I wrote this in 12th grade. I wasn't publicly out and it wasn't intended to be a coming out piece, but I'm sure people pretty strongly assumed about me after that, particularly since the teacher singled out this essay to be read to the entire class. Praise for my writing or an elegant form of punishment for taking on such a topic? Considering I later dropped the class on account of her homophobic remarks, I lean to the latter interpretation.
The whole thing is a bit of a juvenile fantasy, but I was a juvenile then. The character Ion was modeled after my friend Axel, who was too naïve or optimistic to understand I had a crush on him until years later when it was no longer true. I was trying to be symbollic with the names Ion and Bifröst—follow the links for background.
"I want to show you something," Ion had said. "Or maybe 'show' isn't the right word, but you know what I mean." No, I don't, I had thought somewhat sourly. I had wanted to go raid town with the other guys. Of course, they weren't gay like Ion and me, but the principle remained. Unfortunately, my acquaintance with Ion did not really give me much choice.
Now we were near a waterfall—a medium-sized one as waterfalls go, but it seemed to suit Ion. He had brought his horn with him, and was now at the foot of the fall, unpacking his treasure in all the spray. The liquid air didn't seem to bother him. Actually, he looked rather attractive in the light of the setting sun, which shone on the water droplets in his silvery hair.
As he unpacked his horn—with the meticulous care that was absent from him in any other instance—I looked around. The setting sun on my left caused the trees across from it to burn in an agony of death. The clouds above shone angrily in the reds and yellows that usually would have been peaceful to me.
Somewhat surprised at my unusual reaction, I turned around and looked at the sun. It glared in my eyes, blocking off my sight of the area—all I could see was the mountain we were on, reaching like a black shadow into the core of the sun. Strange, I thought, that I sometimes see Ion in this way—a fierce flaming personality, capable of inflaming the emotions of the crowds—like the trees here—yet so easily pierced to the heart by some impossible huge and dark shadow, the nature of which he hid even from me. Suddenly, the thought made me nauseous, and I leaned on the rock that faced the waterfall.
At first I did not see Ion among all the laughing sparkles of the waterfall. Then he appeared, standing in a shadow, perfectly erect, cradling his horn between his right arm and his body, with his eyes closed. Though he was no longer in the spray, his wet hair glimmered in the reflections from the fall.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a faint crescent of the sun being slowly eaten by the mountain. Ion moved, and put his horn to his lips.
The crescent shrank, gradually, bit by bit, as the inexorable dark force of the mountain chewed away. I felt the same feeling as that Ion gave me when he touched me in any way—some sad awareness that normally I did not sense. Ion had never explained this feeling to me, though I had asked him several times. I wondered why Ion had apparently wanted me to see this sunset, when he knew I usually only felt so strange when he himself gave me the feeling. Only his warm and secure personality kept away the pain that I felt, both now and in our brief sharing moments.
The sun abruptly winked out, and Ion started playing right then—I think—but it was so soft. The note got louder, and louder, until it blended perfectly with the waterfall. Then it changed, and again mixed, and Ion seemed to grow gradually into a melancholy tone poem. The harmony of the horn and the waterfall was an agonizingly beautiful combination that sent my heart across space, and then dashed it against the rocks.
After an interminable time I woke up, vaguely aware of thoughts that Ion and I had shared in our life together. He finished playing, ending on an especially sad note, and I suddenly realized how much more of him I loved than his muscular body.
He came and sat down beside me. After a long hesitation, he said, "I know how different you are from me. Sometimes it seems all we have in common is... you know. I just brought you up here to show you some of what I feel. I really love you, Bifröst, and I want to be able to share... more than my body with you."
I took time to sort out the unusual things he was saying, then I responded, "Well, I've always enjoyed touching you more than most people, and I've never known why. Somehow, I guess, you managed to bring out the part of me that is most like you. And I'm so glad..."
"That's why I wanted you to hear me play one of the pieces I've written. I thought it would remind you of me—and I wanted to see if you ever do feel me. I'm glad you do. Anyway, I call it 'sunset'."
"Why is it so sad? I've always thought sunsets were beautiful."
"Does that meant that what I wrote is not beautiful?" he asked a little wryly.
"Of course not," I replied hastily. "But what I mean to say is that sunsets have always been nice, not sad. They mean the coming of night—"
"That's just what I mean," he interjected.
"Well yes, but—you've got to know what I mean. Sunsets just aren't sad things."
"You're looking at it in a different way than I do. Your life has been pretty good, hasn't it? Well, anyway, I know it has. And you know that my life has been rather less than perfect. My mother abandoned me when I was born. My father took care of me until I was thirteen, than gave me back to my mother and a stepfather, whom she had married. My stepfather pretended to like me, but I don't think he ever really did. My mother of course didn't want me, because I turned up when my father raped her while she was gathering flowers. So I just pulled away, as I realized my father hadn't loved me, and that nobody loved me at all. You don't know what it is like not to be loved—or even to think that is the case (to be fair, I don't know if my parents loved me or not). So anyway I turned more and more to my horn, which kept me from suicide.
"Later on I realized I like boys. I couldn't handle that, and even my horn couldn't help me then."
After a pause, he went on. "You know all this, I think. But what you don't know—is how it feels. I wanted you to see how it is to be empty. The only way I could show you was through the symbolism of the waterfall, and the setting sun, falling into an abyss..."
He shrugged his shoulders, moving my right shoulder along with his. Then he looked straight at me—almost through me. His grey eyes glowed in the last midnight blue light coming over the horizon. It occurred to me that he had never looked me in the eyes before—he had always avoided it with everyone.
He held my gaze for a while, and then he said, so quietly I could barely hear him, "What I really want to say is that you have pulled me out of that gulf, and kept me from falling into the shadow that the sun goes into every night. There's a different type of night from the one you see. I guess I just want to say... thank you, and—" his voice broke "—I—I love you."
I could feel his heart pounding. I guess mine was, too. His eyes seemed to shine more, even though the light was dimmer, and suddenly I realized why. I put my arms around him, and he dropped his gaze.
After we had sat together for an hour or so Ion looked up. The moon had risen, and in its light reflected from the waterfall I saw his silver hair glimmer, his eyes sparkle, and his skin glow. "Care for a swim?" he asked brightly.
Startled, I said, "In that, uh, cauldron?" Although it probably wasn't dangerous unless one was right under the fall, the boiling water looked frightfully suspicious, especially considering the full moon.
"Sure," he said, and started to take off my clothes. I unconsciously resisted, and he said, "Look, I have drowned us both in salt, and besides, we need to wake up. We aren't finished here yet." I wondered what he meant by that, but he continued taking off my clothes and then his. Then he led me, exactly as a small child would, directly into the turbulent water.
"Ouch!" I cried, as the frigid stuff immersed me in ice cubes. Ion laughed—not maliciously, but in an amicable way. He moved me closer to himself, and we went in together. The water chilled us to the bone, but that didn't matter as we shared our mutual heat and comfort. We dunked under, and somehow Ion (I'm sure it was him) managed to tangle us up. Just before I drowned we burst out. I went to where we had been, expecting Ion to follow me. I was ready. He did not, however, join me. Oh well, I could wait. He picked up his horn and at the brink of our ice puddle he faced east and played.
This time the song was light and jumpy. The notes were not warm (though I stopped shivering) but instead they were bright, and they jumped around. The sound was a large contrast to the other one—this one sent me soaring between the constellations. I looked at the stars, and saw them dancing to match the song.
Suddenly the song, though retaining its lightness, sounded powerful and slightly dissonant. I looked at Orion setting in the west, and his dance was the dance of the music. Presently the sound again changed, going on to a wild pattern that I couldn't follow—and there was the Andromeda galaxy. Several more times the song changed, matching each section of the sky. Then suddenly there was nothing.
And out of that nothing grew a fluid sound that flew across and probably beyond the range of the horn. Ion was describing the Milky Way.
But the music kept evolving, becoming more and more exciting, causing my blood to simmer. The notes formed in my head a vision of the galaxy whirling by, speeding me to its center, until the music reached an impossible climax, and I saw the center, flaming with all the splendor of Ion's soul.
At last the music stopped, leaving fading echoes among the rocks. I became aware of the fresh breeze that had dried me off, and of the water falling and gurgling away. Ion put his horn away, then came to me, and laid down, snuggling into the moss and looking up distantly at the twinkling stars.
The breeze ruffled Ion's hair and began to warm me. The stars shone and danced in their happiness. Happiness for Ion, me, and most especially life. Finally, I asked, "I suppose you call that music 'stars'?"
"Right on—that's the music I wrote to show myself that all was not lost. Somehow it seemed to fit you—your innocence is sometimes just like those silly things up there."
"HMMPH!" was all I could reply. I thought that I was really learning what he was trying to teach me—considering I had never really experienced this stuff before. I had thought the TV shows about people in pain such as Ion was were just stories.
"No, it's not a myth, as you see, and yes, you are learning," Ion said. "Now let's go to sleep."
I eventually lay down, and we wrapped up together to keep warm. Ion closed his eyes, but I was somehow not able to got to sleep... "Ion?"
"Did you hear what I was thinking?"
"Mmm…" And Ion took a deep breath, politely exhaled in my face, and fell asleep. Unsatisfied with that answer, I let his closeness relax me, and eventually I too went to sleep.