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“Our son is a goddamn faggot!”
“Connection” begins with Evan’s father’s harsh words, shouted at Evan’s mother. He speaks them knowing full well Evan will hear. There is no love between father and son and although the knowledge of Evan’s sexuality is new, the emotional and verbal abuse is not. Evan has spent his life being ridiculed for being shy. He’s heard how worthless he is. How lacking.
Jeremy is physically scarred from a car accident fifteen years prior, but the words thrown at him—crippled, useless, half a man—come not from someone else, but from himself. They come from his shaken self-worth and the negative image he has of who he is.
“ … what was I going to do, call up the guys and say ‘hey, why don’t you come hang out at the pool with me while I do my PT’? It was humiliating. I felt like … less of a man. It would be emasculating as hell for them to see me scarred and crippled.” His tone was bitter.
“Jeremy, we’ve talked about the negative connotations of you using the word crippled.”
“Don’t give me your PC bullshit, doc. I am crippled and nothing is going to change that.” Dr. Fuller frowned, and Jeremy rolled his eyes. “Look, I’d never call someone else crippled, but when it comes to me, let’s be honest and call a spade a spade.”
I chose to use words like ‘faggot’ and ‘crippled’ carefully. Deliberately.Because they have weight. The words we use to describe ourselves and others matter. They leave scars.
A part of me cringed every time I wrote them, but the story wouldn’t have been the same without. They were necessary to get a full picture of Evan’s life before he moved to Atlanta and Jeremy’s life since the car crash.
When Evan and Jeremy meet they’re both hurting, damaged men. Neither believes he has anything to offer the other, when the exact opposite is true. The experiences they’ve had are what make them so good for each other.
Evan has been put down and isolated so much that he’s convinced he’s undesirable. When they meet for the second time in “Connection” and actually begin to open up to each other, Evan has doubts that anyone could ever want him.
Jeremy downed his drink and placed his hand on Evan’s forearm. Evan looked up at him with wide eyes. “Do you not see it, Evan?”
“How hot you are?”
“Oh, come on. I’m skinny, pale, and shy. I’m not what men want,” Evan whispered.
Against his better judgement, Jeremy lifted his hand and cupped Evan’s jaw. “If I weren’t crippled, you’d be the perfect size for me to throw around in bed. The shyness makes me wonder what fantasies you have hidden behind those pretty eyes.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “And I wonder if you’d blush when I stripped you naked, or if I could get you to loosen up for me. If I got you worked up enough, would you beg me to suck your cock?”
Jeremy—who can be painfully blunt—tells Evan otherwise. His own self-worth is shot, but he wants nothing more than to show Evan that he has plenty to offer the world. That what Evan thinks of as negative traits are actually positives in Jeremy’s eyes. It nudges Evan along a new path as he grows into himself and gains confidence.
Months later, in “Trust” when they’ve established a friendship, admitted their feelings to each other, and exposed some of their most vulnerable inner thoughts, Evan tries to convince Jeremy that the physical damage left by the car accident doesn’t define who Jeremy is, or change Evan’s attraction to him.
“Jeremy, I’m a funeral director. You have no idea how many mangled, scarred bodies I’ve seen. It’s not a big deal to me.”
Jeremy closed his eyes for a second. “Fine, maybe you have seen dead people who look like I do, but that’s not how I want you to see me, Evan. I want you to think of me as—as a man, Evan, not some cripple—”
Evan cut him off. “I hate when you call yourself that.”
Jeremy winced. “I’ll … work on that.”
Evan doesn’t see the flaws in Jeremy that seem so glaringly obvious to him. It hurts Evan to hear Jeremy put himself down and he wants Jeremy to realize that the scars are only a small part of his identity. Through Evan’s eyes, Jeremy is able to see a more accurate picture of himself and adjust the mental image he’s been carrying around for a decade and a half. He’s able to let go of the idea that his disability defines him.
I spent a long time considering which words I would use in this story. What impact they’d have. In a way, they are intended to shock the reader.
We all need to be aware of the weight of our words. When we make an offhand comment to a coworker, when we fight with a loved one, or look at ourselves in the mirror what are we saying?
Most of us aren’t deliberately cruel like Evan’s father. We don’t mean for our words to leave scars. But is there a way we can take those words and use them in a more constructive way?
Can our words heal instead of harm?
Author: Brigham Vaughn
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 01/28/2016
Cover Artist: Brigham Vaughn
Evan Harris thinks his relationship with Jeremy Lewis is going well. But when Jeremy bolts, Evan is left nursing a broken heart. Jeremy loves Evan, but his inability to trust holds him back from facing his past head on and building the future he desperately wants. Evan’s patience is at the breaking point, and he struggles to decide if Jeremy deserves another chance.
Scarred by his own parents’ treatment of him, Jeremy doesn’t trust Evan’s mother’s motives when she reappears in Evan’s life after his father lands in jail. The ensuing disagreement about his concerns puts further pressure on their developing relationship.
Unless Jeremy can learn to trust and Evan can let go of past hurts, they’ll miss out on the relationship they’ve both been searching for.
Jeremy wrestled his shoe on and stood. He swayed on his feet for a second as his skin went chalky again. Evan reached for him, but Jeremy shook him off. His anger seemed to dissipate as his shoulders dropped and his voice softened slightly. “Look, it’s time you find out what the rest of the world is like. Go meet guys, go be young and stupid.” He ran his thumb across Evan’s cheek, his smile sad and wistful. “Just not too stupid.”
Evan stared at him. “And what will you be doing?”
Jeremy’s voice came out gruff. “Feeling lucky I was your first for a few things.”
“Don’t do this, Jeremy.” Evan hated the way he sounded, like he was pleading with him. He wanted to drop to his knees and beg Jeremy to stay, but he was afraid that would only make things work. That it would make Evan seem weak in Jeremy’s eyes. “Please.”
“I can’t be the guy you’re looking for,” Jeremy murmured. “You have no idea how much I wish I could, but it’s not possible.”
“Why?” He winced, hating the way his voice cracked. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m too … damaged and I have too much of my own shit to deal with. I can barely manage to give you a handjob much less anything else. I’m not able to be what you need. I’d be a shitty boyfriend.”
Evan straightened and brushed away the tears. “What if—if you didn’t have to commit to me and we … we slept together. It wouldn’t have to mean anything. Give me rules about where I can touch you. You can keep your pants on. I don’t care.” Right then, he wanted anything, whatever Jeremy would give him.
Anything but losing him.
“I’m in no shape for sex and you deserve a hell of lot more than a cripple for a lover.” Jeremy’s voice was surprisingly gentle. “And let’s be honest, it’s more than sex, isn’t it? You want the rest too. Wouldn’t it hurt you to wonder why you weren’t good enough for me to commit to?”
Evan flinched. “I wouldn’t,” he protested, but he knew he was lying.
“You would. And I know I’m hurting you now, but it’ll hurt a lot less than some half-assed non-relationship.” Jeremy brushed Evan’s hair off his forehead. “I care about you, Evan, way more than I should. What happened last night was a mistake and we can’t repeat it.”
“Wasn’t it good?”
“It was perfect.” Jeremy sighed, the corner of his mouth twisting up in a sad smile. “But that makes it worse, right? I can’t give you what you need and it’s going to end badly if we continue. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Evan.”
“You already have,” Evan whispered.
“Oh, kid.” Jeremy wrapped his arms around Evan and he collapsed gratefully, his cheek against Jeremy’s shoulder. “I know. And I’m sorry.”
About Brigham VaughnBrigham Vaughn has always been a voracious reader with her own stories to tell. After many years of abandoned plots, something finally clicked. Now she’s eating, sleeping, and breathing writing and is excited to have finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. In the little time that isn’t spent writing or reading, she loves cooking, yoga, photography, and remodeling her ninety-year-old home. Brigham lives in Michigan with her three cats and an amazing husband who has always been her biggest champion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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