By Jern Siong
He ran. Against the hurt, the pain, the abuse.
He ran. From the anger, the hatred, the past.
It took him a long time to summon enough courage to flee. To defy his parents. To leave behind what was familiar and strike out on his own.
In search of a better future.
So, he ran. They tried to hold him back; with tears, poisonous words laced with honey, even threats of bodily harm, but he had steeled himself. Told himself firmly that once he was safely away, none of this would matter.
He knew that once he left, there would be no turning back. But he also knew that if he stayed, there would soon be nothing left. His soul, slowly ripped to shreds by those who claimed to love him, but instead only looked out for their own interests.
He ran. From bigotry, from prejudice, from ignorance.
From those who would never understand how he felt, simply because they refused to.
He had felt lost for so long. Wandering the world on his own, with no help from those he looked to for guidance.
There was a time when he believed what they said about him. Believed the lies, the admonishments, telling him that he would one day burn in hell. Oh, how those monsters had struck fear in his heart, leaving him broken and battered in their so-called homes of worship.
Where was God when he needed him? Where was God when His followers were doing such evil in his name, under his very eyes? Fuck you God, where the hell were you?
He soon learnt that the only place for solace was within his soul. Within the knowledge he painstakingly gathered from months of research.
When he finally learnt the truth, he felt the blanket of pain slip gently off his shoulders onto the ground, and he could breathe freely for the first time.
He had been lost before. But no longer. No longer a fool, believing in the hurtful words of others.
No. He would trust none other than himself. Never again would he fall prey to those who only looked to destroy him and his kind.
It had been a long time since then. Four years and five months, to be precise.
He turned to the warm body by his side and kissed it gently.
If this was happiness, then perhaps he had found it.
Throughout his twenty-three wretched years on Earth, he had never felt this safe. This warm. This contented.
He had wanted for so long, and finally, Nick walked into his life.
It was a chance encounter at a bar. How corny, he had thought that first time, when Nick came up and offered to buy him a drink. One date led to another, and soon he found himself falling hopelessly in love.
Looking at the sleeping form beside him, he was glad that he did not hold back. Of course, there was the fear; the fear that it might not work out, that Nick would leave him for someone else.
But then again, there was Nick. Perfect, gorgeous, sweet, funny Nick. Who always knew how to make him laugh, to cheer him up when he was down, and to give advice when he needed it.
He loved him so much that his heart ached with the pain of it. He wanted to burst out in song and announce to the world that he was in love. With this wonderful man by his side.
Two years. Two years was how long they lasted, before Nick was enticed by another lover, one so powerful he could never hope to compete with.
Romantic novels always described the agony of broken hearts, but only when it happens to you do you realise how truly painful it is. How an emotional pain could hurt worse than a kick in the groin, he didn’t know. All he knew right then was that he would happily take a hundred knees between his own, if only it would bring Nick back.
But it wouldn’t. He knew that, but his heart refused to accept it.
Why? Why do you have to leave me alone in this world?
In the days after, he would lie in his bed, not eating, not thinking; simply staring ahead into the empty walls where their pictures used to be. Where Nick would hold him tightly and plant a kiss on his forehead, promising him forever.
A promise, so easily made, now broken.
He felt tears run down his cheeks and allowed his emotions to take over, falling to the ground in a wretched heap.
He looked up at the man standing in front of him, and nodded.
Slowly, he placed one trembling feet after another on the wooden steps. Climbed onto the stage and strode over to the podium as confidently as he could, even though he was shivering inside.
He turned and stared at the millions before him. Some held placards, while other merely held each other.
There were tears, words of anger, but it all quietened down when they saw him.
It was time.
And he spoke. Spoke about the incident that took his lover away. About the men who had gotten away with such a heinous act simply because there was not enough evidence. He spoke about injustice, about pain, about intolerance. He spoke about bigotry, about how much suffering it has caused them throughout their lives. He spoke about Matthew Shepard, about Jamey Rodemeyer, about Ryan Halligan. He quoted Harvey Milk, Barack Obama, even Andrew Cuomo, who had recently legalised gay marriages in New York. He cried, he swore, he raged, and the crowd with him.
When he finally stepped down, the cheering could be heard a mile away.
He knew then, that his run wasn’t over.
There might not be any changes in his lifetime. He could be running a rat race, for all he knew, but one thing was certain; this was something he had to do.
After Nick, he thought he had lost his purpose in life. But then a newsflash about a gay kid who committed suicide changed everything.
He knew what a dark place it was. Heck, he himself had almost gone over the edge, and he didn’t want any more innocent kids facing that horrible choice.
No, the time for change had come.
Time to run.
Stage One – The Give ’em Hope Campaign is an inspirational online video initiative to inspire and uplift those who feel marginalised or isolated. We exist to bring hope to those who need it most.
The campaign was founded by David E Watters in early 2011 and has grown, with the support of numerous international cheerleaders and proactive participants.