Part I: An Open Can of White Paint
Part II: Back to the Drawing Board
Part III: Pretending to Sleep
…I was angry. I was unhappy. And it was affecting how I wrote.
I was beginning to understand how everything I did, every step I took or decision I made would affect me, but it would still take a few semesters to figure out how to get exactly what I needed out of my writing.
I started my 2nd semester at The New School in January of 2010, which is when I first started to workshop the piece that appears in Pretending to Sleep. Up until that point, I had been trying to figure how to start Chase’s story. I had gotten it wrong before, so it wasn’t exactly going to be easy.
Then again, when is anything ever easy?
As I started to workshop Chase’s new story, which I titled, Imperfect Symmetry (no, that is not the title of my completed manuscript, though I do really like it, so I may use it. DON’T STEAL IT!), I was getting raked across the coals by my professor and fellow classmates.
It was too busy.
It was too unfocused.
The main character was too unlikeable.
This one particular scene went on for far too long.
Chatter, chatter, chatter.
I was beginning to wonder whether or not I would ever get anything
But I never gave up. I kept writing and tweaking and trying to make Chase a likable character. The main problem with Chase was that he was coming to terms with his sexuality; that was the main focus and driving action of the plot. So while I was writing it, I wrote it very angrily, given my experience with coming to terms with my own sexuality. I kept myself locked in the closet for 22 years, never telling anybody, not even my closest friends. I was damn angry about that. It was mostly at myself, because I never really let myself explore and experience this obvious part of me because of fear of retribution from family, friends, society, the cosmic universe.
Something had to give.
A year earlier, in May of 2009, I went “backpacking” (my version of backpacking = me buying multiple plane tickets to various parts of the western US and staying with family members for weeks on end. I’m a five-star kinda traveller) out west – Nevada, Arizona, Washington, California. While in Washington, I was staying with my cousin, Christianna, who is pretty much the sweetest, most awe-inspiring human being I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. She’s so earthy, so real, and she’s one of those people you can sit and talk with for hours on end, and there is never really a lull in the conversation. She’s the only family member I have that I can chat on the phone with for longer than five minutes, sometimes stretching upwards of an hour, hour and a half. Needless to say, I think that I have a really special relationship with Christianna. I look up to her. She’s an artist, a creator, and she generates such wonderful positivity.
I was staying with her and her husband Heath, who is also one of the most down-to-earth, approachable guys I’ve ever met, for about two weeks at the beginning of May in 2009. Most days, Christianna and Heath had to work, so I was on my own. They lived in a small town called Port Angeles, so I would saddle up my backpack (yes, I actually had a backpack) and walk around the town, exploring old book stores, coffee shops, movie theatres, ports, and a particular store that sold nothing but Twilight merchandise – apparently the town where Twilight takes place was a short drive away.
One day in particular, Christianna and I were in the car, and she asked me one particular question that completely rocked my world.
“Are you gay?”
It wasn’t said in a disgusted way; it was out of genuine, unbiased curiosity.
But I couldn’t answer. I wasn’t ready to answer. It threw me too off-balance.
Of course I was, but I had never said out loud to anybody.
So I lied. “Of course I’m not.”
That particular lie haunted me for weeks.
I spent endless nights lying in bed, questioning why I just couldn’t be honest. I was paralyzed by fear; fear of being unloved, fear of being ostracized, fear of nobody understanding. I hated myself for lying, but at the same time, I hated myself for not being honest. I hated who I was.
I spent a lot of time in Washington and California silently debating with myself, weighing the pros and cons of coming out. During that trip, on a particular day in Port Townsend with Christianna, I finally – and quietly – came the realization that, no matter what I “wanted,” I was gay. There was no denying it at that point. By asking that question, Christianna saved my life in ways she’ll never understand. From this came a two year long writing session that would ultimately lead to the final draft of my completed manuscript; it was a window into something that I already knew, but I could never see through the glass because it was too dirty, too broken, too foggy. This gave me a way in…
But it would still be almost a year before I would let anybody know.
In April of that 2010, I finally decided to come out to my best friend. That was the catalyst that ultimately lead to me finally figuring out how to write my book…