Texas isn’t home. It never felt like home. And it does not call me back. Still, I go there for work sometimes. This week I had the fairly disconcerting experience of being sent to Dallas where my hotel stood about a mile from my first apartment in the demilitarized zone between Grand Prairie and Arlington. Gunshots weren’t uncommon and the cops couldn’t decide which suburb should police it, so neither did.
I went by the brick mini-manor my father owned with my first stepmother, where I lived as a teen. I wanted to climb the fence, see the backyard, where I first kissed a boy in the rain, under a willow tree, beside my father’s goldfish pond. The experience washed me in bittersweet sentiment, in memories both good and bad. They mixed with feelings that were often just so overwhelming back then.
That boy, my first love, also overwhelmed me. The neighborhood was new then, freshly plopped atop the black mud they called Gumbo. We’d sneak around at night, wandering through unfinished houses, musing where we’d put the furniture, the piano, if the house was ours. It was perhaps the only time in my life when I yearned for domesticity. When it ended, after a few years of me pining and him denying me, Dallas felt like a crater. I climbed out and trekked to Denver on a scholarship earned through all the bad poetry the experience inspired.
Texas doesn’t call me back. Still, I had to see. I walked around the little park where I ditched school to read Margaret Atwood’s CAT’S EYE in one intense sitting. There were a lot of books in Texas. A lot of coffee. I was lonely. I was bored. So I read. I read voraciously. And I told stories, about myself, about him, the other boy.
When people ask me what I write I tell them that I write the book I always yearned for when I was a young adult, the YA book I still can’t find: an action-heavy fantasy with a gay protagonist. I write other books, but that’s the book I want to publish, the book I never see on all the YA shelves and tables that seem to be slowly winning all the shelf space. And I have to think there’s room.