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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group


A Novel

North Morgan

Flatiron Books




My name is Konrad Platt and I have now been in America for eight days. This is a homecoming of sorts, as I was actually born here. My father is American. My mother is German. I lived here for only the first four years of my life and then moved to Berlin with Mum, after my parents’ divorce, so we could be close to her family and she could get help bringing me up. Dad still lives in Pacific Palisades, California, where I am right now, and though we talked on the phone and did see each other once or twice a year when I was growing up, we’ve never been that close and he doesn’t know much about what’s happening in my personal life. He doesn’t know that I’m gay, for one thing. It’s not that he doesn’t care, though I’m sure he does not, it’s primarily that all this was a long time ago—it was 1984 when Mum and I moved to Europe—he’s been remarried since, has had two more children with his second wife, and I’m just part of a barely mentioned history. About five years ago, I started working for him remotely from Europe (he owns an independent private wealth management firm), and even though our contact became much more frequent professionally, this never extended to our personal relationship.

When I was sixteen, I moved from Berlin to London, because it seemed exciting and because I wanted to. I took my A levels there and then on to UCL, where I studied financial risk management. I worked for a couple different finance companies in London for a few years before taking the easy way out and going to work for Dad. I have only a handful of clients whose portfolios I help manage, and most of my day is spent reading, researching, compiling information, and seeing how I can help make rich people even richer. The good thing is that I can work remotely from anywhere I want, and I don’t have to talk to anyone on a daily basis.

I came out in an uneventful way in my last year at university. It was London and nobody cared. My mum and her family didn’t care either. I did have some very predictable clichéd issues that tortured me for a few years before doing so, and I did spend some time viewing myself as a tragic figure, fighting internal battles, trying to overcome perceived adversity, but those are feelings everyone tends to have and then eventually you manage to get over yourself.

So when I was in my second year at university I moved into a house share with three of my friends and we would all go out a lot and get drunk and all those guys would bring girls back home and sleep with them all the time, but I didn’t do any of that, seeing that I had never had sex, and I think I might have kissed a total of three girls in my life but not for very long, and the idea was freaking me out. I thought I would never come out and I was planning to lead a pseudostraight life, probably celibate.

When I had nothing to do, I would sometimes take the Tube and go to Soho on my own and walk around a bit. And I would walk past gay shops and bars and bookstores, but I wouldn’t dare walk in. Later that year, I would sometimes get the courage and I would go in and look at magazines and DVDs on the shelves, but I wouldn’t pick them up, because I was scared I would draw attention to myself and somebody might see me from outside.

Around that time I decided that maybe I wanted to go ahead and meet a guy. I started going on an online dating site that is now long gone, and I made a profile and put some pictures up, without showing my face. I was telling myself that I would meet somebody once, sleep with him, and then I would get this out of my system and be straight. I spent about four months talking to people on there and trying to find somebody that seemed like a decent person to do this with. I bought a laptop to go online with and I kept it hidden from my housemates behind a cupboard that I actually had to physically move to access, as if having to move a piece of furniture a few inches before accessing an online world of available men would be an actual barricade to acting on my sexuality.

One Friday in April, I met a guy. He was seven to eight years older than me with a dumb, square face and a thick neck and a big, hairy chest and I couldn’t get past typing a whole sentence to him on my laptop without getting hard. I didn’t go to classes and I lied to my friends that I was going away for the day. I was meeting him at 11:00 A.M. and I was completely terrified, so I downed two beers and some vodka before I left home. I met him, we had coffee, I lied to him about my name, my age, where I’m from, what I did, everything. He was nice enough to pretend to believe me when I was telling him that I didn’t want to be gay, this would only be a one-off experience and I would never come out. We went back to his place and had sex.

I didn’t tell anyone anything for another five months. The first person I told was Ben, my best friend from UCL. We were in some bar in Holborn after the summer break and the song that was playing was “Silver Screen Shower Scene” by Felix da Housecat featuring Miss Kittin, which has nothing to do with me coming out but I remember it very specifically, and I told Ben I had something to say and I started crying because I thought he would never want to talk to me again and then I told him. It took another month until I told the second person, and that was one of my other housemates. By the Christmas break of my third year at Uni, I had told all my friends in London.

I met Brett at an after club in North London over four years ago. He was interesting, handsome, and he was a born and bred Londoner, which was very important to me at the time because I wanted to have roots in this city. At the same time, I wasn’t really looking for a relationship. I was quite content with my love life—there were enough people in London to fuck, mess around with, lead on, and get led on by, but I don’t suppose you can choose when these things will happen. Brett had had a dramatic breakup just a few weeks before meeting me. He was looking around more actively than I was, trying to meet somebody else and get over the ex. We slept together the first night, of course, but then uncharacteristically kept seeing each other. We became boyfriends a few weeks later. The following year, we moved in together. In the four years that we were together, at first we went out a lot. Then we stayed in a lot. We traveled together. I spent time with his family. He flew to Berlin with me often to visit my mum. We were monogamous. We got bored of monogamy and had threesomes. We felt bad about having threesomes and became monogamous again. We fought and broke up and got back together again and we got a puppy. We talked about getting married. We were gay.

During the last year of the relationship things had changed a bit, though. There was a general sense that perhaps Brett didn’t love me as much as I loved him. It felt like he was losing interest. But it’s easier to recognize that now, in retrospect, knowing exactly how things ended.

In the eight days that I’ve lived in my dad’s house in the Palisades, I haven’t once actually left the pool house where I’m staying. I’m having a wonderful time sobbing, staring blankly into space in what I believe is a hugely dramatic way, not listening to sad breakup music because I’m too upset even to do that, researching methods of a painless suicide (there are none, nothing is as effortless as you want it to be unless you have a gun, and even that’s not guaranteed to put you out of your misery), and looking at every picture that Brett and his new boyfriend post online, and they’re taking many because they’re very proud and want to show each other off. My dad and his wife, who hardly know me that well anyway and don’t know the reasons why I decided to pick up and move across the world and into their place all of a sudden, must think that I’m completely insane. The fact that I’m spending most of my time heavily medicated (steady doses of Vicodin, Xanax, and Valium in the daytime to help me ease the pain, experimental combinations of Zopiclone and Ambien at night to help me sleep) really mustn’t help.


Last Sunday, I moved to West Hollywood. I know only one person who lives in LA apart from my dad and his family, a kid called Anthony who’s twenty-four, from London, and moved here a couple of months ago. Well, I know a few other people because I’ve met them at parties around the world, but Anthony is the only one that I’ve spent any time one-on-one with and have lived in the same city as, before. Anthony is short, maybe around five nine, unnaturally muscular, with a marine haircut and covered in badass tattoos. I realize I just described everyone who has stepped foot in a gay bar in the Western Hemisphere in the last five years. From what I understand Anthony left London to come check out LA because he was bored, and now he’s moved in with a rich stoner guy called Markus, who’s funding his lifestyle and their mutual drug habit. In his spare time from doing nothing at all, Anthony dances on a forty-inch-by-forty-inch podium in a bar on Santa Monica Boulevard.

When Anthony found out the details of my breakup, he insisted that the only way I’m going to feel better is if I put an end to my self-imposed isolation at my dad’s pool house and move to WeHo to fuck some new people and start moving on. My emotional state is such right now that I’ll happily take serious life advice from an aimless go-go dancer, so I found a one-bedroom apartment, packed up my bags, and moved.

On Friday, I finish work and I drive to the gym like I have done every day this week. Getting ready to go lift some weights can be a very stressful process, in terms of how you have to look, but at the end of the day all you have to do is be observant and copy what the straight guys are wearing. Some basketball shorts, a loose fitting T-shirt from your college days, a pair of black sports socks pulled up high, and a wristband or two to show that you lift very hard and have injured yourself, and you’re all set.

In the lift on the way up to the gym from the parking garage there are two bros in gym clothes and an old lady, who must be going to the Whole Foods next to the gym.

She looks up at them wearing full douche bag attire, including sweatbands around their heads, and says:

“Are you boys going to the gym?”

The one gym bro who’s hotter and looks like more of a dick smirks and says, “Yeah.”

Then the old lady continues:

“To exercise and get buff?”

He laughs and says “yeah” again.

“And get those six-pack abs?”

Then the gym bro lifts his shirt up and says, “I already have those,” and I want both to kill him and jerk off on his stomach. Then the lift gets to the gym floor and we all get out.

Today I’m working out my shoulders. In the gym, there’s a boy whom I’ve seen every time I’ve come here, always in the evening, always with a friend of his (invisible to me), and the thing about this boy, who cannot be any older than nineteen, maybe twenty, is that he’s tall and blond, and has a toned body, fine, but he also has a pair of blue eyes that have that effect on me where if they catch mine, my heart stops for a moment and I have to take a second to remember (a) where I am and (b) what I am doing. This is not an effect to be taken lightly and it takes a very particular shade of blue for it to happen. The fact that his eyes look like they’ve witnessed an impossible tragedy, and will never recover, only adds to it. So because this feeling that I get when I look at him in the eyes is very, very disturbing, but also very exhilarating, I can’t help but seek it out. And I keep staring at him. Because I keep staring at him, he tends to look back, and to cut a long story short, when this boy is in the gym, nothing really gets done. Not that I want anything from this boy, other than to occasionally get the electric shock he seems to be able to readily inflict on my nervous system.

Now, apart from my own personal fetish for arctic blue eyes that reflect centuries of endless sorrow, this boy is also overwhelmingly good-looking objectively. And I stand there and look at him and keep thinking of the time when it will all come together four or five years from now and he’s turned into an actual god, and how he will deal with his life then, a life where everyone around him will be falling over themselves to make things easy for him and get close to him and take advantage of him. A life in the bubble that those extraordinarily good-looking people live in and the rest of us bastards will never experience.

Then I go back home, and it’s Friday evening and Anthony comes over with Markus and they want to go out. Well, Anthony wants to go out. Markus is too stoned to care either way.

“You’re coming out with us,” Anthony says.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because I don’t feel like it.”

“So you’re gonna stay in and be lonely and depressed?”

“Yes, that sounds excellent. I’ll do that.”

“Well, you’re never going to feel better if you keep doing that,” he snarls at me.

Then Markus tells him to leave me alone and then the two of them do a line of coke on a dish in the kitchen and then go out.

I start watching the first movie that shows up as I’m flicking through the channels. It stars some big-name white American actors and a number of unknown Indian actors and appears to be all about prejudice, integration, cultural assimilation, and the surprising enormity of the human spirit, but I’m not really paying any attention. Instead I keep thinking of Brett in London and missing him and reminiscing about all our time together and wondering what we would be doing on this Friday night if we were still together like we were two months ago and trying to guess what he’s doing right now with someone else instead, so eventually I turn off the TV and make a half-assed attempt at meditating and clearing my head because someone advised me to do that, but I don’t really know how to meditate, so this results in me staring blankly at the wall for the next two hours or so, and then I fall asleep.

Copyright © 2016 by North Morgan