Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sketch Pad

I hadn’t heard from her since just after the funeral.

Dear Jefferson,

How are you doing up in New York? I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch since Allan passed on. I suppose the good news is that now, after about a million hours of therapy, I’ve been able to move on with my life.

Doing that has meant going through some of Allan’s things and putting them in a trunk for his mother. I came across a letter you wrote to him in a sketch pad back in the day. I think it should go to you, due to its intimate nature.

Would you like me to send it to you? And are you at the same address?

I bet your kids are getting so big!

Love,
Mandy


One of last times I saw Mandy, she was carrying a large ceramic urn filled with Allan’s cremains.

“My husband is pretty heavy,” she lamented, her lips in a wry smile.

I touched her arm, not knowing what else to do.

Allan was among my closest friends in high school. He was the first boy I ever kissed. We began to have sex when he was fifteen and I was sixteen. It was the first time I fell in love.

We were two straight boys in love.

His death a few years ago was sudden and unexpected. It devastated us all.

I thanked Mandy for thinking of me, and said I would very much appreciate the return of the sketch pad. I gave her my address, told her about my divorce, and then noticed that the signature to her email gave a new last name—a surname that I recognized.

I asked about that. She said, yes, about three years ago she had married Jim McFarland, who had also been among our circle of friends in high school. And at age forty, she had finally realized her dream of becoming a mother.

Nice going! I told her. You done good in picking a mate: that Jim was always handsome. It can’t hurt to shake some pretty looks into the gene pool.

He’s still a looker, she wrote, and I think our son is beautiful. But I’m biased. You can judge the results for yourself. Attached was a photograph of the happy family. Their son was climbing on a train. He was adorable.

Allan’s mom considers him a grandson.

The sketch pad arrived a week later. I had no memory of it, or of writing the note to Allan, until I saw the opening pages.

All right, my friend, here’s the deal: On July 3, your mom called to say you were in Venice and would be in Paris July 6. And since I have been meaning to start keeping some sort of journal for you for a while, I took this as my cue to begin.

It came back to me. In the summer of 1984, when he was nineteen and I was twenty, Allan went to Europe. I stayed home to work and go to school. He was with a group for one portion of the trip, as I recalled, then stayed to tramp about on his own.

The purpose of my letter is twofold: I want to fill you in on any juicy stuff you might miss in this HOT summer of summers, and (more importantly) to tell you things about me that you don’t know (assuming you’re interested). I hope you will keep your yap shut about the whole thing.

Although I did start writing on July 3, it’s now July 13. I’ve torn out the first twenty or so pages from this book. I will keep them forever, of course, but you will never see them.

You see, not long into the letter, I realized that July 3 is a special anniversary in our friendship, and I began drinking to that anniversary. I wound up very angry at you because of the way you were acting when you left.

The anniversary was for our second sexual fiasco, that night at an empty house, July 3, 1982. And afterwards—I don’t really expect you to remember any of this—as you drove my car to some Eastside shindig, just as we passed the Baptist bookstore, you told me that you trusted me more than anyone else in your life, other than your mother.

So that touched me deeply. And it’s just that trust that has sent me to you every time since.

And here’s where I got mad. Every time since.

The Truth: Sometimes I’m so in love with you, I would do anything you say. I’d go anywhere with you and fuck off the rest of the world just to be with you.

Unfortunately: You know that.

The Bad News: Other times you’re so hung up on your God damn ego that you can be so cruel to me that I hate you as I’ve never hated anyone. When you’re drunk (Christ! When you are drunk!), you get so mean to me, really malicious, that I get hurt. And since you never think you’re as drunk as you are, you become impossible to talk to, and so it winds up bottling inside me. In those twenty pages you won’t see, the bottle exploded.

Now, I’m fine. It was good therapy, and we’re still friends.

Maybe I should tell you the conclusion I reached after so much therapy.

I touch you because I love/trust/need you. You let me touch you because you like to cum.

Nothing wrong with that attitude once I put it in perspective, but for a while, I was hurting. I think I am the closest you’ve ever come to being in love, but I also know that we can’t make love.

I’m stuck. I don’t like boys, but I do love you.


Wow, I thought. Pity poor Allan that I made him read all this stuff. I mean, he knew I loved him. I knew he loved me .We said so all the time.

Still, the fact that I wrote such tortured words revealed that I was wrestling with a desire for him that he could never really reciprocate in the same way.

Looking back now, I would have amended the conclusion.

I touched him because I loved/trusted/needed him, true. But he let me touch him because he loved me. In the Deep South, twenty years ago, that was understandably confusing to two straight teenagers.

I read forward through my descriptions of nearly every time we had been sexual. I expressed my frustration at a threesome with my girlfriend, our first, which occurred after we found him drunk at a street fair and took him to my apartment.

Once upon a time, as we lay, two naked youths idyllically dreaming, we imagined, wouldn’t it be nice if we could one day share a woman, and, with her, make love to one another. And as the sun poured through your bedroom window, we fell asleep with that thought. Ah . . .

Of course, when it actually happened that night, you kicked me, whacked off into her, and, once sated, scowled and left the room. I offered you my lover, whom I care about, and you didn’t really seem to think anything of it. She was humiliated and I was—mad. To put it mildly.

She and I don’t talk about that night.


Finally, in the sketch pad, I had changed the subject to art, gossip about friends, and books I was reading. I offered him quotes from Sylvia Plath (because I was young), Hermann Hesse (because I was sensitive) and (because I rock) Joe Jackson.

That summer, everyone had a nickname. My roommate and top chum was Peabo. My girlfriend was Pablo. My girlfriend from high school, whom I still sort of dated, was Guini.

At the end of the summer, Allan returned. Peabo and I hosted a party, which was generously lubricated with my White Trash Margaritas. It was the first time I had seen Allan that summer. As much as we enjoyed the party, I wanted him to myself.

That night, I added to the sketch pad.

As I write this, you are asleep on my couch. I want to know everything about your summer. And I want you to know (Tequila speaks) that I’m ecstatic to be with you again. I need to talk with you, but I am glad I prepared this secretive little background for you.

Be sure in this: the only changes I can see in you are certainly good. Physically (Tequila writes), you are more beautiful that you’ve ever been. Although you are asleep with your soft mouth open, you’re still a moonlit vision (Tequila gets horny). If I could fuck you, I would. You are just that lovely.

But on a more realistic level, you are good, confident, and—I don’t know—grown up.

I want to be alone with you before you leave again. We’ve got to talk.

And so, my sleeping friend, I’m going to bed myself. I’ve tried to give you a piece of myself in these pages. Please don’t fuck me over by handling me casually. I wish I’d written more (see following empty pages), but I never did. Tough.

I do love you.

Your best friend,

Jefferson


Apparently, I intended to end the sketch pad there. But the following day, I added more.

Postscript

So I wrote all that sweetness, and then crossed the room to watch you sleep. I gave you a blanket and took off your boots. I like to think you smiled.

I sat there next to you and looked forward to mending the holes that distance can tear into a friendship. This will take work, and your cooperation.

Today, I find that last night, you and Clyde propositioned not only Pablo (who knew better than to say yes) but Guini, too.

And, mercy child! You even went off to fuck dear Guini, except she was so drunk she vomited over the scene.

In so simple an act as vomiting, she kept me three of my dearest friends.

Rule Number One for mending the holes that distance can tear into a friendship:

My lovers are not your playthings.

Fucking your friend’s dear ones will always be voodoo.

Fucking my lovers will cost you your best friend.

You are better than this, pretty boy.

I love you, but I can hate you. Please don’t throw me away.


On the last page of the sketch pad, Allan wrote a note in response. His handwriting was neat, using careful, blocky capital letters.

My dear friend,

I have read your letters to me, twice. And I must say, I am deeply touched. A lot of what you had to say confirmed my suspicions, which I am grateful for.

I want you know tho that I had no idea you felt so strongly about your lovers. Sex was never a big deal to me, but I think you already knew that. I apologize that I made trite something that you hold dear.

I now realize that we have more to talk about that ever and should make a definite time for
(just you and me) to talk.

A lot.

Until, Love,
Allan


I closed the sketch pad. I sent a note to Mandy, thanking her for the thought. It really helped to bring back memories of the man we loved.

Allan and I mended the holes in our friendship. He continued to fuck my girlfriends, of course, but he no longer tried to do so behind my back. Usually, it was before my eyes.

Every now and then, he and I had sex, just him and me.

I continued to wish he could long for me as I longed for him.






18 comments:

Your Weepiest Girlfriend said...

For so many reasons, this makes me want to cry.

rose said...

and for so many reasons, it made me smile and wish to cry. sometimes, jefferson......

Alice said...

this is lovely

Avah said...

I could cry too...damn

plum said...

wonderful writing, and what a sweet, smart boy-man you were (and still are sometimes?)

Madeline Glass said...

Sometimes, when I'm wearing my baseball jersey and jeans I like to lean against the wall and hook my thumbs into my pockets.

Just because.

Anonymous said...

For whatever reason, this post doesn't ring true to me at all. Its uncanny how Jefferson has exactly the same writing style as when he was nineteen, and also, how ALLAN writes in largely the same voice. I don't know any nineteen year olds who are HALF this articulate! (I am a university professor and spend a lot of time with this age group, so i do know from where I speak) I enjoyed the story--as I do all of Jefferson's blog entries--but this was the first one in over two years I've been reading that really made me stop and wonder if what I'd been enjoying all these years was nothing more than fiction. Screamingly entertaining fiction--but fiction nonetheless. I'm sure all of Jefferson's die-hard fans will now promptly throw a complete hissy fit, but c'est la vie . I'll say this: if it IS fiction, he's a damn talented writer and shoul really look into getting a novel published. He's that good.

Jefferson said...

I hear ya, Prof. But you’ll have to take my word on it: I’m not clever enough to invent this stuff.

When I received the sketch pad and began to read it, I was, at first, a little dreading the insight into my teenage psyche. What if my memories of being a good letter writer proved unfounded? I have saved all the letters I received in those years—my friends and I traded notes frequently in the days before email and instant messages—but, of course, I have none that I wrote and sent.

Never mind that the sketch pad was written for an audience of one, and never intended for publication. I wondered if it would make sense to anyone other than the recipient, given context and so on.

But, I can assure you, the sketch pad is real. It’s here on my desk. I transcribed it as written, making no changes to spelling, punctuation or grammar. Thank goodness I didn’t have to show the sloppy handwriting, or—worse—blog my youthful notions about art.

It's bad enough I confessed to reading Sylvia Plath.

I think its origin as juvenilia is demonstrated by its angst and adolescent obsession with a beloved. To me, that is different in tone than my adult voice in this blog.

I suppose the good news is—yes. Allan and I really were articulate teens.

The bad news is that my writing may not have improved appreciably in the past two decades!

As for publishing all this, may that prayer travel from your mouth to Judith Regan’s ear.

Jefferson said...

One thing that surprised me, once I typed and posted the transcript, was its consistency with my stylistic preference to frequently use short paragraphs in the blog. In the sketch pad, a paragraph, or even a word, might be given its own page.

Dang, maybe this isn’t a stylistic preference at all—it may be the only way I know how to write.

Madeline Glass said...

aw, shutcho mouth! your effusive handwriting was pretty then, too.

the line drawing was a bit rough, but then, you were a baby.

thanks for sharing it.

Roxxy said...

Prof,

I have no idea where you're pulling your assumptions and allegations, but as an adolescent in the age groups you described as having poor articulate skills, I copiously resent your statement on that matter.

From a very young age, many young adults are finding increasing talent among their writing skills. It is a true art for someone to accurately justify their thoughts and emotions within the grasp of language. I know many older adults whom still do not know where to begin in expressing thoughts. Not to mention to a most detailed and witty extreme as the ones Jefferson delivers.

If your university students can’t meet your expectations in literature talents, than that is your problem. However, I don’t think you should be interrogating another’s over what you feel is erroneous. Perhaps it is because you have not yet stumbled upon the great works in the literature fields of young adults, which in turn, may be what you are conceiving these declarations upon. That and poor judgment.

I suggest you take a browse around the older blogs and have a peak at the current expressions we inarticulate teens are using. You may just be well surprised.

As for you Jefferson, keep up the marvelous writing. Even though I comment little, I read much; I enjoy much. Thank you for your dedication in writing here, I’m sure everyone would agree with me if I said we all very much appreciate it.

Roxxy.

Viviane said...

Probably one of your most moving posts, ever.

I am gratified to see what 3 days in the mountains, and the solitude to write can produce. That, and a honking big bottle of bourbon.

I-Girl said...

This post...I think it is my very favorite post you have written thus far (that I have read anyways). Think you have brought quite a few of us near tears.
Bittersweet.

tarry.flynn@gmail.com said...

Jefferson, this is one of the most intimate posts you have ever written. After reading it, I feel more...human.

Thank you.

Your writing style has changed little over the last 20 years, ( Of course, neither has anybody elses, sorry prof) , and if it had, I for one would doubt its veracity.

I have just realised that you and I are the same age. I wonder....are you happier now, than you were then?

ghislaine said...

This brought tears to my eyes. Your writing was often touching, but this was exquisite.

I'm sorry for for the loss of your friend.

coco said...

Jefferson, although you are naked in the greater majority of the scenarios about which you blog - this is by far the most revealing of them all. Thank you for sharing!

Christina said...

Jefferson...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

I'm so happy for your fun and exhilerating youth.

This is probably one of my favorite posts.

lorilei13 said...

I know this is an old post, and I apologize for coming so late to the party; I'm working my way backward through your blog, and this was just......really, truly lovely. It made me cry.