My existence and life were unraveling as the plane touched down in New York, my mind a battleground of contradicting desires, fears, and heartbreak. The knowledge that the next moments and months of my life would be untidy was as certain as anything I had ever known.
Jonathan‘s confession to the elders had positioned me in an unfavorable light, casting shadows over my integrity. His words, meant to clear his conscience, inadvertently acted as a noose tightening around my own future.
The flight’s end marked the beginning of a terrible journey through a minefield of judgment.
My overseer would be waiting, questions at the ready; he acted like a guardian to the gates of Bethel in my mind, and I wanted to talk with him and explain. He had been a confidant before, and I was hopeful he could help. He was angry at me now. It was as if I had tarnished his reputation. My “confessions” didn’t stop there with him—the Bethel office, alerted by Jonathan in a bid to shield himself, would expect my account, a narration of events I barely had the heart to sift through.
Lastly, the branch committee’s decision loomed, their decision a pivot upon which my fate would turn. I had a desire to leave and I knew in my heart that would be my fate, but the path and destination was a blur, everything ahead clouded with uncertainty. I had no clue where I was going to live, what I was going to do for work. I had less than $200 in my bank account—a small fortune for many Bethelites at the time, but not enough to start a new life far from there.
The idea of ending it all, a thought that I had kept far from my mind when with Jonathan, now came back into my heart with a chilling familiarity. It seemed, in those dark moments, a lesser pain than the one that awaited me. This was alarming and evident enough to my overseer, who saw the despair in my eyes, he was afraid my emotions would breach the confines of sanity. He had already worried about me in the past when I had confessed privately to him my sexual attraction to men in a very emotional moment.
But Bethel’s response was swift—a regimen of Zoloft and Xanax, names of medications that meant little to me, and a vigilance that bordered on imprisonment. I took these as I waited for multiple meetings. Bethel elders would meet, the branch committee would meet, and wherever I chose to go afterward would receive a letter detailing what had happened between me and Jonathan, and I would have to meet with those new elders too and discuss my sins.
The medication and conversations with all of these men, rather than a balm, only served to amplify the whispers of self-destruction. My understanding of them was as nebulous as my recollection of the doctor’s visit, a figure completely obscured in my memory by the fog of my mental turmoil.
The confines of my room became my world; I didn’t even watch TV, I just lay on the floor for almost two weeks—a space both sanctuary and cell, where time blurred into a monotonous loop of wellness checks by the brothers stationed outside my door. Their persistent presence was a double-edged sword; they put me on suicide watch, a reminder that I was cared for, yet simultaneously a symbol of my confinement. The knock on the door every few hours was a lifeline or an intrusion, depending on the angle of my thoughts.
In those moments, I realized that survival was not just about weathering the storm but navigating through the aftermath, finding a way to rebuild from the debris of what was once a structured life.
As I sat there, caught between the depths of despair and the glimmers of hope, I hoped that I wouldn’t wake up, but I did—to tears and crying. It was a chapter of turmoil.
After meeting with Manoj, my laundry overseer, I was scheduled to meet with his overseer Vito and another brother from bethel office who I had become close to, his name was Ken Cook.