Kim the Christian Cowboy
Kim talked me into buying a sixty dollar book called, “On Wounded Knee”. He had a big pock marked nose and big ears as older men get. His face was scarred by what had to have been severe acne when he was younger. His hair was still mostly brown and his mustache was beginning to turn grey. Kim’s dark brown eyes were deep set. He would befriend me at my job and then later rip my heart out without knowing he did it.
Baptism of Fire at the TSA
I went to work for the TSA in Houston. They never hire people on full time at first. Everyone starts part-time, and they have to work their way up. Once a full time opening comes available, you get offered a position. I started at Terminal B in the Houston, Texas airport. I donned my blue uniform and blue gloves and went to work. After six long years running a church and the divorce that followed, I was eager to get back into the work force.
That Woman was Impossible
My trainer was an angry black woman named Jaidia. I have no idea why she was so irritated most of the time, and she let everyone know by mean spirited sarcasm. The kind that made you want lose any hope of friendship with her. She drove me almost to a breaking point because she screwed with me every damn day. Life was miserable during that time and I hated going to work, because I knew she would come up with some way to make me suffer.
She Almost Broke Me
I’m no stranger to hard work, yet what she wanted was to make me quit. I kept my head down until close to the end of my training. She would tell me to do tasks but not explain in detail what she wanted. When I would ask her to elaborate, she would ignore me and not answer me. At that point I let them know how she was treating me. I knew if I didn’t, she would make sure I didn’t get past my probationary period.
The Daily Struggle
My weight was up there at the time and not doing well with physical tasks, and she would make me repeat things that taxed me physically. I knew it but I kept my mouth shut and tried very hard to do everything she tasked me with. Some days, climbing those final stairs to the parking area at IAH were so difficult I would stand there for a moment, crying and trying to encourage my sore body to ascend them one more time.
Jaidia would cut me off and tell me things like, “Yer gonna do it because I said so”. She got so aggressive with me that I finally reported it to my supervisor when I could take no more. They told me she would not be teaching anyone else. She was so manipulative, I figure she was probably using torturing me as an excuse to get out of training anyone else. It worked. When she passed me later she would smile and greet me. All I could see was a snake behind her face. I tried to like her, but she was one of those people you love to distance yourself from.
When I finished training, I was stationed at Terminal D as an official TSA agent. It was there that I met Kim. He appeared crotchety to me at first, but he had nobody to talk to, so I started a conversation. While we waited for international passengers to come through, we often had a couple hours to “shoot the shit” as he said.
Time to Make the Donuts
We would sit in the break room every shift and look at the clock before we started. I would say to him, “Time to make the donuts?” It was a play on an old commercial that we both knew about for Dunkin Donuts. He would look at me and respond, “Time to make the donuts”.
I told Kim about my father and how I missed him. My father died of a heart attack in October 2007 at the age of 63. My dad was an “old school” man and Kim understood the language that my dad spoke. We swapped stories of Kim’s adventures and my father’s. We talked about John Wayne and old movies. Kim enjoyed our conversations, and so did I. He started giving me advice and I enjoyed having that presence in my life again.
Kim Had 15 Acres
At one point I even went to visit him at his house. I was fascinated with the fact that he was actually a quick draw. He even had a special holster and the pistol he had was fashioned with a special hammer. With this modification, the guy firing that pistol could beat others to the draw in a gun fight and Kim did just that. There were pictures of Kim on movie sets with other cowboys. Mounted animals were everywhere because Kim liked to hunt too.
He was Becoming a Father Figure
There was a nice four wheeler Kim had invested in, and we all went for a ride. He showed us his property and the three trailers he had put in so that people could rent from him. It was a solid plan for retirement income. I remember his face and how it would scrunch up sometimes when he spoke to me. I knew he had dentures but his smile was still so nice. God, I loved that man. He was becoming a father figure to me and I knew that if I continued to walk with him that is exactly what he would be for me.
A Cowboy at Heart
Kim was a cowboy at heart, and he had tons of guns in his home. He would quote Charles Heston’s NRA speech, “from my cold dead hands” when talking about losing his rights as a gun owner. The man was a conservative Christian, and I was in the beginning stages of deconstruction. He had built his pastor a huge wooden cross for the church they were attending.
He lost hope in Christianity
Not long after that Kim saw that Christianity was all about money, and he said that was the moment he said, “fuck that shit”. His wife continued on at the church as a secretary but Kim never put up with bullshit. He liked genuineness. I had recently left the church, so we saw eye to eye on the institutional church.
He had a wife that was much younger than him, and while I was at his house once, she pulled me aside and confided in me that they were not intimate anymore. She said it bothered her greatly, and he wouldn’t talk to her about it. I felt bad for her that she was hurting. I have had people tell me things that I didn’t want to often hear in my life. It changes things. She was brokenhearted and he had shut her out. He could be a hard man and that concerned me. I was about to find out how hard he was.
He Shares a Secret
Then, one day Kim told me something that shocked me. As he confided in me I saw that he was struggling to hold back tears. He said that he went to check on his mother one day. It was his birthday, and she always called him without fail. He found her in her trailer. She had committed suicide. I cannot imagine the shock and horror he must have dealt with that day.
Dealing with Death
He didn’t know why she did it on his birthday. Over time he came to the conclusion that his mother had brought him into the world, and that was the best day of her life. He thought that by killing herself on that day, she was trying to send him a message. I was thankful that he tried to turn the situation to something positive. I couldn’t imagine the kind of pain he must have processed.
Importance of Purpose
It wasn’t long after that Kim told me while we were standing on the check point that he had a bottle of Ativan. He had been stockpiling the pills for some time. He told me, “When I get to a point in life where I don’t serve a purpose, I will swallow this whole damn bottle and go to sleep”. It was a serious statement that he meant and I knew it. I guess he was a little like his mother with his attitude toward life.
My Big Day at the TSA
One day while at work in the airport, as I was sitting at the x-ray machine, everything appeared normal. The TSA puts trick images that overlay bags on the x-ray images. You will be looking through and a “tip” will appear. You push the tip button and the image of a gun disappears and it congratulates you. The image can look like an explosive and other dangerous items. The tip is a test and is not a real danger. It prepares you for potential threats.
I Couldn’t Believe my Eyes
We rotated positions on the check point. You would spend an hour in one position and then the whole check point would rotate. I enjoyed being on x-ray because you could sit down for a bit. Everything was rolling along and I looked at the next bag. I recognized the image I saw immediately. My father had a Remington 1100 shotgun and that was the exact image I was looking at. I saw shotgun shells in the case as well. My mouth dropped open and I said, “Holy Shit!”.
I Couldn’t Tell Him
I was just discovering my sexual identity at the time that I met Kim. My best friend Ashley had been by my side for over ten years and I was awakening to the fact that I had been in love with her the whole time. I was too afraid to tell anyone that I thought I might be gay. Kim, who had pictures of himself making cowboy movies in the past was not the kind of man I felt comfortable telling about myself.
One day Kim told me he had a son out there somewhere. One of his first girl friends had gotten pregnant and never told him. His son was out there and Kim’s response was, “Well, he knows how to find me if he wants to”. Then came the comment that caused me to realize just how hard Kim was about his beliefs.
Kim started talking to me one day out of the blue about “them gays”. I was polite and listened to him. He towed the party line with conservative Christianity. Apparently there was this thing that gays had that was “an agenda”. He didn’t really elaborate what that was. I found myself wondering why I didn’t know about this “gay agenda”. It provoked a question in me and I knew Kim well enough to ask.
“What if your son found you and told you he was gay?” I saw his face grow hard and cold. Kim was flat and matter of fact. He said that he would disown his only son if he were gay. I couldn’t believe that he could be so rigid, so hard. I tried talking to him about it, but he wouldn’t budge. He knew he had a son out there somewhere, but he would sever the relationship before it started if he found out his only son was gay.
An End of Things
I knew at that moment this surrogate father was only a temporary one. I began pulling away from Kim at that point. Something inside me knew that if Kim ever found out the truth about my sexuality, he would walk away from me too. My heart hurt, but I felt better about never telling him. I just didn’t want his love for me to turn to hate.
One Day, Perhaps?
People say that I should have tried to talk to him, but they didn’t see how much rage he had toward homosexuality. I would like to think that we shall see each other again, on the other side of eternity, and there he will be able to love me just as I am.
We just had a garage sale recently and I let go of the book Kim had asked me to buy. It was significant for me in that I let go of the pain his belief had caused me. I believe that in different circumstances, he would have been able to embrace me. Even if he never could return my love after finding out I was gay, I still loved Kim. He was an incredible man that was faithful to what he believed. I respect that. I always will.
Kim drew incredibly hard lines, but I understand that he was part of a culture that made him that way. I walked away from the rigidity of religion before I ever allowed myself to even consider that part of me that loved Ashley. It has been years since then and I’ve allowed the love of God to continually tear down the walls that religion built in me.
Belief for the Future
Thirty years of programming takes a while to deconstruct. My love for Ashley, and who I am as a gay woman has flourished since then. Whenever I tell someone like Kim that God made me gay, it seems to infuriate the religiously programmed. When I tell someone who has come to know the love of God the same thing, they embrace me with love, and I am thankful that the body of Christ is growing.
Kimberly is an ordained minister who was a senior pastor and involved in ministry for over thirty years. She lived in Africa and traveled extensively in the United States and abroad, hosting conferences to groups in the thousands. She left organized religion to pursue a life of faith and faithfulness.
Available short stories on Kindle for $1.37 each:
Not My Daughter!: A story too good to tell
Diedre: What I learned when my son chose a girl
For Nicholas: An encounter with the parents of Nicholas that changed our perceptions
The Needs Of The One: An encounter with a schizophrenic man that touched my soul
Farm Lessons: Life and Death lessons are every day on a farm
You can find her on Facebook where she posts under “PK Langley”