"I see your true colors shining through.
I see your true colors, and that's why I love you."
Those lyrics have always had a special place in my heart. I listened to that song the last night I spent with my boyfriend, Kade. We sat on a small ledge overlooking a massive fountain, feeling each other's emotions and conveying, despite the forces trying to separate us, that our love would prevail.
I've always been a weird person. I'm loud, I like things other people typically don't, and I was never inherently good at making friends. This coupled with the fact that I went to a tiny private school definitely compounded this weirdness. Nonetheless, I survived middle school relatively unscathed, even though it was the first public school I had attended. The only thing that was tough was coming to terms with the fact that I was starting to feel sexual attractions toward other boys. By my freshman year of high school, I'd came to the conclusion that I am, without a doubt, gay.
I only had one friend I felt comfortable enough, and I trusted enough, to share this new personal discovery with. After about four months of courage building, I finally developed the strength to tell her. She acted like a good friend would. She was nothing but supportive. But by the summer after freshman year, her thirst for popularity had become unquenchable, and in a sick bid for attention, she outed me.
I was more than hurt. I was hopeless. I had only one other person in my life, the last person I could turn to, my secret boyfriend of three months, Kade. After I was outed, he kept me moving. He'd text me at all hours of the day and drop his plans to call me and make sure I was OK, doing anything and everything he could to make me happy.
But a week after I was outed and Kade had given me that little push I'd needed to keep moving, communication stopped. No texts, no calls, nothing. I gave up trying to reach him.
I was lost and confused. I was trying to grab hold of a strand of hope, but there was nothing left for me to grab. I didn't know why he'd cut me off; I'd thought he loved me. I felt so alone, and sadness and hatred began to build inside me.
Finally, I decided to stop beating myself up and go to an LGBTQ youth conference, where I would be surrounded by loving people. I recognized one of Kade's best friends, and I went to ask her what had happened to him, because I didn't see him at the conference.
"Fuck you." That's all she said to me, and with tears welling in her eyes, she stormed off. I was stunned. I had no idea how such a little inquiry could elicit such a severe response.
Then someone I barely knew pulled me aside, and it was then that I learned the truth: Six months earlier, Kade had come out to his parents, who had kicked him out of his home. With nowhere to stay, he had spent some time sleeping on the streets, where he had been gang raped and infected with HIV. His parents had finally allowed him back into his home when he denied his homosexuality, but he had been unable to bring himself to tell his parents that he was HIV-positive. He had therefore decided to try to live with the virus until he was 18, when he could move out and receive proper treatment. But he'd caught the flu, and he'd rapidly sunk into an AIDS-induced coma. Within days, he'd passed away.
When I discovered this, the last bits of hope I had for my future shattered. I stopped eating and lost almost 40 pounds in the following two weeks. I was deteriorating, both physically and mentally. I just didn't care anymore. I just didn't care.
Before I was lost for good, I was saved. I met someone who had been through so much of what I'd been through, and she picked me up, put me back on my feet, and got me back to a safe place in my life. I went through the rest of high school and got into New York University, but I'm currently going to Chapman University in California. I am an active youth suicide counselor, and I share my experiences with those who are now in my old shoes.
I've been thinking about Kade a lot lately, about what his story means and how, at only 16, he'd died as a result of other people's ignorance and violence. What might have happened to us if he had made it? What might he have made of his life? I don't know.
This is what I do know: I had a dream a few nights ago. Kade and I were back at that fountain, supporting each other through tough times, listening to Cyndi Lauper, and forgetting the world together. Then he turned to me and said, "You always said how lucky we were to be friends, but it was me, baby, who was the lucky one."
I miss him so much. I think about him every day. But somehow that dream makes me feel a lot better.