Monday, December 6, 2010

Remembering old friends

I came to writing contemporary gay romance by a circuitous path. I’d been published for several years in the world of erotic romance under a different nom de plume. It was fun, and rewarding, and I enjoyed it immensely. For those reasons, it came as quite a surprise to me to wake up one morning and know that if I wanted to continue to write, I had to change direction. I'd grown through my writing, now my writing had to grow with me. But what path to take?

No, slash fiction wasn’t my first thought, but the universe works in mysterious ways. I sat down at the computer and opened my calendar. The reminder, “J-s birthday,” popped up. My friend would have been fifty that day, had he not died so young.

J-’s home was the first house over the line to attend a different elementary school, and as we entered the same middle school together, we started to hang out. Did I suspect he “didn’t like girls?” By the time we were in high school, certainly. Did it matter? Not a bit. We were buddies. In 1975, our senior year, he had a copy of The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren. He handed it to me and told me to read it. I did. When I returned the book, he asked me if I knew what it meant, and he asked me if we were still friends. Silly boy.

To keep the story short, I got my copy of The Front Runner off the shelf, where it had resided unopened for so many years, and reread it. But I didn’t need to open it to know it. I first read the opening line in 1975, but I remembered it like it was yesterday. TFR remains one of the most hauntingly powerful stories I’ve ever read.

J’s fiftieth birthday was the day I decided to write a contemporary gay romance story for him. It snowballed from there. I like to think of him perched on the hood of his 1965 Impala, that damned unlit cigarette tucked behind his ear, and smiling his I-know-a-secret smile at me.

What would he be like today? Would he be happy? Would he have someone special in his life? Would he like the stories I write for him?

I think he would.


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this marvelous memory. What a great friend and spirit J was. The world is surely dimmer without him, but that wonderful soul lives on in friends like you whom he inspired.

KC Kendricks said...

He was a real mischief maker, too. I can't remember him without a grin on his face.