So, I recently announced that I’d be releasing something akin to a biography as my next project. For those of you who only know me from my chicken-crazed Facebook posts and these blog posts, I decided to leave the MM genre a little over a year ago to focus on YA fiction featuring queer characters—it’s a work in progress. However, this new idea (I get them every five minutes) of looking into my past in order to bring something new to my present came about recently, and I’ve been typing nonstop ever since.
I say “something akin to a biography” because it’s not a structured retelling of my life from baby-craig to alcoholic-craig, hoe-craig, and beyond. Instead, I’m combing through the 26 years I’ve existed and pulling out (what I think will be) exciting tales to share; be it love at first sight, lust at first sight, my high-school years, or just that time I had diarrhea on a night out. They’re in no particular order and they touch on things I’ve both come to terms with, and memories I’ve tried to suppress.
Safe to say, it’s proving to be an emotional journey.
Anyway, the point of this is that instead of tackling a topic like my open relationship again in a blog post for the third, fourth, however-many-times, I thought I’d share with you all the (VERY EARLY ROUGH DRAFT) first chapter (and foreword) of what’s going to be titled—
That Time I Did a Thing
I hope you enjoy.
Foreword by myself because I don’t know anyone famous.
We were having an old-fashioned games night this past Saturday and some of my fiancé’s work friends (I’d never met them before) were bringing dozens of cards, boards, and all that other crap people had to use to amuse themselves before Satan blessed us with video games. Anyway, he runs down the stairs into the basement in which I dwell, his eyes wide with a look of did I turn the stove off? about them. And when I ask him what’s wrong, he proceeds with—
“Please don’t talk about choking on dicks when they get here.”
I’d never felt so understood before.
In all honesty I felt a flurry of emotions in the picosecond it took for his words to register: amused, bemused, offended. It sounded like a joke, sure, but his face was full of fear; a fear that I would be unequivocally crude to these complete strangers, and that my behavior would burn bridges he obviously wanted to keep erect (more on erections later). But I also realized something in that moment—something of a pattern that stretched across my life since adolescence.
I’m the person you get warned about before meeting (or gets a warning before meeting new people).
Like Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder why this was. It wasn’t like I was intentionally trying to provoke responses from people, or going out of my way to shock others…was it? No. While I admit I’ve splashed around in the waters of attention-seeking during my pimple-popping years, I’ve long since outgrown the compulsion to say trigger words for no reason and argue for the sake of it.
Well, the answer is a little more complex than something happened to me X amount of years ago and I use inappropriate humor to mask my pain (and even if that is the case, it’d make for a very short book) and the more I thought about it, the more I felt a compulsion to spread my life out on the table, lube it with the flare of artistic exaggeration, and go at it until I find an answer.
This isn’t so much a biography as it is a gay’s journey to discover himself; don’t expect structure, coherency, or a thoroughly thought out narrative with a climatic closing paragraph that gives any of this dribble closure. I’m no one special, I’m not famous, and I don’t have much to say that hasn’t been said before, but I have lived a life, and all twenty-six years of that life has culminated in a single sentence—
“Please don’t talk about choking on dicks when they get here.”
I want to find out why.
That Time I…
knew I was gay (part one)
knew I was gay (part one)
I’m a child of the 90’s and a teen of the 00’s. I grew up with Buffy, Sex and the City, Power Rangers and Batman: The Animated Series; I think these four shows sum up everything from my hobbies (comics, video games, writing, wishing I was a Slayer) to who I am beneath the layers of sarcasm, anxiety, and a thirst for men in spandex.
I remember dial-up internet, talking on the landline with the cord wrapped around my finger, and the irrational fear of strangers in anonymous chat rooms. I remember opening up my Christmas presents and going crazy for the latest Megazords (which, by the way, are worth a fortune now. I wish I’d never sold them during my I’m too cool to like Power Rangers anymore phase) and I remember how unhappy my parents were before their divorce…though, maybe that’s only something I can see in hindsight.
My point is, I remember my childhood with as much accuracy as one can when looking through rose-colored glasses at a simpler time. Only it wasn’t simpler. In fact, from as young as the ages of four or five, I was already struggling internally with something I wouldn’t understand for many years.
Rocky DeSantos is the name of the second Mighty Morphin’ Red Ranger, later to be the Blue Zeo Ranger before getting replaced by that brat Justin in Power Rangers Turbo (I’m not bitter) and he was, without a doubt, my sexual awakening. He was a 90’s dreamboat that looked as if he’d been pried from a boyband, wearing a sleeveless red shirt and a glistening smile, and whenever he was on screen, I was immediately drawn to him.
Of course, I didn’t know what it was I was feeling. I just knew I was feeling something.
I remember my Nan made a comment about my obsession with the show to my mother once, something along the lines of “He can’t take his eyes of her, can he?” (speaking of the Pink Ranger) and that’s when I began to realize that my tendency to gravitate toward the men on television wasn’t normal, or that it wasn’t the assumption others made. I still didn’t quite understand it because I had a childhood blanket of innocence enveloping me…
What I do know is that I didn’t correct my Nan that day. I don’t know why—I just didn’t.
As I entered the playground of Primary School (I’m from the U.K, I have no idea what you call it elsewhere, but I was somewhere between seven and ten at this point) I became increasingly aware that my fascination with exposed biceps and sharp V-lines wasn’t shared by other boys. Everyone on the playground wanted to do things they couldn’t possibly understand yet to the Pink Ranger. When they spoke of shows like Dragon Ball Z, they spoke of the action and gore, whereas I watched anime because the action often led to characters shirts getting torn off, exposing ripe animated abs that made my head feel funny. When we played fighting games, I always wanted to be the badass female (usually the sole female character in the game back in those days), whereas everyone else chose males I didn’t necessarily want to be, but who I felt an attraction toward.
My point is—I knew something was up. I felt different. Isolated. Maybe even afraid to speak up about these feelings. I would spend endless nights imagining myself in the position of female characters on T.V. shows—not because I had any issues with my gender, but because of the attention the male characters gave them.
I wanted to be treated that way. I wanted the boys I looked at a little too often to wrap their arms around me. To protect me. To whisk me off somewhere where we could live alone together. One of my most elaborate recurring dreams as a child was being kidnapped by three insanely handsome men—and this is all before a single pube had sprouted on my pasty, white body.
I simply knew I was different, and it didn’t take long for others to pick up on it, either.
I had two groups of friends as a child; the group I grew up with on my street, and those I had in school. These were completely separate groups, and thus I could be a completely different version of myself with each (a pattern I’d repeat in high school).
One day in school we were playing Power Rangers (AKA some of the boys wanted to fight each other without getting into trouble) and after all the colors had been dished out, all that remained were yellow and pink—because this was the stone age where young boys and girls didn’t stand within three feet of each other.
Now, for those of you that don’t know, the White and Pink Ranger were involved—or as “involved” as two characters could be on a kid’s show. And by the good graces of Lucifer himself, the boy that I couldn’t help but gawk at had chosen to be the White Ranger, leaving my thirsty-self no option but to choose Pink.
“I guess I’ll be Kimberly,” I said, feigning annoyance at having to be a girl (which, again, was a pattern for me at this age).
Silence followed. I think it may have been the first time a silence for me had been uncomfortable. I looked to Rob, my closest friend in school at the time, and he looked to the other boys, who were pulling their faces. Then, the mocking began.
The boy who I liked stormed off in a fit of fury at the thought that his character and mine were connected in a romantic way, even though we were still too young to understand what romance really was. He never spoke to me again, and my group of school friends never let it go. I was quickly omitted from games of tag, and I was always picked last for sports. People started calling me weird, or a sissy, just because I inadvertently let on that I had an air of queerness about myself. Would it have been better if I’d picked the Yellow Ranger, another female character? Was my solitude carved in stone because of my burgeoning flamboyance? I have no idea. But I do know that my choosing Pink lost me friends, as young and silly as we were. And school became something of a lonely, cold place after that.
The hallways, once lined with laughter would get eerily quiet when I walked down them, dozens of dull, unapologetic eyes would befall me as sneers and whispers were spewed my way. Even teachers (for whatever reason) noticed a change within me and started to treat me differently. Everything I did was odd, or perceived to be odd, and my mannerisms started to irk people. I was always told I was loud, or annoying, or just a little off. Parents would often raise a brow at me on parent-teacher nights, their children saying “that’s him” as they pass me by.
I was bullied and belittled, and I couldn’t figure out why.
Looking back, I know this wasn’t all because I said I wanted to be the Pink Ranger on the playground one day, but I think my queer ticks were kicking in, singling me out in a way that couldn’t go unnoticed by my peers.
In an era before YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t know why my feelings were different, or why my voice seemed to be breaking in a different way to other boys (I have that gay twang). I couldn’t jump online and find answers—not that I even knew what to look for because queer representation wasn’t something I’d come across yet. Hell, I didn’t even know the word queer, or gay, or anything LGBT.
But I did know what it was like to feel alone.
As previously mentioned, I had another group of friends. The friends on my street were ones I’d known since I could go outside. All our parents knew each other—some being close friends, others just nodding at each other as they went about their day. Regardless, it was a quiet cul-de-sac road, free from traffic and safe to stay out on until the sun set.
I never mentioned my school life to the friends on my street. I never divulged who I spent my lunch with (or that I spent most of them alone), and they never asked why I didn’t invite anyone from school to my birthday parties. The five of us (four of us being the same age, one being a few years older) could happily spend every hour of every day together, talking about nothing specific and laughing all the same.
They didn’t seem to care or notice my quirks and I had an uninhibited confidence around them that only existed in that small bubble.
On evenings and weekends, I had the thriving social life any pre-teen deserves. On weekdays between the hours of nine and three, I kept my head down, only wanting to make it through the day without something yelling a slur at me across the playground.
James was the name of the older friend on the street (only it wasn’t, but for the sake of this book it is). He was three or four years older, putting him in middle of high-school when I was just about to finish primary. He was tall, lean, and had begun his transition into gothic nobody understands me territory, which I thought was the coolest thing ever as a young boy whose mother still decided when and how I had my hair cut.
Sleepovers weren’t uncommon in our circle, though large sleepovers were. Our parents usually couldn’t deal with a room stuffed with five kids, so we’d often cycle through who was sleeping where on whichever weekends. Sometimes Chris would stay with me when Dan stayed with James, and sometimes Mike would stay at Chris’s while James and I both crashed at Dan’s. Whatever the case, my favorite place to crash was always James’s house, as he had a Playstation, a grunge/gothic music collection, and liked to do his weights topless before bed.
He was a huge fan of horror, and I was (admittedly) quite the crybaby. I’d often been scared to tears by James, and while I sometimes got mad at him for a day or two, as we grew older, I enjoyed the special attention he’d give me more and more.
One night, he tried to scare me in a way that changed my life forever.
It was the summer of 2003/4, I was in the transition between primary and high-school, and I think James was nearing the end of high-school (the graduating age back then was only sixteen in the U.K,). James’s house had an attic conversion, giving us an entire floor to ourselves and making it feel as if his parents didn’t exist during our sleepovers. They seldom came upstairs, and James would be the one to run down the two flights of stairs, grab a snack, and run back up. During our entire friendship, I think I only ever said hello and thank you for letting me stay to them.
Anyway, the sun was setting rather late, maybe eleven, and James had his head out of his bedroom window, smoking a cigarette with his dyed-black hair blowing in the wind. We had the channel Scuzz playing on the T.V, which was supposed to be the more metal version of Kerrang! and I’d never felt cooler.
I pretended to know lyrics to songs I’d never heard of whenever James mimed the words. I so desperately wanted to impress him—to be on his level. When we were in our larger circle of friends, he treated me just like any of the others (save for the scares), but when we were alone…I don’t know. Things were different. Intense. Quiet, but not uncomfortable.
He handed me his cigarette and I half-heartedly put it in my mouth, then released, thinking that’s all you had to do. James laughed at this, then proceeded to teach me how to smoke.
“Like this,” he said, pushing the end of the cig into my lips, fresh from his own. “Now, inhale.”
I looked so deeply into his azure eyes as he did this, my entire being vibrating. He was so tall, so handsome. He was giving me all the attention he had to give, and we were worlds away from anyone else as far as I was concerned.
I did what he asked, but being the inexperienced, somewhat nervous boy that I was, I began to cough up a storm.
James laughed at me as my cheeks flushed beetroot red. When I wouldn’t stop coughing, he asked me to quieten down and left to get me a glass of water. I felt sick to my stomach, but I would’ve tried as many times as it took to impress him. Thankfully, he didn’t ask me to try it again, but he did ask me to try something else with him. Something that he knew would give me a scare.
Around midnight, James pulled out a Ouija board from beneath his single bed. I was hesitant, perhaps even resistant, but he just smirked at me. He gently teased me, knowing exactly what to say to win me over, and even threw in something akin to “I’m here to look after you if anything happens,” which, to this day, does things to me. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong, independent gay man who don’t need no protecting—but sometimes I just want it. I think we all want to feel taken care of on occasion)
So, there we sat, a tween and a teen with a thick piece of wood between us (too much?) and I’d never felt more alive than when James took my hand and put it on the planchette. I visibly shivered once or twice, which James commented on, thinking it was my involuntary reaction to the spookiness of contacting the dead. The reality was that having him grab my hand was the first time I can recall feeling lustful. It was the first time I felt a twitch down below. The first time that all these unspoken feelings I’d been lugging around since I was five or six had manifested themselves in a physical way. I had no idea what was happening—in truth, I was terrified, but I wanted to keep going.
James put on quite the charade with the Ouija board, at least, enough of one to fool my young self. I don’t know how long we were doing it, but it was the first time I’d ever stayed up into the early AM’s of the day. At some point, he’d gotten up and turned off the light, and after he was done scaring me, things got weirdly quiet; it was a different kind of stillness to those we shared previously.
I don’t recall how this happened exactly, or how we ended up in our positions, but James was sat on his bed with his feet on the floor, and I was sat on the floor looking up at him; I could just about make out his silhouette in the darkness. He asked me a variety of questions about myself—things he’d never asked before in the six or seven years we’d known one another. He wanted to know who I liked, if I was masturbating, and if the only girl in our age-bracket that lived on our street was my type. He then mentioned that one of his favorite bands featured a bi-sexual singer, and that he’d been wondering what it’d be like to explore with another guy. He asked me my thoughts on this and I didn’t have an answer.
His words were lost on me. I didn’t know the word for being gay, for being bi, for being anything other than straight—and even then, I’d never heard anyone use the term straight before because sexuality had never been discussed in front of me.
I didn’t question him on the words—I would find out their meaning for myself later in life, but I do remember, as clear as day, the moment that James grabbed my hand, unzipped his skinny jeans, and placed it on his throbbing crotch.
Our sleepovers became more frequent after that night.
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