Yesterday evening, Jeremy and I walked over to the bus stop to go to his first youth group. He was almost giddy with excitement. He scaled the snowbank separating the road from the sidewalk (I stayed on the road) then skipped the side walk, opting to run across the field in running shoes because he says his boots are “too heavy”.
There was a young man already in the bus shelter and he started a casual conversation with us. He seemed like a nice young man (and I seem to be channeling my grandmother here). Clean cut, a bit shy, neatly dressed. Somehow the conversation moved along to earth and the environment then Jeremy brought up aliens. The young man commented that any aliens would look at how we were screwing up ourselves and the planet then just move on by. I made a quip that they’d only come for the dolphins. Yes, Douglas Adams came up with this first. Then Jeremy piped up…
“I think the aliens should take all gay people.”
Instant awkward silence. I knew what he meant but it sounded too much like those comments about wanting LGBTQ people on an island.
“To keep them safe?” I questioned. The tension faded as Jeremy nodded.
“Any time some anti-gay person starts up, the aliens would take the gay person away.”
Judging by that comment, among others, I’m thinking there’s been too much talk about what’s happening in Russia over these past few weeks. When I told Jeremy about Michael Sam coming out, his first worried question was, “Did they arrest him?”
Talk about feeling two inches high. I need to find more positive stories to tell Jeremy.
The alien conversation ended as the bus arrived. Now, this trip is supposed to be an amazingly easy one. Catch the bus, get off downtown, transfer onto the connecting bus on the opposite side of the street, then get off right outside the youth centre. Of course life doesn’t work like that. Our driver was late and we missed the connecting bus by two minutes. Then we waited ten more minutes and caught a bus which took us relatively near where we were going. We just needed to walk five blocks. In the dark. In -20C weather. My poor toes were aching.
We were walking along the sidewalk when the streetlight shut off, plunging us into darkness. We both gasped in surprise then I laughed and told Jeremy he broke it.
“It was a gay lightbulb and the aliens just came and took it,” I joked.
He laughed then informed me that proved he was straight, because the aliens would have gone after him too.
“Jeremy,” I said quietly. “I’m sure your closet is fabulous and you’ve made it comfy and painted it purple. But if you decide to come out, I’m right here.”
“I can’t come out,” he promptly informed me. “I took away the door and welded it shut and stuck a big screen TV in front of it. There’s no way out.”
“I’m sure you’re not the only teen who’s wanted to do that. If you do manage to find the door again, just let me know.”
I couldn’t think of anything else to say regarding what he’d said. Moments later he retorted, “Mom, why won’t you believe I’m straight?”
I really couldn’t think of anything to say to that. Especially after his comments on taking the door out of his metaphorical closet so he couldn’t leave.
This was when we reached the youth centre. We walked inside and were immediately faced with several youths and an open box of pizza. We’d been told to expect pizza so I figured this was it. One person looked over at us then indifferently said, “Hi” and turned away. My heart sank. I tried to catch eye contact with anyone and failed. I felt invisible. Then the lady sitting at the desk behind them piped up, asking if she could help. It turned out that wasn’t the group, Jeremy’s group was down another hall.
We walked down the hallway and reached a small room filled with teens. Pizza sat on the middle of the table and one youth was talking animatedly about his hair dye. Jeremy was welcomed then immediately ushered to a seat with the rest of the teens.
He called twice on the bus ride home and came home in an excellent mood. They’d hung out in the room then went to the gym and played with a parachute; everyone holding the edges while one person ran underneath. The object seemed to be to get the parachute down onto the person as quickly as possible. Jeremy said he ran underneath yelling, “I’m being eaten by a parachute!” He’s looking forward to the next group.
Then came today. Jeremy informed me yesterday that he has only one pair of pants he can wear, a single pair of track pants. He got several new pairs of jeans in the early winter but his waist has grown by two inches and they no longer fit. Jeremy routinely comments that the men’s clothing department is “boring” and Wal-Mart had definitely been a disappointment. It might as well be renamed the Duck Dynasty clothing depot. So I asked Brian, my young coworker, if he had any suggestions. He suggested Superstore, a Canadian grocery store chain which has a clothing store inside.
We got to Superstore and I knew we’d come to the right place, they had men’s clothing in every colour of the rainbow. Except Jeremy paid no attention to the clothes. He went right to the track pants and grabbed a grey pair and a black pair in the largest size they had. I refused to buy them unless he looked at the rest of the clothes. He was angry. He didn’t want any other clothes. I insisted he had to at least try a pair. We toured the room and I watched as his eyes flicked several times to the bright red pants. He didn’t want them, they were too orange. I insisted again that he had to try on a pair. He rolled his eyes and headed to the change room, only to plaintively ask for a larger pair. He loved them. They were too small. I was positive I’d picked the largest size but went back and checked anyway. I came back with a bright blue pair “just to try”. Of course they fit and he insisted he didn’t want them. We put them back and he came back for them within five minutes.
On the way home I commented how worried I am about him. How little he seemed to like himself. I asked him to run an errand for me a few weeks ago, one where he’d need to wait 15 minutes for a bus. There was a snack bar there, he could have picked up something to eat during that time. There was a library there too. He freaked because he wouldn’t have a gadget to distract him. He’d be alone with his own thoughts. I suggested he go for short walks, all by himself, just to get to know himself again. He refused. He didn’t want to listen to his own thoughts. He doesn’t want to know anything about himself.
We got off the bus and I asked Jeremy to describe himself to me.
“Irritable,” he promptly replied. He stepped around the edge of a snowbank. “And angry.”
“So you’re depressed,” I commented. “Anger’s a symptom of depression.”
“Mom, I’ve thought about killing myself this month. My life’s pointless, it’s just not going to get any better. I’m never going to amount to anything.”
I’ve got a website open for a counselor for Jeremy. Hopefully, I’ll get home in time to call them tomorrow. Even more hopefully their sliding scale can drop a lot more than the $90/hr their website claims because we can’t afford that. Not unless we both decide to stop eating.