit only a couple times a week, usually the only times we were able to be together to do anything.  During the occasions where my mom was home, he would politely say hi to her, who would in turn politely ask how school was going and how he was doing.  After chatting briefly, he would then come into my room where we would do homework for a while with the door slightly ajar (his idea) so my mom wouldn’t get ideas.  Here in this room, he could be himself.  We could talk about our next dates or I would give him a quick kiss or touch his arm.  And once my mom had gone to bed, we would quietly have sex, with him being extra careful to make sure I wasn’t moaning too loudly in case my mom heard.

One of the first times we had sex, he left at maybe 12:30am.  The next morning, my mother asked me why he left so late and replied, “We were playing cards and he fell asleep.”  Neither of those activities happened, of course.

Hanging out with my friends was slightly better.  I had told them before that Kem was my boyfriend and no one had a problem with it – except Kem.  He wasn’t comfortable being affectionate with me while we all hung out, keeping his distance from doing anything remotely lovey-dovey while my straight friends and their significant others groped one another in front of us.  It was as if he was a magnet: strongly attracted to me only behind my bedroom door but repelled outside it.

None of his friends knew.  We kept up the lie that he was helping me with my university application and no one questioned it.  His friends would hover around him after concerts at school, all talking, reminiscing, laughing at teachers and classes while I stood silently nearby, trying not to feel uncomfortable being just another friend.

(continued in part 6…)

The World Behind Closed Doors (part 4)

28 11 2011

This is probably the point where I should mention my relationship with my mother.  She was born in Hong Kong and despite having lived in Vancouver for more than 20 years, her English is very limited. Furthermore, Western views, society, and culture don’t seem to be as important to her as the traditional Chinese way of living.  It’s as if her mind was a room and she had closed the door to everything else, shutting out anything that would mutate or alter what she knew.  When I came out to my mother, she seemed to take it fairly well, aside from suggesting I go visit a doctor to get examined for my “sickness”.  Even after that, we didn’t mention anything gay-related.  Taboo: an important part of the Chinese way. It’s always better to ignore things.


Because Kem was in the closet, I respected his wish not to tell people he was gay.  We had difficultly determining whether or not I should tell my mom, since I didn’t really care but at the same time, was unsure if she would allow him to come over anymore.  Eventually, we decided it was probably better she didn’t know.  I don’t remember him having any fear of meeting my mom but if I ever did, it was squashed when it happened.

Kem scored immediate points when he first met my mom while she was actually still awake.  It was in the afternoon when he climbed the carpeted stairs up in our house.  My mom was either sitting on the couch, watching melodramatic (ie. absolutely terrible) Chinese soap operas on TV or was in the kitchen cooking.

“This is Kemuel,” I said as he charmingly gave her a smile.

“Kem-yu-al,” she repeated slowly, trying to get his name right.

“He goes to school at UBC,” I continued.  Her face immediately lit up, like hearing one of her kids had taken her advice and was going off to medical school – a look I had never been able to get from her.

“Ah, really?  What are you studying?” she asked in Cantonese, eyes gleaming.

“I’m in the music program,” he replied back in Cantonese.

“Oh!  You know Cantonese!” My mother’s voice rose an octave with excitement.

As the two continued talking, I went to the kitchen, hearing my mother’s animated voice, telling him how useless I was for not going to university while at the same time praising him; I would also heard my boyfriend’s voice, who was trying to convince her that film school was good too.  I felt proud that she liked him so quickly, that she had approved of him – except, of course that she didn’t know we were together.  When asked about how we met, I told my mom he was helping me with my application to UBC, which only made her like him even more.  This wonderful guy was helping her son go to university!  What a godsend!

(continued in part 5…)

The World Behind Closed Doors (part 3)

27 11 2011

It was maybe around midnight when he first came around to my house.  He must’ve finished rehearsal at school and was on his way home; since he lived a mere five minutes drive from my place, he could stop by for a bit.  The door of my house made a fairly loud beeping noise from the alarm when a door opened.  My mom was sleeping at this point and I didn’t want to wake her up and have her come over to my room, to discover me with a strange guy at midnight.  But I was young and instinct-driven, and was willing to risk confused stares and probably a lecture in the morning by my mother.  So I told him to come by for a few minutes and though he was also concerned about my mother’s presence, if not more than me, he came anyway.

He entered my room with hesitance.  We sat on my bed for a few minutes while we filled each other in on our days and the vaguely interesting things that happened to us and most importantly, made out.  I knew he had to be home soon since it was late and after a short while, he left.  As he walked down the steps of the porch, I heard my mom’s footsteps behind me, watching me watching him leave.

“Who was that?” I heard her ask in a low, sleepy voice.

“Um, a friend.”

“Why did you tell him to come here so late?  Do you know what time it is?  Don’t do that again!”  And with that she returned to her room, shuffling her feet on the kitchen floor and when she was gone, I breathed a sigh of relief.

(continued in part 4…)

The World Behind Closed Doors (part 2)

25 11 2011

I was used to talking with people on MSN maybe 10 times before actually seeing them in real life and here was this guy who seemed anxious to finally meet me after two or three conversations?

To be fair, he wasn’t a middle aged white man who fetishized me for being Chinese, which always seemed to be the case.  This guy was 21 and also Chinese, and it was rare – at least for me, anyway – to meet Chinese or Asian guys who were born here in Vancouver and weren’t taking ESL classes.  Relenting to the slight pressure to meet, we decided on a day.

We went out on a Tuesday afternoon after one of my classes.  It was a snowy day in February and since my class was downtown, we decided to meet at a nearby park.  I waited under a little gazebo for a while, hoping I wouldn’t get stood up.  After a few minutes, he still hadn’t shown up, so I decided to take a walk around the park to see if maybe he was waiting for me elsewhere.  The only picture I had of this guy was one from MSN, which was tiny and unclear.  So when I walked past a guy down the street who I thought happened to look like him, I awkwardly walked back to the gazebo, following this guy who I presumed to be my date.  When he stood inside it, waiting, I knew it was him.

Kemuel had short black hair that would coincidentally no longer be styled with gel when I pointed it out a few dates later; he was perpetually tired from early morning classes and late night rehearsals and he lived on a diet of whatever food was available at school and home-cooked meals.  When he let me know he was in the closet, I believed I had read enough gay teen novels to be able to deal with that world.  After all, how hard could it be?  Even though I was out and proud, I was an understanding patient guy and believed he was worth it.  So after a few weeks of going out, we became boyfriends.

The World Behind Closed Doors (part 1)

23 11 2011

Last year, I took a Creative Writing Non-fiction class, and despite the not very good teacher, I had a lot of fun writing and re-writing the two assignments that we had for the course.  Although I’ve previously written about my first relationship, I decided to write about it again, since it was a familiar experience and as my first big assignment, I didn’t want to do anything too out there.  Anyway, I’ve been hesitating to put it on my blog because I considered sending it around to publications but never got around to it.  I figure that I can still send it out and if it’s an issue, I could always take it down from my blog.

With that said, enjoy.

The World Behind Closed Doors

Like all Harlequin romance novels begin, it started with a message – sent via an online dating site.

I was 19 at the time, and my world was built upon piano keys, papers of all sorts of writing, and crushes on boys who would, one way or another, never end up with me.  Because of my lack of any working gaydar, I had resigned to meeting other gay people online by signing up on a few gay online sites.  I met Kemuel that way, and assumed he was just going to be another name added to my list of people I met online who, after meeting them once or twice, would be yet another boring guy I’d rather not talk to again.  I remember the message he sent me: he mentioned that from my profile, I liked music and went on to tell me he that music was also fundamental in his world – he was a student at UBC in the Music Program.  At first, this surprised me – not because he was in the Music Program but the mere fact that someone in cyberspace had 1. bothered to read my profile despite it not having keywords like “bottom boy”, “casual”, or the popular misspelling, “cum”, 2. sent me a message that didn’t include the aforementioned words or have the generic “how r u?” and leave it at that but instead, 3. sent me a message that actually mentioned my interests and started a stimulating conversation.  Now this was profound.

We instant-messaged each other a few days before he wanted to meet, insisting sometime soon.  Still being wary of meeting people from online, it already felt rushed to me.

(continued in part 2…)