Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
James is a 16-year-old who has been living with his Uncle Patrick the past three years. When he was 13, James reported to a teacher that he was being physically abused by his father, and he and his sisters were removed from their biological parents. In the process, he and his siblings had to be split up, and James’ sisters now live with a foster family. The girls have limited on-line access, and are too young to have their own cell phones; so he doesn’t get to speak with them much.
While James doesn’t mind living with his uncle—he doesn’t feel much of a connection either. “Uncle Pat” is an avid Christian and church goer, with traditional values and old school rules — things like early curfews, no TV near the dinner table, and keeping the music down low. Definitely no cursing or songs with strong lyrics. Weird stuff like that. So James has been going out more and more, and staying out later and later — even during Covid-19. Often he sneaks out, even after Uncle Pat has gone to bed.
Here’s the thing — except for a few close friends, no one in the world knows that James is gay; and he keeps it that way by avoiding any serious conversations with his uncle; or any other adults like teachers or coaches. Deep down, he likes his uncle; but he’s afraid of what might happen if Uncle Pat found out the truth about his sexuality. So if he’s not in his room writing stories, poems, or lyrics for songs, he’s out in the neighborhood, at the park, and sometimes at a dance club — even though he’s under age.
Mostly James hangs by himself in an old abandoned warehouse building just past the train tracks down the block. He feels like he’ll explode if he’s home too much, or too early.
Several months ago, when James refused to bring home his report card at the end of a school term, Uncle Pat called the high school and was shocked to learn that James—who was an “A and B-plus” student, and even made the Honor Roll several times—was getting C’s and D’s. Uncle Pat decided that James should talk with a therapist before things got any worse. Her name is Dr. Ernestine, and she mostly sees and treats kids and teens.
Recently, James was arrested for the very first time when he got into a brawl at an over 18 dance club — somewhere he shouldn’t have been. When provoked by a group of older guys who started making racist and sexual remarks, all hell broke loose, and James and one of his friends were carted off by police. In the early morning hours, Uncle Pat bails him out, even though James holds back from sharing any important details.
In his recent therapy session with Dr. Ernestine, James begins to open up about having a difficult time sleeping; about having aggressive nightmares, and that his uncle has told him he sometimes screams out in his sleep, or thrashes around in his bed. James doesn’t like to admit that he sometimes wakes up all sweaty and shaky. He finally tells Dr. Ernestine about his sexuality; and admits his hesitation to share these thoughts and feelings with his uncle.
He opens up even more about his uncle, who seems to always defend the police and their actions, and believes black men need to act a certain way if they are to get along in the world. James has a very different point of view.