And guess what went down with it? That's right, "Billy". The best short story I've ever written... primarily because it's the only one I've actually finished, but also because it's damn good.
Anyway, alright, no problem, I should have the story backed upped on at least ten sources, right? Right?
Eh, not-so-much. I thought I did, but an extensive search of Jihad (the desktop) and Mustachio (the laptop) turned up nothing. I even emailed the only address I could find for one of the original starters of FR in a desperate hope that he had a back up of all stories submitted. No dice. The IRL Billy was dead and the story "Billy" was lost. A winner am I.
But then something awesome happened: the BF's laptop stopped working. Doesn't sound that good, right? Probably not in the usual sense, but the death of the Mac forced him to back up and move all the files from the old Mac to the new. And that's when the amazing BF stumbled across "Billy".
Before you get in to this story, I AM still working on SSIBWO. And I have a new article on Examiner. Read. And read.
Without further ado, I present to you "Billy" in its full, unadulterated, lost-on-the-interwebs-but-found-by-an-awesome-BF-by-total-mistake form. Remember that this is a true story and I lived every sad, honest minute of it. Enjoy, cry, whatever.
I am fourteen years old. I am still too young to know about the world, so I hold beliefs and prejudices that have no merit or reason. Of course, I wont know about this until later, when I am old enough to realize that life doesn't fit neatly into a little, narrow box.
I travel to Arizona to see my friend Erik who still lives in the town I left four years prior. While I was gone, I was trying my best to fit in to a place where everybody had known each other from birth. Erik, however, had remained and was flourishing in those very same types of relationships.
"Wait until you meet my friends," he boasts. "You'll love them." And I do: funny, artsy, creative. All the things I had lost in the move, none of the things my new friends were. One of Erik's friends sparks my attention the most: Billy.
Billy is like no one I had ever met. As witty and spunky as Erik and I are, Billy tops us. We shoot some short films, as we used to do before I left, and Billy plays every part assigned to him as if he were born for the role. My trip down Memory Lane is now tinged with a schoolgirl crush on a boy I hardly even know.
My last night in town, my world is rocked. For our Friday evening entertainment, we’re going to an all-ages night at a club; a gay club. I am staggered. In my young, small-minded views, being gay wasn’t right. How could these people that I admire so much think that it was okay?
“You can be straight, but you don’t have to be narrow,” Billy tells me. While I'm not really sure what to think, Billy currently holds sway over my juvenile heart. If Billy says it’s fine, then I’ll go along for the ride.
* * *
I am fifteen years old. Billy and I have been holding a long-distance friendship, talking at least once a week. I hear about his girlfriend, about his new apartment, about his cat that he named after one of the crossdressers from the club. It’s light and fun and innocent, until reality slaps me across the face.
“I broke up with my boyfriend this week,” Billy tells me. I’m puzzled.
“Don't you mean your girlfriend?” I must have misheard. I was sure Billy had a girlfriend. He had mentioned her on more then one occasion.
“Well, I broke up with her too.” Pause. “I’m bi-sexual.” I swallow hard. How could this be real? How could this person that I cared so much for be something that I thought was so wrong? I panicked.
“I’ll have to call you back,” fell out of my mouth. I had a hard reality to face: either this witty, beautiful, lively boy was really something disgusting and to be hated, or I was being ignorant and blind. Had I really been narrow-minded all this time for no reason? How could I love something I thought I hated?
* * *
I am sixteen years old. I return again to Arizona to visit Erik. While he is preoccupied with his girlfriend and his job, I take a day to spend with Billy.
His bi-sexual facade has ended: Billy is gay. All my illusions of us ever being together vanish as I read the “I Know What Boys Like!” sticker on the back of his car, visit his tiny studio apartment and glance at the naked man calendar on his wall, and accidentally stumble on to his collection of “adult pleasure” devices.
We sit under his black light as he makes me a tape of dance remixes. I have come to accept that Billy is still the same boy I fell in young love with two years prior, still charming and witty.
Except now, perhaps as a way for me to justify and embrace my new-found tolerance, instead of just calling him my friend Billy, my mind refers to him as “my gay friend Billy”. I don’t view it as negative. Actually, I don’t view it as anything. Simply, he’s gay, he’s my friend, and he’s Billy.
We drive around Phoenix in his car listening to The Violent Femmes. At every stop sign he slows just enough to say, “S-T-oh, I’ll read it later!” and off we go with a laugh. He tells me that he has begun working in a gay bathhouse passing out towels. I’d never heard of such a thing, so he explains the concept, casually describing the anonymous sex and drug use he enjoys there. He also tells me that he is HIV positive.
I am floored. Billy has yet again thrown me a curve ball. My mind races back to when he had first told me has was bi, then gay. Now this? I was right to be so fascinated by him, as every encounter we have ever had has forced me to grow up a little more. I was again faced with a choice: abandon him out of fear for the disease in his body that I knew very little about or continue to accept my friend.
* * *
I am nineteen years old. Erik calls me.
“Billy’s dead. I drove him back to his family in Montana to try and get better, but it didn’t help. The ass hole wasted a lot of my time and money just to come back to Arizona and OD. He had something I was supposed to give to you, some tapes of Disney theme songs in Swedish or something. I don’t know. I’m just glad it’s over.”
Speechless, I drop the phone. My gay friend Billy is now my dead gay friend Billy. I hadn’t spoken to him since I was last in Arizona, the night he had told me he had HIV. The night that I had learned that friendship saw no illness.
Trying to keep my voice from shaking, I press the phone back up to my ear. “Erik, why are you being so cold? Billy was our friend!”
“Not in the end,” he tells me. “His only friend was drugs. He used me and anybody else he could.”
“But, why didn’t you call me sooner? Maybe I could have helped, maybe I could have-"
Erik cuts me off. “No. We’re all better off without him. He just wasn’t the same.”
I crumble as I realize I did not get to tell Billy goodbye or how much he meant to me or how much he had opened my eyes. All that remained was the new title: my dead gay friend Billy.
* * *
I am twenty-nine years old. I have not been back to Arizona since the last night I saw Billy. I still have the mix tape he made for me in his apartment, but I can’t listen to it. The catchy, synthesized songs bring me to tears. I have spoken to Erik less times then I can count on one hand. Whenever I have, the subject inevitably turns to Billy, if only for a moment, and Erik reminds me that it’s better that he’s gone.
I never did get the audio tapes Billy willed to me. I don’t even have a picture to of him to see if the face I remember is really what he looked like.
All that is left is the memory I have of my dead gay friend Billy, the growth inspired by my gay friend Billy, the love and respect that I’ll always have for my friend Billy.
No matter what he became at the end, regardless of the title I will remember him by, he was and always will be one thing above the rest: my friend Billy.