I’m From Kingsport, TN.

by Andrew Reynolds

Satellite overhead image of Tennessee from Google Earth 2022

Even though it was really 1987, it was still the 1960s in the heart of our teacher, Mr. A. That’s why Mr. A had us arrange our chairs in a semi circle in front of the hot seat.

Moving around the semi-circle, we each had to say one complimentary thing about the person in the hot seat. Sarcasm was forbidden, although faint praise was allowed, “I like his shoes,” or, “He always seems really well prepared.”

I heard lots of kind things when I was in the hot seat.

“He’s funny.”
“He says weird stuff but he’s nice too.”
“He’s cool.”

And then it was your turn to speak.

“He’s the most erotic person I’ve ever met.”

“Uhm, Dan I think you might be thinking of the word ‘eccentric,’” Mr. A. suggested.

“No,” you said, looking me in the eyes, “I mean ‘erotic’.”

Here’s my guess—that was so far out of the bounds of what could be normal that everyone just shrugged it off—there wasn’t any teasing or joking or comment at all afterwards. It was so completely implausible that it must not have happened.

We went on a date, if you could call it that. We walked around the supermarket because even then I thought it was fun to look at package design. You were such a good sport, even coming up with an anecdote about going camping in Vermont and noticing how all the brands were different in the grocery stores there.

Today I know this story should end with me inviting you back to make out in my parents’ basement. But I didn’t know that then.

“I don’t wanna go home,” you said as I dropped you off, “I don’t wanna be alone.”

“I hear you man,” I replied, as if you had complained about Mondays or the rain, something out of my hands, “see you later.”

You were the erotic one. Me? God, I barely had the word *gay*, I certainly didn’t have the word *bear*.

Here’s my guess—you were so far out of the bounds of what I imagined was possible (for starters, you never auditioned for a single musical) it never occurred to me to, you know, ask.

I was a senior and you were a junior. We’ve lost touch and the Internet hasn’t helped. I hope you’ve found a home where you aren’t alone. And thanks for being so brave in class that day. I really needed it, even though I didn’t have a clue what to do with it once I had it.

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