I began with a memory from high school, recalling my first infatuation. Though it was decades earlier, it was as if it had happened yesterday. Could I really share something so personal publicly? Something inside me said I could. So I used this personal experience as a springboard for creative fiction. Here’s what I wrote:
The locker room smelled of an odd combination of soap, cologne, sweat, and desire. Mario was getting ready for football practice, standing at his gym locker without a combination lock on it. Nobody would dare to break into it (except for me that one time when I smelled his jock strap—okay, maybe it was a few times, but not more than ten). Mario slid his T-shirt (red today) over his thick, black hair and threw it on the nearby bench. No longer harnessed by cotton, his arms, back, chest, and neck muscles swelled to full size. I was half hidden behind the adjoining row of lockers, wearing my usual green and blue flannel shirt and brown corduroy pants. Mario, who wasn’t looking in my direction, said something really beautiful to me that I will never forget. “Hi.”
“My last name is High. Nice to see you. I mean, change with you.” I looked down at the floor (but cheated a bit) as Mario kicked off his boots, slipped off his jeans, then threw them in the lucky locker. His red underpants (briefs) revealed ample manhood. This is better than the newspaper’s underwear ads!
“Good gym class today with Mr. Adonis, I mean, Mr. Adoni.” How could I get my pulse down to 260?
Mario reached into his locker for his sweat clothes. “Mario Ginetti.” He smiled, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth, and held the sweat clothes in his hands as if he was mortal.
“I know. I watch your body play. I mean, I watch you play … football … on the field … in your football outfit.” As Mario put on his sweats, I continued to sweat. “I’m voting for your body … I mean, I’m voting for you for president of your … the student body. I’m your lab partner in chemistry class. Ms. Hungry’s class … I mean, Ms. Hunsley’s class.”
Mario’s olive-colored face glistened as he registered recognition—of me! “I thought I knew you from somewhere. Hey, thanks for doing the lab reports.”
“It’s my honor … I mean, my pleasure. If you need help putting up posters for your campaign, I can help.”
Having just tied the laces of his sneakers, Mario stood absolutely still. He looked at me as if he was staring into my heart and somehow knew what I was feeling. Then he said, “I gotta take a wicked piss. Thanks for helping me out, Buddy.” He slammed the locker door and left.
He called me Buddy! My heart was as soft and silly as putty that Mario held in the palm of his hand, like his soap on a rope.
My high school encounter with Mario (whose name I changed for the story) led me to write “An Infatuation.” In my story, I tutor Mario and we become fast friends, until his homophobic friends voice their disapproval. The story expands over three decades as my relationship with Mario grows and changes. I laughed, cried, and felt romantic while writing the story. My husband (Stuart in the story) read it and thought it was terrific. He talked me into sending it to Dreamspinner Press. When awards came, and readers told me the story changed their lives, I was ecstatic. I gave back by donating a percentage of my royalties to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
My next story, “A Shooting Star,” is inspired by my relationships as a college theater major. My “Cozzi Cove” series celebrates my glorious summers at the New Jersey Shore. In my “Nicky and Noah” mysteries, I had great fun killing on paper people at my college. The “Bobby and Paolo” series chronicled my trip to the gorgeous and magical island of Capri. My Tales from Fairyland gives my favorite fairytales a gay twist, with Cinder and the Prince, Goldie Locks and Three Bears, Pinocchio, the Snow Queen, and Jack the Giant Lover. The Found at Last series reunites old lovers separated through homophobia. My Jana Lane and Player Piano mysteries share the entertainer in me. Over the last ten years, I’ve written 31 novels.
Now let’s talk about your story. Are you apprehensive about sharing it? If so, it’s time to change the tapes in your head from “I’m not worthy,” “I can’t do it,” and “I don’t know where to start” to “I’m worthy,” “I can,” and “I’ll start right here.”
How would you like to express yourself? Through visual art, music, dance, poetry, autobiographical prose, creative prose, journaling, theater, film? Close your eyes. See yourself during an important event in your life. How old were you? Where are you? Are you alone? If not, who is with you? What voices do you hear? What do you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell? Why is this event so important to you? What emotions come up? Sit in that moment for a while and relive that vital experience in your life.
Now open your eyes. Still in that moment, write about it, draw it, sing it, or dance it. When you are through, show it to one person. Then another. And another. Think about possible venues for you to share your story with a larger audience. Happy storytelling!
Joe Cosentino has written over thirty novels with three different publishers. He was voted Favorite LGBTQ Mystery Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen, the first of his fifteen popular Nicky and Noah mystery novels. Other series include Cozzi Cove, the Player Piano Mysteries, the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories, Tales from Fairyland, In My Heart, Found at Last, and the Jana Lane Mysteries. He has acted in film, television, and theatre opposite stars like Nathan Lane, Rosie O’Donnell, Bruce Willis, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Currently, Joe is chair of the arts, professor of theatre, and chair of the LGBTQIA+ faculty/staff committee at a college upstate New York, and he is happily married.