I remember the first time I saw the Rocky mountains; they were brilliantly lit, a hue of burning purple against the dusk light. The house we drove up to was much smaller and homely than the one in Belgium. My brother and I quickly made it our new home, claiming entire floors for ourselves. Our parents won that fight. Colorado Springs in the 1990’s, what could go wrong?
My earliest memories of romance are with Emi, a girl I met in my Colorado neighborhood. In fact, they moved in not long after we did, and just down the street. We started off as besties. Riding our bikes through the park, showing off for each other and playing around with stuff in our basements. The same day we kissed for the first time, was the same day we prank called the cops together. We were both 8.
I attended public school at an elementary school in Colorado Springs, CO. I remember dancing in gym class, playing football or swinging on the jungle gym at recess. I still have scars from the field we used to play on. It was layered with red gravel.
I was placed in GT (Gifted and Talented) early on. It was a great experience but in hindsight, why were the other students not afforded the extra hour? I got to study brains, astronomy and much more than other students. It must be noted, I was also placed in the class because the conventional classroom was not engaging enough for me. I was, “spirited”.
My parents had become increasingly exasperated with my behavior and turned to counseling for an answer. They had also become increasingly active in the Christian church. They turned to the pastor and deacons when looking for “therapists” to help me. Naturally, it was disaster after disaster.
One of the most religiously unique experiences I’ve ever had within Christian faith was with Dr. Rosario DelCastillo. Our “counseling” sessions began fairly normal, “How was your week”, etc. They would quickly change tune, however. We would huddle together, kneeling sometimes, and Dr. DelCastillo would lay her hands on me and “cast the demons out of me”. It taught me one thing for sure, I am going to Hell and I am EVIL.
The worst “therapy” I have experienced was at the hands of a “Therapist” who practiced “Holding Therapy”. I do not recollect his name but I dubbed him, “Dr. Make you wanna puke”.
I would enter his office, my parents behind a two way mirror, and we would sit together on his couch. It would open with the general banter of “how was your week, how could you have done better if you’d open up?” etc. It would then lead to him laying next to me, wrapping his body on mine and tickling me. Constantly. The tickling would be so long and painful I would vomit sometimes. This was his treatment for “Attachment Disorder”.
I didn’t trust therapy or therapists for a very long time.
I eventually gave in. I remember thinking “if I get baptized and go super churchy, everyone will stop paying attention to my weirdness”. I told my Dad I was considering being baptized one Sunday morning… I had never seen such a huge smile.
Later that morning at church service, the pastor called for new believers to come forward and to be washed clean of their sins. I meekly walked forward… The pastor whooped and danced and when I finally made it down the aisle, he boosted me up on his soldiers and paraded me around the church yelling “The Lord had conquered a “spirted soul, Praise Him on high”.
The next week my baptism was held, my fourth grade teacher would be the officiant. I shit you not, my 4th grade teacher dunked me in a holy pool and said “You’re clean now. Now you can go to Heaven”. I have never had the guts to tell my parents, or anyone else but my wife, it was all just for attention. I needed good attention and god was an easy tool.
Speaking of tools, my father. We left the paradise in Belgium so that he could work for Billy Graham’s organization, “The Navigators”. My dad would often take me to Glen Eyrie, a castle in which The Navigators used for their meetups and international affairs. The bighorn sheep that flocked the grounds made it all worth it.
Up the road, my dad’s office was nestled just a few miles from the Kissing Camels, in the Garden of the Gods – Red rock formations that are of international renown.
While part of this organization, my dad would drag me along to conferences like The Promise Keepers, NavPress conferences and retreats at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, CO. I got to stay a night at the Stanley Hotel while there, so it was worth it.
Then, he heard of a special summer camp for up and coming spiritual leaders. Off I was sent…
The sight of the camp itself was absolutely breathtaking. Just a few miles shy of the treeline, on the eastern face of the Rocky Mountains. The lake itself was naturally formed into the shape of an eagle [roughly]. Atop the hill beside the lake, a massive cross.
The camp activities were filled with fun and challenge. In fact, one of the longest zip-lines in the world hung across the lake and the campers could earn rides across by being good little campies. There was a great tower on the lake and a ginormous blob [air bag] floating neath the tower and zip-line.
I had to wake up at dawn, pray in a circle with my group and head to camp activities. From obstacles to crafts, all with Bible verse reciting and songs of praise. Points were assigned and removed for attitude and participation.
I had very low marks up to the last day and was in danger of not being allowed to participate in parents day (when parents join and do all the activities with good campies). If I had missed that, my parents would have punished me, harshly. So, I went for the gold…
“The Hill” which I referenced earlier, the one with the cross? It was a 3 hour climb to the top, at a swift pace. There was no trail, as a good Christian blazes their own trail to the cross. The points for doing this trek? Do it with group- 10 points. Do it alone – 15 points. Do it alone, without food, water, or map – 25 points. I did the latter. I got the 25 points and a few scrapes and bruises.
After camp, I was able to lay low for awhile. My parents let me outside and off I went to make new friends. One of these friends would end up being my first sexual experience. Hindsight, I suppose my parents fears were legitimate that I would “sin” on my own.
He was a year older and lived a few houses down. I remember he was originally from Canada, and had just the slightest accent. He had a smirk, always laid into his smile, just stuck on one cheek. Tristan, what a hunk.
We used to hangout, him, my brother, our neighbor and myself. We would play street hockey and basketball, and of course, video games. We would always go to his house to watch shows like “The Simpsons” or “MTV”, because we couldn’t at home.
One of these times, everyone had left and we [Tristan and I] were alone. He had offered to rub my back and I laid down. He took my top off and rubbed me all over. It gave me my first real, intense sexual reaction. Without many words, he removed my pants and we ended up having sex. I don’t remember any pain, I only remember “This feels so good”. It never happened again, nor have we spoken of it since.
This experience helped confuse me even further. At the time, it felt more right than anything before. I felt like, a woman. Or, in my ignorant view at the time, what I thought would make me be more womanly.
I always knew I was different. I enjoyed cooking, fancy dresses and things generally associated with femininity. I never knew how to express it and rarely challenged the status quo for fear of instant persecution. While I was attracted to feminine people at the time, sex, in which I was penetrated, had gotten me closer to feeling like myself than ever in my life.
Here we Go, Again.
Life in Colorado Springs had a lot of ups and downs but it was mostly great memories. However, my father was not done moving around. 4 short years after the last move, we would be moving again. This time, we’d move into the shadow of the peak…