Friday was release day for a book I wrote called Beacon, book one of the Nation of Five series. The book is about young men and an impossible task they set before themselves. Well, I know a lot about impossible tasks. I’m a DID survivor who suffers from hallucinations. I have bipolar and Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder. Getting through a day where I make dinner, hang out with my kids, be a husband to my wife, and not end the day screaming, is the completion of an impossible task. Well, it may be an impossible task that’s undertaken in the book Beacon, but it’s only even considered because of the friendship between four boys. Four teenage boys attempt this daunting feat. Got me thinking about the boys and men in my life. And so this weekend to celebrate the release of Beacon, I will be dropping upon you chapters from Reality of the Unreal Mind. These chapters are from the unreleased third volume, titled The Keep. I start at 7:30 in the evening on Friday, and will end at 9 at night on Sunday. So follow me now into the story of the men who made me possible.
I was jealous. I hated myself for it a little. I told myself I was being an idiot. But still, the confusion was real, the jealousy was real, and it was worse when I heard the next part.
Hitchhiker had been set up with this guy. He had never seen him before, but everyone had said to everyone else that the guy looked like me.
When I saw the guy, I was shocked. His hair was long but lanky. He was thicker, fatter than me. He wore glasses but they looked different than mine and his face was a wreck. I shouldn’t say that because I don’t remember it very well. What I do remember was that I was jealous, but also scared that I did look like this guy. He was not attractive at all.
I pulled Ty aside when the play was over and pointed at the guy.
“Is that what I look like?” I asked.
“Everyone said I looked like Hitchhiker’s date tonight.”
“God, no! That dude is a mule. No, don’t for a second longer think you look like that.” He slapped the back of my head. “You ought to know better.”
And any other time, I would have. I knew I was attractive. But this was different. I had never been compared to a guy who was walking off with another guy that I had feelings for. This was a totally different experience for me. And every bit of self-doubt was having its way with me.
Ty and Bravo had to tear down the set. Precious was helping them and I started to, but the stage manager came over to yell at me and flirt with me as she told me I had to leave. I was not a student or she would definitely know it. Get off her set and find her later.
I asked Ty what to do, and he told me to go to his room, and to his computer, and fucking write something. Bravo looked at me and nodded.
“Go be Jesse Teller for fuck’s sake,” Bravo said.
I went to the room and I tried to work the computer. I did want to write. I wanted anything to distract me from the feelings I was having. The confusion and the sick tightening of my stomach that cramped me up. I got in that room. I did not even know where the power button was on the damn thing. I sat at the desk and stared at the blank screen, trying to make sense of the senseless.
Soon the door popped open and Hitchhiker busted in. He looked at me and smiled.
“What about your date?” I asked. I was so relieved to see him, so happy he was there.
“Fuck that guy. He is a dog. I want to be here.”
“He looks just like me,” I said with a nervous chuckle.
“Whoever said that is fucking blind. That dude looks nothing like you,” Hitchhiker said.
“Well don’t you have plans with him?”
“I agreed to meet him. I met him, talked to him for a while, and excused myself.” He grinned. “Want to hang out?”
And we did. And it was easy. It was fun and there was no pressure or confusion. It seemed like I was where I was supposed to be. We laughed and we waited, and when all of it was done and the set was broken down, Ty and Bravo came to the room.
“Get your asses up. We are going to a party,” Bravo said.
“Where?” Hitchhiker said.
“Sunshine’s house.” He grinned. “Let’s move it.” He turned and was gone. “I’ll meet you there.”
“Sunshine is having a thing. Let’s get out of here,” Ty said. “I need to blow off a little bit after that performance. It was not my best.”
I wanted to slap him. I grabbed him by the sides of the face and stared him in the eye. “I will never forget that play as long as I live. That was amazing! You’re an acting god.”
“Well at least I am doing what I am meant to be doing,” he said. He stared at me for a minute. “I’m just fucking with you, but you do need to get off your ass. Let’s go. We don’t have all night. It is already late.”
Car. Short drive across a very small college town and we are at a small apartment. I meet a girl that I can’t remember. She was a bit portly, not unattractive, and she looked at me like I was a snack.
The other girl, Sunshine, was a blonde. Very pretty but not at all interested in me. I introduced myself. Some of them drank. I don’t remember who. Sunshine asked me if I wanted to drink and I told her no. No one pushed it after I told them I was Straight Edge. And then we had an empty bottle. We had a floor.
This part was not confusing at all.
We all sat in a circle, and for the first time in my life, I played spin the bottle.
I kissed everyone in the room.
And the peckish one.
When I spun the bottle and it pointed at her, we met in the middle of the room. I kissed her and she gripped the back of my head and pulled me in for more. It was so aggressive I actually kind of liked it. I was not attracted to her, but it felt great to be wanted. When I pulled back, she winked at me breathless.
None of the others were eventful and none of the others meant anything to me. Kissing guys was supposed to be weird, but it was not really. It was just a party thing, and when I kissed Hitchhiker, I was actually surprised that I felt nothing at all.
We ended up, of course, back at their dorm. Ty and Precious wanted time alone so me and Hitchhiker went on a walk. We went to a common room where they had a tiny concession stand and a television. I know it was not this night, but one of the nights that I was there, in that room, Ellen DeGeneres kissed a girl on screen.
It seemed an analogy for my time at Culver-Stockton. This was the first display of homosexuality on any screen. This was the first expression of homosexuality in my life. It seemed like both the world at large and me personally were trying something.
Ellen lost everything. The entire world turned on her and it was years before she had a career again. Just to let you know where this is going.
We ended up in the dorm again. This time Precious and Ty had taken the top bunk. It was nearly dawn but I can’t remember where we had been. Hitchhiker and I talked a lot. We laughed a lot. Everything was easy. And when it was time to get in bed, we dropped into our usual spots. I wrapped an arm around him, he set his cheek on my chest, and we pretended to sleep.
I took my shirt off and instantly knew I was not gay.
When I took it off and he saw my chest hair, he said, “Wow.” That was it. I was expecting some sort of stomach-turning thing. A flinch. A twitch. But he said wow and dropped it. I am still not sure if he liked what he saw or he just had never seen such a hairy guy before, but I laid down, wrapped my arm around him, and I felt his five o’clock shadow.
I was instantly turned off. I did not pull away from him, but I knew that no matter what anyone wondered about me, I was not even a little gay.
“I’m not gay,” I said.
“Well I can’t give you any of myself.”
“I always knew you couldn’t,” Hitchhiker said. I looked at him and he smiled. “You needed to work something out. I was just trying to help.”
“If there was ever a guy I could love, it would be you,” I said.
“No doubt in my mind. But I am not a girl and you are not a gay guy. I needed to help you figure that out.”
That was Hitchhiker. That was one of the greatest people I ever knew. He taught me that I could never find a life with a man. He taught me that everything Chalice had put in my head was a lie. He taught me that the hole inside of me was not ever going to be filled by him. He gave me part of himself just to let me help myself.
When I left him, I hugged him for the last time. And I never looked back.
Thanks, Hitchhiker. Thanks for sharing yourself with me when you didn’t have to. And thank you for answering a question that had been put in my head.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.