I didn't have a lot of friends growing up. I'm fond of saying that of all the people I knew in high school, I'm still friends with the only people I cared about back then. Everyone else could go fuck themselves. But . . . well, that's not necessarily true. I believed it was true when I said it, but I was unconsciously wrong.* There are three people I have not had contact with since 1996, the year I graduated from high school, that I wish I still had in my life.
These three people were my first readers. They were the ones who read everything I wrote back then, and all of them read it before I started submitting to publishers. They were invaluable to me, and I feel like shit that I didn't follow them through the course of our lives.
One of them contacted me lately. I'm not naming anyone because I know I draw some weirdos, and I don't want to expose my old friends to them. But she was my favorite of them. The other two liked my work, but they joked about it a lot. She treated me seriously, and I greatly appreciated it.
I have changed a lot since then. When I wrote stories in high school I knew my mom was going to read them all. I kept myself in check a lot of times. I did not give my inner muse the car keys and let it ride, like Thad Beaumont suggests in the movie version of THE DARK HALF. I censored myself left and right. I didn't have the courage yet to turn loose the crazy shit living in my brain.
My friend contacted me asking if I was the guy she knew in high school who gave her the stories I wrote, and if not, sorry. I told her I was that guy. Maybe she's reading this now. If so, you had such an inspiration for my creative development, and I can't thank you enough.
But I don't know how to describe to you the drunken puddle of dick jokes I've become. I write horror primarily, but I've been on a bizarro jaunt of late, and most people know me as the guy who writes horrifying shit about dicks. I've written a novella about butts lately, which will be a part of an unannounced anthology right now, but most people know me as the dick guy. She knew me when I was writing juvenile stories about fucked up things.
A high school friend of mine told me that when he first read my work he thought it was utter shit. When he read my new work he was impressed by how much I'd improved. I wonder if her reaction would be the same.
I kind of want to know, but at the same time I'm embarrassed. She knew me at a different point of my life. The rest of you know me as the savage degenerate I am now. Back then I was different. I was shy. I was subdued. I hadn't learned to pour my heart out on the page yet. Because even when I'm talking about crazy dick shit, I have a purpose in mind. "Monster Cock," for all of its loony shit, is a feminist story.
It's weird. She wondered if I'd become an author, and I was proud to say that I did, but at the same time I'm nervous to find out what she thinks of my new work. I haven't seen her in literally 20 years. A lot can happen in that time. Back then I was still in Stephen King/Peter Straub/Franklin W. Dixon mode. I wasn't me yet.
Maybe I'll find out. If so, I'll let you know. Goodnight, beautiful people. I'm in Morris, IL, on Saturday at the library to sell some books. I hope to see those of you in the Chicago area there. I'll be the weirdo selling copies of POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN, among others. Say hi.
*There is actually one other person. Catherine H. H. might not actually be her last name anymore. She wasn't a reader of mine, but she was a good friend. I ran into her at the Elmhurst Public Library once shortly after college, and she told me she was working with one of my favorite authors, John Sandford (John Camp, but still, he did the Davenport and Flowers detective series that I love so much), at archaeological digs. I would love to find out what happened to her. If you know her, please let me know. Tell her that fucking weirdo John Bruni would like to find out where she is in life.