I hadn’t heard from her since just after the funeral.
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!
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,
Apparently, I intended to end the sketch pad there. But the following day, I added more.
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.
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.