Chapter 37

Two young men in a bedroom, one desperately trying to relive a past that cannot be resurrected, the other trying to escape the past with drugs and sex in what he hopes will become a moment of pleasure. Is there anything in the collective wreckage of their pasts that can move the two of them forward? Or will each of them remained trapped in the past?

I’ve posted Chapter 37. It was a very difficult chapter to write because I was trying to delineate both similarities and differences between two characters who are actually quite complex. To be be honest, I’m not sure I did it very well, but at some point time runs out and I am required to post a new chapter.

In any event, I hope you enjoy it. If you have questions, comments or insights, please feel free to share them with me.

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4 thoughts on “Chapter 37

  1. Kit – Like “Andy”, you’re too modest. You nailed this chapter. The complexity of your characters is compelling. The detailed intimacies leave me breathless… then in tears.

    Providing a photograph of a character can spoil a readers’ idealized images, but your book cover concept (blog) captured my imagined “Tommy” perfectly. I’m pulling for this boy. After all he’s seen by the age of 19, logic and reason notwithstanding, he deserves someone beautiful, safe and comforting in his future.

  2. Thanks, Dean. Given everything else going on at the moment, I found this comment very comforting although I think it may have more to do with me than with Tommy. Thinking about the story at this point in time, I go back and forth as to whether I’ve succeeded or failed Tommy as a storyteller.

    There are times when I think I’ve succeeded beyond my wildest expectation precisely because most people reading the story do not like Tommy very much, certainly not in the way they like Nolan and Josh. Why is that? Why are Nolan and Josh so popular while people only tolerate Tommy because they don’t have much choice if they want to continue with the story?

    It would seem that people find it difficult to relate to Tommy. I suppose part of that is the profession he has chosen and the people he hangs out with. They’re the scum of the earth, after all, aren’t they? But another part of it is that Tommy doesn’t show his emotions as clearly as Nolan and Josh, at least most of the time. In many ways, he lives alone in his own private world. He doesn’t have anyone he feels comfortable connecting with.

    Tommy’s life has been hard and the way he has managed to survive is by shutting down emotionally. He knows he can’t count on other people to help him out, that he’s alone in the world. When he sees a challenge, he tries to figure out what his options are realistically and then does what he believes he needs to do to survive. He isn’t looking for anyone’s approval. Why should he? People have failed him all his life.

    And because he doesn’t show his emotions very clearly, it’s hard to relate to him as a character. He seems too cold, too distant from our own lives, too irresponsible (smoking all that weed), too focused on his own sexual satisfaction.

    It’s easy to forget what he has been through in life. It’s easy to think that somehow we would have done things differently and better if we had been in his shoes. People don’t want to face up to the truth, don’t want to admit they would have done much worse than Tommy in fact.

    Like I said, there are times when I take a perverse pleasure in the fact that people don’t like Tommy very much. To me it shows I’ve done a great done in drawing him as a character; and yet, if I’ve succeeded, it’s a pyrrhic victory at best because I do want readers to like Tommy, to be rooting for him, and it seems like all I’ve succeeded in doing is bringing out the Puritan in us as people.

    We want characters that succeed, but only if they succeed in the right way, the morally uplifting way, the way a just and all loving god expects them to succeed. Our heroes succeed in life precisely because they are God’s chosen people. Their success is proof of his blessing. Tommy? It seems like that just and all loving god was busy the day he was born.

    I did try to make Tommy a more sympathetic character in a variety of subtle ways, but it seems as if most readers miss the cues I’ve set out along the way. In the end, a good storyteller never blames his readers. If there is a failing, it’s mine. It seems like I’ve been too clever for my own good and, more importantly, for Tommy’s good either.

    If I told all of this to Tommy, of course, he would just laugh because he really doesn’t give a shit what any of the readers think about him. Where were all of those people when I was growing up he would ask? Where the hell were they when I was on the streets alone with $42 bucks in my pocket? Where were they at Christmas when you asked them to do something to help those in need, Kit, and they responded by doing nothing at all?

    People do what they want, believe what they want, admire who they want. All of those readers of yours are perfect people with perfect lives, Kit. Fuck them. I did what I had to do to survive. I did the best for myself just like they do the best for themselves every day. Who needs those fuckers, Kit?

    And yet, as a storyteller, I have to wonder how I could have done all of this better, done all of this in a way that makes clear what an extraordinary character Tommy is.

    It would be important if I decide to do another rewrite once this version of the story is complete; but whether I have the energy left to do that remains to be seen. Like Tommy says, who needs it?

    I guess that’s just another way of saying that the story takes a toll on the storyteller, not just the characters.

  3. Wow … you’ve left me speechless. (a long pause, a really long one, indeed – still recovering).

    Where does all this grumbling come from? It can’t be caused just by the comments posted here. Perhaps there’s been other mails that didn’t value the story or the characters … hmm? But hey, is this a story about fun? No certainly not. Did you sell it as such? Well, I’m still trying to connect the dots between the section about Josh and Nolan and where we’ve ended up with Tommy and Andy. Is it one about hope? I’m not sure; not yet. Perhaps there is hope for a future between Andy and Tommy. But then, will you have the courage to allow them getting happy. Would this be a betrayal to the story and the troubled young men that Tommy and his friends represent? Actually, I’m still trying to carefully decipher your message. Please don’t see this as criticism. I can emphasize with the situation you describe. I see the flow. I hear the individual chapters talking to me. So many disturbed (young) men … but I can’t fix the world. If I could, would I start with Tommy, or look out for someone probably living under even worse conditions? Diing hunger in Africa? Being sold as sex „toy“ in Thailand? … what about the kid in my neighborhood?

    It is certainly not true for *me* that *I* wouldn’t feel sympathy for Tommy. Do I like him? Could I fall for him? I guess I could if I would run into him and get to know him. Would this also be true if the place was the Palermo? If I knew his “profession” to start with? What if the “revelation” comes later? Would I’ve been open enough to give him a chance knowing him (better)? the person, not the facet my prejudice draws of him? Anything beyond? How well can any of us escape our own prejudice? We may feel like upright people, but there is this nagging bias in our soul. In each of us.

    Trying to put my own bias aside – trying to give Tommy the credit each and every of us deserves. Not because we did anything outstanding, but because we “are”. Can I relate to him – no, I’m afraid the answer is no. My life has been so totally different and my experiences that I can only remotely grasp how he feels – how he managed to build his very matryoshka doll shell that keeps him in his comfort zone. Well protected. Not necessarily in a physical sense, but emotionally. But all of this is not a question of sympathy. I feel sympathy for him, I honestly do. I wish him all the very best. Not that it would help Tommy or anyone in his shoes. I may be upright indeed and get over my bias and then? Most certainly Tommy doesn’t want my bias be replaced by pity. What does he want? What does he need? What can I offer … ?

    Please don’t blame society. That is too easy. There is nothing like a perfect society. Perhaps the US is worse than what I experience in Europe – in average – still abuse exists around the world. Physical, sexual, emotional, … . The tragedy is that Tommy didn’t find the guts to open up to anyone except Joshua (or I don’t properly recall). He didn’t expect anyone to treat him any better. Certainly not an adult. His fear about foster care was coming close to what he’s experienced already. And when Josh and his mother tried to help him he couldn’t find the trust in them that it would get better. It gets better, doesn’t it – does it? Tommy deserves sympathy, if for no other reason because there are so many more Tommy’s that need and deserve attention and help. He’s had a troubled life, beyond what your average reader can imagine. *I* certainly can’t remotely. Well intellectually, but emotionally? Perhaps some of us (readers) have had a similarly troubled youth. I doubt. But still, would either of us help the 19 years old hustler? The Tommy’s exist. May be it isn’t even hard to “find” them if only we look closer. Sigh (another long pause)

    Ok, enough of my ramblings. I keep being a loyal reader and listener, also if you continue confusing me, stirring up my emotions as I follow the flow and your comments like the above. I guess I’m realistic: all you may ask us is opening our eyes and act. Be the one that makes a difference. Still, please don’t let it end in grumblings. Yours or Tommy’s. Allow for the story to give us some hope that we can make a difference, indeed. That it can get better … that it will! It wouldn’t be a betrayal, would it?

  4. It’s human nature to grumble, Iker. You know that perfectly well. So, yes, not everyone grumbles online. Some of them grumble via e-mail 🙂

    By the way, whatever else I did this morning, I certainly didn’t leave you speechless 🙂

    So in response to your provocative essay, here are some random comments.

    As for connecting dots, you know perfectly well that no dot is connected before its time … or before a storyteller decides its time has come. As it happens, your grumbling about dots is timely. You want dots? You shall have. The dots will start connecting in the next chapter and that will pose some challenges that I won’t go into right now. I will only say that I’m delighted you stuck with it and are still trying to decipher the message. Others seem to have rushed to judgment, but I think you’ve chosen the wiser course.

    As for fixing the world, you can’t, of course. Hell, you can’t even fix this story for that matter although others have kindly offered their help 🙂

    The only person who can fix this story is me. But I will face your judgment in the end when the story is over and done. As for that kid in your neighborhood, Iker? I don’t know your neighborhood so I can’t do anything about that. Our positions are completely reversed. I’m sure you’ll do your best for that kid and I can assure you I’ll withhold judgment.

    What more do I say about Tommy? I have the impression from some of those e-mails I receive that Tommy is not someone readers like. I shared that with you above because it bothered me. It made me wonder if I could have done things differently and better. In retrospect, I could have, of course. But that’s the thing about writing, Iker. Writing is a process. You start by putting some words down on paper. You add more words, subtract some, then rearrange them, all in an effort to make the words better, more appealing, more seductive. The words are never perfect, of course. They come from a human being and human beings are imperfect so the words can always be better. That’s the challenge and the fun and the terror of it, I suppose.

    So, yes, I could have and should have done better by Tommy. I’ve written him in a way you cannot relate to. You said that, Iker, not me. But you feel sympathy for him and that’s good. It shows you’re human, just like Tommy is human, and thus it shows you share something in common. It may not seem like a lot to build on, but it’s something.

    You have many questions and I don’t have enough answers, at least not at the moment. Answers will come in time and then every reader will judge for himself. That’s a rather daunting prospect, Iker, perhaps frightening would be an even better word.

    I knew when I started I wouldn’t come away richer for the effort. About the best I can hope for now is that no one will grumble at the end. I won’t be stoned, of course, at least not literally. But I wake up every day wondering whether readers will walk away feeling they wasted their time.

    You take risks when you put what you write out there for everyone to see and judge. If I was doing it again, I might not have opened the thing up to comments or provided an e-mail address either 🙂

    But I did so readers will have the last word as well as many others along the way I am sure.

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