Authors: Tomas Mournian
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Copyright © 2011 by Tomas Mournian
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Timing being everything, I’m most grateful to John Scognamiglio’s generous gift of time to find the hidden truth of
Mitchell Waters, my most excellent consigliere, makes me laugh as he walks me through my paces. And Rachel Cohn, to whom I’ll be forever grateful for giving me a voice.
It took a village to write
and mine was far-flung: Daniel Lee, Stacey Szewczyk and Alan F. and Eder Azael all read—and reread—the manuscript and gave insightful comments. Kristine Mills-Noble designed a cover that is nothing less than a gift. Amy Maffei’s copy edit was both precise and mindful of my intention. And Craig Bentley: Everyone should be so lucky to have a publicist who sounds like a movie star.
Friends and fellow earth signs Jose Jimenez, Andrew Harburn and Lou Hunter listened to me all the way through.
Patricke said “Ahmed” at precisely the right moment, and Orlando gave me J.D.’s glance. Likewise, the City of Angels has blessed me over the years with the guidance of Marilyn R. Atlas and Kylie Mackenzie and John Turck, Eileen Rapke, and Joao Neto. Also, Kathryn Galan, Octavio Marin and Alfredo de Villa, and Chris Soth, Linda Palmer and Darren Stein. San Francisco sent good juju, too, sustaining me with signals and crucial information from Shannon Minter, Regina Marler and DeeDee Shideler.
For showing me the value of fighting the good fight, I’m indebted to editors Colleen Curtis, Kevin Koffler, Tim Redmond,
Gabriel Roth and Bruce B. Brugmann, and Gia Lauren Gittle-son, Bob Roe, Michael Caruso, Barbara Walters, and Glenda Bailey.
Special thanks to Greg Beal, Joan Wai, Shawn Guthrie and Catherine Irwin.
Fellow yogis who reminded me to breathe: Abbe Britton, Noah Maze, Ross Rayburn, Jeff Fisher, Sita White and Durgidas.
Those three great spirits who reached out and refused to let me slip, there they were: George Michael, Nancy Jo Sales, and Siri Sat Nam.
The Corporation of Yaddo.
And, finally, in memory of Lance.
My voice catches. I cannot string together a whole sentence. My eyes open. I’ve been deposited in the back of my parents’ black Mercedes. I look at the dashboard clock. Where did the last forty-five minutes go?
Beyond the windshield, gates swing open. The car rolls forward. I turn: I want a parting shot. Through the back window, I see twenty-foot walls lined with electrified barbed wire.
The Mercedes picks up speed. Desert surrounds us. No wonder Serenity Ridge was built in the Nevada outback. Even if a kid manages to escape, there’s no way you can survive the run.
“I need to use the restroom.”
My parents stick with their preferred mode of communication: the nonresponse. I won’t know if it’s a “yes” or a “no” for several minutes. Did I already say, I am high? Medicated, mobilized, and tranquilized?
This morning, when the nurse slid the needle into my ass, I thought about Raoul. I met Raoul in fourth grade. Raoul loved waving Magic Markers under his nose, acting stupid and saying, “Chil’, this’ll make ya high.” The drugs jumped into my bloodstream, and all I could think was, “Chil’, this’ll make ya the Reluctant Junkie.” And then I passed out.
Now, I’d say, “I feel like shit” but the drugs make me so woozy, I don’t know
I feel. But that’s what they want: separate me from my feelings so that I don’t “act out” or run. Fortunately, they have yet to figure out that feelings are different than ideas. Being stripped of my feelings is a good thing. Because now I can focus on Idea Numero Uno:
You’d probably be similarly obsessed, too, if you’d been in my place. For eleven months, twelve days, four hours, two minutes and twenty-one seconds, I’ve been locked up in Serenity Ridge, an RTC (short for residential treatment facility, a.k.a. pay-as-you-go-prisons-for-queer-teens.) In my head, I hear,
“Baby, you’re on the brink.”
Brink? More like,
And I’m not sixteen, I’m
(going on sixteen). Minor detail. I wasn’t cured of my “crime” (see above, “gay teens”). Coz I resisted. I lived in fantasy. I knew what was beyond Serenity Ridge’s walls and barbed wire: Swimming pools! Laughter! Music! Beach balls! Fun! Nekkidness! Tan golden skin! (Or, Boys! Boys! Boys!)
Haifa’s eyes meet mine in the rearview mirror. Haifa is Stepmother Number Four. Or, five. I’ve lost count. See, Moustapha, my father, believes in marriage, harem-style. IDK. I can’t place Haifa’s face because she’s the
Haifa? Or, because she’s had a radical nip / tuck? During my time in the queer penitentiary, this Stepmother has either acquired a new face or
a new Stepmother. Haifa Whoever twists her face into an expression that’s a cross between a grimace and a smile. Looks like? Aging supermodel with bad face-lift.
“Um, yes?” I press my index fingernail to thumb and remind myself to: Pause. Think before I speak. Sound / act obedient. And bright. And alert. Even if I am loaded on downers and the car feels more like a coffin than a luxury four-door sedan. And I really, really want to scream….
I feel a second set of eyes. Hidden behind mirrored, aviator-shaped shades, those eyes scan me for signs of “trouble.” Am I talking Green Beret? Special Forces Military Paratrooper? Or,
Saddam Hussein’s ghost? No, just Dad, or Moustapha. Today, he wears one of his tacky Village People (the gay cop) getups.
Moustapha waits for me to throw up my arms and drop my wrists, a Middle-Eastern Marilyn Monroe. In fact, he’d
nothing more than for me to spontaneously queen out with a shrill “
” He’d pull a hard U and drive back. Mou-stapha would have no problem leaving me at S.R. to rot on the forever and forgotten treatment plan.
He hates me. He really hates what I am. Or, what he
I am: a wannabe cocksucker and buttfucker. What Moustapha really hates about me is that I remind him of my mother. (Or, “that bitch.”) The bitch who decided she had enough, stood up and left his hairy ass. Her “See ya!” still drives him crazy. And he doesn’t know, but I plan to leave, too. Leave as in, Escape. You know. “Junkie whore,” he said. “Just like your mother.”
Moustapha believes his silence convicts me—for sins I have yet to commit (buttfucking, cocksucking, etc.). In Moustapha’s world, gay (“queer” in my world) equals sex. He could never understand how it’s possible I’ve had sex but am also a (emotional) virgin. By Moustapha’s dated definition—circa 1998?—gay is nuthin’ but a messed-up ’mo.