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from Fifty Shades of Grace
by Nicholas J. Deere

(Caution: some readers may be more sensitive to this subject matter than others. Please use discretion when reading or sharing this book.)

INTRODUCTION: Unspoken Memories

Some memories are too precious to be spoken out loud; doing so might shatter the special place they hold in our hearts. But some memories are too precious not to be spoken out loud, when doing so might bring hope and healing to the hearts of those who hear them.

Memories are powerful things. They can stick with you for life, like this one shared by a character named Mr. Bernstein in the movie Citizen Kane. A reporter had asked Mr. Bernstein how Charles Kane could have possibly remembered a fleeting moment with a girl from so many years earlier. Mr. Bernstein replied:

“You’re pretty young, Mr. Thompson. A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’d remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that girl.”

You probably have memories like these. I know I do. This book is full of them.

I’ve never shared most of these memories with anyone, and I’m hesitant to share them with you now. It’s not because I don’t want you to know about them (well, there’s a little bit of that), but it’s because they are so personal to me, so intimate, that I’m afraid by sharing them they might somehow shatter.

I’m afraid to share them because I would hate to have someone take them lightly or laugh at them (although some of them are light and laughable). I’m afraid to share them because of what someone might think of me. I wonder if they would still love me the same if they really knew some of my innermost thoughts. I’m afraid to share them because some of them are truly embarrassing—I can’t believe I thought and did some of the things I share in this book.

At the same time, I believe that some of these memories could be very helpful (extremely helpful, in fact), especially for anyone who has pondered any of the thoughts and feelings that I share here. I remember walking through “the stacks” in the graduate library at the University of Illinois when I was a freshman. As an underclassman, I had to get special permission to go into those rows upon rows of books housed in room after room of that massive library. But I had a mission. I wanted (I needed) to find out what other people thought about some of the things I was grappling with in my mind.

There was no Internet back then; nowhere to quickly look up the topics that were burning on my heart. I was excited to find that at least a few books were listed in the card catalog on these subjects. But after getting permission to enter the stacks, I was disappointed to find that the books on these topics took up a mere five or six inches of shelf space out of the hundreds of shelves that filled that one room. I thumbed through each of those books, but found them to be clinical and dry, doing little to help me with my practical questions.

I wish I had held this book in my hands back then. I think I would have been amazed to find that someone else had the same thoughts and experiences I was having. I would have loved to learn from them as much as I could, whether I agreed with their conclusions or not. I just wished someone would have shared their thoughts and memories with me.

So after all these years of gathering and storing these precious memories in my mind, I’d like to pull them out and share them with you. My hope is that you’ll be able to benefit from them in a special way.

Before you dive into this book, however, I want to give you a fair warning. This is a love story. If you’re not interested in reading about passion and romance, heartbreak and sex (or staying up late to find out what’s next), then this isn’t the book for you.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to explore and experience a life lived in love, with all of its glorious, unpredictable and multi-faceted dimensions, then read on. It’s for you that I’ve shared these “unspoken memories.”

Nicholas J. Deere
May 25, 2015

P.S. The memories I share in this book are all true;
Just the names have been changed (including mine, too).
When choosing a pen name I even mulled over
Names like Laurel or Mary (or Debbie Macomber?),
’Cause who wants to read romance that’s been penned by a guy?
But if Shakespeare could do it… (then I guess so can I!).

CHAPTER 1: Turkish Delight

We were just kids. Seven, maybe eight years old. Two boys just messing around. My friend and I were playing in my parents’ bedroom when we discovered my mom’s jewelry drawer, so we started trying on her rings and bracelets. My friend found her lipstick and put some on his lips. We laughed. I put some on mine and we laughed again.

The next thing I knew we were rolling around on the bed, kissing and laughing and getting lipstick all over our faces. It was a total blast. I had kissed a boy, and I liked it.

A few years later we were in junior high. I was sleeping over at his house one night after a club meeting. He fell asleep in the bed next to mine, but I couldn’t sleep. As I looked at him lying there on the bed, I wondered what it would be like to kiss him again. I wondered if he would remember we had kissed before. I wondered if I should wake him up and see.

But I was too nervous to find out. I rolled back over in my bed and finally fell asleep. I never did mention it to him.

Things were different now, though. Now I was in college and living on my own. I was spending the summer on campus between my freshman and sophomore years at the University of Illinois. I worked on the grounds crew during the day, mowing the quad, picking up litter and weeding the flower beds at the base of the Alma Mater, a motherly statue that welcomed students to the school from all over the world.

One of those students that she welcomed was my new friend Mathieu. He had come to the U of I from overseas, and we became friends during my freshman year in the dorms. My parents had always hosted international friends and students at our farm a few hours away, and I had traveled enough by then myself to know how hard it was to be a stranger in a strange land. So I went out of my way to make friends with Mathieu. We hung out after work, going for pizza at Garcia’s or walking and talking on the quad.

One afternoon, when we were hanging out at his place, he got up to get something off the shelf across the room. As he walked past me, I couldn’t help but notice how nice his khaki pants fit on him. They looked soft and smooth and snug in all the right places. I wish mine fit like that, I thought.

But my next thought went beyond just thinking about how nice his pants looked on him. I wondered how they would feel on him. I thought it would be so easy to reach out and touch them with my hands, running my fingers over the smooth cloth, feeling the folds of the material as it disappeared around the curve of his bottom. I could never do it, of course. I could never reach out and touch another man like that. But the thought did run through my mind. I wish I had pants that fit like that, I thought again.

The next day, Mathieu came over to my house after work. I was living with an elderly woman, a long-time friend of the family whose father had taught at the university many years before. She was still active in a variety of campus events, so she was gone from the house much of the time. She was gone again that night when Mathieu came over to hang out with me.

As we sat on the front porch, a screened-in entryway to the house which was secluded by plants and vines that grew up and over the wide-arching windows, Mathieu opened up and shared with me a painful story from his past. When he was young, he was raped by two women. He said he knew it must sound odd for a man to be raped by two women. But against his will they had touched him, aroused him and forced themselves on him.

He hesitated frequently as he told me the story. I could see it had impacted him deeply, so I listened quietly and let him talk. He went on to tell me that this experience had affected his view of women, particularly in regards to how he viewed them sexually.

I felt sorry for him and for the impact it had upon him. Having never had a sexual encounter myself at that point, I could only imagine what he must have experienced. The net effect on him, he said, was that he felt uncomfortable around women sexually. He said he actually felt more comfortable around men.

The more we talked, the more I was able to share with him my own discomfort at the idea of having sex with a woman, not because of any negative experience I had with women like he had shared, but because I always wanted to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect. I had many close friends who were girls when I was growing up, and hearing the way they talked about the guys they dated, I never wanted to be like one of them. So I always tried to treat women with gentleness and respect. I kept my eyes in contact with theirs whenever I could, never letting my eyes glance down below their neck, even if I wanted to take a look. I went out of my way to make sure women knew I wasn’t interested in doing any of the things that other men did with them. In so doing, I became a “safe” friend for many women. They shared their personal thoughts with me, and I was glad for their confidence.

Men, on the other hand, were more of a mystery. Although I had a few close guy friends growing up, I wasn’t friends with a lot of the “manly man” types of guys at our school. I had never seriously considered homosexuality as an alternative to having sex with a woman, other than a few fleeting moments, like the time I spent the night at my friend’s house in junior high. But that didn’t keep other guys at school from thinking I was gay. They said I was always hanging around with girls, but not the way they hung out with girls.

It didn’t help that I loved doing things like singing and dancing, playing the piano and the flute and doing gymnastics. In a town where most of the guys played football or basketball or wrestled each other to the ground, I was pretty much out of step. I had a high sensitivity to pain, and I never liked contact sports because of it. This alienated me, of course, even further from the guys all around me. I played in the marching band, sang in the choir and took dance and gymnastics at a bigger town nearby. When the guys called me a faggot or said that I must be gay, I had to look up the words in the dictionary because I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I was just doing things I loved to do. I never thought of myself as gay, and I was hurt and bummed that they thought I was. I wished they could have liked me and appreciated me for who I was.

Why did I love doing those things? I played the piano because everyone in my family played the piano, from my brother and sister, to my mom and dad, to my grandma and grandpa. I played the flute and did gymnastics because a man from Switzerland came to visit us at the farm one day. He pulled out a flute that he said he played when he went on long walks through the Swiss Alps. And when he walked on his hands across our living room floor, I thought that was the coolest thing ever. So when I had a chance to be in the band at school and pick out an instrument, I picked out the flute. When my sister took gymnastics and I went along for the ride, I asked my mom if I could take lessons and learn how to walk on my hands, too! I didn’t think there was anything gay or girlish about these things, because I had learned about playing the flute and doing gymnastics from one of the manliest “mountain men” I had ever met.

I was also in no way averse to women. I remember holding hands and cuddling up next to my first sweetheart in fourth grade after ice skating around the pond in town. I shared a kiss with another girl a few years later after riding bikes for miles and miles around the country roads near our farm. I dated another girl in high school and loved kissing her lips while sitting on the living room floor at her house in front of the fireplace. (But when we tried to french kiss one day after hearing our friends talk about it, I felt we had crossed a line that we shouldn’t have crossed. I didn’t know why, but it felt like we were going too far, so we retreated back to holding hands and friendly kisses.) Being physically close to her felt so good and I loved spending time with her, but we eventually broke up and went our separate ways after high school. When I went to college, I even met a few women that first year and thought, Wow! I’d love to marry her…or her…or her! 

But now, here I was with Mathieu, a man who, for the first time in my life, seemed to truly appreciate my gifts and my talents, from music and dance to drama and gymnastics. As he shared his aversion to women and his interest in men, I realized he might be interested in more with me, too. I couldn’t believe it! Just the day before, as he had walked past me on his way to the bookshelf, I wondered what it would be like to reach out and touch him, to feel the folds of his khaki pants as they curved around his bottom.

The more we talked, the more I realized I was facing a dilemma I had never faced before. When he finally asked me what I thought about everything he had just said, I couldn’t hold back from telling him the truth. I told him what I had thought when he walked past me the day before, that I wondered what it would be like to touch another man—to touch him. He asked me if I’d like to find out.

I couldn’t imagine there would ever be a better opportunity. We were all alone, we had nothing but time on our hands and we were already sharing some of the most intimate moments of our lives with each other.

We began to touch each other in ways that I had never touched, or been touched by anyone else before, whether male or female. We were fully aroused, just touching each other with our hands. Although we never had full sexual intercourse, we definitely brought each other to a full and mutually agreeable climax. And it felt good. Really good. I had kissed a man, and I liked it.

I felt like Edmund must have felt in the Chronicles of Narnia books when the White Witch gave him his first taste of Turkish delight. I had never tasted anything more delicious.  And I just wanted more and more and more.

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Fifty Shades of Grace - Front Cover