I’m currently crashing for a couple nights at a friend’s house in Washington, D.C. They live in the Bloomingdale neighborhood. A collection of hundred year old brick row homes, each one tall and wonky and painted funky colors. Yesterday morning, Jermey, one of my friend’s roommates got stuck in the bathroom. My friends, Becca and Avery, and I were sitting around the kitchen table, eating breakfast, honestly talking about wonky conservative Christian theology, when we heard some pounding and rattling and “ughs” from upstairs.
“Is Jeremy stuck in the bathroom?” asked Becca.
For the next hour, we were all hands on deck trying to break Jeremy out. The house is old. The bathroom door, including its hinges, its handle, its locking mechanism, its wooden surface, are all old. A hundred years old. Constructed and put together and serving its purpose at a time when the world was very different.
With Avery, Becca, and I on the outside and Jeremy on the inside, we tried shoving a credit card, and a bent fork, and a knife through the curved locking mechanism of the door to pry it open. We passed Jeremy some wire under the door. He rigged a loop around the curved locking pin and pulled the pin open while we pushed the door towards him. The pin opened, but the door still wouldn’t budge. We passed a giant pair of plyers under the door so that Jeremy could try to pull out the pins from the door hinge and just take off the door. The hinges are old. I didn’t expect their pins to come out. But easy as pie, they did. They slipped right out in like 60 seconds. But then, even without freaking pins in the hinges, the door would not come off the hinges. The way that the hinges are constructed, the door cannot be pushed off of them while the door is still in the shut position.
We were stuck. Nothing was working. An hour passed. All of us doing something. None of us doing anything that worked.
This is how I often feeling about being gay and out and celebrated, but still sad. Still down and dark and possessing a heaviness I can’t seem to shake.
It’s like I am the one locked in the bathroom, and all my friends are outside doing everything they can to break me out. They are strategizing this and that. They are bending the fancy forks they got at their wedding in an attempt to break me out. They are breaking their credit cards. They are tossing me things under the door to help me get out. They are missing work to stay and help. They are staying with me. Refusing to leave the door even when it seems hopeless.
But despite what they do, I am still in the room with the toilet. And I can’t get myself out of it. I can’t get myself out and into the world that exists just beyond these walls. Into the world where my friends are right there and able to be hugged and to be held and to be gazed at eye to eye. Out in the world where trees and flowers and birds exist. Out in the world in this city where people are fighting really really hard so that my life and that people with lives like mine are better.
But still I’m in the toilet room. Aware of my friends and their sacrifices and their determination to never leave, but still held in my place by a hundred year old door, and hundred year old house that wasn’t built for moments like these. A house that seems to not be built for me. Or at least is not built to be easily opened. To be easily examined and trouble-shot and worked around. This house and its ways keep me locked inside of itself.
We eventually gave up on the door. Avery knocked on enough neighbors’ doors to find one that was home and that had a ladder. He propped that ladder up to the second story bathroom window. Becca held the ladder. Avery climbed up the ladder and helped Jeremy climb out of the window and down the ladders’s rungs. The bathroom is abandoned for now. Avery called the landowner and a locksmith.
And maybe that’s what I need. What all of us queers need.
People who will not give up and who will stay on the back side of the door, sending me whispers that I will be okay. That I will get out. People who will abandon the freakin’ door and find a new way for me to get out. People who will bug their neighbors to figure out that new way. People who will climb to the window and pull me out. People who will then call the person who knows how to fix the door, how to fix the things that keep locking me in. And people who will call the land owner and have a few words to say.
As for the rest of yesterday, I brushed my teeth in the kitchen sink and I didn’t shower.
But DC rained on me anyway.