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Every True Pleasure

Every True Pleasure: LGBTQ Tales of North Carolina

Edited by Wilton Barnhardt
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  • Book Info
    Every True Pleasure
    Book Description:

    Some of North Carolina's finest fiction and nonfiction writers come together in Every True Pleasure, including David Sedaris, Kelly Link, Allan Gurganus, Randall Kenan, and more. Within the volume-featuring writers who identify as gay, trans, bisexual, and straight-are stories and essays that view the full spectrum of contemporary life though an LGBTQ lens. These writers, all native or connected to North Carolina, show the multifaceted challenges and joys of LGBTQ life, including young love and gay panic, the minefield of religion, military service, having children with a surrogate, family rejection, finding one's true gender, finding sex, and finding love. One of the only anthologies of its kind, Every True Pleasure speaks with insight and compassion about living LGBTQ in North Carolina and beyond.

    Contributors include Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Brian Blanchfield, Belle Boggs, Emily Chavez, Garrard Conley, John Pierre Craig, Diane Daniel, Allan Gurganus, Minrose Gwin, Aaron Gwyn, Wayne Johns, Randall Kenan, Kelly Link, Zelda Lockhart, Toni Newman, Michael Parker, Penelope Robbins, David Sedaris, Eric Tran, and Alyssa Wong.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-4682-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    I am sure somewhere there is a gay anthology concerning tales of San Francisco or New York City, the women of Northampton, the men of Fire Island, but I don’t think a single state has attempted a collection confined to its own writers. And, if you were placing a bet, you might not wager North Carolina would be first across that particular finish line.

    Our state is known for the late Senator Jesse Helms, arch-homophobe, passionate blocker of aids funding, and for a legislature that wakes up each morning pondering the truly important issue facing North Carolina: how can we...

  2. Navis
    (pp. 7-11)

    The second Saturday morning after we returned to Millville, Mama came into my room with a carpet sweeper, which she propped up against my bed. “Okay, now, get on up and clean your floor. Make up your bed nice. Put on some decent shorts. It’s pickup day.” She sounded briskly cheerful and smelled like cough medicine. She’d trimmed her bangs short, drawn her eyebrows in perfect crescent moons. She was wearing a pressed blouse of white cotton so thin you could see the scallops of her slip under it and a little blue checkered skirt that had the look of...

  3. Gaydar
    (pp. 12-14)

    Whenever Tyler has a rough week, I get a call. It’s either sitting on her sofa watching romantic comedies until dawn, eating Ben & Jerry’s, or we go to Countrytyme Cafeteria for some Southern comfort food, like Mom used to make, that is, if Tyler’s mom wasn’t a raging alcoholic train wreck and my mom had communicated with me in fifteen years because of the gay thing.

    Dinner with Tyler means 90% her complaining about single motherhood, work, Brian being bullied at school, men, crummy worthless men, men who won’t commit, bad-in-the-sack men who nonetheless won’t return her calls, and,...

  4. Adult Art
    (pp. 15-36)

    I see a twelve-year-old boy steal a white Mercedes off the street. I’m sitting at my official desk— Superintendent of Schools— it’s noon on a weekday and I watch this kid wiggle a coat hanger through one front window. Then he slips into the sedan, straight-wires its ignition, squalls off. Afterward, I can’t help wondering why I didn’t phone the police. Or shout for our truant officer just down the hall.

    Next, a ’ 59 Dodge, black, mint condition, tries to parallel park in the Mercedes’s spot (I’m not getting too much paperwork done today). The driver is one of...

  5. Sissy Boy
    (pp. 37-48)

    I was born a male, but soon realized I was a different bird, born in the wrong body. I had feminine qualities from my earliest age.

    My home was in Jacksonville, North Carolina, also the home of Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base. I was the oldest of four children. Growing up, I was referred to as a sissy boy by many of my family members. I enjoyed hanging out in the kitchen. I identified with women and their conversations. I would prance around, and the males in my family noticed it.

    I heard constant whispers and questions about whether I...

  6. Pete and Daniel
    (pp. 49-61)

    Back at the strip bar, Daniel felt uncomfortable, but at least he was dressed casually. Instead of his typical uniform of Lacoste or button-down Oxford shirts and khakis, he wore jeans and a Virginia Is for Lovers T-shirt he’d bought at the Methodist Women’s Thrift Shop down on Sycamore Street. Pete and his friends scoured the musty aisles of the thrift shop weekly— Pete’s entire wardrobe, their father once joked, was likely valued at seventeen dollars and some change— but Daniel had set foot in the shop only once, and only this T-shirt, black and a little too big for...

  7. Love the Soldier
    (pp. 62-78)

    People see what they want to. As a cop, Keisha counted on that fact, but she also knew it to be true in the off-hours. Take the date she had on Wednesday night. The woman was a lawyer and certifiably hot. But she was also a princess, the type who’d been president of her aka chapter at Duke and was fond of bringing up the fact that she’d been selected for a Gifted and Talented program at age nine. Every subject that came up— Australian wine, Hurricane Katrina, the incoming class of basketball recruits across the acc — the lawyer was...

  8. The Handoff
    (pp. 79-86)

    When I was sixteen, I got a job sweeping the floor at Mr. Lee’s Clean Cuts during winter break. It was an easy job and paid eight and a half bucks an hour. Since my cousin Jeremy was one of the barbers, I had a ride every morning except on the weekends when he didn’t work. Then I’d have to take the bus for thirty minutes— it only took ten if he drove. I got the job because Mama was tired of me allegedly lounging around the house on the Internet all day and night and eating all her damn...

  9. Courtship
    (pp. 87-108)

    Jansen would not believe gay the right word for it. In high school he courted several women and liked it just fine, the way they looked and touched him. He did not act in a manner you’d think queer, didn’t stare at other men or grow excited when he saw one on tv . He’d decided that his yearnings for Wisnat were not, by definition, homosexual, for surely this label treated of appetites universally, not cases specific. There had to be another term, a word not yet invented. The bartender spent his days pondering this, for it mattered to him...

  10. Once, My Husband
    (pp. 109-112)

    The alarm sounded at 4A.M. on a Tuesday last November. My husband and I had been told to arrive two hours early, as if for a flight. My eyelids were puffy from the night before, when he had held me and said he was sorry, so very sorry.

    I’d wept without warning after dinner because I would not see his face again, his perfectly average face with a sizable nose and weak chin, the face I’d held and kissed and been happy to greet for eight years.

    “Do you still have your wedding ring on?” I asked. “ They said...

  11. Jonas
    (pp. 113-128)

    It came as almost a relief when Melinda’s husband told her that he wanted the operation. At first all she could think of was the thing itself— as pink and ugly and tender as a face crumpled from crying— and how she would never have to see it again. She thought not of what would replace it but only of its absence, a blank space, missingness, like the infinite and mysterious black hole in space she had seen on Nova.

    Melinda resolved her features into a look of utter surprise as Jonas, coached in his words no doubt by that...

  12. Self-Portrait
    (pp. 129-136)

    “It’s almost like having a death in the family,” Barbara Johnson writes in her book Where Does a Mother Go to Resign? “ But, when someone dies, you can bury that person and move on with your life. With homosexuality, the pain seems never-ending.”

    My mother and I had both started reading Johnson’s book just after Thanksgiving break, around the time when we’d also started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray together, and we hadn’t finished either book. It was March now, only two months before I would attend Love In Action (LIA), and it seemed as though nothing in...

  13. On Peripersonal Space
    (pp. 137-144)

    Peripersonal space, or near space, is the entire volume of space within a person’s reach, or within a single conceivable momentary extension of his person. Think Da Vinci, and the geometry of his jumping-jack-in-extremis sketch. All that. It includes then everything at arm’s length, and a bit more, in a pinch: in a car, for the driver, peripersonal space extends perhaps to the push lock on the passenger door, should the next moment at a stoplight present an unwelcome stranger approaching the vehicle. There is something potential, temporal, contingent about it. It feels insufficient then to call it space, to...

  14. Without a Word
    (pp. 145-156)

    When I have dreams about my siblings, they are as I last remember them— slender teenager and chubby-cheeked toddlers. When I cover their cryptic eyes in photos, our noses and smiles are the same.

    We lived on a West Side city street in St. Louis, Missouri— a middleclass neighborhood in the 1970s. Some houses were wooden; others, like ours, were brick, and held the secrets of arguing parents much tighter than a house of wood. A chain-link fence, and orders to play in the yard unless Mama was home, extended the secrecy perimeter right to the city sidewalk. Through our...

  15. Hejira
    (pp. 157-158)

    It wasn’t anything I had planned on, but at the age of twenty-two, after dropping out of my second college and traveling across the country a few times, I found myself back in Raleigh, living in my parents’ basement. After six months spent waking at noon, getting high, and listening to the same Joni Mitchell record over and over again, I was called by my father into his den and told to get out. He was sitting very formally in a big, comfortable chair behind his desk, and I felt as though he were firing me from the job of...

  16. Let Me Tell You About the Fireworks
    (pp. 159-159)

    Since you asked what I was doing that night, or rather since you texted Hey let’s get married because the Raleigh courthouse was open late to let the gays finally get hitched, maybe I’ll think yes but instead tell you how I just lost all three sets of tennis— the first time I’ve played in almost three years. I can mention the queer tennis group, but not how I’ll lose half my toenails in the coming months because I’m too eager to get back in shape. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves: second date first. We can...

  17. The Lesson
    (pp. 160-173)

    The fight starts two days before Thanh and Harper are due to fly out to the wedding. The wedding is on a small private island somewhere off the coast of South Carolina. Or Alabama. The bride is an old friend. The fight is about all sorts of things. Thanh’s long-standing resentment of Harper’s atrocious work schedule, the discovery by Harper that Thanh, in a fit of industriousness, has thrown away all of Harper’s bits and ends of cheese while cleaning out the refrigerator.

    The fight is about money. Harper works too much. Thanh is an assistant principal in the Brookline...

  18. Rabbit Heart
    (pp. 174-176)

    When the Xiongs’ only son died, instead of calling the crematorium and arranging for a funeral, the family came to me.

    Pneumonia, they told me. Never mind the blunt force trauma to his face and head, the ugly concavities causing dips in the white sheet wrapped around his body. It was late onset pneumonia. Tragic.

    “Tragic,” I agreed, slipping the smooth envelope they had laid on the table into my pocket. “ I’ll need you to sign this waiver.” There are three rules I operate under, and I make my clients understand before they sign anything. I speak slowly, look...

  19. Favorite Song
    (pp. 177-180)

    When T looks at me, it is like the air becomes water, thick and confining, and my lips become bricks, heavy, won’t open.

    “Tell James not to come,” T says.

    “ Okay,” I respond.

    “ I’m going to the store.”

    She walks out of our bedroom, pulling the doorknob and then letting it go, so that it has just enough force to close on its own.

    The last time I saw James was two years ago, right before he moved to Atlanta to start his master’s degree in visual arts. We spent that whole day together, driving around, cracking jokes,...

  20. Where Your Children Are
    (pp. 181-191)

    That summer a woman’s voice interrupted tv shows every hour to announce the time and ask, Do you know where your children are?

    A citywide curfew was in effect: no one under eighteen allowed out after sundown. But that didn’t stop us from sliding out my bedroom window and easing into the backyard, as into dark water. I had stashed, in my back pocket, the allowance I’d been saving since I found out my best friend Trace was coming to stay with us for a week. An orangetinged moon was snared in the pines. The crickets’ pulsing stopped as we...

  21. Girlfriend
    (pp. 192-204)

    For the most part I have tried not to think about Carlee. Of course, in the back of my closet under a pile of purses I never reached for anymore was the box. I remembered her hairbrush and a hand mirror made out of some type of shell, maybe mother-of-pearl, with hawaii embossed on it. Some postcards she had sent, with never more than a sentence or two dashed off in loopy letters.

    I had not expected the class at the community college to trigger such thoughts. But the schoolroom’s cinder-block walls and the rows of tattered desks with their...

  22. I Thought I Heard the Shuffle of Angels’ Feet
    (pp. 205-220)


    “Goddamn Lexus.” It was Jacson’s car. Not Cicero’s style. Too big, too expensive, too much a “statement.” Jacson has been all about statements. His life was a statement. As had been his death.

    Now Cicero Cross sat in a dead luxury car in the middle of a York County gravel road, watching the rain come tum-tum-tumbling down.

    This storm was like the storms Cicero remembered from his youth— great late-afternoon deluges accompanied by a preternatural darkness, great crashes of lightning, nature’s resounding timpani of thunder. He remembered his grandmother saying: “ Hush now, boy. God is talking.” He was...