You Are the One by Scott D. Pomfret
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: April 4, 2016
Length: Novel, 155 pages
Cover Artist: Aria Tan
Purchase Link: NineStar Press
Gay lovers find temporary respite from adversity in this collection of stories by Scott D. Pomfret. Ranging from a cocaine-fueled rampage to the blind eye of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to the submission of a dick-dock orgy, these stories depict the bonds gay men forge when political unrest, drugs, HIV/AIDS, the Church or a demanding T-ball schedule put their commitments to the test.
Your head was full of sacred places like land mines, IEDs on the roadside of our conversation. Every once in a blue moon, you lapsed into a moment of particular silence (as opposed to your garden variety clamped-mouthedness) while some procession in your head passed that only you saw or heard. You woke me up at midnight with a knife at my throat and demanded in Arabic to see my pass.
You talked about the first tour exactly once. Your tone was so reverential that we were instantly in a chapel full of incense and sweat and raw knees and desperation. You said that Iraqi hospitals were filthy and overrun by the limbless. You said how strange it was to hear the ka-chunk of chambered rounds in this place where civilization began. You mentioned the twenty-year-old soldier under your command who took some shrapnel and begged you to just not let him die. You held his hand and pretended that a grown man had not pissed himself. You helped him die.
I knew it was wrong, but some puny, twisted, black part of my soul was jealous of the dying soldier. Jealous of every man and woman you met on that first tour, because they are in some inviolate place in your head I must not go—a mausoleum.
Though I knew I shouldn’t, and I knew it drove you crazy, I could not help myself. I asked over and over, “Do you really want to go back to that?”
You kept saying, “This is what soldiers do.”
I seized you. I shook you. At first, you let me have my way. Then you grew bored, pried me loose, threw me to the bed, and took a position by the window. You scanned the perimeter. You seemed to need an imaginary sniper out there on West Twelfth Street that you could take out. Nothing else would calm your nerves.
“Do you really want to go back to that?” I asked again.
“Do you really want—”
You jumped across the room, pushed me to the wall, and drew back your fist. Now, you grew up in a home where your daddy hit you and your mother. You fought back from time to time, and you lost and got bloodied, and yet made your daddy proud that he had a son who was full of spunk and going to grow up into a real man one day. You swore you would never be such a man yourself. But we often swear to go in one direction and the next moment chart a course toward another end entirely. So you bulked up on protein, lifted your weights, joined the service, and learned martial arts. You filled yourself with flint and fire, piss and vinegar, stoking a hair-trigger temper with too many days of mortar fire and too many nights on patrol.
“Ever consider taking yoga?” I asked. “That might make it simpler to avoid becoming your dad.”
Good and evil warred in your face. I was on the front lines. You struck the wall next to my head. You released me on the brink of being the kind of man you did not want to be.
“I love you,” I said.
“More dangerous than Ali Baba set loose in the souk with a bomb strapped to his chest.”
“I love you.”
“You’re saying that to make me stay.”
“No. I really love you.”
“Yes. Just to make me stay.”
“OK. Yes,” I snapped. “Will you stay?”
You looked away. You muttered, “My country needs me.”
When you and I first met those fifteen months ago outside the chow hall, I prepared myself for a short life on the down low. I figured secrecy was another one of these inevitable humiliations of homosexuality, the price one pays for finding a good man. Someday no doubt, I’d stalk away in disgust, crushed and proud, full of dignity, and lonely as hell.
But the down low was not your MO. From that very first day when you dared to speak to me in front of your men, you never shied away from me. You introduced me only by name. You did not explain me. You did not label me. You did not encourage questions. Your quiet was ominous. Your medals were a dare. Ditto your stars and bars, your aviator glasses. They all mutely challenged each soldier in the platoon to utter a goddamn word of objection.
Conversations dried up. Tongues went still. Words failed. You were as ramrod straight as you ever were. You nodded, saluted, and asked, “Isn’t this a fine day, gentlemen?”
Their faces became blank and unreadable. Their eyes searched beyond me. They were looking at a tomorrow without me, a day when your betrayal could be forgotten and your sins forgiven. They were like a squad of soldiers who agreed to pretend a pitched battle in the fog of war, that leaves blood on your hands and men you loved splitting open a child’s head with a gun stock or shooting a mother point-blank, never happened. They were looking toward a simpler and more moral time, when men could be expected to act according to the laws that God had made.
Not that the men ever looked down on you. They still jumped when you barked, which gave me a thrill, a delight in your power and a laugh at their expense. But you took it deadly serious. You expected nothing less. Your men owed you this obedience, just as you owed them the obligation of leadership.
Maybe I should have been proud of your stubborn refusal to pretend I did not exist. But this middle ground, somewhere between coming and going, between sunshine and shade, between closet and freedom, ultimately proved intolerable. My delight was always short-lived. Every road leads to war.
Meet the Author:
Scott D. Pomfret is the author of Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir, The Second Half: A Gay American Football Novel, and dozens of short stories in literary and not-so-literary journals. With his longtime partner Scott Whittier, he is coauthor of the Romentics series of gay romance novels and the Q Guide to Wine and Cocktails. Scott and Scott reside in Boston and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
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You Are The One is a collection of short stories that span decades and deal with different facets of life. Some of the stories involve men in the Armed Forces, some are family men, couples, or those fighting against disease but the commonality is their orientation.
What I enjoyed about these stories, was the protagonists voice. Literally like a snapshot of their life at that moment. We rarely have protagonist names or make meaningful connections with the narrator. It’s like sneaking a glimpse of their diary or journal as they walk us through an important moment in their life. For instance, the man who is struggling with the knowledge he is likely HIV positive. Instead of taking the test to confirm, he goes back to the nefarious, dark spot under the pier where the infection likely happened. Propelling the cycle again.
Or the partner that’s emotional over his soldier leaving to fight in the damn war once again. Hoping beyond hope that his lover will stand up and say he’s gay so he can just get out and stay safe. The complex rollercoaster of emotions the partner feels. Betrayal. Selfishness. Fear. Helplessness. The greatest of them all is anger at being abandoned for duty and honor.
Scott Pomfret really captures the essence of life and the daily struggles with this collection. The shorts are compelling and leave one feeling a bit raw, slightly bitter and a lot sad. Win! At least we feel something!
A unique collection that is perfect in one large dose or broke up into small doses over time. A truly captivating collection.
RATING: BAD ASS BOOTS!!