Authors: Charlie David
Tags: #gay romance
By Charlie David
At eighteen, Ashley seems to have everything: looks, talent, and even a girlfriend. What more could a young man want? Yet something is missing, and he has to come to terms with his sexuality and the possible implications for his career in the public eye. He begins dating Chris but isn’t sure he’s head over heels in love. It’s not the knight-in-shining-armor feeling he always imagined.
When Ashley is offered a big modeling job, he leaves his university in small-town Canada for a very different life in sunny Los Angeles, California. There he meets a slightly older man who makes him feel like he’s in a storybook romance. But is Ashley ready for real love, or is it just infatuation? The world is spread out before him, at once limitless and daunting, full of endless possibilities one moment and opportunities cut short the next.
Ashley floats between certainty and confusion as he tries to unravel new feelings, deal with past pain, and decide what he wants from life—and who he wants beside him during the journey.
life ago, I was an eighteen-year old puppy, farm fresh from Saskatchewan, and I decided to follow the Pet Shop Boys’ advice to “Go West.” To be honest I probably would have done anything those white uniformed soldiers in the music video told me to do. I landed in Victoria, which is about as far west as you can go in Canada without falling in the ocean.
I wasn’t gay; well I didn’t
it yet. I had some pretty strong opinions about the world and how it worked for having only experienced a postage-stamp-sized plot of land. And I wanted what every kid wants—love.
Strangely, after years of globetrotting and educating myself on how I knew less about the universe and its workings with every passing day, I’ve returned here to this quiet island. Maybe my mind needed rest, maybe my body called time out… at any rate I’ve been living like a quiet hermit for nearly six months, and the city and its progressing seasons has taught me how little I’ve changed. I still chase love around the world like a puppy chases its tail. But maybe this time, I’ll sit still long enough for it to catch up with me.
The pages of this book were written here in Victoria, my first time around. I was a kid who dreamed of being a writer. Reading these words now makes me laugh. They make me smile at the rain-drenched memories and occasionally cringe at my naïvety. Coming to Victoria now, my 2.0 island experience, I’ve decided to leave much of the original novel for
as it was. I feel it’s an interesting insight into the young storyteller and don’t wish to edit him too much.
is nothing fancy, just a teenager telling a love story. I’d like to dedicate this to him, the eighteen-year-old inside me who didn’t even know the wonder the next eighteen years would bring into his life. I know he’s jumping up and down in his high-top sneakers and “Sun-In” dyed hair, screaming with excitement that the book he wrote is being published.
He’s excited. We both are. These are his words….
For Peggy—the taskmaster responsible for writing morning pages and inspiration for the character named Millie.
For my English teacher Mr. Digout—thanks for sharing your love of literature and drama. You’ve inspired so many students.
For Linda—who must have read this twenty times. That’s a true-blue friend.
For Elizabeth and the editing team at Dreamspinner Press—thank you for giving
a second life.
For Clint—there’s no replacement for first love. I’m so happy you’ve found the real thing.
“The House on Pembroke Street,” a poem by Clint Morris, is reprinted here with permission from the author.
thing a man can learn is to love. I still don’t think I know what that is… but I’m trying every day. Maybe that’s okay. I don’t always feel like a man either. A lot of the time I still feel like a boy, overwhelmed with the world and enamored with it at the same time. I mean come on, most of us gay boys are a little stunted in the relationship development arena. Considering my relationships in high school were daydreams in math class of Jared Leto, a la Jordan Catalano in
My So-Called Life,
is it surprising? Why didn’t Jordan Catalano go to
high school? I’m sure if he did we would have gone out, if I just got rid of that bitch, Angela Chase. God, he was hot. I used to watch taped episodes of the show spooning on the couch with a girlfriend. Let me clarify, a VHS tape is what us old timers had before Netflix, and by girlfriend I mean my best friend who chain-smoked with me, went shopping, gossiped, bitched about our teachers, and escorted me to prom. We may have kissed once, but it was awkward and we both knew there was no romance in it other than our love for hanging out together. I digress from my very important point of how beautiful Jared Leto’s eyes are…. No, actually my point was that by the time I figured out and accepted my sexuality, my hetero friends had experienced a string of relationships. There comes a point in every man’s life when he needs to stop role-playing a relationship with G.I. Joe, stop dreaming in the eyes of Men’s Fitness cover boys, and yes, even take that tape of
My So-Called Life
out of the VCR for good. Which leads me here to the tale of my real beginning in the game of love and the first steps from boyhood to manhood.
Picture it, Sicily, 1920…. Just kidding, okay, seriously now. Picture it, Victoria, BC, Basement Suite, first year of college… and Action!
want this to work, us I mean. Why does it have to be so complicated?” Chris asks with a sigh, sinking into the comfort of his bed. He’s staring at the ceiling as if the solution might be hidden there somewhere in the plaster.
“I know. Me too,” I answer. Admittedly our communication skills are somewhat lacking. He closes his eyes and lets out another sigh, and I imagine him absorbing the serenity created by his recent feng shui reorganization of his room. That’s part of our problem: we imagine what each other is thinking instead of actually talking. Enya is trying her best to lull us into a meditative and calm state from his stereo as I catch a glimmer of a smile on Chris’s face. He’s lifted his T-shirt, and his fingers are dancing in time to the music over his recently shaved torso. We’re good like this, just pleasantly occupying the same space. My eyes meander over his forearms and the defined muscles developed from hours spent with pastels, charcoals, and paints.
How can I describe him to you? He is fair of skin, hair, and temperament. His pale, flecked, blue eyes are just drops of the emotionally turbulent ocean that is his soul. He’s got this ever-present, acute anticipation of life… or maybe it’s an urgency to be more than he believes he is. I haven’t decided which yet. At twenty-four he’s five years older than me, and yet I feel we’re the same. We’re like eager children waiting and longing for something beyond our knowledge.
Do I love him? I don’t know what that is. Who the hell am I? Right, first things first. My name is Ashley, a small-town boy with dreams of city lights. Chris and I attend a performing arts college in Victoria. What do I want to do with my life? I am comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” And that’s all right.
Chris raises himself up on one elbow and looks at me sitting in the leather swivel chair at his sketching desk. There are a handful of pastel and charcoal images strewn atop the desk. The pictures are good, damn good. Angels, dragons, winged fairies, and demons look out from the pages and pierce me with their living eyes. The virtues and vices of the human spirit creatively manifested with art supplies. I look back at Chris and wonder what he’s thinking. The corners of his mouth lift and transform into a silly grin.
“What?” I ask. He shakes his head but maintains the eye contact and his contagious grin, which I realize has crept across my face.
“Nothing,” he replies. “Feel up to a walk in the rain?”
Living on Vancouver Island, with a Mediterranean climate, there is a fair chance of showers every day. Victoria is a city of rain. As we step into the gusty, thrilling chill of the night air, Chris draws a quick breath through his teeth. I recognize this to be one of his “thinking” breaths.
“You know,” Chris says, breaking the silence, “I really want this to work. Us, I mean.”
“You said that.”
“The problem is Jeremy. I mean, I really love him but I’m so attracted to you,” Chris explains as he steals a glance at me. Ah, Jeremy, Chris’s boyfriend. Nice way to wreak havoc on a perfect evening. I was wondering when I’d have to tell you about him. They’ve been a unit for about six months now. Jeremy is of First Nations decent, a very funny guy with notions of being a film director. Although Chris and I were sniffing around each other since school started, there was no possibility of a relationship because I had a girlfriend, Rachel. I know, I know. He had a boyfriend, I had a girlfriend. It’s about to get complicated, so grab an espresso. Make it a double. Where was I? Oh right, with a woman. Well eventually I woke up and realized that in a toss-up between my girlfriend and
My So-Called Life
reruns there was always a clear victor. Jared Leto won, hands down, every time, without fail, irrevocably, undeniable and uncontestable hero of heroes, oh be still my heart, my sweet Jesus he’s beautiful! You get the idea. I ditched the girlfriend. Now, single, gay, and terrified, I feel ready to reciprocate Chris’s past advances. One problem: now he’s with Jeremy.
“Jeremy’s really a funny guy, man, he makes me laugh, but sometimes I get so angry with him. He does the stupidest things,” Chris continues. “Sometimes I think he’s too young for me.”
five years younger than you.”
“Yeah, but you’re different. You don’t seem younger.”
“I was really surprised when you two started seeing each other. I didn’t even think Jeremy was gay!”
“What about me? Did you know about me?” Chris presses.
“I saw it from a mile away. You had it written across your face!” I tease.
He punches me playfully in the arm and admits, “That was my New Year’s resolution, to be more straight. You know, watch the Super Bowl and stuff.”
“Well, how’s it going?” I ask. Chris groans and jetés onto the street from the sidewalk, does a piqué arabesque, and chassés into a grand tours en l’air.
“I’ve got my answer,” I manage to say through my laughter.
The rain is thick now, but the sky here never belches thunder and lightning like the awe-inspiring storms on a spring or summer Alberta night. I miss those storms with the sky as bright as midday with lightning flashes. Here on the island, I always visualize the rain as someone sniveling and spitting. Not enough balls for a real storm crashing and electrifying the sky.
I run my fingers through my hair. Sopping wet. The sky’s tears run in a stream down my nose like an embanked river in the indent just above my lips and cascade down off my chin. I am pulled back to the reality of the moment as a hand slips into mine. Chris runs ahead and pulls me along.
“Come on! I have to show you my house. The one I wrote the poem about!” he exclaims with childlike fascination. It’s this excitement for the simple things that truly draws my spirit to him. We approach and hover in front of an old, dark house. The doors and windows are boarded up. The yard is grown over with thistles, weeds, and litter. There are holes in the roof and shingles rustle in the wind.
“Wow!” I say, entranced. “I wonder what the hell happened.”
“I think homes have personalities, maybe this one’s just died,” Chris says, his voice stolen away by the night wind.
Leaning on the black iron fence, he recites the poem, never taking his eyes off the house.
Perhaps it began not so long ago,
A Dream (at last!) within reach.
A newly wed pair
With a lifetime to share
In a place not too far from the beach.
The House became home and children were born
And the years, far too quickly, did fly.
It’s here where they stayed
Those great memories were made
Of Christmas and first of July
The kids soon grew up and said their “goodbyes”
And “I love you’s” and then they were gone,
Like their parents had shown
They had kids of their own
And fifty more summers passed on.
When the owners had died, the house went for sale
And was bought by a man from out east,
Then a family from Rome
In search of a home
Then a lawyer, a chef and a priest.
No one cared for the house like that newlywed pair
Who moved in not so long ago,
Since then it’s grown old
And covered with mold
And shakes when the wind starts to blow.
The innocent house is condemned nonetheless
By its judges: neglect and decay,