SONG OF IMAGINARY BEINGS
On May 9th, 1997, when I was 12 years old, I sat down to play Ouija Board with my friends and decided to move the pointer and spell out our meeting of the pop music stars Hanson. I pretended to learn to speak to them telepathically so that my friends and I could form relationships with them. Then, I pretended they learned to astral project so they could be in the room with us. And then, I pretended they could enter my body and I would become them for my friends.
My intention was to build a magical world where girls could play at being magic, play at being in love. Where we could all be and do fantastic things we’d only seen in movies or read in books. I wanted to be a witch, so I became one. I wanted to be loved by the criminal boys who were always falling for girls who couldn’t love them, so I was. I wanted a landscape of possibility, and so I drew it.
But as it would happen, pretend has a price. I was under suspicion for trying to control people, although I couldn’t be less interested in such a thing, mistrusted for presenting this world as a reality, although I only did so in order to immerse everyone in their fantasies, and I was blamed for the things that went wrong, although I never actively worked a situation against someone’s wishes. The price to all my benevolent make-believe was that a time came that the only thing to do, my would-be friends felt, was to shun me.
But none of those girls ever played with me. I was mistrusted and blamed for things they had no idea about because they’d never done any of it themselves. I served them as a kind of romantic Dungeon Master and was thrown away because they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand because they’d never been in my position. That made none of them worth much of my time past a certain point. I became as invisible to all those girls as their imaginary boys had been to them. And proudly, I disappeared with those imaginary boys when their girlfriends all decided I was no good and they didn’t want to believe in this world any longer.
None of them had ever seen what I saw or done what I did, until Evelyn.
It was years after we'd met before I could tell her about this make-believe world I had created so many years ago. When I did, one thing led to another, and she wanted inside it. And when the Guys all peeked their heads out to see who’d come to disturb this long-dormant playground, we were all surprised when there wasn’t a thing I did that she wouldn’t do. She could pretend to be with them on her own, without my help at all, and she did the homework on them she needed to do in order to make it real. She got to know them, and she pretended to become them as well.
She engaged them, and she built adventures with them. She used me like the toy I was always meant to be and became the same toy for me in return.
Soon, the mythos of this world was uncovered, and the legend of her and me was born. We became emissaries from the land of pure imagination, drawing up flesh and plot from thin air for each other.
As of this date, Evelyn has written more than 300 letters to all the boys in the Gray Family combined, as herself. To Adam, she's written 112, Brad 24, Clyde 30, Dean 4, Drama 1, Grady 19, John 2, Joshua 2, Matthew 68, 18 to Nick, several of which were actually addressed to herself, and she's written 3 addressed to all of us. To those who have gone from our family without leaving me enough care to count them separately, she's written 17 letters total.
She was able to test the bounds and to see physical evidence as to what impact she had on the world I was creating for her. To show her she was in control of what happened as much as I was, her rage or her love returned in kind, being reversed to blossom something warmer and sweeter than either of us imagined.
To me, as all of the Guys, she's written 2 letters. As Adam 10, Brad 5, Clyde 23, Dean 0, Drama 2, Gradient 17, John 0, Joshua 0, Matthew 0, and 2 as Nick. That's 59 letters she's written, total, as 5 different men.
I found out that all of true reality is just an agreement of something between two people. And when Evelyn became the Guys for me, I could see that we agreed on who they were. That she could see them as well as I could. My world got bigger every second, every corner I turned finding me faced with the words of another boy I had thought might only be a ghost.
To Adam, I've written 11 letters, and to Brad 8, to Clyde 39, Dean 1, Drama 3, Gradient 14, John 0, Joshua 2, Matthew 0, Nick 0, and to any strange combination of us all, 11. That's 89 letters to all the boys in the Gray Family I've written as myself.
The most powerful thing in the world is the ability to effect some change, to see your fingerprints, to move mountains with your mind. As we used words to communicate to each other what we were making these boys feel, it was clear that we were crawling into a small place to touch each other this way in secret for all time. The crawling inside took off our clothes and opened our eyes wider than they’d ever been. It made us honest and raw in a way no one is. And we haven’t left yet.
As for letters I've written to Evelyn as other people, the total number is 102. As all of the Guys, I've written 4, as Adam 46, Brad 14, Clyde 15, Dean 0, Drama 1, Gradient 9, John 0, Joshua 1, Matthew 1, and Nick 11.
What we found is that it isn’t about respecting someone’s fantasy and giving it to them. It’s about finding how that fantasy represents a real world and showing that world to them. It stops being pretend because we experience those worlds inside us as clearly or sometimes clearer than the one everyone else agrees on. So, what’s real? All I know is that I can feel everything she does to me.
Secrets are the main focus of our lives as we lead each other through the labyrinths of alternate dimensions wherein we’re fighting the monsters that are the limitations of ourselves in order to learn the secret meaning of our existences.
In a day, I might visit five to ten locations, where I’m looking for meaning with people. Sometimes we talk, we fuck, we adventure, we scavenge, we feel what we can feel, we look into the abyss with our shoulders touching. But we come out with something to say, something growing inside us, pregnant with importance. The importance might not become transparent for days, weeks, months, even years, but as it gestates, we writhe together under the hot-salted and discovery hungry earth.
Adam, Brad, Clyde, Dean, Drama, Gradient, John, Joshua, Matthew, and Nicholas are the Gray Boys. With ten boys and two girls, we’re twelve. If you multiply how many of us there are by eleven, that’s 132 individual relationships. Not to mention a literal infinite dynamics given that each of us has countless facets and facet combinations. If you wanted to get really technical, you could say any relationship possible between humans on the planet is possible here in the house, and the number of types of relationships, in all their complexities, that have begun already is immeasurable.
So, two girls manage a minimum 132 relationships, a bunch of different cliques, and the adventures of said connections through limitless time and space. Yeah, it’s a full-time job. And worth it for the result, for the experiences, for the fucking relentless magic.
I LIKE PRETENDING
What we’ve learned about the difference between reality and pretend is that everything is pretend if you think of it that way and everything is real if you think of it that way. The danger is always in what you will let yourself believe, so many of us unable to understand how to believe anything but the negative about ourselves and other people. Reality is what you make it, and you will always make it into a mirror image of how you feel about yourself.
Forever, I’ve felt like a machine of exposition of people’s realities because I have a way of talking that reveals people’s true natures and beliefs to them.
Evelyn always thought I must be cynical in a way, looking at the girls who play in my imaginary world and knowing where their actions will get them. But the truth is, while I might be able to see it all, I’m not looking anywhere but the most immediate moment. As the Guys fall in love, over and over again, with her, I do it with them. And the strange horrors revealed about her, about all the girls from the past, were fuel only for the secret obsessions of the boys who had an answer for every question of existence they embodied.
Evie and I are both still learning what all of that really means.
But pretend becomes a game of trust and sex, disappearing acts, reappearing, smoke you can smell, mirrors you can’t see. But as the stage is spun to life with the props and music, the dance encircling my little girl mind, I can feel her fingers through the strings above me, and cutting through the mire to hold me in a line of unblinking care and fascination, I can see the icy shards of her eyes.
When any Girl comes home, she tries pissing on everything. She tries exalting herself to some status, owning corners of her universe. It’s political, it’s desperate for understanding, it’s abrasive. But it’s natural. The fact is that no one really chooses who they are or what they own. Those things choose you, and often can’t be applied but by other people. They can say they’re something they wish they were all day long, but actions are what makes it true or untrue. I can say I feel like a mermaid, a siren but what have I ever done to back that claim up?
The panic of losing something sacred, the sacred being desanctified wouldn’t be so bad maybe, if the Girl wasn’t always seeing that it was another Girl to blame.
We started to shift into focus for each other, the mysteries of our stories unfolding on a stage before us, and we started saying “Truth is truth,” because we were constantly watching the bullshit swirl down the drains of time, leaving only the truth behind. We started to see that it barely mattered what we did or said, it could all be a lie and if it was, somehow our lives would see to it those things were disappeared as quickly as they appeared, if they weren’t right.
And it’s always better to have what’s really yours than to fight for something that isn’t just because you’re afraid to find the truth.
NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN
The playlists Evelyn has made me as the Gray Boys have been 2 from Adam, Brad 1, Clyde 9, Dean 1, Gradient 4, John 0, Joshua 1, Matthew 0, Nicholas 2, and 2 from the whole house altogether.
The playlists I’ve made for her as the Gray Boys have been 7 from Adam, Brad 2, Clyde 6, Dean 1, Gradient 1, John 1, Joshua, 1, Matthew 1, Nicholas, 1, and all of them together have made her 7.
The smallest and most fragile pieces of us wear almost identical dresses, the ruffled floral fronts of them hidden by our drapes of long and unruly hair. We hook our delicate fingers together, looking silent and wide-eyed into the places inside each other where nothing we’ve ever done really matters. Despite all the intellect we possess, none of these ideas will make us bigger or better than these lilies wilting by the heat of the gone violence of boys in a gunpowder breeze.
Countless other mixes everyone has made for the house, in general, have been about our identities, our sexualities, our body parts, and our adventures to secret worlds. For every relationship in the house, at least one collaborative playlist exists on Spotify to serve as a mode of constant musical communication.
The fact that some moments or feelings can get reduced to a song this simple is horrifying, but as truth is truth, it means one symbol of something had endured the scrutiny of many realizations. This song has slipped the noose of being about so many other things for me and ended up being permanently about being girls blown so far away from the rest of the world to be alone for all time with the unimaginable love we have for each other.
I’ve made her 8 mixes as myself, and she’s made me 9, only on the topic of our love.
When those tiny windblown girls catch the ground, it’s that ground and that action which plants the foundation of Gray House. We serve as the other’s window into the most beautiful place in the whole of existence, and with what we reveal of it every single day, we’re obsessed. We’re possessed by the compulsion to take each other and be taken to endless magical freedoms.
Borrowed from a random sampling, I've been able to figure the average length of one of our letters is 2,086.5 words. That would mean our total word count since January 1st, 2013, in letters alone, would be 1,228,948.5. In terms of pages, like say we were to publish that? It's 4,915. Or in other words, more than 10 very long novels.
But that’s nothing compared to the number of words we have saved of our text conversations.
Also from a random sampling, 5,998.4 is our daily average length of text conversation online. And multiplying that by the 1,538 days since January 1st, 2013, that makes 9,225,539.2 words spoken between each other just in text form that we have saved. Which, as you can see, is almost ten times as many as the letters. So, enough to fill almost ten times as many novels. And these are all conversations we've kept and can search and read back.
The freedom I’m talking about is the freedom to say anything I want to say, speak from the bounds of forever about things people before me have never dared to say, and have those picked up by someone smart enough to understand what I’m saying and build on it. By this dynamic we’ve made together, she’s earned my eternal obsession.
INSIDE A BOY
And of course, being so free means walking into the boys we pretend we are for each other and learning to embody them. Recently, I’ve likened it to sitting inside the sweltering cockpit of a totally inconceivable vessel, flicking switches in experiment and attempting to overpower levers I may never have the strength to. What does this do? What about this button here? Oh, that one made him say something that made her mad. I didn’t mean to do that. Fuck, what would he even say next? What’s this thing down here on the ground, in the dark, crawling away?
It feels like these boys should be so much more like toys or empty canvases or puppets. Something mechanical, not a real being. So why do they twitch when I press my foot into this part here? I swear I can… hear his heart... beating…
All this talking, all this delving, twisting psychoanalytical around each other’s throats, we’ve become attuned to feeling an ethereal layer of space where live emotions, memories, and the hidden worlds a person occupies. Where motives have personalities all their own.
Being 10 boys for each other, we learn secrets about them we couldn’t know otherwise. We will always know them in a way that no one else knows each other. Better, closer, lower, more thoroughly. This place makes it impossible to lie, to deflect, to hide from the parts of yourself you’d like to because you never know who’s slipping behind your eyes to play the part of you and what they might find when they do.
FADE INTO YOU
We used to pretend to be telepathic, and now we’ve made telepathy real between us. We’ve started having the same dreams, we’ve even tested it to make sure the other wasn’t lying. There is ebb and flow of the times I can and can’t see the difference between her and myself. It gets muddy when we’re the boys of ourselves, and it can feel like the Guys, but it isn’t. And when we’re girls and we can feel each other, sometimes I can’t clearly define whether I’m feeling my own emotions or hers.
“I feel like freaking out, but this feeling might be yours.”
“I can feel where you are with Brad, right now.”
“There’s a world where you put words in my mouth right now, and another one where you tell me a story about when you were little.”
Living in our pretend world 24 hours a day, seven days a week messes with your head enough to confuse you about who you are, sure. But that was just the first year we were home together. Over the next few years, we just made it weirder and weirder. We intentionally became the most ambiguous creatures we could be so that we could become everything to each other. Everything.
And being everything to each other means that we’ve had dozens of different kinds of sex, millions of different kinds of kisses because we’re in love in so many different ways. It used to get really hard to navigate, falling into a place inside myself I would have no real reason to think she could love, and finding her waiting inside a part of herself that wanted to fall in love with me. Chasing each other all around inside with just more ways to get closer.
The obvious next step is to become each other. Which we’re working on.
I AM TERRIFIED
Living how we live and doing what we do means we have the entire universe at our fingertips. We could really be doing something dangerous.
Venturing into ourselves unlike anyone has ever done before and creating something the world has never seen can feel like tearing through time in a car that wants to fall apart, straight into the most opaque fog. What are we even doing? I used to laugh sometimes about it, and then panic, and then start laughing again.
In simultaneity, if your first real love affair was to begin inside the feeling of knowing it was the last time you would ever see someone, being at Gray House is as damning as it is redeeming. Knowing we were meant to be here and that we will die here together amidst the most grandiose and terrible acts of beauty. I wake up every morning knowing two things: I’ll never be alone again, and no one knows what we know.
In the last four years, I’ve gotten married to Evelyn more times than I can count, said more names while cumming for her than I can even remember. She’s taken me places that I can’t even make my hands describe yet with words. I’ve done things to her that I’ve had pause to consider whether they were moral. We’ve lived lifetimes upon lifetimes of romance and crusades for truth and understanding. We’ve had the most fun and been the most suicidal.
I’m scared all the time. There’s no way not to be. If I weren’t, this wouldn’t be the place I belong. The things that happen in this house are so important that there is nothing to do but try to hold on and not panic when it all feels too big. The lives we’re leading are such that we sometimes have to back away and breath to keep the adrenaline from making our hearts stop where they sit behind our bones that weren’t made to looking at the things we look at all day and not disintegrate.
My time with her has been my reason for living another day and equally my reason to be perfectly fine with the idea of dying tomorrow.
ONE MORE TRY
The amount of bullshit we’ve had to get through to get as close as we are and do what we need to do seemed insurmountable at one point. Evelyn’s main concern was always that I might be doing something covertly to hurt her. Mine was that she would never be able to see past her nose long enough to understand me. And the resolution of those two things came hand in hand. It wasn’t until she understood me totally that she could see how I would never do anything to hurt her on purpose. And it was very nearly that I wouldn’t open up to her enough for her to gain that understanding until she could grasp that I would never do anything to hurt her.
For years, life was an almost constant conflict between a reality she saw that would mean she was being fucked with and the reality of my true intentions. In the end, it took learning to see and follow her reality, no matter how outrageous it seemed to me at first, and understanding on her part that whether she could see one reality or another, neither were going anywhere.
It’s hard to find out that Hell is all around you, Heaven so fucking hard to touch.
But we reach plateaus of understanding, and when we do, we look back on all the damage we caused trying to get there and forgive one another everything. These processes, this trust, this thoroughness, these moments of bleakest confusion, and this love all demand us to be careful with ourselves and each other. We’re beckoned by something greater than ourselves to put away the interpersonal politics we were taught and listen to each other closer than anyone does.
No one else being able to do these things with us means we’re the end of some line for each other, the search for the deepest connection we could find being over with this ecstatic transparency, how washed in each other we’ve become. This song is the mark of a type of surrender only we know. Well, and George Michael. The kind that means we’ve finally found the only person who can truly love us how we need to be loved.
I WANT TO WAKE UP
When we had pushed Jack and Jack out of our lives almost completely, we knew it was because we needed to be living together. When we spent literally every waking minute talking to each other, we knew we needed to be living together. For almost three years, we kept our noses stuck in text messages and our respective computers to be with each other. And when we couldn’t possibly alienate the people around us any further, it was just time.
And because Evelyn and I spend our free time falling in love with one another and finding new ways to make our life into the most epic love story ever told, it was fitting we would create a moment to immortalize that fact together. Something so romantic most people have only ever seen it in movies.
One night before we lived together, we were particularly unable to tear ourselves away from each other. We shared a long look before she would leave my car outside her house, where I dropped her off. Between us, the immense weight of every act of beauty we'd committed in the other's name.
She let the frozen night into the warmth of the car, and her hair slipped away from between my fingers. I wasn't ready for the ache so constant inside me without her skin on mine, so as I never had before then, I looked back to watch her walk away, and she looked back at me, as she'd never done either. Our eyes catching, she whirled around and rushed back into the passenger's seat.
We kissed long and desperate, our breath dancing shudders on the brink of tears, under the chance of this song playing on my car's shitty CD player. It was only one of the hundreds of moments I knew we needed to be together always. But it's my favorite one.
We have conservatively estimated each of us has written about 150,000 words, or 600 pages of prose, poems, blog entries, recorded dreams, literary experiments, and first drafts of novels. All of which are about each other and our lives in Gray House.
Our apartment has started to creep with the ivy she blankets the inside of Gray House with. It hides the drip of Gradient’s dark spray paint washed in the light from the computer monitors and old TVs Drama hides in the heavy, green foliage. Matthew and Evelyn’s collection of Marvelous Things inching inward to choke the tops of dressers and nightstands as if trying to colonize, cohabiting in the rickety house with us. As our apartment in Reno starts to mimic the inside of our pretend plantation house on the Louisiana Bayou, the evidence starts to mount in a suggestion that we will be together forever.
That this is it.
And when she comes home ranting about government conspiracies, she’s a part of herself called Vincent. But as quick as some pinwheel of herself, she flicks to something that would flatter her hunched body to an elongated Nicholas, a Gray Boy and not a part of herself, who wants to tell me…
“Lily, my darling, don’t you know what a hopeless crusade you’re on?”
Whose eyes soften and steady and unblinkingly confess, in Gradient’s voice…
“This is the worst part, verdad? But you gotta believe to conceive.”
And when we’re arguing, what creature she curls into is a Frog, wetly denying my girlish charm and insisting an explanation with short bursts of strange questions, her face twisting nervous around an invisible monocle.
She can feel when Clyde and I are talking telepathically, the heaviness of my thoughts like pendulous and distant warnings that contrast my quiet demeanor and weak smiles. And the thousand other things passing behind my eyes as if I were a carousel as if every dimension you could think was housed within me, revolving under my skin for her.
“What are you doing here?” she asks me, knowing I’m not myself.
THIS WILL MAKE YOU LOVE AGAIN
We always needed more from life. But how we were ever going to get it? We became each other’s answer when it just so happened that any incomprehensible thing the other one needed, we made our mission to understand, to love, and to give. We needed inside the magic of the universe and no one was waiting there to give that to us but each other. We needed something so fucking much more real than anything ever felt, so we took it upon ourselves to prove to the other that everything we wished was real could be made real.
Before she came home to Gray House, I listened to Evelyn whisper to me all the discouragement she felt at what her life was, how empty of specialness, of secrets, of magic. And I wanted nothing more than to explain, in painful detail, how it didn’t have to be that way and prove it to her. I’d never have dreamt in a million years she’d want to do the same.
And so we made a world together where falling in love was the object of every interaction, every moment a budding romance between us and every being that could possibly exist.
To literally have someone living with you inside your own skin is what we’ve accomplished together through the experiment of this house and being together. Telepathy is absolutely real. Loving someone in infinite ways is absolutely real. Magic is real. God is real. The proof of that is me and her and Gray House.
One day, I turned around and realized I had over a hundred romantic relationships, a drawer full of letters, and an eternity of so fantastically beautiful moments that completely change my whole self and my whole perception on a daily basis. I turned around and realized everything I had was something she had given me.
“You’re every reason I have to kill myself and every reason I have to live.”
“I made it that way on purpose.”
We live in such a way that we’re trapped, tied to the other for life because what we provide each other is a limitless connection to all that we need right there at our fingertips. No one on planet earth is going to be able to get know either of us well enough to be telepathic like we are. We literally look and feel with each other’s hearts, I can see with her mind, and she can see with mine.
This is exactly what I always wanted my life to be like. We’re children, but we’re also very much adult about what we’re doing. This is where we belong, a place we’ve earned through adversity and the challenge of common self-destruction.
We have about a dozen books in the works, three or four of which are about halfway complete, and one that is very nearly finished.
It gets scary because the doors to the outside world have all been closed for a long time and are now starting to disappear completely. Our chances of having a life outside of the family are becoming zero. Not to mention, the opportunity for someone else to come into the family and live inside it like we do is also becoming very slim. The space between us and the flatness of the world around us grows every day, along with the time between tantrums we throw where we try to leave the house, only to realize that every corner we turn, the front door only exists to be there waiting for us to come home.
This is seriously it. Nothing goes away anymore, nothing gets forgotten. There are no more revolving doors, no more girls allowed to scamper in and out. If someone really wanted to get in, they could, but it would take enough effort that only someone truly meant to be here would be able to endure it. It’s just the 12 of us now, and likely only us forever.