From 10.14.19 – 10.17.19, I am posting short stories centered around characters from previously released novels. All of these short stories were once released in a compendium titled ‘Four Short Stories from the Books of Chase Connor,’ but it is not longer in publication. You will be able to read these stories in the posts themselves, or you can download a PDF of the story to read on the go. If you download a PDF, feel free to share them with friends, family, whomever you think might enjoy them. The copyright belongs to me but I am giving everyone permission to share them as they see fit. You may not reprint them, claim credit for the work, or modify the work in any way but you are free to read them as much as you want and share them as much as you want.
These stories may contain spoilers, so if you have not read the books these stories are based around, you might want to read the books first.
Today’s short story is centered around Eli from ‘Gavin’s Big Gay Checklist‘ and is a brand new story about Eli going to buy a certain book…
Eli Short Story
I thought I was gay once. Okay. Maybe that’s not entirely true. I thought I wanted to be gay once. When Gavin finally admitted to me that he was gay, I thought it would be nice if I was gay and we could just be boyfriends. We always spent all of our time together. We had all of the same interests. He made me feel appreciated and loved, and like I wasn’t the weird home-schooled kid next door with the super-religious parents. Even though Gavin is half-Latino, he didn’t care that I am white as the underbelly of a fish. His parents never treated me as anything but an extended family member. His mom always called me “sweetheart,” and his father often referred to be as “mi hijo blanco favorito.” It was fine that he called me his favorite white son because Gavin is not completely white. So, Gavin was still his favorite son overall.
The entire Marquez-slash-Ratner family treated me like family and never complained that I was around all of the time. In fact, one time, Gavin told me that Dr. Ratner, his mom, asked where I was at dinner time, such a common occurrence it had become for me to be present.
I mean, sure, Gavin has some…unique…ideas about what constitutes real music and he didn’t fully appreciate his parents like he should have, but he was still the best friend I’d ever had. Probably would ever have. We’d probably end up going to the same college together, being dormmates, graduating college together, getting jobs in the same city, being roommates, we’d be omnipresent in each other’s lives. So, it stood to reason that we would have made a fantastic couple. The only problem was…I like girls. Like, a lot. Not that Gavin was an unattractive guy by any means—though I loved to tell him he was ugly like his father did—but he was still a guy. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around wanting to or actually having sex with a guy.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The thought of sex with a guy doesn’t repulse me or make me run for the hills. People are people. Nothing is disgusting, generally, about any human body. However, as much as it didn’t repulse me, it didn’t entice me, either. Guys are guys, girls are girls. Well, there’s a lot of in-between with the genders, too. But, I realized that I liked girls and that’s all there was to it. Which is why it didn’t bother me in the slightest that Gavin liked guys. We all are sexually attracted to what we’re sexually attracted to, and we all love the people we are meant to love. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. It’s just the way that God made us. God made me straight and attracted to females. God made Gavin gay and attracted to males. Who the heck was I to say I knew better than God? That God had made a mistake—as if that were possible.
God is love, right?
Why wouldn’t love be an extension of God?
It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy loving a gal or a guy loving a guy. Or anything else for that matter.
We all find our person we are meant to love, and we run with it.
There’s nothing shameful or sinful about that. Love is extraordinary.
There’s something deeply woven into the human soul that makes us want to seek out love, to want to give love, to want to bare our soul to another human being through acts of kindness and caring and comfort. To want to look another person in the eyes and say: “I love you for you, and I won’t dishonor it by questioning that.” I can’t think of anything more religious than that. God is love. I loved my friend. But not sexually or romantically. And that was okay. We’d still be best friends forever and be dormmates and roommates and eventually the best man in each other’s weddings. I would stand proudly next to my friend as he held the hand of the man he loved and was marrying. And I would look up to the heavens and tell God: “Excellent work, sir.”
And, when we were both married and started families, we’d have barbecues at each other’s houses. Attend each other’s holiday parties, take family vacations together. Gavin’s husband and my wife would probably stay in the kitchen sipping wine and trading war stories while Gavin and I burnt hamburgers on the grill. I would love and support my friend for who he was just as much as he would love and support me. There was nothing any preacher—or my parents—could say that would make me doubt that that was an integral part of God’s plan. I would never allow a preacher or my parents to speak for God. I wouldn’t even let any version of the Bible tell me what my soul told me was intrinsically true was a lie. If it wasn’t love or kindness, then I had no interest in even trying to believe it.
God is love.
Love comes from our soul.
Let the soul speak.
That’s what I believed above all things.
And I was more than certain God approved of that belief.
I’ve only lied to my best friend once in our entire friendship. Well, I didn’t necessarily lie, but I decided to not share a truth with him. Gavin struggled with being gay and deciding to come out to his parents. But the thing was…I knew that his parents knew he was gay. Dr. Ratner and Mr. Marquez never explicity said anything to me about knowing that Gavin was gay or anything. But, unlike Gavin, I paid attention to his parents. Mr. Marquez would mention going to the college to help the LGBTQ Alliance work on a project—and his eyes would linger on Gavin. Dr. Ratner would talk about one of her colleagues who happened to be getting married to a same-sex partner, and she’d glance at Gavin.
I saw those looks.
They were pleading with Gavin.
Trust us with your truth.
They wanted Gavin to give it up to God.
Dr. Ratner and Mr. Marquez wanted Gavin to trust them with every bit of his soul so that he could find out how much they loved him. So that he would know that they didn’t care in the slightest that he was gay. He was their son. He was their joy. Whether he liked boys, girls, everybody, or nobody at all, he had come about from the union of their souls. So…there was no way that they could not love him. Gavin was gay. I didn’t care at all. His parents didn’t care at all. God didn’t care at all.
God thought that was glorious.
How can anyone not look upon their creation and not feel unequivocally exalted?
So…I really wanted Gavin to know that his parents and God were exalted by his mere existence. And when he decided to live his truth—he was giving meaning and honor to that.
But I didn’t tell him that.
Instead, I just loved my friend and supported him. Let him decide what was best for his soul and his life. It was easy to do. I loved my friend. And I knew that when he finally found his courage, he would realize that all of his fear had been for naught. He would still be Gavin. He would just be Gavin unmasked. And Gavin would be perfectly okay afterward. Until senior year and he decided to make a checklist.
I was really proud of myself—sorry, God—for not laughing at the checklist when Gavin first showed it to me. I mean, it was kind of ridiculous. Why didn’t he just march downstairs and tell his parents that he was gay the next morning? Then text all of his friends that he was gay? Or write a Facebook or Twitter post? Then we could’ve raided Mr. Marquez’s candy supply and watched a movie or something. Why didn’t he just bite the bullet and put it all out there?
I’m gay, and God is fine with it, so you better be, too!
But…as I mentioned…I’m not gay. I’m white. I’m not even half…anything. I’m privileged. I’m white. I’m male. I’m straight. I come from a well-to-do family, I live in the right neighborhood—or barrio blanco, as Mr. Marquez would say—and I have nothing to explain to anyone. It’s not right—but I’m the “default” character in life.
That saddens me.
White and straight and male should not be the “default.”
Why can’t “kind” be the default?
Isn’t everything else just an arbitrary characteristic?
It’s almost as if a person is white, male, and straight they can be anything else, and no one bats an eye. But, God help you if you’re a half-white half-Mexican, half-Catholic half-Jewish, gay kid from the barrio blanco. You are going to be explaining everything about yourself for the rest of your life. No matter how kind or inherently good you are. And I just can’t even begin to imagine that God had that figured into his plans. It would have been wrong to judge my friend’s decisions about his own life to begin with, but everything else considered, it would have been exceptionally cruel to think he was weak or cowardly for taking his time in coming out.
But, I didn’t have to do nothing.
I went to a bookstore. Alone. I had to walk because my mom wouldn’t let me take Driver’s Ed and get my permit at fifteen like everyone else—and she certainly wasn’t going to let me get my driver’s license at sixteen. But my trip to the bookstore was paramount, so I walked in the heat of the early Texas autumn so that I could get a book for Gavin. I didn’t have much luck finding what I wanted online first so that I could just ask for a specific book, but I knew someone who worked at the store could help.
When I had walked into the bookstore by the college, it was obvious that I was out of my element. A lot of college-aged kids, dressed like hipsters or punks or…anything but just plain. I felt bad for it, but I laughed a little when I saw the Pagan section and thought about how my mother would have a stroke if she saw it. However, I thought it was nice that the store had a fairly large section dedicated to Paganism. They also had sections for Judaism, Islam, Buddhism…all of the major religions, really. Who cares how a person builds their relationship with God, right? Those of us who believe in God, we’re all just trying to find our way to him. Who cares what path that is?
The bookstore was massive. Not quite a Barnes & Noble or anything, but pretty close. Except this bookstore had shelves that nearly went to the ceiling. Shelves and books were everywhere. So were CD’s, old LP’s, comic books, really anything you’d expect to find in an independent bookstore. It was intoxicating and bewildering and overwhelming. I was in love. After several minutes, I finally stumbled upon the LGBTQ section—which was rather large—and I knew that I had my work cut out for me.
For at least twenty minutes, I searched through books on the shelf, looking for the perfect book for Gavin. But I got nowhere really fast. I couldn’t really tell from reading flyleaves and back covers which book really fit Gavin’s situation. But, man, I worked hard and tried my best to find something just right for my very best friend. Gavin was a great guy—I wanted him to get the best possible book I could find.
When the bookstore employee approached me, it was like God had listened to the desperation in my thoughts and sent someone. The girl, who was probably a year or two older than me, and was probably a college student, approached me with a smile. Her hair was purple on one side and black on the other, and she had more piercings in her ears than I had ever seen on one person before. But…she was really pretty. And she was smiling. She looked really kind and obviously wanted to help. So…I wanted her help.
“Can I help you find a book?” She asked.
“Yeah, thanks.” I smiled back. “My friend is having trouble coming out to parents and friends—and I thought a really great book might make that a little easier, or not as scary, I guess.”
She smiled oddly at me.
“Is your friend a guy or girl?”
I couldn’t help but grin. I was naïve—but even I heard the inflection in her tone immediately.
“My friend is a guy, and it’s not me.” I laughed.
She just smiled.
“Seriously.” I nodded, holding the last book I had picked up. “He’s my next-door neighbor, and we’ve been best friends forever. I’m the only person he’s ever come out to and, well, I love the heck out of him and hate to see him struggle with being who he is. ‘Cause, I mean, he’s a really awesome guy. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had.”
She watched me for a moment.
“It’s not you?” She asked again.
“No. Promise. I like girls.”
“Okay.” She looked like she believed me. “Well, there are a lot of good books with coming out stories—a lot of young adult, adult, erotic—”
“I’d really like something non-fiction,” I said. “Preferably by a person of color or someone who is biracial. My friend is half-Mexican and half-white, and I thought he might connect to the story more if the author was at least biracial.”
The girl stared at me.
“And…if there were also religious—or actually, spiritual—undertones, that would be good, too.” I continued. “His mom is Jewish, and his dad is Catholic, and I want him to know that God loves him. And…my family is really religious, and I want him to know that I accept and love him no matter what he is.”
“Are you serious?” She asked with incredulity.
“Um, yes. I think so.” I chuckled nervously.
“You want to buy a book for your biracial best friend that talks about coming out and knowing that God is okay with it?”
I glanced around nervously, suddenly doubting myself.
“Um. Yes. Please.”
“What’s your name?”
“It’s Elijah.” I swallowed. “Everyone calls me ‘Eli,’ though.”
“Well, Eli, you’re my new favorite person.” She smiled widely at me, to my great relief.
She reached up, barely having to look, and pulled a book off of the shelf. Then she held the book out to me, offering it to me.
“The Excruciating Pain of Being Extraordinarily Happy.” She announced the title as she held it out to me. “The author is an African American man. He talks about coming out and how some family members and friends didn’t accept him. How his church looked down on him. But…he realized that he still had the friends and family who truly loved him, no matter what he was, and then he found a church that was accepting of and loving towards the LGBTQ community. And he found the love of his life. It’s extremely honest, raw, sad, joyful—everything you might want for your friend.”
I held the book in front of myself with reverence. Flipping it over, I saw the author photo. The guy couldn’t have been older than mid-twenties.
“It’s perfect.” I exhaled, then looked up at her, so grateful. “Thank you.”
“So…it’s really for a friend?”
”Yes!” We laughed loudly together.
“Do you take classes at the college?” She asked, suddenly shy.
“Home-schooled,” I answered. “Finishing my high school senior year.”
She stared at me.
“I know.” I shrugged. “That’s weird.”
“That’s not what I was thinking.”
“What were you thinking?”
“That it’s a shame you aren’t in college.” She chuckled. “Then I could have asked you out for a coffee.”
I blushed so deeply so quickly that she laughed. She laced her arm through mine and pulled me towards the front registers.
“But come back and see me next summer.” She whispered in my ear. “If you want to.”
Then we were at the register, and I turned to look at her.
“I would want to.” I knew I was still red.
She rang up the book for me and put the book in a bag for me and gave me my receipt. For several minutes we stood and talked about books and school and coffee and anything we could think of to talk about. And I found out that she actually owned the bookstore. She was in her mid-twenties and had the store passed down to her from her dad. She was probably too old for me to even consider going to get coffee with, but I didn’t care. She was kind. And I could have talked to her forever. But, then I had to leave. She was working, after all, and I had to walk back home. It pained me to walk away from the first girl to ever flirt with me, but I did. I wanted to take my friend his book. And I wouldn’t tell him about the girl at the bookstore.
Maybe, once Gavin had found someone to call his own, I would tell him about the girl who owned the bookstore. Well, maybe I’d tell him if I ever had the summer coffee date with the bookstore owner. What could possibly keep that from happening, after all?