Justin Jones, Contributor
Gay, atheist, and epileptic. Call me a super-minority.
Atheist or not, I, like you, need and appreciate solidarity. Solidarity is a trait human and just, something one cannot live without, at once virtuous and addictive. Rarely does something fit all at once the criteria above. And I’m drained of it now.
Perhaps it’s my absence of religion. I quarrel occasionally with pseudo-religious drunks at bars I frequent, mainly with those who know me at a level lower than “acquaintance.” My challengers are people with secondhand readings of who I am or what I’m like, notably because of the company I keep or, my favorite, because “You just look like a bitch.” Wonderful reasons to challenge my (non)beliefs. Religious adherents with whom I argue belong to the greatest of all webs of solace: faith. (To clarify: I do not group together all of the pious; I get along aptly well with most of my religious brothers and sisters–it’s only when they try to force upon me their beliefs that I get feisty.)
I write to you from my sofa by my fireplace, looking out on a cold, dreary day. My couch is a comfy brown thing I bought years ago, a thing hungry to hide remote controls and wallets. Beside me, a glass-and-steel end table stacked high with too many books, and on it, a metallic lamp. In front of me, and before the fire, a matching coffee table holding a poinsettia and a mason jar of sweet tea. To my left, a wall of glass that leads onto my balcony. Nothing special here, certainly nothing glamorous, but home it is.
It’s 3:00 on a Wednesday and I’m stuck here for the next day or so because my constant companion, Epilepsy, has my calling card and rang me last Saturday with a seizure. I write now to you this letter because I’m after some company, and writing it makes me feel not so lonely. I hope you receive it well.
It’s entirely selfish and untrue for me to say that I’m entirely alone. My friends are few but true, and my acquaintances, kind and interesting.
So why do I feel so lonely now? I have television to keep me company, and people use it to this end. I find it sad, though. What has become of the world when you can’t trust even the History Channel to deliver content true to its namesake (Ice Road Truckers anyone)? (Full disclosure: I am, admittedly, a Family Guy disciple.)
Could my loneliness spring from my absence of faith? Could faith run so fundamental that I’m doomed to forever be without a sense of solidarity?
Could my loneliness come from my feeling of being ostracized due to my, eh, condition? Epilepsy is a freak’s condition, haven’t you heard? Or, apropos another era, a demonic possession.
My “episodes,” if you like, or “seizures” if you’re clinical, are characterized by a few minutes of unconsciousness during which my muscles tense and twitch, followed by a period of total incoherence when even my name is hard to recall. And then to the ER for burdensome tests I’ve had a million times in hopes that this time will be different–this time they’ll find what’s causing me these inconveniences.
Seizures are really quite scary; you’ll know this if you’ve had or seen one. I had one last January that nearly killed me (I fell face-first into a marble floor), after which I received a letter (from a reader of another magazine for which I write) that inquired if Jesus Christ was my “Keeper.” I very politely said no, but that I appreciated his concern.
And the existential yawn culminates with my vanished solidarity: I am an argumentative, sweet-tea-drinking, gay atheist with unexplained epilepsy. Take that one home with you.
The pious among you will no doubt tell me that finding my savior will give me the solidarity in life that I crave. The non-believers will tell me either to buck up and stop my annoying navel-grazing (which I suppose could be said of believers and non-believers alike), or give me words without faith, but with reason.
I need none of the above.
We arrive then at why I write, and I melt, impassioned, by my fire. Through the printed word, I see you. Not in a creepy God way. No. I see you in the way that solace requests: through a mutuality duplicable under only the most candid, most intimate, circumstances.
So here I am, nude before you in grit and in passion, a 26 year-old gay boy who happens to be an epileptic atheist.
There, I showed you mine. Now show me yours.
*Justin Jones is a columnist for Lavender Magazine, Guy Magazine, and Florida Agenda Newspaper. He also contributes fiction to GayRVA.com. Follow him at Facebook.com/JustinJonesWriter.