I recently went home to celebrate my mother’s 60th birthday (she doesn’t look a day over 38). It was a weekend of laughs and meals and car rides that reminded me how blessed I am to be a Zuniga.
And yet part of that weekend pricked a wound still in me. As part of our collective gift for our mother, my siblings and I converted a dozen home movies on VHS to DVD. We watched one over the weekend, featuring a 1-and-a-half year-old Tom toddling around with his blonde mop and quizzical facial expressions.
I looked at the little boy on the screen, noting his outward cuteness along with the rest of my family watching. But inwardly, the 29-year-old version of this same boy couldn’t help looking back 27-and-a-half years with frustration and regret that harder times would be on the horizon.
In just a few years, he’d start to develop an emotional fixation-turned-attraction for other boys.
In just a few more years, that emotional attraction would turn physical the greater he felt disconnected from his gender.
In just a few more, this boy would move a thousand miles away from the only home he’d ever known to a new home he’d hate with all his soul.
And in just a few more, this same little boy would discover pornography and the dark side of the Internet, forever losing his innocence.
His hair would darken, but his quizzical looks would remain: wondering why things were the way that they were and how on earth he got here.
I’ve often thought about what life would have been like had something — anything — gone differently for that little boy.
What if he’d been in an environment where he could better connect with the other boys? A different church, a different school, a different neighborhood?
What if he and his family had never moved to Georgia? What if that loss of home — Eden — had never engulfed him in the height of puberty?
What if he had never discovered pornography, or discovered it far later under different circumstances, or been caught?
I’m a thinker, an over-thinker, in fact, and I often drive myself to the brink, thinking about all the other lives I could have led by now. Better ones, worse ones. The struggles that wouldn’t have been there, or maybe the ones that would have shifted; the new relationships that would have formed and grown; the love and yet the inevitable loss of love that would have transpired.
I love nostalgia, but gosh do I also have a hard time with it. How I love remembering things once forgotten or long stored away.
And yet so much of me would almost rather forget.
Forget a time before struggle.
Forget the blonde haired boy.
That boy is gone. That boy is dead.
And yet he somehow lives.
Left to forge a new identity in the fires that now pursue me decades later.