by Rani Ruado


                    After “Homosexuality” by Spencer Reece and Thích Quảng Đức

   I remember when I first choked on the smell of gasoline. It pooled on my skin. Beading like perspiration when I told my mom as a kid that I didn’t want my voice to get deeper. Didn’t want hair to grow on my face and chest. The same smell when my second-grade teacher adjusted the jacket I was wearing, draped on my arms exposing my shoulders, copying the other girls. When I blushed after accidentally brushing my nose and lips against a classmate’s cheek after bumping into him during recess. I remember the tang of the gas—a rose dipped in copper—getting stronger in middle school. When the boys would pull up their shirts to wipe their faces while playing football. When I lied about getting turned on by Beyoncé and Shakira in their “Beautiful Liar” video. When Jason started to grow a beard and wear tank tops after school. I remember how the petrol soaked into my clothes one Friday night. When we watched a special video about homosexuality during youth group—the assumption that nobody sitting in the circle could ever struggle with such a sin. The way I walked so slowly that night, as if too heavy a footstep would spark like a flint and ignite the fuel. I remember the smell on my senior class trip. When I went to bed early to avoid talking to the other boys about their crushes and horny encounters. When I fake-proposed to Ciara during assembly to get extra credit in Bible class. I remember how the gasoline leaked out of me in college. Whenever an “ex-homosexual” spoke for convocation. Whenever my roommate jerked off in his bunk above of me. How I would wait to go to the dorm showers at 1 a.m. to ensure nobody else was there. How I scoured my skin raw hoping the stink would come off. I was sure my parents could smell it when I begged them to let me live in an apartment off campus—living with girls instead of boys. The way dad looked at me, I know I must have reeked. And I remember the day I broke and couldn’t handle the stench anymore—how I counted the number of Vicodin I would take so I didn’t have to breathe it in.


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