That Boy is Dead

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 Eden.

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.

That Boy is Dead

  • Joni

    There aren’t adequate words to describe how this touched my heart. So much so that I will be pondering on it for a while. Thank you for being brave and for sharing your heart.

  • naturgesetz

    You say you’re an over-thinker. You certainly share more of your introspection than most people, but I wonder if many of us have similar thoughts to yours but just don’t hold on to them to write about them. Anyway, it’s touching to have these insights into who you were and who you are.

    • Thanks, N. I’d like to think I’m the only one that has these thoughts, but I’m willing to concede that many people also think like me.

  • Brock

    Like you I’m an over-thinker. Overthinking myself onto an emotional ledge has been a recurring struggle. One thing I’ve learned more in the last year is this – Never look back. Being the melancholic introvert I will focus on the worst and hate myself. I’ll re-live past mistakes and feel the painful stabs of guilt reopening old wounds. Instead I take the tools of wisdom earned by my previous stupidity and I force myself to look ahead. I set goals and push myself forward, always forward.

    • Always forward. That’s become such a motto for my life in recent years. The past is the past, and it certainly has an effect on today, but it doesn’t have to steer my future. Thanks for that reminder, Brock. And thanks for commenting over here! Much love, brother.