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Echoing Laughter, by Conor Hilton


I.

I am exhausted, ready to go to bed as we pulled into our campsite after a long day in Yosemite. Thankfully camp was all set up, ready to go. The four of us pile inside, light bouncing around from our phones as we try to see in the darkness, making sure we all find the right sleeping bag and don’t drag dirt everywhere as we climb into the tent.

“Conor, don’t you dare fall asleep or the rest of us aren’t going to get any sleep at all,” Alistair said.

“Well, y’all better have some lively conversation to keep me awake then or it’s zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ,” I replied, drifting into exaggerated snoring sounds.

“Don’t worry,” Dylan joins in, “if we work together we can do this.”

We review the highlights of the day, seeing El Capitan and some of the other striking features of the landscape as we went about the day. Laughing about the absurd squirrels that we saw, chasing each other around like the love-drunk squirrel chasing Merlin in The Sword and the Stone.

After about an hour of chatting, I’ve somehow refrained from falling asleep, and suddenly we’re talking about marriage and love and, well, you know…sex. I tense up, blood rushing to my cheeks, thankfully obscured by the darkness. Was now the time to say something? I still don’t really know what to say or how to go about saying it.

Everyone’s sharing qualities of their ideal spouse and vaguely what sorts of sexual encounters they hope to have in marriage and pining after sex, either in vague virginal terms or just in a way that felt utterly alien to my experience.

There’s a lull in the conversation and I feel the pressure of all the eyes and attention of my friends and brother on me. I can’t lie and feel dishonest saying anything besides the truth, so I settle awkwardly on, “I’m not really interested in sex.”

Alistair sits up, disbelieving, “What do you mean, you’re not interested in sex?”

Ted and Dylan just laugh at the absurdity and impossibility of the idea.

“I don’t know…I just…don’t care about it…” my voice trails off, I sink into my sleeping bag, losing track of what happens in the conversation after that, laughter echoing around my mind, until I drift to sleep.

II.

“INCREDIBLE,” I exclaim, “just a stunning, gorgeous movie.”

“How was it round three, Becca?” Daniel asks.

Becca makes some sound of desire and disbelief and praise and awe that cannot possibly be given justice with text.

“I sobbed my gay little eyes out, Daniel, that’s how. Where’s my Cate Blanchett? Ugh.”

We all laugh and pause briefly in the conversation as we had just got to Daniel’s car to make the drive back to Provo. I hop in the back, to let Daniel and Becca fawn over the movie, not like as a couple—they’re both quite gay.

We all pile in and cue up some Lana del Ray (Daniel’s obsession at the time). Daniel and Becca sing along enthusiastically and I chime in occasionally, when I know the words or can fake it, but, uh, song lyrics are not one of my gifts, so I mostly bob along to the rhythm.

The CD finishes and we switch over to the radio, I’m looking out the window, watching the Domo billboards and smattering of restaurants and urban sprawl zip by. The music all but disappears and I’m jolted back to the car by Becca’s voice.

“Conor, are you gay?”

I freeze.

I blush.

Laughter echoes faintly in my mind.

“Uh…no…I’m not,” I stammer out, my head hung down, staring at my feet, “unfortunately.”

Becca’s still staring at me, turned out around in her seat, one hand on the volume knob.

“Ok,” she replies, turning back around, not pushing it, but sensing that something’s up.

I’m pretty quiet for the rest of the ride, sharing small snippets here and there, trying to gear myself up to “actually—” and share who I am, but every time I get close, those laughs just echo faintly throughout my mind again.

Once I get home I sit at my laptop and open Facebook messenger. I find my conversation with Becca and start to type out a message, “Hey, so when you asked if I was gay. I’m not gay, but I am…”.

I stare at the cursor, blinking on my screen.

I delete everything, close my laptop, and go to bed.

III.

“We can set up in my room, it’s just up these janky stairs,” I say, welcoming Colin and Chris in.

“Seriously, be careful on the stairs, they’re uneven and I almost fall down them at least once a day.”

We get all their equipment set up and settle in, kinda cramped in my room, but not quite claustrophobic.

“Let’s get your levels,” Chris says, as Colin fiddles with the cords and mics.

I count and practice introducing myself and we play with a few things here and there to even out the sound, making sure I’m talking loudly enough and all that.

Then we get started.

“Conor, welcome to Celestial Sex, tell us a little about yourself.”

“Hi everyone, I’m Conor, and I’m asexual, though I prefer ace or queer.”

“Cool, man, can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to grow up ace and Mormon?”

I dive into my story, finally speaking what I’d rehearsed mentally for years, some of which I’d written before when I came out to the world (relatively speaking) through my blog. Colin and Chris ask great questions, sometimes showing ignorance, but mostly being respectful, in their brash, irreverent sort of way.

We talk and talk, the conversation’s going great, it’s been like 45 minutes, when I stop short.

“So, you don’t ever see someone and just feel this sexual desire or impulse?” Chris asks.

I pause, collecting myself as those faint laughs try to build up steam again.

“No, I don’t. I have no sense what that’s like.”

“Woah,” Chris responds, “that’s incredible. I think it’d be great not to have that distraction. I mean, some days are just totally ruined by these feelings of attraction that I just cannot do anything with.”

Great. GREAT.

A smile crept up to the corners of my mouth as we finished up the conversation.

Yeah, it’d be GREAT.

Maybe my life can be great.




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