Change

By: Keith Trottier Photo Credit: Lindsay Cyngot

If you haven’t read the other posts in my story then you may want to start here and read the ones that precede this post. You can start here and follow the progress by clicking the links found in the “Story” tab above. The First Post

Disclaimer: This post contains a large amount of profanity and some sexual topics. I know some of you don’t like profanity and even more so sexual topics being openly discussed.  I’m sorry. I’m not using it to make you uncomfortable, but rather to capture the essence of the experience called my life.

________________________

Spring 2012

The words “Message Sent” flashed upon the screen of my tiny, metallic blue dumb-phone as I rushed to change into my navy blue swim shorts. I didn’t know if I’d get a response today. Axl had never been very good at communicating, but I figured maybe just maybe after nearly half a decade he might have gotten a little better.

“You ready already?” Katie called from the living room.

Five years…it’s hard to grasp how much people change year to year let alone in five. The Keith that plays me in all my memories felt like a near stranger to me as I thought back to high school; to the days when all that mattered were friends and your take on popularity. People change, Wendy had for sure changed, and maybe even Axl too, but in five years I had completely reinvented myself.

________________________

Spring 2005

The Auto-Shop classroom was sterile, white and walled in by brick and tiled with speckled slate. Observatory windows lined the back wall and peered out into a desolate garage. Our teacher had quit a month into the semester and Shadow Ridge High School hadn’t been able to find a replacement. So, as the system goes, our class became a Study Hall. Now the thirty of us sat in our blue chairs and leaned forward on the tan desktops with our heads propped up on a hand while “March of the Penguins” played for the duration of the hour and a half long period.

I was 16, a sophomore and most importantly of all a skater kid living in Vegas. The bangs of my uncooperative hair curled over my forehead in a tidal wave of chestnut brown. My clothes fit loosely on my body, and my face was dotted with the teenage plague. But currently my stomach ached with the boiling throb of whiskey and my throat burned for minutes after having taken a swig.

Zach had brought booze to class as a way for us to pass the time. The entertainment wasn’t just to get buzzed; it was to get buzzed under our supervisor’s nose. Back then we lived for the contrary and the politically incorrect. Body and mind we were anarchy in metamorphosis. Paradox was our reality. Glitz and grunge was our upbringing. We weren’t just teenagers, we were Vegas kids. Raised in a city built to please, but too young to have our needs catered to.

“Keith,” Zach grabbed me by the shoulder and turned me around.

“What?” I asked in hushed annoyance at his employ of force.

Zach’s hazel eyes were half open and it was clear that he had taken something more than alcohol to get to this point.

“Zach what did you take?”

“Nothing,” he smiled. “I need you to help me.”

“With what?”

“Will you help me?” He pursued.

My body felt warm and a bubbly bliss tinted my thoughts with a rosy lens. “Tell me what you want and then you’ll know,” I managed.

“Suck my dick,” he had managed to say it just loud enough to catch the attention of those seated closest to us at the back of the room.

A war of moments waged inside me as I struggled against the intoxication and my emotions. “Dude, I’m not gonna fuckin’ do that. I’m not gay,” I responded.

“Come on,” he insisted. “I thought we were friends.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I mean who says this to someone? I mean honestly, who the hell? I had an expression of something like terrified, disgusted and awe reminiscent of the kind of look I got the first time I saw a Richard Simon’s exercise video. God, those shorts and that hairdo…

I had never been in this situation before and now I was experiencing it while slightly tipsy. A couple guys seated near us laughed at my bluff. Why did Zach have to be so good looking? He was tall, lean with some muscle and a sharply defined face.

“We are friends. But I’m not-”

“Duuuude, friends help one another.”

By giving them a blowjob? When did the world get set on its head?

A wave of uncomfortable anxiety rushed over me.

“Zach, leave Keith alone. You’re high and being an ass,” Christina said matter-of-factly.

“Just a little bit?” he asked her with a pouty face.

“No sweetie,” she said leaning over and rubbing a thumb over the back of Zach’s hand. “Just sit there and be quiet till you start feeling yourself again,” she said her flawless white smile.

Christina was a dainty Philipino girl with blonde highlights in her luscious black hair and was always dressed in the latest Hollister fashions. She turned to me and handed me a bottle of vanilla vodka that Zach had given her.

“Don’t worry about it, hun. I got your back,” she winked.

I took the bottle and with a look at the supervisor, who was consumed in her book, took a swig. I relished in the warming burn that lingered in my throat and tricked through my veins as I allowed the anxiety to pass.

Axl laughed as I finished my story and then placed the cigarette to his lips and inhaled. I watched the end glow with orange cancer as he blew the smoke out through his nose. He looked up at me and offered me a hit.

“And this is why they call you Asshole instead of Axl,” I said as I took the cigarette.

He chuckled and coughed up at the heavens as we lay on the roof of his patio. Axl was my best friend in those days. Every day after school we’d ride the bus back to his house and eat a Tupperware sized bowl of cereal and then go outback and lay on top of the patio. Axl had only recently started to smoke and even though I was normally not all that interested in cigarettes for some reason today I took a hit.

“How are you and Wendy?” I asked. “She still upset with you over what happened at her parent’s 25th Anniversary Party?”

Axl got more serious now. “Yeah. She hasn’t texted me back at all since Sunday.”

“Well have you texted her since Sunday?” I asked as I raised a brow at him.

It wasn’t just Wendy that was mad at him. I was still upset with both of them. I had felt completely abandoned during the party. Axl and Wendy had just formed their own little group and left me to do whatever. At one point I found them bowling and that was pretty much it. Wendy apologized immediately, but Axl hadn’t even noticed and that was typical of our friendship. I cared too much and he was oblivious.

“Shit,” he laughed as he held out his hand for the cigarette.

“Well?”

“Well what?” he inhaled again and this time blew the smoke out of his mouth.

“Maybe you should text her,” I suggested. I knew he should do this. I had talked to Wendy the night before and she had specifically stated that she was waiting for him to make an effort. She wanted to see if he even noticed. “If you keep this up Ax you’re gonna lose more than just a few people that you care about.”

“And what about you?” He said sitting up now.

“What about me?” I squinted as I looked over at his silhouette in front of the afternoon sun.

“Why do you keep telling people you’re straight? I thought you were bi.”

“Well I’m mostly straight,” I tried to sound casual and collected.

Axl took another puff on the cigarette before putting it out and throwing the butt over his neighbor’s wall.

“Besides everyone already thinks I’m fucking gay,” I added.

“Are you?” he asked point blank.

“No,” I lied.

“Well then what does it matter? You’re bi, just say so and fuck the rest of ‘em. If they’re gonna talk shit then they’re gonna talk shit.”

“So what would you do then, huh?”

“I’d tell ‘em straight to their faces and if they had anything to say back I’d beat the shit out of ‘em,” he said simply.

I sat up now and stared over at the massive tree that grew up in the middle of Axl’s tiny backyard like the tree of life in the midst of Eden.

“God you make it sound like it’s so easy,” I sighed.

“I thought you didn’t believe in God,” he quipped.

“What the fuck was in your cereal? You’re actually coming up with good comebacks,” I joked.

“Stuff…” he said with shifty eyes.

“Well shit, why didn’t you give me some you greedy bastard?”

“Cuz you’re Twiggy. Twiggy doesn’t do drugs and shit, remember? You’re like all fuckin’ straight edge and shit,” he replied casually.

“Stop calling me that. I hate that fucking stupid nickname,” I shrugged off the sentiment. “And I’m not straight edge.”

“It’s either that or Minion,” he explained matter-of-factly.

I rolled my eyes. “You’re so fucking gay.”

“Come on Twiggy you gay motherfucker, lets go,” he said as he jumped down to the grass below.

_________________________

Spring 2012

I jumped from the old bridge and down into the green river below. A torrent of bubbles encased me as I broke through the water and plunged into its depths. Moments later another body crashed into the river in a dramatic display of froth and air, followed by another and another as college kid after college kid jumped.

If this moment of life had been a music video I feel “Life on a Nickel” by Foster the People would have been the song choice for this underwater spectacle. It would be a work of chaos, water, and light. Twenty year-olds in limbo—as much symbolically as realistically—and are baptized into a new world.

Sadly, however, life doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t slow down in these moments, but rather continues the march. Time doesn’t give a shit. Time just takes what it wants.

Panicked yells filled my ears as I surfaced and on the bridge I could see Kris. She stood and stared down at the water below her curly blonde hair whipping around her face in the wind. Kris was, as she would most certainly tell you “a sassy blonde bombshell of a woman who could cook a mean meal of both food and men.”

“Jump!” Katie ordered.

“Are you KIDDING? Look at how far down that is? Do you WANT to kill me?” Kris screamed back.

“Get cho booty in dat water or else imma come ova there and push you off,” Katie barked back as she started to climb over the railing and down towards Kris.

“Get away from me you crazy white gurl,” Kris screamed.

“Then jump fatty,” Katie began to laugh now as Kris clung to the railing behind her for dear life.

Things had warmed up finally and we had decided to take a break from our homework and go for a dip on this electric Saturday. The sky was vibrant and the air teemed with that spring fever. Katie had wanted to do something that morning and Kris, who had never been bridge jumping, was adamant that we go, because as she stated so succinctly: “The queen always gets what she wants.”

I walked up from the desert brush that sprung up along the banks of the river and climbed back up to the old iron bridge.

“She still hasn’t frickin’ jumped?” I asked Kris who had just climbed back over the railing.

“Pfff,” she scoffed with a frustrated wave of her hand. “She wasn’t ever going to. She’s just a big chicken!” Katie yelled over at her.

“Hey, that aint no insult. I grew up in the ghettos of Indiana, and I like chicken,” Kris retorted with a stomp of her foot on the metal beam she stood on in her one piece swimsuit.

“Just jump already!” I yelled.

“Ha, she’ll probably jump and belly flop,” Katie chuckled as we watched Kris look back down at the water fifteen feet below apprehensively.

“Ok I’m gonna do it!” Kris exclaimed.

“No you’re not. You’re too chicken,” Katie said matter-of-factly.

“Three…two…one…” Kris finished her countdown and was still on the bridge.

A sudden urge to check my phone struck me and I walked back down the worn, uneven beams of wood towards the car. As I did so I passed a couple of girls dressed in two-piece swimsuits. The Mormon part of my being forced me to look at the helter-skelter mess of wood at my feet. Why? Yes I don’t like girls. The female physique has no power over my mind. Girls are pretty and I love them. Most of my best friends are girls, hence Katie, but simply put I looked down because bikinis and two-piece swimsuits in general, are frowned upon by Mormon culture. It was my adopted culture that urged me to overt my eyes.

The old part of myself, the Keith I was before Mormonism, couldn’t have cared less however. If guys can’t keep their eyes to themselves then that’s their problem. If guys have a problem with what women wear because they’re affected by it, maybe we should start wearing one-zies to swim in too, because you know, rippling abs and protruding pectorals have lead more than one person to loose their head. And not gonna lie, old Keith was currently losing his over the three shirtless men standing on top of the old bridge.

I fished my blue dumb-phone out of Katie’s backpack. It was one of those ones with the black ropes that you pull to close and then wear. Sliding it open the screen glowed red with the words: “New Message.” My heart beat faster now with anticipation.

It was from Todd’s mom, my “Mormon Mom,” as I called her. I opened it slightly let down.

“Hope you’re doing well in your first week of school. Remember the Lord loves you and so do I! Choose the right, remember who you are and don’t forget to call.”

“Three! Two-” Katie yelled at the top of her lungs down at Kris.

“Gurl wait! I aint ready yet.”

“One!” She finished.

I tucked the phone away in the pack and returned. I climbed back over the railing and instinctively Kris grabbed hold of the beam closest to her.

“I’m not going to push you off, chill,” I assured. “Besides, can you even swim?”

“Boyyyyy,” she said with an up and down look. “you’d best jump ‘fore I go over there and throttle you.”

I smiled. “Come over here. I’ll grab you and jump.”

A spiteful expression fell over her face.

I counted down in my head as I looked down at the water below. That familiar mixture of anxiety and images of slapping the water filled my mind.

“I thought you were gonna jump,” Kris called from her beam.

“I will when I’m ready.”

“Aint ever gonna impress any girls like that,” she stated with sassy raised eyebrows and wide eyes.

“If by girls you mean yourself then maybe I’ll just climb back over the railing,” I smiled.

“I hope you hit a rock,” she scowled.

“You jump first and then I’ll jump on you, deal?” I winked in jest.

Leaped from the bridge again, wind whirled around my ears until an explosion of water and the sound of rushing surrounded me.

Remember who you are. My Mormon Mom’s text came to mind as I fell through the water.

 

I’m Keith, I’m a convert, return missionary and a prospective husband…

 

Why do you keep telling people you’re straight? My mental recreation of Axl’s voice sounded irritated with my inability to be honest.

Because everyone will hate me, that’s why. There’s too much to lose…

My Psychology 101 book sat on my bed, a pen and highlighter keeping track of my place as I paced in my room on the phone later that night.

“So how was the drive down with Jo?” Todd’s mother asked.

“It was alright. We talked a bit, but then I fell asleep for awhile,” I explained.

“What do you think of Rexburg?” she asked attentively waiting for the answer.

“It’s actually really nice. I’m enjoying it. People are pretty friendly here. It’s strange, you’ll just be walking around and people will say hi to you like they’ve know you their entire lives.”

“Is there still snow?”

“No, I was actually bridge jumping with Ann’s sister Katie today when I you texted me,” I responded.

“Really? Back in my day the snow would stay till June. I remember we used to lay our towels on the snow and tan,” she reminisced.

“Well thank goodness things changed,” I smiled. “So how’s the fam?”

“We’re good. We miss you; Todd misses you. Now he’s all by himself in his room. I don’t think he knows what to do with himself now that all the Gang is gone.”

“I know how that goes,” I responded as I recalled those days after Todd went on his mission to Slovakia. “So how are he and Emily?”

“They’re still where they were. He still wants to be just friends and the poor girl I think still hopes he’ll come around. It’ll be a miracle if either of you boys get married and give me grandchildren before I’m in the ground.”

There was a pang in my heart as I thought to myself: Not even after you’re in the ground.

“It’s gonna be a close one,” I teased.

“Well you’re in Rexburg and I’m sure you’ll find some cutie to bring home with you,” she stated confidently.

“That’s the hope. Don’t wanna be a menace to society forever you know,” I added.

“It’ll happen when it’s supposed to, just don’t wait too long. I want grand babies. Well anyways, I better let you go. I’ve gotta make dinner and Chris was supposed to do dishes, but you know how he is. The boy gets distracted by dust in the air for crying out loud. Anyways, I’ll talk to you later. Love you. Remember who you are and choose the right. Go on a date with a cute girl,” she tacked on at the end in a final effort to convince me as if by doing so I’d magically go on a date.

“Ok, I’ll talk to you later. Love you too. Bye,” and with that I hung up the phone and sat on my bed.

I stared down at the device and wished with all my heart I could tell this second mother of mine the truth. I needed her advice but all that came to mind was something Todd had said about his parents early on into our friendship.

“My parents don’t hate gay people, they just don’t feel comfortable about it all.”

This woman whom I called my second mother only wanted me to be happy. I didn’t question if she loved me, rather I questioned which me she loved and I wondered then how she could love me and not know I was gay. It was obvious I was, and I’m sure she must have thought, somewhere within herself, that it was a possibility.

I need to change. I thought to myself.

I refused to let everyone down. I refused to be one of those people that you’d hear people talk about in casual conversation in a way that made it sound like the individual had died. I didn’t want them to say about me that I was some great guy who fell from grace. I wasn’t going to fall from grace. I was going to fight to stay strong. I wasn’t going to let my other mother down.

My phone lit up and broke my train of thought as the words “New Message” flashed on the screen.

I opened the text and smiled, it was from Axl.

“Its good to hear from u man. Has it really been 5 years? When r u coming down to Vegas?”

My smile faded as I and thought about the last time I had been to Vegas.

________________________

Summer 2009

“Are you going to see Axl?” Wendy had asked me while she walked around her kitchen finishing a cake.

Part of me knew that Wendy understood what the answer would be. She comprehended how bad things had gotten after I moved to Washington. After all we both made the decision to stop trying to change him. So in an attempt to save any goodness left in the memories between the three of us it was decided that we’d let go. We’d bottle our friendship and throw it out into the sea and hope salvation would discover it and save us.

What had happened between the three of us? Mists of passion and desire clouded our judgments. Each wanted something from the other that couldn’t be reciprocated. It was love unrequited that carved out the canyon.

“I don’t think so,” I had responded.

I remember how she had turned to look at me, her arms on her hips, her frosting covered fingers pointed away from her body, and her deep, motherly, Latin brown eyes fixated upon me. She didn’t approve of the answer.

“You should at least drop in and say hi,” she said as she turned around to face her cake.

Wendy had over the last three years blossomed into a fiery Spanish beauty. She was still that same Wendy that Axl and I had gone to cheer on at her last soccer game of the year with posters we made ourselves, but she now stood a woman. She was full of grace and confidence radiated from her more so than it ever had when we were growing up.

“He’s changed Keith,” she had continued as she frosted the cake. “I mean he’s still Axl, but he’s more mature now.”

Nearly three years had passed since I had moved to Washington, and in those three years Wendy and I may not have conversed as much as we once had, but our friendship never tarnished or faded. She was always my Wendy Melissa. She would always be the girl who as an apology I gave a step-by-step cookbook on cake making, with pictures. And more so, she’d always hold a special place in my heart as one of my dearest friends.

I loved Wendy from the moment I met her and I’ll love her till the moment I die. That’s our friendship and we don’t need to talk everyday to know it.

“Has he though?” I had asked. “I don’t know if I really believe it. Besides I’m busy and I don’t really have time.”

“You had time to come see me. People change, Keith. Look at us, we did. You’re Mormon and I’m…me. Ok, so maybe I haven’t changed all that much.”

“You’ve changed, Wendy Melissa. You’re a woman now, not some college chick or little high school girl. You’re a gorgeous, educated woman now.”

“Ah stop, you’re gonna make blush. But the point is Keith, change happens and no on stays the same forever,” she had been right and only now as I sat on my plane and watched the city shrink below had I understood.

I never went to see Axl, and instead I had spent my time smoking hookah, drinking vodka and watching friends smoke weed. I hadn’t seen Axl, because I believed he couldn’t change, but the truth was that I couldn’t change. The minute I was back in Vegas, surrounded by old friends, the real me came back out, as if from hibernation, to resume the life that had never really ended.

Baptism hadn’t destroyed the Vegas kid.

________________________

Spring 2012

I closed my phone and set it at my side too guilty to try to respond. I should have visited him that summer.

I still loved Axl and, like Wendy, would do so until I ceased to exist. It didn’t matter how much had occurred, because the simple fact of the matter is, is that there exist those rare individuals in life who touch your soul in such as a way as to intertwine the two of you together. And no matter how hard you try to undo that bond it can’t be broken.

Your heart is not your own. It gives itself to those who can cause it harm, and once those sacred slices of one’s soul are gone they never fully return. A fragment or maybe a particle always remains behind like an eternal testament of our hope that shimmers within those who may seem unredeemable.

More than likely these people will never realize they have inherited these vulnerable pieces of us within themselves. They have no idea that when they’re out there doing God only knows what, that in those pensive hours of the night these fragments call out to across the universe to connect us again; that they invoke in us, through the regret-tinged nostalgia, a hope that the next to come along will cherish these precious portions of ourselves. No, instead they continue about their lives in unfulfilled discontentment.

They are shadows seeking for light in a world of darkness. If only they’d look inside though. Then maybe they’d see the truth and understand happiness is not an object but a decision. In those moments they’d come to see what we had seen in them and the potential they possess.

Can people change? Yes, they can. The soul is like a garden that can be cultivated for the worthy or neglected for the corrupt and I believe that with every part of ourselves we give we do not become lesser or more incomplete, but the contrary. The more we loose the greater our capacity to receive becomes. In essence the only absolute may be that we are beings in a perpetual state of adaptation.

A knock at the front door broke the silence. I got up from my seat and walked over to answer it.

“Kalista,” I said taken aback by surprise at the visit.

“Hey you,” she smiled back “mind if I come in?” She tucked a curly dirty blonde lock behind her ear as she looked up at me with her big blue eyes.

“Not at all,” I said as I stepped to the side and let her pass.

I closed the door behind me unawares of the game of chicken that had just entered my home. Eden demanded change and the harbinger had come at last to reinvent my soul once more.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Change”
  1. melanie says:

    Absolutely amazing. It really is like reading your life day by day. I love your style of bringing the old and new together I cant wait to ready more!

  2. Meg Abhau says:

    Keith, wow. Please write a book! Any time I read your posts, I’m left wanting. I feel like I’m right there with you! Wonderful blog post, yet again!!

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