Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Water Runs Blue

In my mind I still play it over and over again.
I’m sitting down on a rock. The water rushes across my toes. It’s freezing, stinging them like ice. I search for the blue that has so long been associated with the Crayola creations in my mind. So misleading. As a child I saw things, so vibrantly incorrect, but it doesn’t matter. Water is always blue.
It rolls crystal clear across the rocks, polishing them down over the years. I lift one from the water. Flipping it over and over in my hand. Smooth. Cold. Hard. Much like my heart. I lay it back down gently in the place from which it came, afraid I might disturb some very important structure of the universe. One pebble misplaced, and I could alter the entire rotation of the Earth’s complicated design.
Tears roll off my cheeks. I can feel them. The evening breeze settles gently along their path, cooling the heat that exudes from my face. I know my mother is soon to call me home. I sit silently, the whisper of the wind soothing my inner fears. Reminding me I’m not alone.
Nothing in this world is the same. Nothing worthwhile is ever exactly alike. Why should I be? I feel so lost. My heart pounding from the thought of her voice.
“I’m not gay, but I could be with you.”
Those were the words that she said to me. That’s what started it all.
I had my friend J drop me off at the community pool. We sat under the sunset, waiting for my friend “Raegan” to get off work. We had met two years before during basketball camp. She walked in to the gym with a group of her friends, cocky as she ever was and threw two dollars on the counter. Since our gym hosted the tournament, I was stuck working the concession stand.
“Gatorade.” She said.
“I’m an obnoxious asshole.” Is what it sounded like to me.
I didn’t move, so she reached across the counter and took my Gatorade instead. I didn’t even know her. I had just transferred schools the year before, so I literally knew nothing about her. I jumped up, and threw open the door. I chased her out of the lobby and across the parking lot. Who was this crazy girl? Who just takes someone’s drink? She was fast, and outran me. By the time I made it back into the lobby, huffing and puffing, she was already back, propped up, with my Gatorade on the counter.
“Gatorade.” She said again. This time smiling.
She had a beautiful smile. I walked behind the counter and got her Gatorade. We stood there talking for a moment. Her friends had walked away at this point, and my friends just sat awkwardly staring in our direction. She asked me when I got off my shift, and I told her. Twenty minutes. It just so happened that neither of our teams would be playing at that point, so we decided to meet up outside on the playground. I was going in to the ninth grade. Looking back now, there were obvious signs. Signs that this girl would soon wreck my world.
We sat outside on the jungle gym talking about music, and school. We were both writers. Specifically we loved poetry. She offered to bring her collection the next day. I went home as well and gathered some of my pieces. No one had ever shown interest before. My mother thought that I was talented, but I hid many of them from her. The ones that I didn’t want her to see. The ones that would tell her how broken I was. I was already being picked on at school. The other girls knew I was different. The word Lesbian had been thrown around a few times, but it wouldn’t be long until it was every day. Here this girl was, opening up to me. Asking to read my inner thoughts. Offering to share hers with me.
I separated the casual poems from the real ones, and shoved them in my duffel bag. When I got to camp the next day, there she was. Just as she promised. I tried not to get overly excited. She was so confident. So cool.
She sat in the bleachers with her friends when I arrived. I went directly to my locker room and she followed me in. She was carrying a binder. It was 3 inches thick, and full of poetry, cover to cover. I was in awe. No one had that passion. No one else wrote the way that I did.
She handed it to me. It was neatly packed away in dividers. Crisp. Clean. Perfect. Like her.
I blushed as I pulled my loose leaf pages from the hand-me-down duffel bag. It would represent our friendship very well. She was wealthy. Her father was very prominent in the community. Her two older brothers were star athletes in high school. She was following in the footsteps of a perfect family. No room for mistakes. Here I was, an awkwardly skinny book worm, with no real athletic talent, but a drive to get out of my hometown.
I handed them to her in a messy stack. She smiled and divided them neatly. I pulled out the other stack as well and clung to them.
“These are a little… strange.” was all I could say.
She just stacked them neatly on top of the others and placed them gently in her bag.
We sat next to each other on the bleachers and talked again. We had a game coming up that afternoon against them, and I knew we were going to lose, but I wanted so badly to impress her. I was the most aggressive, quick, and driven that I had ever been. We both dove for the same loose ball at one point, and I nearly knocked her out. Way to make an impression right?
After the game she called me on it. “Next time I’ll wear my brother’s football pads.” she said.
“Next time you’re going to need them.” I responded with a smile.
I read her binder cover to cover when I got home. The poems that I really liked, I wrote down by hand and taped them to my wall. We had one more day of camp. That day we exchanged phone numbers. Myspace didn’t exist at that point, and definitely not Facebook, so that’s what I had. Three days of memories, a wall full of poetry, and a ten-digit number.
Raegan and I remained “friends” over the years. We would sit together at Basketball games and tournaments, usually seeing each other 4 or 5 times a season. We even exchanged Christmas presents the second year. We would call each other about once or twice a month just to catch up, sometimes missing a month or two. By that time, I had been through not one, but two relationships with girls. Both that ended poorly.
I specifically remember calling her one day and her oldest brother answered.
“Hello?” He answered annoyed.
“Is Raegan home?” I nearly whispered. I was a very timid teen when it came to people I didn’t know.
“Raegan, It’s your girlfriend!” I almost dropped the phone. Did he know? Could he tell? How would she react to that?!?
“Hello?” She asked uncertain.
“Hey. It’s me.” I stammered out.
“Oh, hey!” she said without hesitation. Whew.
We were fine. We talked for probably two hours that evening. That’s usually how it went. We would go weeks without talking, but when we caught up you couldn’t get us off the phone. Well. Unless you were her brother.
“Raegan, I need the phone.” He said from the downstairs line.
“Ok.” She replied.
Damn it.  
“Fine! Just hang up.”
When he did she sat there for a moment.
“Want to come over this weekend? I get off work Friday at 6. I don’t work again until Saturday night.”
I wanted to jump up and down screaming “OH MY GOD, YES PLEASE.” But instead I replied, “Sure. I can ask my mom.”
That was still during that awkward time where there really wasn’t much I could do without my parents’ permission, but this time they said yes. J drove me to the pool that day. He sat with me while I waited for her to get off work. She came walking out of the pool and he grabbed my arm.
“She’s hot.” He said.
“I know.” I replied. J was very aware of my sexuality.
“Your team or mine?”
“Yours I think.” I said disappointed. I watched her cross the parking lot. I had almost forgotten how beautiful she really was. She was wearing her one piece lifeguard bathing suit, a pair of basketball shorts, and her ponytail swayed slightly across her sun-kissed shoulders. She had definitely grown up.
“Yessssssss.” He exclaimed, obviously excited by the idea of me having a friend this attractive. “You should come see her more often.”
“Tell me about it.” I sat still a little disappointed he had a better chance than I.
She walked up to the window. J jumped out and opened my car door, then introduced himself, in his “smoothest” way possible. She wasn’t interested. He was a straggler like me. We came from the wrong side of the tracks for her family. In their eyes, we’d never amount to much. I still wasn’t sure why we were friends. Maybe she felt sorry for me?
“Ready?” she asked.
“I’ll be back tomorrow to pick you up!” J just had to throw in another line. “It was great meeting you.”
She waved him off, and we walked to her car. Her eyes were wild with excitement, but I had no idea for what. She hugged me.
“It’s great seeing you.”
“Good to see you too.”
We drove the four or so minutes to her house. On the way I began to feel nauseous. If I told her that I was gay, she might hate me. If I hid it from her and she found out (the kids at school were talking A LOT) she might hate me even more. I sat there until I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“I have to tell you something. You’re not going to like it.”
She just looked at me.
I couldn’t spit it out, so finally she exclaimed “Oh God. You’re pregnant.”
I wish.
She finally pulled the car over on the side of the road.
“Tell me.”
“I’ve dated a girl before.” Really? Really, sixteen year old me? That’s the big icebreaker?
“I date women.” I stammered.
She pulled the car back onto the road. It was her turn to sit in silence. It was already going better than I expected though because she hadn’t hit me, and there were no tears. Better than I could say for some situations.
Finally she pulled into her driveway.
“Don’t ever do that to me again. I thought something was wrong.” She said.
“Sorry. I just wasn’t sure how you’d react.” My palms were sweating at that point.
“It’s fine. I don’t care what you are. Just know that I’m not.”
Fair enough. We spent that evening just hanging out. We walked around outside, the grass under our bare feet. She sat down at the edge of her pool, dangling her feet in. I couldn’t swim, so I stayed as far from the water as possible. Nothing changed. She was exactly the same. She genuinely didn’t care.
That evening, we lay in her brothers bed and watched Shrek 2. It’s odd that I remember what it was, because looking back I remember nothing about the movie. Just that I watched it with her. We talked about college, and what that would feel like. We even said that we would go together. Somewhere. We would be roommates, and get a cat.
She complained of a backache, so hesitantly I offered to rub it. She rolled over, and next thing I knew I was straddling her and my hands were sliding slowly up and down her t-shirt. It didn’t take her long to pull her shirt out of the way. We watched the movie quietly. Her skin beneath my fingertips. She put her head down. I could hear her steady breathing.
Even though I had dated two girls at this point, they were both long distance and this was nothing I was prepared for. I had never been in this sort of exploration situation. I didn’t want to cross any boundaries, but I did want to push them as far as they could go. I hadn’t felt that way before. Finally she spoke.
“Your turn.”
That was unexpected.

I hesitated as I slid off of her, and onto my stomach. The movie was still playing in the background, but it sounded more like an episode of Charlie Brown, if the kids spoke like the adults. I never understood a word. It was humming monotonously in my ear. She climbed on top of me, and began rubbing my back. She ignored my shirt, and slid her hands underneath. I remember the way my breath caught in my throat. I stopped breathing entirely for what felt like two minutes. When I finally breathed out, she asked “Is something wrong?”

Wrong? Your hands are covering every inch of my back, and I’m not sure where this is going. I wouldn’t say wrong is the correct word. Maybe we’ll go with “interesting”.

“No.” I laid my head down, just as she did hers and waited for something to happen. Anything. After a few minutes, she stopped. I attempted to roll over, and she just draped herself across my body. Propping up on one elbow. We sat like that for another ten or fifteen minutes, just talking. She had to have noticed how nervous I was, but if she did she never led on. Why was she so comfortable with this? With me. Why was I not?

She finally stood up and said it was time to go to sleep. We walked to her bedroom. It was just across the hall, but my feet were barely moving. It was the longest walk ever. I laid myself down on the furthest side of her king size bed. She climbed in next to me, and slid her body towards me. We lay there talking, face to face. She was so easy to talk to. So intelligent. Every word she said was beautiful.

Finally she said it.

“I’m not gay, but I could be with you.”

I felt like a train ran right through me. Knocking every hint of breath out of my lungs. I was certain I would suffocate. Did she mean that?

Where do you even take that when you’re sixteen? I had already been with a girl by that point, but never initiated it. I didn’t even know how. What I expected to be extremely awkward turned very beautiful in a matter of minutes. We kissed. There was an immediate connection that happened between us that has been unparalleled by anything, even until now. I leaned in closely, my hand on the back of her neck, and I kissed her. All of the fear that had lingered in my heart minutes before disappeared. I was right where I was meant to be at that moment. There. Next to her.

We made love that night. We explored each others bodies eagerly, unsure of what daylight would bring. Unsure of whether or not morning would bring sadness and sorrow, or a simplistic love that would last us the rest of our lives. We held each other in our arms, and for those few sweet hours, I experienced the equivalent of sheer bliss.

I left the following day, and like any young straight woman in a prominent family, raised southern Baptist and in the bible belt of small town Tennessee she became scared. She didn’t talk to me for nearly two weeks. I went away to my (religious) basketball camp for a week, and when I returned, I simply ignored it. How was I supposed to approach that?

It was just enough to bring her back. She had everything in life except the one thing she wanted, which was me. She wanted to be loved. To be happy. She wanted to be gay.

We dated on and off for two years. Her father found out, and just like we expected, he threatened to kill me. He called my home, morning after morning raging into the telephone about how I brainwashed his daughter. How my sadistic and satanic ways would be the demise of his only girl. My mother finally filed a restraining order. He put Raegan under lockdown. School and home. No internet. No phone. She would slip away every chance she got to call me from a friends phone during practice.

Her teammates stole her journal from her backpack and read it aloud in the locker room. Her secret was out. She was a faggot too. We wanted so badly to be together, but everything in life was rooting against us. We were miserable. And alone. We were different.

I hated myself for letting it get that far. I hated that I touched her. That I held her. I thought life could have been easier if I hadn’t given her that option. The truth was that she would have found it somewhere else. She still would have been gay, and we both would have missed out on one of the most beautiful nights of our lives.

I spent that next two years turning our story into a novel, which I then adapted into a script. It’s still not finished, but writing became my way to cope. It helped me. It saved me.

As I sat on the creek bank. My cold toes in the water, I regretted not sitting next to her that day by the pool. My feet dangling in the water next to hers. One more moment that we would have spent together. I washed my face in the stream of fresh clear water. Dried it on my ratted old t-shirt, and began the slow walk home.

It was the first time I realized that people come and go. Nothing is ever forever. Sometimes we have to let go. That’s the only way we can grow. The only way we move forward. If it wasn’t for letting go of those in our past, there would be no room for those in our future. It’s fine, and I even preferred to hang on to a few of those memories. Keeping them close. Pulling them out a time or two and reflecting on them fondly. You can remember what it felt like in that moment, but at the same time you have to move on, and you have to let them do the same.

She came to see me once in College. We saw each other a few times actually, but our paths never really crossed again after high school. We never wound up with our happy ending.

She dropped out of college. Her father refused to help her pay for it, because of her sexuality, but still claimed her as a dependent so she couldn’t receive financial aid. She was one of the smartest people I had ever met. She wanted to be an anesthesiologist. She could have done it. She could have done anything. However life took over, the bills swept in and they knocked her off her feet.

The last I heard she moved down to Florida. She has a girlfriend, who has a son. They’re a family. She has a mediocre job, but she seems to be happy. She is needed, which is what she’s always wanted. To be loved. To be gay.

I think about her every so often. I wonder how she has been and if life is treating her well. I sit down and pull a memory from my collection… I play through it slowly in my mind, and then when it’s finished I return it for another day. A day where I’ll need to see a friendly face again.

This memory of her, just reminds me that love is out there. God has a plan for us. We just have to find our path. We have to create our passion. We have to love, and be loved. Then again, that’s not so hard. It happens every day.  Just open up your heart and mind. Be prepared to give in to the call.

Remember me,

I’m Tennessee.


  1. Beautifully written, Tennessee. First love is almost always the most beautiful and heart-breaking. I hope you finish your script. I would love to see your story on my screen.

  2. Thank you very much. I truly appreciate your support.

  3. So twice now tonight your writings have made me weep. You are a powerful writer, your words seep into the deep dark places of my soul. I as well hope you finish your script. Thanks Tennessee, you will be remembered by many.