Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Message of Love, excerpt: Naked Handstand

Ah, new year's resolutions. We resolve to cease some behaviors and start others. The night had a special meaning in the previous book, Every Time I Think of You. And again, what happens a few years later on the same holiday reflects how Reid and Everett's relationship has grown, and changed.

I resolved to break a literary rule once again, as I did in Message of Love. One of the main conceits of the romance novel is the idea of monogamy; one love between two people. But what if the rules are changed because of a variety of reasons, or just one reason?

In this excerpt, set after a New Year's Eve party in Pittsburgh, boyfriends Reid and Everett push their own boundaries of honesty, faithfulness, and fidelity. Critical reviews have called it "cheating," but others who know how love works, and that sexuality between young men isn't always the magical happily ever after.

from Chapter 24

December 1981

We spent the night with Holly at another New Year’s Eve party, this one at the opera house, which had us doing the tuxedo act again, and enjoying ourselves, until Everett impulsively turned Cinderella, insisting that we make a mad dash back to this dad's condo, where some nighttime antics took place.

Afterward, cozying up in bed, the curtains still open to enjoy the view, I understood what he had said about the distance between his parents. For all its panoramas, the condo guest room felt cold, unfilled, still lacking any real character of Everett.

I asked him if he had thought of bringing more of his old things, toys or whatever, to keep at his father’s home.

But he shook his head. “This is ‘new dad.’ This is like, you know, sexy like a hotel room; dormant. I don’t think I can live with any of them, re-nest, you know?”

“Hmmm.” I found his dilemma puzzling. I took my parents’ welcome back for granted. Whenever, if I’d wanted to work at the nursery fulltime, I assumed they would be fine with it, for a few years, perhaps.

But they knew I had ambitions to leave Greensburg. I’d pretty much established that at my fifth birthday party, a story my mother’s told more than I remember. Inspired by some illustrated children’s book, I had declared that I would one day ‘live on a big mountain top in a forest by the sea.’

The parks and nature and wildlife and moss was all part of my future, even if my studies were mostly limited to books and igneous rocks. The idea of home was still my parents’, but what Everett was already facing, in addition to the family guilt-trip triage, was the unmet goal of true independence.

“Besides,” Everett mused. “Why redo the room for me? He’s probably sizing it up for a nursery if he knocks up the girlfriend.”

He sounded so sad to me. I offered a hug, hoping it would lead to more, despite the late hour, and our being slightly drunk.

“So, I want to tell you something, but I don’t want you to be upset.”

I sat up in bed, pulled away.

“Remember Kyle the gymnast?”

“Puppy dog eyes? Grapefruit-sized shoulders?”

“That would be him.”


“Well, we’ve been working out together. He’s got all these amazing upper body routines, and he’s so hyper.”


“He came over to my dorm last month, just insisted on visiting.”


“Well, we kind of. He kind of privately showed me some of his moves, naked.”


“He’s very flexible.”

“Is he?”

“It was just the one time. I promise it’ll never happen again.”

“What won’t happen again?”

“We kind of had sex.”

“Kind of.” An emptiness swept over me where anger or jealousy was supposed to flood in.

“It was just a little, you know.”

“No, I don’t know.”

“He was showing off, and just curious about me, I guess.” He explained the brevity of the act, and Kyle’s comparative gymnastic upside down talents.

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because it happened, and I’m sorry.”

“Why be sorry? It sounds like you had fun.” Was I supposed to be angry, leave, shout at him? It all seemed rather inconvenient, it being late at night, and me unable to imagine leaving.

“You could, you know, have a little dalliance and it would be okay,” he offered.

“A ‘dalliance?’ What the fuck is a dalliance?”

“I told you before. I want you to have a full experience. I don’t want to hold you back.”

“From what? You think sucking some other guy’s dick is just extra credit?”

“It doesn’t mean anything. He’s... You should try it; have an adventure.”

“An adventure. Is that what it is to you?”

“Yeah. It’s like that Amish holiday. Rumspringa.”

“I should go back to Holly’s. I’m not feeling very Amish.”

“No, Reid. Please. It didn’t mean anything. It was just fun.”



“All this ‘fun’ must be what’s giving you some memory lapse. I fought for you, to keep you in my life.”

“Thank you for reminding me, again.”

“And it’s also kind of an anniversary, which is like the worst time you could have admitted this.”

“Yes. We stuck on New Year’s Eve that first time,” Everett said, then joked, “It was very sticky.”

“You’re impossible.”

“I know. Let’s be together. I promise. No more fooling around.”

“Maybe I want to have a little, what did you call it? ‘Dessert.”

“What, as revenge?”

“To even the score.”

The fact that he had managed to have a ‘sidebar’ encounter with some elfin jock seemed unimportant, at least to him, and I was supposed to agree, because we were continually negotiating our place together, in our lives and in our families’ lives.

Perhaps this was the moment where someone else, someone stronger, might have stormed off and gone home. But where could I go in the middle of the night? And where was home; my parents house, where my old toys lived? The odd little room we rented in Philadelphia? And where was his home, where would I run from? Did he even know?

 “Well, we might as well enjoy the view,” I said as I rose from the bed and stripped off my shorts.

“What are you doing?”

“You’ll see.”

And then, with half of the skyline before us, I repeatedly, somewhat drunkenly attempted, and finally succeeded in managing a naked handstand.

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