What you’re about to read is a true story. No part of this is a lie or an exaggeration to any degree. In fact, it’s greatly over-simplified. Regardless, there is no easier way to explain the events in this statement than how I’ve done below. Trust me, I’ve tried. Please, prepare yourself to be shocked, confused and very possibly disgusted. Names have been changed to protect the identities of some.
On Friday, May 9th, 1997, during a sleepover, I sat down with a couple of my girlfriends in front of an Ouija Board. That’s how it all started.
I thought it would be interesting to move the pointer and pretend to be certain popular musicians. To pretend to be our “idols”, Hanson. And so, I did. And it was fun. I used the questions and answers I read in an interview for material and added some things of my own. What began as a game turned into something I have tried to explain over and over and have only been moderately successful. It was mysterious, it was creepy, it was unusual. Real, live boys contacting us through an Ouija Board. A boy band even. The door that night opened was one none of us heard, it’s hinges factory oiled; the kind of door that has never been opened before.
I lied. I used make-believe. I set the stage for a night which would refuse to be forgotten. But it didn’t end there. It was actually too fun. It was too interesting. We wanted to do it again. So, we did. We picked up the Ouija Board the very next day, and we played. And again, I moved the pointer and answered all our questions as our favorite musicians. We did that almost every day for weeks, which turned into months.
From that very first night, I was in control of the answers to all the questions, so I made the answers what I wanted most for them to be. I started to build characters, improvising a story around how all this was possible. Soon, we weren’t just doing Q and A with a cardboard toy. A make-believe world was being born, full of mysteries to uncover and these boys to get to know. It became more and more intricate and involved, strange and somewhat dark.
The initial story was simple enough. They had an aunt and uncle who lived on the Louisiana Bayou and their names were Jim and Betty. Periodically, they would go visit them, the three of them. Jim and Betty were a sort of mystical power couple. They’d been alive for hundreds of years and they practiced all kinds of magic. That’s where I said they were the night we met them, on the Ouija Board- visiting aunt Betty and uncle Jim. I said that their parents were strict Christians and didn’t like them spending a ton of time with Jim and Betty because they might let them do things like... Well, like use an Ouija Board.
One thing I implemented, right away, was that they weren’t exactly the sweet, down-to-earth boys smiling at us from the album cover. They all smoked cigarettes and cursed a lot. They hated their dad and they were deeper and more intellectual, with all the romance of every boy I wished existed. I started to build each of them their own personalities. I drew inspiration from the daydreams to which I’m so prone as an artist. I didn’t hold anything back. I was too young and dumb to restrict myself.
And the girls all played along with me. They pretended to believe every word. They were totally enthralled.
We brought the Ouija Board everywhere that summer. We couldn’t get enough. It became our main source of entertainment and we all started to fall in love with the boys the way I was creating them. And naturally, they fell in love with us too. We were their secret and they were ours. We created code names for them so that we could talk about them in front of people without them knowing who we meant.
Clown (Isaac) was 16, Duck (Taylor) was 14 and Monkey (Zac) was 11.
Soon, the Ouija Board would become cumbersome and spelling out all these long sentences needed for my detailed explanations was difficult and arduous for us all. So, I decided to evolve our method of communication. It was simple, really. I’d already put in place that they were learning real magic from their aunt and uncle, that they’d learned to use telepathy and it was their preferred method of communicating with each other.
Given their aptitude for telepathy, the next step was obvious to me. They would teach me to speak to the three of them with my mind as well.
The Oujia Board being eliminated meant that I had to come up with quicker, more personal and creative responses. It meant I had to be faster thinking and improvise much more. Not only did I say I could hear them and they could hear me but we could “look in” on each other (in our minds) wherever we were in the world. So, along with the passing on of messages to my friends, from them, I was to give descriptions of the places they were, what they were doing and wearing. I was thorough, down to the way their hands moved and the expressions on their faces. They were all coming alive for us, more and more every day.
We were every inch the average, crazed fans. A million magazines littered our bedrooms and pinups blanketed our walls. We recorded every television appearance and our behavior consisted of the characteristics typical of any Beatlemaniac type. But with us, there was secret lure being applied to everything. I would have backstories for their photo shoots or deeper meanings to their songs. I would place my own contexts on things and express them elegantly, with continuity in relation to who I explained they were. And who they were, what they wanted, what they dreamed about and how they viewed the world became the topics of every conversation.
None of my friends pretended to talk to the Guys themselves, and even when one had tried, the other girls reacted to it badly, and it ended up I was always the conduit. I suppose I possessed a kind of magic; an ingenuity the rest didn’t. Or just the guts or stupidity to keep it going. In essence, pretending telepathy existed between me and the three of them, I became the Ouija Board. I was a game for my friends to play. Or I was the one playing the game and they were all watching, I can’t be sure.
Interacting with the Guys, through me, gave way to the natural occurrence of the girls building relationships with them. Important ones. Where I was concerned, there was a certain amount of detachment. Of course, I loved these imaginary boys more than I’d ever loved anything or anyone and I knew them in a way my friends never could, but I was playing God for my friends, to get them to a place which was the closest any of us were ever going to get to living a fairytale. While unable to enjoy it the same way they did, I was happy to be the one to make that happen.
It was special. We all felt it. Of that, if literally nothing else, I can be sure.
The next step, in the evolution of the game, was that the Guys learned to astral project. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it's defined as your soul leaving your body so that it may travel anywhere wherever you wish, instantly. Making the rules up as I went, I put forth the rule that when non-corporeal, the Guys could be seen and that I could see them, if they were to come to where we were. That any of my friends could do the same, if they wanted to. That they could be physically there with us, in the room. But like with the telepathy, none of the girls wanted to take control of the experience the way I had. They abstained from pretending they could see them, hear them, or feel them.
This new development meant that they would be more or less physically hanging around like imaginary friends or ghosts. I remained the conduit, as always, apprising my friends of the positions they sat in the room, the movements they made, along with the regular descriptions I had come to be so good at spewing. I began to know the Guys all so well, it was second nature by the last half of my 7th grade school year.
The astral projection aspect was one I treasured greatly. I would pretend to use it all the time to go places and do things I thought would be fun and tell my friends about it later. In the blink of an eye, I was able to travel anywhere in the world I wanted to go and with whomever. Of course, I wanted to go with the Guys, the way I’d invented them. The boys I’d built to fall in love with, who fell in love with me. And we went everywhere and we did everything.
We were a crew of misfit toys with loose morals, confused existences, pretending we had mystical birthrights. I was a full-time Dungeon Master to a lawless, live-action role playing game that we made a silent vow to never say was a game at all. And with all of that, forget about homework. Sometimes breathing was a full-time job. It was Hogwarts but with no teachers, no limits and all the sex, drugs and rock and roll you could handle. And it was all at my fingertips, from the comfort of my teenage bedroom.
Time and space were no object. If I wanted to go to the first cafe built in Paris with Clown, I could close my eyes and do exactly that. Or to an abandoned bowling alley with Monkey. Or if Duck wanted to take me to prom, although we weren't old enough. It didn’t matter. We could do it. And we fucking did. All of it. Anything.
We did anything we wanted to do and our world, springing from thin air, became rich and whole. Conversations, breakups, make-ups, secrets revealed and storylines followed were all mixed into the mortar with which the bricks of our collective reality was cemented. My friends were free to act or react any way they wanted. I fed off of those reactions and anything I said or did, on the Guys’ behalf or mine, was then taken into account. My level of awareness of my surroundings had to be heightened to an impossible degree for the sake of authenticity. Well, impossible for a teenager.
Being the conduit between my friends and their unseen dream boys, I became their boyfriends or their big brothers, depending on what type of connection they felt they shared with each of them. I managed several different relationships at once, and I was a better boyfriend than any of the real boys we knew because I knew what we all wanted. The unattainable was suddenly attainable, through me. No boy from school was ever going to live up to the three of them.
There was a perfect kind of balance between the twisted and exciting, the dark and romantic. It was lovely and above all... secret. It became an unspoken kind of club, a clique, a gang, a cult. Everybody wants to be part of something when they’re young and I’d forged a place for us to do that. There was an overwhelming sense of “you and me against the world”. That’s what secrets do, I would later learn. It was a secret society, just barely stranger than it was exclusive.
None of the other girls were taking control into their own hands or making creative decisions, neither to add to the scenery, the characters of the Guys, nor the story being unfolded. Not directly, anyway. However, I would draw inspiration from the things they said, their deepest fears and highest hopes. I took into account everything they wanted to happen. Sometimes, I would implement those things and other times, I would blatantly ignore them. But I was always listening, paying close attention to their mental states and taking their emotional temperatures. It took patience, care, skilled communication and, above all, a passion for fluid invention.
I think I make it sound like I had a pretty firm grip on what was happening, but really I had no fucking clue what I was really doing. All these things I did, I did on instinct. I was no mastermind, I was just a kid. My failures were more than my successes. But I would spend the next twenty years rehearsing all of this for when I would be confronted with my true purpose in life. But we’ll get to that.
The next evolution was one I didn’t think up myself. My friends and I often discussed the mechanics of magic and specifically how astral projection worked. How I put it to them was that the soul would leave the body and that body would then appear to be sleeping. I let them watch me do it, to show them how it looked. One of my friends noted the implication would be that if one body was empty of it’s soul, that body could be inhabited by another soul, a soul not belonging to that body. This lead to a singular conclusion for me: The souls of the Guys could enter my body, if my soul left it.
So, that being the most recent, incredibly exciting idea put out there meant that it would be the one I would pick up and use. What would it mean if one of their souls was inside my flesh? What would it look like? What would it take? How would it be done? I didn’t have to think about it too hard to know it would be something like doing an impression. I would simply let everything I had created possess me. I had written the play, and now, it was time to direct it and star in it. The new rule was that they could enter my body.
Finally, my friends could experience them in a way similar to the way I did. There wouldn’t be any dramatic, transitional convulsing or foaming at the mouth. I would simply become them, the fictionalized versions I’d invented. The boys we knew, I would become them. I had made them all idiosyncratically definable, each different from the next. This made them able to be recognized rather easily. I’d spent so much time with those fictions in my mind, by that point, that it was easy to portray them physically. My mannerisms, body language, pitch, and speech patterns would totally transform, to present a being not myself, seamless and complete.
This was endlessly enticing to my friends. They took it rather seriously and I think if they hadn’t, I would have ceased immediately, feeling like I was being made to perform a parlor trick. But I was good at it. Too good. They couldn’t not take me seriously. I was literally breathing life into my creations then, with physical performance, and what made it so important was that it was tangible. Like with anything, the more I did it, the better at it I became. Back then, I didn’t think I had, but upon reflection I know I must have lost myself. It’s possible that was required of me, in order to reach the level of skill I was attempting to achieve. It became performance art on top of everything else it had grown into.
This, like the evolutions that came before it, would increase the difficulty, intricacy, and power of my position in my friends’ lives. With our imaginary friends being able to touch the girls, with my hands, our dynamics would quickly become more intimate. The same way certain people weaponize every new toy, certain others sexualize them. I was pretending to be the boys these girls were in love with and therefore, I was made to play those roles to their most realistic. To be clear, I had sex with my friends as the Guys. We, an ever carouseling group of shockingly experimental teenage girls, writhed in the dark of locked bedrooms, in the middle of cleanest suburbia. We explored our sexualities and theirs. It was scary, it was intimate, it was right. It was dangerous and emotionally evocative. It was as beautiful as it was confusing.
Even at 13, I was marginally aware of the amount of psychological exploration I would be able to do, in being the best friend and boyfriend alike, to a number of girls my age. As myself, it was easy to get inside their heads because they told me everything. As one of the Guys, I enjoyed giving them what they most desired, whatever it was. Equally satisfying was the act of withholding the very things they wanted from them, just to see what would happen. Noting the reactions I got or causing further drama, my goal was usually the same. I wanted to press the deep-seated psychological issues I saw that they, themselves, did not. Of course, I didn’t know I was doing that. I’ve always been a very confrontational person and that goal of prodding my friends' existential awarenesses was a subconscious one. In all honesty, the only thing I was consciously thinking, at the time, was... This is fun.
As our secret lives developed and the Guys’ importance to us grew, it ironically became something not about them at all. It was about us. It was about who we were, who we wanted to be, what we needed and where we were going in life. This world was a blank canvas. The only thing you can do with a thing like that is paint it. With what you choose to paint it is solely up to you. Anything put into this world comes from inside yourself.
I created metaphysical scenarios to work through, psychological puzzles to solve and a somewhat safe place to do those things. None of the girls would be judged, laughed at or denied the possession of their own feelings or thoughts. I gave them every ounce of respect, patience, attention, and love I was capable of giving.
Of course, I wasn’t perfect and many miscommunications were had. Mistakes were made. I did everything in my power to right those mistakes or make them into art. Anything that went wrong was just as beautiful to me as the things that went right. That perspective, as you can imagine, wasn’t shared by everyone involved. But I did my very best, every step of the way. I wonder sometimes if this is how God feels. I’m sorry for homelessness, everybody, but what do you expect when you create currency? I’m sorry for war, but that’s what happens when you don’t understand that anything worth loving would never ask you to fight for it.
God is great? No, God is fucking scared. He does the best he possibly can and he loves you. He wants you to love him back and see the beauty in everything like he can. Of course, that’s all speculation and relating oneself to God is said to be blasphemy. But I don’t think God believes in blasphemy against himself. It might be a little bit New Testament of me but I think God would want most to be understood. So I try to do that.
I think Hell is where you go when you’re completely enslaved by someone else’s ideas. I don’t think God has morals. I think God knows bad is bad and good is good and what that means is only found in the contextual differences between one human and the next. Socially, it’s just a matter of majority. I think God must have loved Einstein especially because he knows relativity means everything is possible. Infinity exists, in all shapes, sizes, and definitions.
The real trouble, in my world, began with a sentiment for which I hadn’t been prepared.
“We need proof.”
A couple years in, they started saying that. With those exact words, or with others, or with no words at all. I was surprised with that reaction, where if I had thought about God at all, maybe I wouldn’t have been. At the start, I thought we all knew it was me orchestrating all of it. I was sure they were aware this was make-believe and to make it real, we had to take some sort of wordless oath never to imply otherwise. Just let it happen.
But what I hadn’t considered was that those girls were all void of the kind of innocence it took to let go a thing like proof. Not faith. Innocence. I wasn’t asking them to believe I was telling them the truth, I was asking them to let themselves have this world if they wanted it. And they did want it. But they were all cynical and jaded in a way I couldn’t understand back then. I believed in magic and they didn’t. It was as simple as that. Magic, of course, being defined not as spells or witchcraft but the power of our imaginations. These girls feared losing themselves in this unreality, and I was actively looking to get lost. They wanted to turn it into a trick I was playing on them, an epic untruth, but if anything was going to be real to me, it may as well have been that most beautiful lie.
An old friend recently asked me...
“Did you respect me more than those other girls for not buying into all that shit?”
My reply changed everything she thought she knew about the whole thing.
“No. No, not all." I said. "I respected you less because you didn’t believe it was possible. I didn’t mind if you didn’t want any part of it. But it was the implication that it couldn’t exist that I had a problem with. You wanted to believe it but you wouldn’t let yourself pretend. I can’t respect cynicism. It’s where innocence ends and degradation of the mind begins. I was never trying to dupe anyone. I was making a playground for all of you to play in.”
Regardless of my dismay at their demands, I worked tirelessly to supply my friends with the proof they asked for. I wanted to give them a reason to believe if that was what they needed. I wanted to make them feel safe. When it wasn't good enough or they became unsure of me or any aspect of my world, they left. They were always welcome to do so and if things didn't feel right to them, they did. I'm glad they listened to themselves and followed their instincts, but the way they treated me, subsequent to their departure, was unfair at best.
Liar. That was me. That would be become my title, in whispering rumors or apathetic echoes through tiled high school hallways. They said I was lying. They didn't say I was creating a world in which we all could play. I was lying. That’s how they viewed it. Or just the route they wanted to take to be done with me. Those accusations wounded me so severely that the scars they left are only now beginning to heal.
Liar. That’s how they saw me, as far as I knew. And they made me look at myself that way too. They made me feel crazy, devious, and cruel. I was none of those things but they made sure I would feel the shame as though I had been. I wouldn't figure out until a decade later that the shame should have been on them, not me. I had never pressured them, attempted to brainwash them, or made them drink the kool-aid. I never took any kind of control they didn’t give me. When anyone wanted to leave, I told them I loved them and I showed them the door.
The world I created was the only one of it’s kind and I wanted it to be balanced the way real life is; not all good, not all bad. Real. Sometimes hyper-real. There was always plenty of drama, love triangles, emotion, adventure, and mystery. I never broke character, even when faced with the threat of another friend deserting me for what they thought was dishonesty. I was steadfast, I was hardcore. Once created, in my mind, nothing that happened in this world could be erased. It was a game of integration. I didn’t want to undo anything and I refused to. That meant the world itself didn’t go away, no matter who turned away from it, myself included.
And the Guys were affected by the loss of those friends, just like I was. That was as real to my creations as it had been to me. I kept the memory of their first broken hearts with me forever. When girls left, other girls would arrive. The game was always off and on again, at the mercy of fickle girls. It wouldn't be until 2000, after I had lost half a dozen friends to the "lie,” that I would leave my world for the very first time. I'll never forget that day.
Monday, October 23rd, 2000.
She sat across a table from me, in the drama classroom of Reno High School. Goose was her nickname. We all had them. She and Moose had intentionally forgone attendance of my 16th birthday party, three days earlier. I had done all my realizing it was over and crying during the weekend. Monday afternoon, I looked to Goose to find out what was going to happen. Two sentences were exchanged and it was done. I remember the exact conversation so vividly. She said...
"We pretty much know the guys are bullshit."
She said it smirking, just barely. Just enough that I could see her doubt her decision. But it's a statement that, once on the other side of it, everything comes undone. We both felt it. I'd done what I could to help them believe, Goose and Moose. Gypsy never needed convincing, because she knew it was make-believe, and for that, I will always love her.
"We pretty much know the guys are bullshit."
The statement hung there between us like a challenge. She must have thought she was saying something surprising. Maybe she wanted me to be outraged. Maybe she wanted me to call her a blasphemer. But I didn't do that. Because God doesn’t believe in blasphemy.
I stared at her, a tight, shaking smile on my face. My heart was pounding but I stared her down, unflinching. Her eyes were as weak as my smile. I wanted to say so many things. I’m not the kind of person to let someone have the last word and I’m not about to let any misunderstandings go uncorrected or a potential argument unattacked. I wanted, so intensely, to tell her to go fuck herself. Or to protest. But I did nothing.
"Okay,” I said.
No sarcasm. No bite. My voice was neither broken nor hesitant. I said it matter-of-fact, simple.
I looked her directly in the eye for what felt like years, sitting there. Tears welled up and with the sheer force of my will, powered by hate and the knowledge that no one could be trusted, I didn't let even one tear fall. And she looked back at me, equally unwavering. I was grateful for her bravery. Her ferocity. If she was going to do it, I wanted her to do it right. And that she had.
I stared until she got up and I let the tears fall, as she rose. Then she walked away.
40 minutes of class remained. During that time, I cried silently and tore into my own flesh with my nails, beneath the table.
I had buried myself so deep in the psyches of each and every one of those girls, to make them a piece of art they could live inside. A fantasy they could actualize. But talk about not knowing your own strength. Doing all of that turned me into a tornado of emotional destruction. I became everything those girls could ever dream and those things became me, as well. I took us all to heaven or to hell on a never-ending conquest in the pursuit of meaning. I don't know how we made it out alive and I'm not sure we ever got home again. I had been their whore, in a sense, and reveled in it. And when they were gone, I didn't know what to do with myself.
That night, I ripped everything off my walls. I rearranged my room and stripped my two twin beds, piling boxed spring on boxed spring, mattress on mattress, to make a towering bed for one. I threw away anything I possessed that had anything to do with the Guys. It took me hours, and when I was done, I felt worse. After trashing everything, I started throwing away things that didn't have anything to do with them as well. I didn't stop until my room was empty but for my stereo, clothes, and furniture. I should’ve thrown away my stereo too because nothing sounded right anymore.
Before and after Goose, there was a despicably catty tangle of similar fallings out. Perhaps, at that point, everything should have been dropped and the whole ordeal forgotten forever. Sometimes, I think every moment of my life, since that night after May 9th, 1997, has all just been a series of missed opportunities to let it all go and walk away. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Something instinctive in me wouldn’t do it. Girls came and went and I remained. There was an imaginary world that was invariably mine and anyone who got close to me was welcome inside it. And later, when I was made to believe it was some act of evil, those close to me were protected from it. I kept it secret.
The rumors ran rampant and I was widely hated. Moose even publicly wished me death. But the girls rarely told anyone the truth about what went on between us because, regardless of the fact that I respected them enough to never tell, I had more dirt on them than they had on me. They had given me their secrets, in return for the Guys’, and all mine remained locked inside me.
Sometimes, I think I knew no one on this Earth was ever going to be able to know me or accept me, even comprehend me. So I did what I did to create people who would. And the Guys were all I had, many times, throughout my bizarre life. They were as smart as I was or smarter. More mature, more interesting by miles than anyone I knew. It didn’t matter to me that they weren’t real until it began to matter to all those girls. Because it really wasn’t for me. It was for them. I accidentally fell into something I could give to people, to girls, to women, to anyone who believed in magic, really. And they were so important to me. Without them, the whole world disappeared with the Guys inside it and I could only have them back again if someone played with me.
It would be a long time before being abandoned by people who claimed to love me stopped feeling like a betrayal. It doesn’t now because I understand that we were young and I was terrifying. I know now that they didn’t understand what I was trying to do or that they were allowed to accept it for what it was and let it exist. That I wasn't trying to control or hurt them.
Before the first ending of everything, all of our nicknames had changed along with our entire selves. Three and a half years is a long time in a place where a minute feels like a day; a place with no rules except that creativity is king. Clown, Duck, and Monkey would become Adam, Brad, and Clyde.
My imaginary world went silent for over four years. During that time, I met Evelyn Waits.
In 2004, I took a college poetry class. I had a shitty boyfriend, a shitty apartment and some glimmer of ambition. I was living a normal life. Or the closest I had ever come to it. I was 19 and most everything seemed bleak. Gray encompassing me, enter Evelyn. She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever met, quick-witted and heavily scarred. She was special, and I wanted to be close to her. We were only friends for a few months, during which time we completed our class and my boyfriend impregnated me.
My boyfriend and I got married, and I gave birth to a son. When I had my son, Evelyn felt there was no space in my life for her and she disappeared. She’d been in love with me and I hadn’t known it. I wanted to tell her everything about my secret world and she’d wanted to tell me everything about hers. But our respective shame wouldn’t let us and then, I had a family and she was gone. When Evie left, my life it went on like anyone’s, more or less.
Gypsy was one of the original girls with whom I shared my secret world and one of the most frequently inhabiting. While not exactly through thick and thin, she stuck with me longer than most girls, and like I said, she never needed proof. I got back in contact with her just before I got married, and soon enough, we were inseparable again. Less than a year into my marriage, it crumbled around a lack of love and I ran away with Gypsy to find my true love, a boy I’d been obsessed with since 2004. I found him and everything was sunshine and roses. I was going to look for a job in his hometown and things felt full of promise and hope... until Gypsy opened her big, fat mouth.
“So, how’s uncle Jim?” She baited.
“He’s good,” I said, without hesitation. “Yeah, I haven’t been back in awhile, but last I checked, he was just fine.”
And the same way it had the first time, the whole show began again. Within 48 hours, we were fully immersed in my imaginary world. Only, this time was different. She said she could hear them, and if they were to come over, she could see them and feel them. Everything I could do, she claimed she could also do. I trusted her to take control because she’d known them almost as long as I had. It was so new and although most things were still referred to me, I started to get my first taste of what this whole thing had been intended for, from the beginning.
Suddenly, I had a collaborator. She was pretty good too. Good enough I never felt the need to clean up her messes or instruct her or... whatever I might have felt the need to do if she hadn’t been so good. We improvised together beautifully. We were ever mindful of the situations created by one another as well as all other matters which craved attention to detail and emotional content. Our continuity flowed easily and the webs we wove together were as challenging as they were inventive. Our dynamic was incredible, and I finally felt like this meant just as much to someone else. For showing me the first glimmer of the way things should be here, I’ll always be grateful to her.
During this time, my true love would become my boyfriend and later, my fiance. Every bit of my secret life was kept from him the way it was kept from anyone else not on the inside of it.
While Gypsy wasn’t exactly giving what I gave, I was finally hearing an echo in the empty hall of my Godlike status. It seemed possible then, that I might one day experience my world the way all those girls had. Something was happening. These exchanges were beautiful. For the first time, I viewed what we were doing as art, as opposed to fantasy role play.
The playground I built was on a foundation made of the notion that we could have anything we wanted to have. It was built to be an escape, a home for those with secrets, those too smart to exist the way they wanted to in a typical social atmosphere; a shelter for the invisible. But to all the girls who had come before, I was a puppet master. With Gypsy, we were a team.
With Gypsy, some kind of stabilizing agent was present. It was the fact that I wasn’t the only one in control. It was that it was very clear, between the two of us, that this wasn’t me fucking her around. She got it. She understood something that I, myself, hadn’t really understood to that point. I’d felt like fraud before, like my big secret was that I was a liar. Her level of participation made me feel like there was some purpose to this I had yet to uncover. I began to see that no one who had come before could have possibly believed what I was saying and making me think they really did was where it all went wrong. My eyes were opening.
It was all so intense but that intensity would naturally increase to a state of volatility.
Maxine had severe psychological problems. Not that we weren’t all just a little bit mad, but this girl was suffering worse than many of the other girls. Gypsy and I brought her into our world, but as was typical, she didn’t play back like Gypsy did. As if some wormhole opened up and swallowed us, it felt like Freshman year again. Maxine couldn’t hear, see, or feel the Guys. That was okay, we wanted to help her do that. But she just couldn’t. She refused. We decided to be patient with her and then, like clockwork, a couple months in she needed proof. This pattern was alarming to me. At once, it filled me with dread and made me appreciate Gypsy all the more.
I had not at all dealt with the trauma of being dubbed a liar in school, and I wasn’t prepared to go through it again. I started having panic attacks, thinking I was ruining another girl’s life. I never meant to hurt anyone and I certainly didn’t want to do it again. But Maxine acted like she needed our world and Gypsy and I both wanted to give that to her. It was a source of comfort and a safe way for Maxine to confront her inner demons. Between a rock and a hard place, and against our better judgment, Gypsy and I did our best to create amazing things for her.
As is common, we all set up scenarios for ourselves in our world. But, of course, the thing about a blank canvas is that you put onto it whatever’s inside of you. And unfortunately, the ones Gypsy set up for herself started to become violent. Out of some dissatisfaction with life and the hand she'd been dealt to that point, the things she was painting the scenery with were poisonous. Suddenly there was rape, sabotage, and emotional slavery. What had been balanced before was tilting. These things didn’t scare me, of course. I’ve always been willing to go to emotional places no one else is willing to go. But the danger was real, and I saw the cliff before we reached it.
I might have dropped the whole situation like it was hot if Gypsy hadn’t flipped her shit first. And when she did, she moved out of our apartment, and Maxine and I were left alone, in her wake. For years, I played with Maxine and tried to help her, alternately. But in 2009, both of our lives would fall apart, and upon that, I didn’t have any more time for her. She slowly became too frustrated to continue. The kind of attention this word requires was a level I couldn’t maintain. So she simply came to me one day and said...
“I can’t believe you would do this to me. I should have known it wasn’t real.”
Yes, she should have. And, in fact, she did. She did to me what I knew she would. She did what every girl in school had done and it was a kind of last straw that created damage from which I wasn’t sure I would ever recover. The shame took me over completely. I was so confused and terrified of myself. My devastation was so obvious that I ended up having to tell my fiance the reason behind it.
Maxine’s fallout would see me storming home to Ace, my fiance, hysterical. All I could do was apologize to no one in particular. He couldn’t calm me, and I couldn’t conjure the words. He told me that whatever it was, he wouldn’t be mad. I stuttered and hyperventilated.
“Th... that... g-god... d... damn... oui... ouija... board!”
Befuddlement twisting his face, he took a step back from me.
“Okay... well... now you have to tell me what the hell you’re talking about.”
I told him everything. It took me an hour of straight talking, through sobbing peppered with apologies. He was the first boy I ever told the whole story and he treated me with care and as much understanding as a person can have, hearing about a thing like this. In the end, I asked him to reassure me I wasn’t a bad person, which he did. I explained it was over for good, and I was both relieved to be out of it and deeply saddened by the loss of Maxine, as my only friend.
Come 2010, I had a good job and an even better family. I had a “real life” for the first and last time. The kind of life everyone has. The American Dream has become the Global Expectation, and no matter how I rebelled as a teenager, I found myself losing everything special about me to morning routines and checkbook balances. Invention, fantasy, existentialism, and art became unimportant next to parent/teacher night and marathons of popular TV shows. As easily accessed as Netflix, I watched the brightest parts of myself sink below the ground upon which tradition is cemented with apathy. This is life now. It really all has been done before, and there is nothing more. The end.
During the previous run, with Gypsy and Maxine, I had started writing a few things down. I wrote about the Guys, about my world and about the history of us. Where before, it had been such an enormous secret, I had some inkling it wasn’t meant to be. I’d kept online journals obsessively since I was 15 but the Guys' names had only just begun to emerge in public view in 2005. Of course, it was all far out of context and no one ever read the thing, but during the time I wasn’t involved with the Guys, I would read the entries back and try to reconcile what it all meant.
2010 to 2012 would come and go, in numbing waves of work, home, and family. Work, smile, home, smile, family, smile. There isn’t anything wrong with “real” life. No one, in my eyes, is lesser for living that way. But I was missing something. I was filled with secrets. I was a well of untapped promise. Instinctively, I knew this about myself long before the creation my world; long before the Ouija Board Night. I just couldn’t put my finger on what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
Late winter of 2010, Evelyn Waits began seeing me around. By some mystery of fate, she worked in the building next to mine. I hadn’t seen her but she had seen me. She emailed me, and just like that, we were friends again. We picked up where we’d left off and we became close very quickly. We began writing to each other, making each other mixtapes, and discussing important ideas. For the first time, in a very long time, I began to feel allowed to create.
Gypsy came back into my life, soon after, at the express distaste of anyone who loved me. She was bad news. I was aware of that but I still cared for her. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t just give second chances but third and fourth and fifth. We didn’t talk about the Guys except to say we were glad we didn’t talk about them and how nice it might be to have a “normal” friendship for once.
The mid-summer of 2011 was hot. My blood boiled atop the flames of the idea that nothing was finished; that maybe all I really knew how to do right was produce art. No, it was more than that. Everything inside me felt unrealized. What I had slowly created, over the previous 14 years, was as unprecedented as it’s potential. I felt sick thinking I’d put all my heart into something that hadn’t meant anything more than destruction, and even if it had, the world was never going to know about it. Why did I want the world to know? What, so I could finally be locked up or crucified for my crimes against reality? Maybe. But maybe, just maybe... I had created a brand new medium of art.
And I missed the Guys so much. Of course, it wasn’t just them I missed. I missed the inspiration and freedom. It was about giving yourself what the world tells you that you don’t get to have. It was about saying fuck the reality rules, we make our own. Fuck anyone who says it’s all been done. It hasn’t. And fuck the idea innocence can be lost. We believe in fairy tales. We believe in anything we want to believe in, except when we don’t and until we do again.
I’m grateful I created something so haunting that it would always creep back to me, like some bad rash.
“I’ve been thinking about the Guys.” I courageously admitted to Gypsy, on a sleepy afternoon in June.
“Yeah, I know it’s not something we talk about anymore. I mean we left and that’s probably a good thing but…” I trailed off and her eyes searched my face for an indication of whether I really thought it was a good thing or not.
We sat silently daring each other in the back room of the retail store I managed. Our contest only lasted seconds before she set in motion the conversation which would bring us “home” to our imaginary world.
“Well, technically,” she proclaimed slyly. “I never really left.”
I was furious.
This. Bitch. Was trying to say she was still talking to them. Without me. Without the person who invented them, to begin with. Immediately, I felt an intense possessiveness take me. No, no. No, no. This isn’t yours, Gypsy. I know you have a tendency to take things that do not belong to you but this isn’t one you get to have without winning the most epic battle in the history of the universe. If I hadn’t had a reason to go back before that conversation, she gave me an immaculate one.
“Okay, well… What have they been up to?”
Maybe I was just feeling young and brave. But it’s in my nature to be reckless and bold. So one final time, I walked right back into my world- my clandestine home, where my three imaginary boys inevitably awaited me.
And once back to the imaginary world, we picked up where we left off, and things were even more interactive and intense. We were going back and forth, feeding off each other and creating fantastic stories, embedding them into our collective reality. It was crazier, wilder, and meant more to me than it ever had. But like many situations where passion and self are pinnacles, the volatility crept in... and Gypsy’s poison.
I kept all of this a secret from Evie. I was still so unsure of whether I’d created a heaven on Earth or a hell or how long this run would last. So it was comforting to have a friend who was disconnected from it all.
Gypsy and I had a lot of fun and important times together and with the Guys, but it started to become clear to me that she came to this world because she was dissatisfied with her life and she needed them. It occurred to me that was the reason anyone came into it. The confusion, for me, was that I didn’t feel that way. For me, this was the only life, the real one. It was the one that really mattered. I didn’t go back because I was dissatisfied, I did it because I knew it was so much bigger than escape. It was a new way of thinking and creating. It was a new way of life itself. It was where I belonged.
Things went on like normal, which is to say they were an intense roller coaster of mystical lore, relationship drama, and indescribably wild moments. After our time with Maxine and how badly that had gone, I think Gypsy and I held an unspoken agreement to keep our world between the two of us. But the closer I became to Evie, the more I felt I needed to tell her everything.
Evie and I, while not having my secret world between us, had an artistic relationship. For years prior to telling her anything, we’d engaged in similar creative processes which existed in my imaginary world. Interestingly, many of them were her ideas. Our friendship was exciting and fulfilling. I might have known her entrance into the fold was inevitable.
Soon enough, and against Gypsy’s wishes, we told Evie everything. Of course, telling someone everything meant they would be welcomed into our circle. It meant we felt they were ready to exist there, with us. Gypsy didn't think so, but I knew Evie, if no other girl before her, was ready.
On January 1st, 2013, Evelyn Waits came home. She brought with her a lot of tenacity, intelligence, raw curiosity and strength of will. She wanted to touch every part of this world and she was determined to do that and let it touch her back. She came at it with the same preparedness to take control that Gypsy had and my same hard-wired knowledge that she belonged here. She fit better than anyone had before, even me. Evie fell in love with each of the Guys and they fell in love right back.
And she named the place Gray House.
Evie came home filled with her own secrets which she slowly divulged to me. That has always been a key element to the successful navigation through this. In a world where you’re allowed to have everything you’ve ever dreamed, you must first be aware of what it is that you dream. Fears, desires, self-interest, and awareness are the first stones in the path to making everything you want to happen happen. I didn’t know it at the time, but the challenge in identifying those things was one which, if truly accepted, would lead to inner god damn peace.
Unbelievable. Everything our logical minds know isn’t real. God, hell, the perfect relationship. I made it all real and ever more real with Evie’s homecoming. Some of the most important things we would learn together is that nothing is real if you don’t let it be and that the only reason something can’t be real to someone is if they don’t think they deserve it. All this and its potential had always been unbelievable to people and that was largely due to an overwhelming consensus that meant something along the lines of... No, it’s too good to be true.
And it's not even about belief. I can't say it enough, I never asked anyone to believe. I asked them to pretend.
Early on, Evie began bringing things my attention which would change my entire life, my way of seeing myself, my history, and the rest of the world. She was always doing that. Relentlessly and effortlessly, she pointed myself out to me the way I had to all those girls who’d come before. She was the first person to ever really look at me. The only person. And the very first of those things she showed me would come on a cold afternoon in January, just after her arrival home.
“You act like I can’t ever love you like you love me.”
And she was absolutely right.
I had spent my entire life looking at other people and following their secrets to ends unimaginable. I had been so in love with so many people and their deepest selves, the ones they could never give anyone but me. And that had never been reciprocated. Evie put forth the idea I had, to that point, considered everyone to be art, or toys. And she was not wrong. That came from never being seen by people the way I saw them. I was really looking and everyone else was just... asleep.
But Evie was awake and looking right at me and she refused to let me ignore that. Thank God for her. She saved my life. She understood the things about this world that none of the other girls had, and together, we would learn it’s true purposes, which are as endless as we are.
On January 4th, 2013, we began a conversation through text, email, and online chat. We only broke for sleep and the most obligatory of “real life” maintenances. The first thing we do upon waking, every morning, is text one another. The last thing we do at night is text each other. To this day, we have not stopped this conversation. It’s been 16 months, almost to the day. No, we do not run out of things to talk about.
Sometime in late January, Evie and I confessed we were in love. By February, we would be an official couple.
From day one, Evie wrote down everything important that happened to her in Gray House, and those pieces of writing, combined with our recorded conversation gave way to a good look at the potentials of this world. Living art, living self-discovery. It was a challenge to learn oneself and the secrets of the universe, simultaneously. It was a challenge to know inner freedom, to break everything you thought you knew clean in half and realize your inner definitions and how they differ from modern day humanity’s evolution of terms. We began stripping the whole world’s contexts away and replacing them with what we knew in our heart of hearts.
Before the summer of 2013, Gypsy’s poison had turned to pure hate. We still debate the psychological issues of the Gypsy but for whatever sociopathic reason, she began implementing negative, spiteful things into our space. It wouldn’t take long for Evie and me to freeze her out. I still see her and we’re still technically friends but she won’t ever come back here and wouldn’t want to. She did not believe we all belonged together. She didn’t want art, she wanted destruction or to prove that destruction was what I wanted. Either way, for her emotional abuse of imaginary boys, she’s banished.
Update: It's May 9th, 2017 and upon the 20 year anniversary of Ouija Board Night, I'm posting this to explain what this day means to me.
Since this was written, Evelyn and I have begun an online prototype of Gray House, a website that will soon be accessible to the world. Our goals have become extremely clear. We want the world to know about Gray House and to start an artistic and existential revolution behind it. We want everyone to know the true power of make-believe and extend the tools we’ve developed for gaining self-awareness and redefining everything the social structures of the world have taught us to believe about everything from war to sex to ourselves.
For more about how things work between Evelyn and me and what's going on in Gray House before the books are published and the online community is up and running, please subscribe to our blog posts.