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Jes

June 1998

I haven't written a blessed word in two months. Honestly. Writers are supposed to curl up and die or revert to some kind of gelatinous state when they go that long without composing a single sentence. Five years ago, when I first started writing with an aim for publication, I was thrilled and startled at the mental act of creation itself. I felt powerful beyond belief ... a boy with very little in his life that he could control, save for this ability to construct miniature worlds and lives that continued to exist in the filing cabinet of my subconscious long after I'd forgotten about them. I wrote what seemed to be incalculable pages, chiseling away at the uncooperative basalt of my world to excavate those rare, shining filaments of wonder. I transplanted people that I'd loved and hated into fantastic situations, giving them different names and pliable faces, conquering their personal demons ... and my own ... in a set number of keystrokes.

But the process itself began to change when I finally admitted my sexuality in a manner that would have made Prospero smile ... "This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine." Writing itself became harder by degrees, worsening with each mental revelation when it should have gained some kind of convenient transcendence, or so I thought. The more honest found myself acting toward people, the more difficult it grew to compose even a few lines of poetry, a rhyming couplet, a half-baked sonnet. The mythic worlds that I'd built over the years were like a delicate mobile, spinning wildly out of control in the tempest that I'd released from Pandora's Closet. I'd been deceiving myself for so damn long that the lie had become a necessary truth. The sun will rise tomorrow, the earth is round, and Jesse is healthy, heterosexual male. That was the sick mantra that I repeated every day to myself. Standing numb in the shower, I would watch the soapy water curl like a gossamer serpent into the drain, and imagine that my unwanted feelings disappeared along with it.

Coming out was not an epiphany, but more of a tired, grudging admittance of this huge, undeniable truth of Grand Canyon-like proportions that I'd been pretending not to see for too many years. It was the silent confirmation of forbidden dreams, buried yearnings, and literary innuendo that, as I examined it, practically screamed my true identity across the cosmos. I remember being struck by an odd notion: I felt like I was sick. I felt as if I were living with a chronic illness that wasted my soul away, taking me a piece at a time and replacing what it stole with fear, rage, depression, desolation. I felt like my identity was being awfully, efficiently usurped. And there was nothing in Heaven or Hell that I could do about it, save for closing my eyes and falling into an even deeper level of cold denial.

Meeting Aaron was like the ringing of a single, clear note in a world where music hadn't been invented yet ... where the very idea of it was outlawed. I'd labored beneath the amber shell of my new and improved identity for a year, and I wasn't getting any better, simply more honest. Oh, being honest could be fun. I could comfort my friends one moment and terrify them the next. This one, brutal blow for truth seemed to dislodge all sorts of other opinions that followed in its wake. I found myself quite unwillingly telling people what I really thought on certain matters, revealing ideologies and standpoints that I thought I'd laid down to sleep ages ago. The more I spoke my mind, the less I felt like a real entity. I was tearing up the many stacks of paper that I'd substituted for my soul, and it was an ugly, painful business. Most of the time I didn't know what body I'd inhabit from one day to the next, and my family took turns spinning the grand wheel of personalities. Who was I becoming? Would I like him? Would he swoop in like a slightly-late Perseus and vanquish all of my lingering doubts and fears and idiocies? At that point I would have given anything for a complete personality overhaul. I wanted new eyes to see with and a new outlook on just about everything, as if these were totally extrinsic qualities that I could pick up at the local department store, tax included.

When Aaron walked into the scene like a rather insistent spear-bearer, unsatisfied with his position in the wings, I found myself blinking to clear the sleep from my eyes. I felt like one of the repentant philosophers that Hume had awoken from "dogmatic slumber", slapping my forehead in disbelief at this absolutely magnificent person who'd existed, up until this point, just fine without me. Everything about Aaron was so warmly licit and inviting and unexpected that, most of the time, I couldn't quite understand why he remained with me and not someone infinitely more ... something. Of course, that was just my cute little negativity complex talking. When I looked at him, all of these little facets of genuine humanity struck me, always one at a time, slow enough to absorb and appreciate without losing myself in who he was or who he might become.

We're so different, he and I, when it comes to expression. I've always been the itinerant storyteller, prone to embellishment and a little deception here and there. I would broadcast my thoughts expansively to others so that they felt they knew me, but all that they really knew were my daily ramblings, which possessed all the stability of a muddy plateau in a rainstorm. Every morning I donned a new set of beliefs, and every night I retired them ... some fibers clung, some vanished. Nobody could predict with any amount of accuracy what I would think, or how I would act, from day to day. That had always been my calling card: the oscillating emotions of Jesse.

Aaron was a chiseled stone. He knew what he knew, and no amount of sunsets could change that. Water could carve solid rock before Aaron relinquished an opinion or cycled an idea. He was who he was ... and there was such a totally inherent surety in that position that it made me more than a little frightened. Here I was, mutable as the wind, confronting this mountain of safe practicality that offered both shelter and sameness. The true name to all of my syllables that laughed and whispered every which way. I was unprepared for someone so mentally decisive. But then again, I doubt he could have ever prepared himself for a quicksilver bolt of light like me. Yes ... I doubt that.

We've reached a kind of comfortable altitude in our relationship. I've come to know a great deal of his personal quirks, and vice versa. We aren't uncomfortable when one of us is silent ... although he'll almost always ask me what I'm thinking, which is funny, since I never thought anyone would care. Oddly enough, we don't find ourselves tackling the "big issues": religion, politics, morality, etc. We rarely talk about those kind of things in depth since we have ... well, not opposing views, but simply different views.

One thing I've begun to learn ... and I think this is a powerful lesson that everyone needs to understand on one level or another ... is that I don't need a conversational companion who can talk about all of the things that I love incessantly. If I wanted to hear my own thoughts and ideas regurgitated back to me, I could always record myself. I've lived with myself for nineteen years now, and the last thing I need is someone exactly like me. Aaron is as different from me as anyone I've ever met, and surprisingly enough, that's one of the qualities that really endears him to me. I never know what to expect. I can never predict what he's going to say or how he's going to act because I can only measure his behavior against my own, and since he's nothing like me, I'm left with a blank slate.

Sometimes our personalities clash, but that's a universal tenet. No two people in this world are "perfect" for one another, even though pop psychology and journalistic bullshit would like us to believe so. There are degrees of compatibility, true ... but when it comes down to the essence of a relationship, what you really need are equal parts of love and perseverance. I've learned that you have to wake up each day and find something to be thankful for, no matter how minuscule. If you can managed to summon up that beleaguered sense of gratitude day after day, then after a while it becomes easier and easier to be grateful instead of bitter. Eventually, it becomes second nature, and you find yourself not simply appreciating this life partner of yours, but appreciating the entire world for all of its little eccentricities and unexpected kindnesses that have sculpted your heart and soul from the clay of purpose.


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