Anuraag /

“For the longest time, I didn’t know what it meant to be not be afraid.

I grew up afraid of my father, who smelled it in me, who called me a sissy, and told me I should have been born a girl. My father who despised me, frankly, and expressed it often, with his hands as much as his mouth.

I grew up afraid of the boys in boarding school, in Nepal, where I grew up, who seemed to know even before I did, who yelled for blowjobs across the class room so everyone could hear, who climbed into my bed, in front of a roomful of boys, week after week, as the rest watched and cheered.

I grew up afraid for my mother, for those nights when my sister and I woke up not to birds and the glow of the sun, but the boom and crash of my father throwing my mother across the living room like a bowling ball, his bellowing rage tearing a sound out of her I’ve tried so hard to forget since then. Sometimes we would find patches of her hair all over the floor the next day, yanked out by his surgeon’s hands.

And this is how I existed for almost two decades. A bullet richocheting off the indomitable boulders of frowning Nepali men and their anger, their lust and their hatred of women. As pointless as an unending howl in a cold, lost cave, reverberating madness in secret darkness, doubling back and forth between school and promises of gay rape and home where crying was as commonplace as dinner. I existed, adrift in fear, self-loathing and terror, until finally, one day, I went to boarding school, pockets filled with pills I had stolen from my father’s medication drawer, and took them all.

Fast-forward 16 years later and I live in Seattle, Washington. I’m out, to my sister and my parents. I have a job, a place to live, good friends who make me laugh and invite me places to do things with them. I have a good, privileged life. I haven’t been afraid in a very long time.

I didn’t escape unscathed though. I drink too much. I stay up too late. I put things up my nose that I probably shouldn’t. I’ve been in the hospital a few times: pills, slashed wrists, etc. I find it very hard to connect with other men as evidenced by the fact that I’ve only ever seriously dated one person. I’m the wild one, the immature one. The mess. The one who’s “too much”.

But there are times when I wake up half-way through the night, my heart pounding, nauseated and dizzy, certain that something very bad is about to happen, that everything is about to change, that any second, someone is going to come roaring into my room and the hurting is going to begin. I’ll wake up ready to jump out of bed and flee, blindly lunging out into the yawning darkness around my bed and at the last minute reality will set in, and I will realize where I am. I will realize that no one is coming through the door, that I am at home and I am safe and I am a fag extraordinaire but that everyone here knows and most people don’t care and the relief that it brings with it is so enormous and all-encompassing that it’s almost too much for me to bear.”

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