Driving down the road, in my parents’ baby blue minivan, I turned to the passenger and asked the timeless questions: “What would you think if I told you I murdered someone? Would you still be my friend?”
Thus began my clumsy attempt to come out to my best friend.
It was my junior year in college, and I had been putting off the conversation for several years. We didn’t attend the same school, so it was easy to promise myself that I would tell him “the next time we’re together.” Despite the delay, I mustered up the courage on a break from school, and began the conversation on a drive from his house to mine.
In case you haven’t done it, when you ask someone you know if they would mind if you had murdered someone, you get their attention pretty quickly. Come to think of it, whether it’s a stranger or an intimate, bring up killing someone, and people really listen!
After I’m sure he uttered a confused and incredulous response, I’m sure I offered the assurance that the question was purely hypothetical, but the point was real: I wanted to see how he would react if I had done what my 20-year-old mind considered to be the worst thing one could do. I honestly don’t remember what he said, and I don’t remember how the rest of the conversation proceeded. But, somewhere up Highway 60 and snaking around Green River Road, I found the intestinal fortitude to tell him I was gay. Did I mention we were riding in a super cool minivan?
As we pulled through the cul-de-sac into my parents’ driveway, I stopped the car but continued to talk. I’m sure I apologized for not telling him sooner, explained how hard it was to admit, and hoped he would understand. I do remember telling him that I had started off with the question about murder because I just didn’t want to lose my best friend. I guess I thought that, compared to murder, being gay would seem like nothing. It’s certainly a telling insight on being gay in the mid-90s in Kentucky.
He sat there in the passenger seat for a few moments, looking out the window. I’m not sure if he had ever wondered if I was gay or not, and I’ve never asked him. What he said next, though, has stuck with me for twenty years. He turned and looked at me and said, “Well, I’m not going anywhere.” Now, he could have literally meant that he was physically inert, sitting in my parents’ driveway in a super sweet baby blue Plymouth Voyager minivan. I like to think, though, he meant that my admission didn’t change our friendship. Twenty years later, I can report I’ve had the same best friend for twenty-five years.
Although we’ve rarely lived in the same town, we’ve been incredibly close for a quarter century. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve got some stories. And, yet, in a lot of ways, none top that moment in the driveway. And I don’t say that just because it was a major emotional moment for me as a gay man. I say that because life doesn’t hand you too many opportunities to see the true mettle of those you love.
You have to cherish those moments when they occur….especially when they happen in a baby blue minivan.