Visual Inspiration

Sunset

Photo credit: http://www.fromupnorth.com

Of all the tools I use when I write from the Scrivener software to Bing to the online dictionary and thesaurus, Pinterest is the one that often surprises people when I tell them I use it. How can a site dedicated to “pinning” pictures on a virtual bulletin board help a writer? Quite simply, I find it’s a place for visual inspiration and a way to give some physical manifestation to my characters and settings.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, which is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful natural settings on the planet (and I’ve been to a lot of places around the world). I find splendid natural settings to be inspirational, to put me in the writing mood, so when I see something that strikes me as fantastic, I want to write. There’s an endless parade of beautiful natural settings in the Pacific NW, but when I’m in my office sitting in my chair with only the view of the street in front of my house, it’s nice to be able to scroll through the gorgeous landscape photography on Pinterest and imagine I’m there instead of looking at my neighbor’s house (no offense to my neighbor, the house is fine in its own right). There have been many times when I’ve begun my writing time by scrolling through landscape pictures on Pinterest just to put me in the mood to write. It never fails to provide the visual inspiration I need.

Pinterest is not just about drooling over gorgeous natural scenery, it’s also a useful tool that helps me find the perfect images for my characters and settings. I’ve found pictures of people on Pinterest that I use as the basis for my characters. Mara, one of the key characters in my current novel, exists as a lone picture I found on Pinterest. I copied the picture to my character description in Scrivener, and I use it whenever I’m writing about her. Yes, my detailed character description should be enough, but I find having a picture makes it easier to reference. My character descriptions can be a page or two long, so having a visual makes it quicker if I want to check how I’m describing her in my novel. Since I’m writing a novel over a six-month stretch, consistency is not as easy as you may think. A picture helps me stay consistent.

The same holds true for settings. Sure, many places exist only in my mind, but I pivot a lot over the course of writing a novel. Sometimes, places can become something entirely different by the end of the novel, so it helps to have a visual anchor, and if I change things up, I need to get another visual anchor so that I can go back and ensure my writing is consistent (there’s that “c” word again). Once I finish a first draft, I usually let the work sit for a month or two so that I can approach it fresh when I do my many edits. During that dormant period, I’ve moved on to another work, so all the mental images I had in my head while writing the first draft are overwritten by new ones. Having the images from Pinterest when I return to edit the work helps me get back into the mindset of the novel once again.

Pinterest is a great tool for writers whether you need visual inspiration or props for your characters and settings. It’s one of the tools I use almost daily. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

A Run Through the Woods

That first tentative step onto the trail pushes against me like the weight of the world.  The reverberation goes through me like lightning and energizes me as my pace quickens.  It’s just me and the beauty of nature that engulfs me, swallows me whole like a modern-day Jonas.  Sweet is that which sings with no words or music.  I’m alone on a solitude journey for a moment in time away from the hectic world that awaits me.  Leave me here.  Let me be.  I need this for my sake.

This run may well be my last, so I should make it count.  My muscles tense, my breath labors, and the sweat forms and reluctantly drifts away from me as vapor.  I savor the feeling.  Here, alone, I am one with the challenge that awaits me.  The obstacles that stand before me shall be overcome by perseverance.  That elusive euphoria will be mine no matter how ephemeral it may be.

I am blind to the world around me except for these trees, this trail, this verdant world seemingly far-removed from my other life.  No one will save me should I stumble, no one needs to do so.  I am here to conquer that which seems impossible, that which gives new life.  I breathe.  I live.

The rocks, the switchbacks, and the incongruous hills await my next steps.  I chew them up and spit them out.  They’ve done nothing to quell my desire.  I push again and again.  Like an unrequited love, I cannot help myself.

The low-lying fog retreats against my advance thinning to reveal deciduous bareness and conifer persistence in the face of a winter that has suppressed the vibrancy of this lonely trail.  The cold nips at me and eschews my temerity to stamp my presence in the damp earth beneath my feet.  I pay no heed.

The stream gurgles along the trail and reaches a roar as I get nearer.  It awaits me, challenges me.  The last obstacle it is.  The last great hope of this natural world to deter me.  It fails.  I jump and quicken my pace, leaving it to swirl alone is this vast but beautiful woodland.  I can feel the mud from its sides caked on my calves.  I breathe harder knowing that I have conquered it.  The thrill of the chase has spawned a feeling like no other.

This world isn’t foreign or threatening.  I am one with it, enshrined in its altar.  I’m not a spiritual person, but this is my temple, my place of peace.  I come here to get away, to enjoy the silence and beauty of a different world than that which I normally traverse.  This is my second love.  I will come back again to worship this heavenly environ.  I must for it calls to me like the siren of the seas, and I come running like a lonesome sailor.  There can be no quenching of this thirst for it runs eternal and so do I.

All Things Certain – Chapter 1

Below is the first chapter from my second novel, All Things Certain. The story is told by the main character, Matt Richards, a homophobic misogynist who discovers that Brad, his best friend from his childhood, is gay. The revelation tears the two best friends apart until a tragic occurrence forces Matt to reevaluate how he feels about Brad. It’s a novel about what really matters in life and how our narrow perspectives can often harm those we care about most. Given the nature of the subject matter, some readers will find the language offensive.

***

“What a fucking faggot!”

That’s what I said to myself when I met Trevor for the first time. It was so goddamn obvious that he was a fucking queer that it sickened my stomach. I couldn’t stand to share the same space with him. I restrained the urge to punch the sorry excuse for a man. Why someone would choose such an unnatural and ridiculous lifestyle and affront God was beyond me, but I found comfort in the fact that the little faggot would burn in hell for eternity for his sins. These thoughts calmed me and convinced me to hold my tongue for Brad’s sake. Eternal damnation was sweet redemption for all of God’s children who had to endure people like Trevor.

“Trevor works in Marketing at Coke,” Brad continued with his introduction. I wasn’t really interested. “He’s responsible for those ads you may have seen where the dog brings a cute kid a coke to stop him from crying.” I knew those ads. I couldn’t believe a little faggot came up with such family-oriented ads. He and his kind were trying to destroy the very foundation of the family and yet they produced commercial drivel that intimated the family itself. I immediately hated the ads despite their initial appeal.

Trevor extended his hand to shake mine, and I reluctantly accepted it. He had a strong, firm handshake, which was surprising to me. I thought all faggots had limp, dainty handshakes like a timid woman. Despite my obvious disdain, I remained civil only because Brad was like a brother to me, but I purposefully wiped my hand on my pants leg after I quickly released Trevor’s hand. The thought of where Trevor’s hand had been disgusted me and I certainly didn’t want any disease from the miscreant. I hoped he noticed my obvious disdain for him. I wanted him to know how much I hated him and his kind. I wanted him to go away.

“Nice to meet you,” I said as politely as I could through gritted teeth. I knew it was unconvincing because I didn’t look at him when I said it, and regardless of Brad’s connection to him, I hoped that my disapproval of his lifestyle showed in my cold, apathetic greeting. I wanted to condemn him for who he was. I wanted to tell him that he was a fucking disgrace to God, but I bit my tongue. For Brad’s sake.

I returned my focus to Brad, but I wondered why Trevor was there with us. He had given me no warning that someone else was joining us. If he felt the need to introduce me to someone he worked with, why didn’t he choose someone a little more upstanding at his company? I had my doubts about Coke after meeting Trevor. Brad seemed a little nervous through it all, but I couldn’t really blame him. He had to know that Trevor was a flaming faggot. Even I noticed it the moment I saw him and heard him speak in that effeminate voice of his. Everything about him screamed gay. I was certainly no expert at finding the gays in the crowd but even I knew Trevor was a fucking homo. I wondered how Brad could not have seen this.

I looked directly at Brad trying to block out the visual of Trevor as much as possible, but he moved from just behind Brad to his right and up to the small table around which we were standing. I pulled out my chair and sat down, purposefully scooting my chair away from Trevor. I didn’t want the faggot near me. Brad and Trevor sat down simultaneously. I noticed that Trevor sat uncomfortably close to Brad, and I was surprised that Brad didn’t ask Trevor to give him some space. Brad was always too polite for his own good. I wanted to ask Trevor to leave altogether, but I bit my tongue. I didn’t want to be rude to someone who worked with Brad.

We had met in this sports bar in Alpharetta called Mack’s, which was my favorite place in the world no matter what sport was in season. Brad and I met there often. At the center of Mack’s was this massive island bar manned by several bartenders who dashed from one end to the other serving the customers that sat along its sides. Other waiters and waitresses came and went hurriedly fetching drinks for customers sitting at the tables that fanned out from the bar in a haphazard fashion. Most of the tables were small, round, and high, encircled by three or more chairs. Most of the chairs were full that night since Monday Night Football was on TV. The bar was loud as people chatted before the game began. An occasional bellowing laugh rose above the crowd and waves of laughter sporadically emerged from the crowd of mostly men sitting around shooting the breeze and one-upping each other in the name of sport. I loved the place. It was my home away from home.

On that night in my favorite bar, when my life took a sudden, abrupt turn, a group of serious fantasy leaguers dressed in various authentic team jerseys sat a few tables down from us. I could tell they were serious because they all had either laptops or tablets with them and they were feverishly pecking at keyboards or swiping screens in between gulps of beer and chips. They were close enough for me to hear the trash talking among them. It was rather amusing. I loved my football, but I’d never been that serious. Fantasy football was too much work for me to ever truly be interested. No matter how amusing the trash talk was, I couldn’t take my mind off of the little faggot that sat at the table with Brad and me. He irked me beyond even the most annoying barfly at Mack’s.

A few women mingled among the crowd and I quickly honed in on each one to see if they were attractive in any way. It’s something I was always prone to do, but I also needed something to distract me from Trevor. There was a woman at the bar sitting next to her boyfriend or husband drinking a beer, but she was man-like in many ways with a harsh, round figure that belied any semblance of femininity that she possessed. I could see her tramp stamp from where I sat. It was huge, garish, and distorted by the roll of fat that hung over her too-small jeans. She wore a mid-drift Green Bay jersey that showed her unflattering stomach and highlighted her large breasts. Her boyfriend or husband leaned over next to her and shoved his hand into the back of her jeans. She leaned into him and kissed him. I saw her profile for the first time and I decided she wasn’t worth looking at even with the large breasts. It was that bad. Had she not been with a man and kissing him, I would have pegged her for a dyke. We already had one queer in the bar so one more wasn’t out of the question.

Brad and Trevor talked to each other while they drank their beers, but I wasn’t really paying attention. I was still disgusted that Trevor was there and wondered loudly in my head why he was there in the first place. His presence overshadowed our night out. I wished he would leave so that Brad and I could enjoy the game like we usually did. I noticed that Trevor was whispering something to Brad, but I pretended not to care. He seemed intense in his words. Maybe the little drama queen was upset that I wasn’t making him the center of attention. I didn’t care. I didn’t pander to faggots. I refused to even look at him focusing on Brad instead when I looked their way.

A beautiful, young woman to my left caught my attention. She was wearing tight jeans that fit every curve in her body and a snug Green Bay jersey that also fit her like a glove. I almost instantly salivated at the sight. She had long blonde hair that hung down her back and firm, spectacular breasts that filled out the tight jersey nicely. She was such a stark contrast to the large dyke-looking woman at the bar. I briefly wondered why there were so many goddamn Green Bay fans in the bar. Then, I remembered that they were playing Seattle in the game.

“Matt, I was telling Trevor that you are a store manager at The Home Depot in Cumming,” Brad said. I had become lost in my musings over the woman at the next table and I didn’t realize we were having a conversation.

“Yes,” I responded in a somewhat distracted tone looking directly at Brad. I felt awkward with Trevor there, and I had no desire to talk about my job. I loved my job and I loved my company, but Brad knew that already, and I didn’t care to share it with Trevor. I had no interest in talking to him. I wished he would leave. He really had no business being there in a place where men came to be men, not to be fucked by one. I wished he’d go find a gay bar in midtown or something. There were plenty of those queer places in Atlanta.

Brad seemed at a loss for how to continue the conversation, and Trevor glanced away sipping on his beer like it was some kind of fruity drink. Everything he did seemed effeminate. I couldn’t believe he was there to watch Monday Night Football. I wanted to ask if he had ever watched figure skating. I snickered silently at my private joke, but the pauses and flat conversation at our table were awkward.

“Who are you rooting for tonight?” I asked Brad.

“Green Bay, of course,” he responded.

“What? You don’t like Seattle?” I joked with him. I knew he was a Green Bay fan despite growing up in the Atlanta area, home of the Falcons. He was always odd like that. He was not a Braves fan either. Actually, he didn’t even like baseball, which I didn’t understand. He had always marched to his own beat, but that’s what made us fast friends when we were growing up.

“I like Seattle,” Trevor interjected smiling at both of us. I ignored his comment and despised his ridiculously gay smile. He said it in that condescending gay voice of his that was already grating on my nerves despite the fact that I had just met him. I figured he just liked the Seattle uniform colors or something.

“I’m pulling for Green Bay, too. Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback. I’m not sold on Russell Wilson yet,” I said authoritatively ignoring Trevor’s comment. I knew my quarterbacks.

“I don’t know. Those yellow and green uniforms are just ugly,” Trevor said laughing as if he told a funny joke. He was trying too hard to fit into the conversation. I hoped he could tell I didn’t want him there. I gave him a dour, uninterested look while Brad chuckled at his comment. Trevor picked up his beer bottle and tapped the side of Brad’s bottle like he just won the fucking ballgame. They continued to laugh together. It gave me the creeps. I wondered why the fuck Brad brought this guy along on our night out.

“Seriously, Wilson gives Seattle a lot of spunk. They haven’t seen that much excitement at quarterback since Hasselbeck was in his prime,” Trevor explained further. “I was surprised that Flynn lost out in the battle for the starting role. He has a lot of potential, too. Both are a huge upgrade to Jackson.”

I was briefly impressed with his knowledge of the quarterback situation in Seattle, but then I remembered that he was a little faggot. I dismissed his comment because he probably read that shit online and simply regurgitated it trying to sound knowledgeable. There was no way a little faggot knew that much about football.

I looked at Trevor closely for the first time when he spoke. He was short and thin but meticulously dressed, over-dressed for a sports bar. I could tell he spent a lot of time primping like a woman. He had longish brown hair that was combed back and obviously gelled into place since it had that unnatural sheen from the gel. His face was thin with a chin that protruded confidently. Were he a real man, women would likely find him attractive if he weren’t so short. He looked like one of those guys I’d seen in Calvin Klein ads. I quickly shook that thought from my head.

“Green Bay is going to crush these jokers,” I said definitively ignoring Trevor’s point.

“We’ll see,” Trevor said smiling. I thought he smirked, but I couldn’t be sure. Either way, I wasn’t endeared to the little faggot. I wished he would leave.

“After last week’s Green Bay game, I think anything could happen,” Brad interjected.

We fell silent just minutes before kickoff. I was determined that we’d find out who was right in a few hours. I couldn’t wait to flaunt the Green Bay victory in Trevor’s face. I wanted to be mean in victory, not because I was normally an obnoxious winner, but because I wanted to take Trevor down. I wanted to chastise him in the name of sport since I couldn’t openly ridicule him for being gay in front of Brad.

My line of sight returned to the blonde in the tight Green Bay jersey. She was so damn hot it was all I could do not to stare at her intensely. I alternately looked at the TV and her as I sat back in my chair waiting for the game to start. I couldn’t tell if she was with anyone because she was in a group of guys and none of them seemed to be her boyfriend. I couldn’t believe she was there alone. A woman that beautiful was never alone.

I glanced back at Brad. Trevor put his hand on Brad’s shoulder and appeared to give it a squeeze. I couldn’t believe Brad let the little faggot touch him. Trevor looked at Brad and then at me. I turned back to the game. Brad was just too damn polite sometimes.

“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be back in a moment,” Trevor said as he turned and walked away presumably to the men’s room. I watched him meander toward the bar and then backtrack to the other side for the hallway toward the restrooms. I was relieved he was gone even if it was only temporary. I hoped he’d get the hint and leave for good.

Brad took a deep breath and looked down at his hands. I sipped my beer looking at Brad like I expected him to say something or at least explain why Trevor was there. Loud laughs and clapping came from a table on the other side of the bar. I looked over to see if I could tell what all the fuss was about. A bunch of guys were high-fiving and laughing while one guy shrugged and wiped off the front of his shirt. Someone had played a practical joke or something. I chuckled in spite of the fact that I had no idea what had happened. I loved Mack’s. It was always fun during football season.

I looked back at Brad. He was eager to say something but couldn’t quite get it out. Maybe he was going to tell me Trevor was a homo. Surely, he knew that I had figured that out. I’m not an intellectual like Brad, but I’m not an idiot either. I didn’t become a store manager at The Home Depot without some level of intelligence. I had gone to community college for a couple of years and finished up at Georgia State. I had to work all through college. I didn’t have the advantage of a wealthy family to support me. I knew that wasn’t fair to Brad. He had earned his way to Stanford with a scholarship to prove it, but I still resented the fact that he sometimes implied he was better than me.

“Trevor’s a good guy despite being a Seattle fan,” Brad said half-jokingly. I resisted the urge to dismiss Trevor for the queer he was.

“I guess I can forgive him for that,” I said trying to sound nonplussed by his obvious sexual orientation. I wanted to yell at Brad for bringing him along. I really didn’t want to spend my precious Monday Night Football time with a faggot.

“I’m glad you two finally got to meet,” Brad said. He gulped his beer but kept his eyes on me.

Finally? The word hung in the space between us. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but the game started and I ignored my misgivings to focus on the large flat-screen TV that hung above our table. Trevor was gone longer than it would normally take to go to the restroom – at least for a guy. Maybe homos took as long as women in the restroom.

The game quickly went to a commercial break. They showed so many commercials during the games that I often became annoyed with the slow pace. Brad was uncharacteristically silent for much of the first few minutes of the game. He was still watching the TV and only turned to me after I asked him about Trevor.

“What made Trevor decide to join you?” I asked purposefully avoiding the word “us” because he was not joining me in anything. I hoped my tone made my displeasure clear. Normally, I’d welcome anyone who’s a friend of Brad’s, but not this guy.

“I asked him if he wanted to come see the game and he said yes.”

“Do you two work together a lot?”

“Actually, no. He’s in Marketing and I’m in Operations, so our paths do not cross at work.”

“Then, how did you two become friends?”

Brad paused and took a couple of gulps of his beer finishing it off. That was his third beer already and we weren’t even through the first quarter of the game.

“I met him at a company meeting in Atlanta a few years ago.”

“Before you moved back?”

“Yes. Coke has annual meetings at its headquarters here.”

Our conversation fell flat. The waiter brought another beer for Brad, and we both turned to the TV as the game resumed. Trevor was still nowhere to be seen. I wasn’t sure why Trevor was there with us, but I’d rather watch the game with Brad than think about the little faggot.

Trevor finally returned smiling and smelling like smoke. I really didn’t need another reason to hate the guy. The only thing I hated almost as much as a faggot was a smoker. The smell was disgusting and overbearing when combined with his cologne, which was a little over-the-top already. I wanted to spit up my beer or spit it on him more precisely.

Trevor looked at Brad and Brad looked away. Trevor seemed disappointed like some secret pact between him and Brad had been violated. Maybe he was upset because his beer was warm. That’s what happens when you take a smoke break. Warm beer. He slowly sipped his beer and looked vacantly annoyed as he turned his attention to the TV.

“Did Brad tell you how we met?” Trevor asked me. He looked at me expectantly like this was some on-going conversation we’d been having. I didn’t want to talk to him.

“No, but it’s pretty obvious. You work together,” I said laughing a little as I said it. I really didn’t care. Tonight was supposed be time for Brad and me to watch the game together as we have done frequently since he moved back to Atlanta. I had no intention of entertaining a little faggot.

“We do work together,” Brad said before he took another gulp of his beer. He was really pounding the beer and had almost finished his fourth one by the time Trevor had returned to our table. I was already planning to give him a ride home or at least get him a cab. He had no business driving after downing four beers so quickly.

Trevor seemed agitated by our rather benign conversation. “Actually, we met before we knew we worked together,” he said in a somewhat defiant tone. He seemed proud of this revelation.

“Really?” I said. I tried to imagine a scenario that would put Brad and Trevor in the same place outside of work. I knew Brad. We grew up together. He had gone to Stanford, but he was still a southern boy just like me. Trevor was not. I didn’t know where he was from, but it wasn’t Atlanta or anywhere else in the south for that matter. His accent sounded northeastern, but I couldn’t quite place it. Those damn Yankess all sounded the same to me.

“Well, I was here for a meeting a few years ago before I moved back, and I went out one night for drinks and I ran into Trevor. We started talking and after a bit we discovered that we both worked for Coke. It was pretty funny that we met in a city of several million people, but had never run into each other at work,” Brad said as he ordered another beer.

“It was funny,” Trevor said and looked away. He still seemed agitated. He began to say something else, but Brad interrupted him.

“Trevor is really good at home improvement, Matt. He can build anything. He’s in the Buckhead Home Depot all the time,” Brad said, abruptly changing the subject. Trevor looked equally annoyed and embarrassed at Brad’s compliment.

I was surprised. He didn’t strike me as someone who was capable of anything more than choosing paint colors for someone else to paint his bedroom. Maybe Brad was mistaken when he said home improvement. I could imagine Trevor having an eye for design like one of those queers on those godforsaken shows on TLC or HGTV, but I couldn’t imagine him hanging out with real men and building stuff.

Trevor waved his hand at Brad dismissing his comment. It was a move so gay that I was shocked that Brad didn’t notice it and comment on it. Years ago when Brad and I were inseparable friends in high school, we would have ridiculed someone like Trevor to no end, but there we were with this flaming faggot right before us, and Brad said nothing. I was perplexed. Why was he hanging out with this guy?

“My dad owns a home building company, and I spent many summers working with him. He taught me everything he knows. I still love to build stuff, but I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like,” Trevor said proudly. He didn’t seem afraid to toot his own horn despite his initial embarrassment at Brad’s compliment. This made me hate him even more.

I thought of the construction worker in the Village People. The visual humored me momentarily, but then I was stymied by the fact that Trevor remained with us. I wanted to enjoy the game with Brad, and Trevor was like an unwelcome house guest that wouldn’t leave despite obvious hints to do so. He seemed intent on ruining my night.

“I just finished renovating an old home in Virginia Highlands. It has taken me three years, but I did most of the work myself,” Trevor continued. “I spent a lot of time at Home Depot during this time.” He smiled at me as he sipped the fresh, cold beer the waiter had just placed in front of him.

“You should show him some of the pictures of your place,” Brad said encouraging him.

“Oh, sure,” Trevor said as he pulled his smart phone from his pocket. He poked the screen a few times and then flipped it around for both Brad and me to see. He flicked through the pictures for us. I had to admit the house was beautiful and the carpentry work in the main living area was nothing short of amazing with crown molding and wainscoting. The intricate pattern in the panels clearly required a lot of work. I couldn’t believe the little faggot was so talented. I also couldn’t believe he worked in construction without getting killed. Most of my customers were in construction and they wouldn’t tolerate a queer for a minute. I was impressed that Trevor survived. His father had to be disappointed that his son was a queer.

Trevor finished showing us the pictures, but I resisted the urge to praise his work. Instead, I told him the pictures were nice. I didn’t want to encourage him to stay around, or give him the impression that I was anything but disgusted by him. I returned my focus to the game. Trevor and Brad talked quietly together for a moment, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying over the din of the bar. I didn’t really care. It was almost halftime and I hadn’t had a great time thanks to Trevor. Seattle led 7-0 at that moment, but the game had been lackluster, which was surprising given Green Bay’s offense. I thought Green Bay would crush Seattle. They just needed to get their offense going.

Trevor drained the last of his beer and put the bottle down solidly on the table. He looked at Brad somewhat disapprovingly and then looked directly at me. “I think I’m going to call it a night guys,” he said. It took all the self-restraint I had not celebrate that he was leaving, but I held my tongue. I smiled broadly, not because I was being courteous, as Trevor thought, but because he was leaving Brad and me to watch the game together. Finally.

“Already? The game’s not even half over yet,” Brad protested. I wanted to punch Brad to make him stop. The sooner Trevor left the better it was for us. I gave him a stern, bemused look, but it didn’t stop him from trying to convince Trevor to stay. I just wanted Trevor to go away.

“No, I have a long day tomorrow and this game won’t be over until after 11,” Trevor explained. “You have a long day, too, so I’m surprised you’re staying until the end,” he continued looking at Brad. There was a look that passed between them that I didn’t understand, but I ignored it, too happy that Trevor was leaving. At that point I should have known something was amiss. Looking back on that night, I realized I largely ignored all those subtle messages that passed between them, unspoken words that shone a light on a secret that begged to be discovered.

“I don’t need much sleep. I want to see the rest of this game,” Brad replied.

“Okay. The game looks crappy so far,” Trevor snapped. He looked over to me. “It was nice to finally meet you, Matt.” He pushed his hand across the table toward me. I looked at it briefly before I put my hand out to shake his. I shook it as quickly as I could without appearing overly disgusted by his touch. It didn’t help that his hand was damp and clammy after being wrapped around the warming beer bottle. I knew it was just condensation, but it grossed me out. I was so glad the little faggot was leaving.

Trevor said goodbye and left quickly. I gave a sigh of relief as I settled back into my chair. The fastest three minutes was on the ESPN halftime show. Brad and I listened to Chris Berman and didn’t say a word to each other. With Trevor gone, I suddenly realized how much the little queer talked. The moment after he left was the most silence we’d had at our table all night. The chatter of the crowd surrounded us, but our little table was quiet. I relished the silence as I watched the review of Sunday’s football games. I looked around for the hot girl in the Green Bay jersey, but she was gone. I was disappointed.

“What do you think of Trevor?” Brad asked out of the blue after the halftime show ended. I wanted to ask Brad if he knew that Trevor was gay and if he didn’t, how the hell he missed something that was so blatantly obvious to me. I wanted to tell him that I didn’t approve of faggots and their lifestyle and that people like Trevor were going to burn in hell for their sins. I wanted to add that I was surprised the guys on the construction crew at his dad’s company didn’t beat the little queer to death when he worked with them. I didn’t know any construction guys who’d tolerate a faggot among them. I wanted to ask these things, but I didn’t.

“I don’t know. He seems a little strange don’t you think?” Normally, I’m more forthcoming, but my respect for Brad restrained me. If Trevor was a friend of his, then I had to accept that.

“How so?” Brad asked defensively.

“Is there not something you notice about him right away?”

Brad seemed stumped or at least confused about what I was trying to imply. I became impatient.

“Remember Corey Graves back in high school?” I asked hoping my reference would bring him to the surface of reality. Corey was this faggot that attended our high school. He walked around thinking he’d just walked off the 90210 set, and every guy in our high school, including Brad and me, gave him hell. Corey was as openly gay as you could be in a small Southern town.

“Mr. 90210?”

Green Bay finally got on the board and the crowd erupted into cheers around us. We were momentarily distracted as we watched the replay. It was just a field goal, but the game had lacked any substantial scoring all night since the early Seattle touchdown, so the predominantly Green Bay crowd took what it could get. Frankly, I was a little bored. I thought Aaron Rodgers would light up the Seattle defense and we’d have a high-scoring game. The Seattle defense was really that good after all.

“Yes, that Corey,” I responded after the replay finished. “We used to tease that little queer all time, remember?”

Brad sat back and took a deep breath obviously annoyed. He frowned at me as he reached for his beer.

“Matt, that was high school. We all did shit in high school that we’re not proud of.”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t proud of it. Corey deserved all the shit we gave him.”

“No, he didn’t. We were assholes. We should have had our asses beaten for behaving like that.”

I looked at Brad bemusedly. I couldn’t tell if he was really indignant or if he was joking, but he did have a shitty smirk on his face. He was already fucking drunk. He had just finished a six pack. I ignored his retort and watched the Seattle offense sputter yet again.

“Anyway, Trevor reminds me a lot of Corey,” I said attempting to answer Brad’s original question.

“What’s wrong with that?”

His tone of voice would normally put me on the offensive, but this was Brad, my best friend, someone I viewed more akin to a brother than a friend. I’d known him virtually all my life since we lived across the street from each other. We grew up together and for many years of our lives we were inseparable, and despite the years we spent apart after high school, we were still very close. He was a guy I’d always looked up to as an older brother type, a role model.

I looked at Brad as he sat back on his stool sipping his seventh beer. His eyes were fixated on me. I wasn’t sure how to respond to that since the problem was rather evident to me. He seemed argumentative, which I assumed was the effect of the beer. I was just stating the obvious.

“Trevor’s a fag just like Corey,” I blurted out. “I’m not sure why you’re hanging out with that guy. I know you hate queers just like I do. Look at what those fuckers are doing nowadays wanting to marry and shit. They’re destroying the fabric of this country all because they choose a lifestyle that’s against God’s will and they want us to grant them the same rights as those who are legitimate couples. I’m sorry, man, but he’s a fag if I’ve ever seen one. It’s painfully obvious. I can’t believe you can’t see it.” I regretted my abrupt, crude retort almost as soon as I said it. Everything I said was true, but I didn’t want to be so confrontational with Brad. It was too late.

Green Bay kicked another field goal and the crowd cheered loudly again. It was late in the third quarter and Seattle still led the game 7-6. I was disappointed in the game and annoyed with Brad and his friend Trevor. I considered leaving at that point just to get away and calm down. Trevor had ruined my night.

Brad seemed to be out of sorts. He was oddly quiet. He finished off his seventh beer and called the waiter over for another. I knew I’d definitely have to drive him home or call him a cab at that point. There was no way he was driving with all the drinks he’d had. I really didn’t want to drive him down to Buckhead and then go all the way back to my place in Cumming. I wished he’d slow down on the beers, but it was too late. He was drunk.

“Again, that was high school. We’ve all grown up since then,” Brad said shaking his head. I wasn’t sure what to say because it didn’t really make sense in our conversation. Sure, Corey was in high school, but a fag is a fag. Homosexuality is wrong in the eyes of God, and I didn’t have to be tolerant or pretend that it wasn’t. That was just liberal bullshit to make those of us who believe the word of God look bad or ignorant.

“Trevor’s a good guy. He just wasn’t in the best mood tonight. I’m sure you’d like him if you got to know him better,” Brad continued. His tone shifted from preachy to consoling, but I wasn’t deterred in my argument.

“But he’s gay,” I countered. Brad had leaned up to the table, but he sat back again as I said this and sighed.

“Yes, he’s gay, Matt.”

I couldn’t help but smirk. I knew it. I didn’t normally pay attention to that stuff, but I knew a fag when I saw one. Brad fell silent and we watched the game without more words between us. We settled into the routine of just two men enjoying the game and a few beers. Brad seemed withdrawn and restless, but I didn’t poke at him. The conversation was already awkward, and I was pissed that he was being so dense. Trevor had ruined my night, but Brad had brought him here.

Cedric Benson ran into the end zone and Green Bay finally went up on hapless Seattle. It looked like they were going to win the game despite their poor offensive showing. The roar of the crowd at Mack’s reached epic proportions when Benson broke into the end zone and it took a while for the noise to die down enough to have a conversation without yelling. Brad began drinking his eighth beer.

“Man, you’re not going to be able to drive home,” I said nodding to Brad’s newly arrived beer. Brad gave me a mock look of surprise.

“I’m fine. I can hold my beer,” he said. His words were slow and deliberate, and I could tell he was past the point of being capable of driving. I decided I would drive him home as soon as Green Bay closed out the game. I didn’t want to risk letting him leave on his own.

“Maybe that should be your last one.”

“What? Why?”

“You’ve had enough.”

“What the fuck, Matt? You’re goddamn Mr. Self-Righteous tonight.”

He was drunk, so I laughed it off. He didn’t press the issue and neither did I. We watched the fourth quarter wind down in silence in the sea of the ebullient crowd that was eagerly anticipating a Green Bay victory. Seattle had the ball for the last time, and it looked like Green Bay was going to stop them. The Seattle offense really seemed hapless. I could hear and feel the antsy Green Bay fans in the room.

“Matt, what do you think about me?” Brad asked suddenly.

“What do you mean?”

“You seem to know so much about Trevor, so what about me?” Brad’s words were starting to slur. The beer made his speech choppy and garbled like he had marbles in his mouth.

The Seattle quarterback scrambled in the backfield as the time ticked off the clock. There was really no way he could get it into the end zone to win the game, but he threw up a Hail Mary pass anyway. I ignored Brad at that moment as I watched the receivers and defenders jump for the ball in the end zone. The clump of players came down to the turf but it was hard to tell who caught the ball. The referee finally signaled a touchdown for Seattle, and the crowd at Mack’s erupted in disbelief. I could barely hear myself think. The chaos on the field reverberated in the bar. People were yelling, screaming, and arguing all around us. I was standing to see the TV and make sense of it all. Brad stayed seated seemingly oblivious to the controversy. He’d had so much to drink that he couldn’t stand up it seemed.

I sat back down, which felt like diving into the depths of a sea of people many of whom were still standing and clamoring for the replay.

“Are you okay?” I asked Brad. He looked up at me from his beer bottle.

“Trevor is my partner, Matt.”

“Your partner?” I asked. I wasn’t sure what he meant and it was hard to really understand him in all the noise in the bar. A man next to us in a Green Bay jersey bellowed several obscenities to the TV screen as the officials still called it a touchdown. The noise grew unbelievably loud.

“I love him. We’re lovers. We have been for several years now,” Brad yelled straining to break through the swirl of noise that consumed us.

At first what he said didn’t register with me. I could barely hear myself think, but once I repeated them in my head, his words hit me so hard that I had to catch my breath. It seemed unbelievable, almost like a cruel joke played by a man who’d had too much to drink. I sat back in my seat and stared hard at Brad expecting him to crack a smile and let me in on his sick-ass joke, but no smile or sinister laughter came.

“Are you serious?” I asked. That was all I could think to say.

“Yes, Matt, I’m serious. I’m gay. Just like Corey.”

“How can…you’re kidding…,” I started. I was struggling to make sense of his words. Surely, this was some elaborate joke I thought. Brad and I used to chase after girls all the time in high school. He had plenty of girlfriends in high school. I used to be jealous of how many girls he used to have around him. His revelation didn’t make any sense.

“Save me the lecture, Matt,” Brad cut off my choppy train of thought. “I think you’ve made it clear that you haven’t changed much beyond our immature attitudes about homosexuality in high school.”

“It’s not just some sophomoric view of life, Brad. It’s God’s view. You know that. We go to church together. How could you choose this lifestyle when it goes against everything we believe in?”

“I didn’t ‘choose’ this lifestyle, Matt. It’s who I am. It’s who I’ve always been.”

I turned away from Brad and back to the TV stunned and unsure how to respond. The referees confirmed it was a Seattle touchdown. Seattle marched back onto the field and kicked a field goal. Seattle won the game. Unbelievable.

“I need to go,” Brad said annoyed that my attention had been diverted by the game. I returned my focus to him.

“You’ve had too much to drink,” I protested weakly, but I didn’t offer to drive him home. I couldn’t. Not after what he had said. I was still trying to make sense of it.

“I’m fine,” he said as he counted off several twenty-dollar bills and put them on the table. He got up from his seat and I just looked at him. I couldn’t think of anything to say. He looked at me intensely with his brow furrowed as if he was angry, but he said nothing. He just turned and walked toward the exit. I watched him leave the bar and disappear beyond the glass doors into the dark of the night beyond the bright light just outside the entrance to the bar. That goddamn Trevor had Brad convinced that he was gay too. I sat in my chair lost in the boisterous crowd looking at the space that Brad had vacated wondering what the hell had just happened.