That was thirty-two years ago.
The rest of high school went pretty well for me, other than the obvious. I qualified for State in Humorous again the following year, and made it to the final three in LD Debate at National Forensic League District my senior year, almost qualifying for Nationals if I hadn't missed one key argument in the 9th round, the semifinal. I was in a lot of plays, from Our Town to The Merchant of Venice, and our one-act of Catch-22 went to State Finals my junior year.
The Maxwells moved back to New York that year, so they never got to see that play. Their roots were there and the pain of Peggy's death had faded enough for them to make their way back to home soil. I left Texas for Washington DC after graduation and only went back twice, briefly each time. After a while, there was no one left there to see.
Raymond was named the Samuel French Award winner for Best Acting at State for Catch-22, and went on to win Nationals in both Oratory and Dramatic following his senior year. I heard he married a model and followed her to Italy.
Robin married a model too.
Pablo became an investment banker, made a lot of money, lost it all in 2008 and drifted into hopeless, bitter alcoholism.
Kirsten got pregnant by a much older Mexican guy and dropped out of school. I don't know where she is now.
Kathy Witcher and I had sex a few times, kind of dated, but things blew up with her when her hated mother died and everyone suspected that Kathy had something to do with it. She moved away to college after graduation, and I think she ended up marrying a truck driver. She resurfaced a few years ago as a successful businesswoman.
Nathan and I were best friends for the rest of high school, had a lot of laughs and got in a lot of trouble until he was finally sent to the district's school for problem teens and kicked out of his house when his mom found Polaroids of him and his girlfriend having nasty sex, taken by Terry. I already talked about our later reunion. I heard that he -- the guy who used to let peanut butter and rice rot on his bedroom wall -- runs a catering business, and is quite successful.
Linda is an executive for a huge corporation now, but is still married to a mall security guard and has a young daughter and a son in high school. I talk to her occasionally, but we've drifted apart since she found religion in a big way, and that saddens me, because she was once my touchstone, my friend, my advisor, and the most stable person my age that I knew. She had been my rock, and now we were practically strangers.
Heidi the dachshund was poisoned by those awful neighbors, who also sent lit firecrackers onto our roof one hot and dry July 4th. The wife turned a garden hose on Tynah once and Tynah punched her in the face. Eventually, Rex bought a new house a few blocks away, just to put some distance between our families.
Rex and Sly both died in 2004, both of heart attacks. Rex had stopped drinking and smoking several years before, and even started voting for Democrats, which no one ever thought they would see.
Tynah died a year and a half ago. She had learned the truth about me in 1988 and wanted Rex to write me out of the will. She came around eventually, but ended up spending all the money on ocean cruises anyway.
My biological mother and I sort of mended fences, and I talk to her on the phone about once a month. I live in California now, and she lives in Virginia.
We heard a rumor that Cindy had become a stripper in San Antonio after graduation, and that some psycho customer had followed her home and stabbed her to death. Imagine our surprise when she showed up on Facebook in 2013 with a husband, kids and grandkids. That'll teach me to believe everything I hear.
It turns out that I'm also in touch with a lot of other people from Polk through Facebook, including Mr. McRory and Jeff Salzburg, and talking with some of them sent me down that road of memories which led to this story of my infatuation with one special boy.
As for Polk High itself, it's still there, but it's not the same. They tore it down and rebuilt the entire school from the ground up a few years ago, and not a single brick remains of the building where I first met him.
* * * * *
I was molded by these experiences. Informed and shaped by them. And if what that shy, beautiful kid in the cap said in class on that day so long ago is true, I think that we both were among those unfortunate people born with tragedy in their blood.
I never saw Taine Maxwell again.
But I did hear some things from Blaine, who started writing to me after we ran into each other at one of Sly's races. Like me, Taine went to college, got married and divorced, and started writing.
We both occupied ourselves with other jobs while we were waiting for our big breaks as writers, like every other aspiring writer in the modern world. I was in the nightclub and restaurant industry, while Taine took up funeral home work, becoming an accomplished embalmer and funeral director.
Blaine and I didn't write much, just a few e-mails, but in one of them he told me his theories about why Taine broke up with me, why he left to Alamo Heights, and why he hasn't contacted me since. I thought his theories were interesting, but kind of glib.
He said things like, "kids bullied him, and you know what words they use to bully different kids. Fag, queer, homo, etc. If he loved you, it would be like he was proving them right."
I don't know that I put much stock in Blaine's theories. I think it was as simple as that he just didn't feel for me the way I felt for him.
Because it never went away.
I truly, honestly hope that Taine is happy. Because every day, every night for the last thirty-two years, all I can think about is my babes. My angel. The angel who will never get to Heaven, because he is so beautiful and perfect that he shames the other angels. I spend a lot of my time wondering what he's doing, how his life has progressed, and whether he ever thinks of me.
I live near the water in San Pedro, California now. It's very beautiful and peaceful out here, and I love watching the stars, the ocean, the pelicans and seals, the whales and dolphins, and the sunsets, which are spectacular. It's a great place to write, and a great place to wake up every morning.
But, still, there is a giant hole in my life.
A big, empty place that only one person could fill. And it wasn't either of my wives, any of my girlfriends or boyfriends, or any of the countless strangers of both sexes who shared my beds and bunks over the last thirty-two years.
Whether I had someone in my bed or not, I always woke up every morning lonely and aching to have Taine back in my arms.
And it never happened.
But still, I go on, now in my fourth decade of hoping and praying and trying to be good so that God will send my angel back to me one day.
* * * * *
And then I woke up this morning, made myself a cup of Earl Grey tea, and padded over to my computer, preparing for a full morning of writing by puttering around on the Internet, catching up on the news, reading e-mails and so forth.
After a bit of this, I opened Facebook and noticed that I had a friend request from a "Tai Max."
My heart nearly stopped, and tears began to well in my eyes.
I stared at the screen for quite some time, unsure of what to do. Was I hallucinating? Was I still asleep and having a dream? Why would he contact me after thirty-two years? I decided that maybe, just maybe, hoping and praying sometimes worked.
I whispered thanks to God, and my hand shook as I reached out to drag my mouse to the button which said, simply...