Keep in Touch

A Story by Devin Da Graca

Introduction: The Story Behind the Story

I wrote "Keep in Touch" back when I was in the 11th Grade. I had no idea what graduation would have in store for me, so for the most part, the premise was completely imaginative. During the stories release here at Dan's, nearly a year ago, my friend's mother had inadvertently stumbled upon it and found it to be insulting and in bad taste- this was due to the fact that I had poked fun at a character based on her son, my friend, Kevin. Stupid me, I didn't bother to think of changing my friend's real life name into a fictional one, which is how she was able to find "Keep in Touch"- through a search engine using her last name as the key word. She called me and threatened to sue me unless I were to remove the story from the web site, so I did.

Having already graduated and on my way to college (if you want to be technical, *community college), I was able to experience graduation, as well as my senior year, and found it to be quite different than what I had imagined and written it to be. So, as it is said, "Authors write what they know", I began to rewrite "Keep in Touch", incorporating what really did happen, into a story that was based on what didn't happen. Needless to say, I've chosen to change some of the names of the characters from the previous draft, to both protect the names of the innocent, as well as myself.

With that said, this particular version of "Keep in Touch" is a more accurate, more realistic, and even biographical look at one of the most important and influential night's of my life. And, let it also be known, that the characters featured in this story, although based on real-life people, my friends in most cases, tend to take on a life of their own, sometimes defying the actualities of these real-life people in order to create more entertainment than what possibly could have been provided had they been written in their truest sense- that's just the way writing goes.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy this first chapter that introduces the main character (myself) and my father. Chapters will be split up into specific hours, which may give the feel that this story is poorly edited, but that's just the way I chose to write it.

Thanks for reading,

Devin Da Graca

CHAPTER ONE - 9 AM

I'd been standing in front of the mirror for three minutes. When you're alone, one minute can feel like ten, and since I was alone, I'd been standing in front of the mirror for thirty minutes; thirty 'alone-time' minutes that is. In those three minutes, my entire high school career, which was to officially conclude itself in just sixty minutes, had flashed before my eyes at a speed at which seemed abnormally fast for a four year summary. The day I had prayed would come quicker, the day I had fondly thought about while pretending to silently read Great Expectations in 9th grade English, had finally snuck up on me at a time I wish it hadn't- a time when I was just beginning to look back on and appreciate the years which lead to this moment.

Once those mental reflections had commenced, I found myself in front of the mirror again, dressed in a white-collar shirt and black slacks. A gray colored tie rested on my shoulders, undone due to my lack of tying ability. After several attempts of trying to tie the strip of fabric appropriately around my neck, I had given up, studying the unsolvable puzzle in the reflection of the bathroom mirror. I would decode a line of hieroglyphics before ever figuring out the mysterious ways of the wretched necktie.

"Hurry up in there, I have to take a shit," my father spoke into the closed door, as if whispering a sin into a confession booth.

My father- a man who was straight and to the point. If he were to fill out a form that asked for his place of residency, he wouldn't put down 'Burbank, California' as it was, he'd put down 'bathroom' instead, for a more accurate response.

"Use the other bathroom," I told him.

"Yeah, remind me to call the plumber when we get back. You almost done?" my dad said nonchalantly.

My face soured at the thought of what he'd done to the other bathroom to acquire the assistance of a plumber.

"I need you to help me with my tie," I said, unlocking the door.

"What else is new," my dad replied walking in.

At forty-six years of age, my father looked to be in his mid-thirties. He was average in height, about six feet, and had a strong build for someone his age. Many would accuse us of being brother's before ever assuming we were father and son. My dad loved it when people thought that, while I was more disturbed by the assumption than I was flattered.

Facing the mirror once again, my father now stood behind me, looking into the reflection as he tied the tie.

"Look at this handsome guy. Inherited your old man's good looks no doubt," he told me, tugging on the tail of the tie, trying to make sure the length was just right.

"I think my mom made more of a contribution to the looks-department than you did," I teased.

There was no such thing as 'my mom'. She had left both my father and I several years ago, when I was just seven years old. Whenever she had been brought up into conversation my dad had usually resulted in calling her a 'slut' or made reference to her ability to sleep around under one's nose. Once in a while though, he'd speak of her fondly, and always respected that she took part in my creation. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't exist, and my dad knew that. It was also because of my mother's disappearance that my father and I had developed a sort of roommate relationship; we shared a house together and together, as two men, experienced the difficulties of managing a household without the aid of a woman. We did our own laundry, we cooked our own food via microwave, and we respected each other's space. most of the time.

My dad smirked, "Yeah, right. Heard you talking all night long. You must've been on the phone for a good three hours. Who were you talking to? Kelly?"

"That would be the one, yes."

"What are you two anyway? You always talk about her, to her- you guys boyfriend and girlfriend?"

"What? No, we're friends dad, that's all."

"But you like her. more than just a friend I mean?" he asked, brushing down the flaps of my collar.

"I don't know, maybe. It's complicated," I explained to him.

"Complicated? Ask the girl out already. I'm telling you- you inherited my looks, not your mother's. The only thing you seemed to have inherited from her is her pussy and no girl likes a pussy. Unless she's a lesbian, but I'm talking in the metaphorical sen-

"Yes, okay, I got it," I told the man, not wanting him to enter an area of conversation most old-fashioned father/son relationships wouldn't dare to engage.

Before I could leave the bathroom to my father's disposal, he tapped me on the shoulder.

"You look damn good son- like a real man," my dad said, in a tone that had set off several alarms in my conscience that the guy was on the verge of getting emotional, which was an emotion neither of us expressed very well, at least not to each other.

"And what did I used to look like to you before now? A woman? I've always been a real man dad," I told him.

The alarms were sounding louder in my head as my dad took a few steps towards me, in an attempt to ambush me with a hug.

"I know, I know, but now you're graduating," he said, doing what the alarms in my head indicated he would- hugging me tightly. "Feels like just yesterday when I took you to preschool and you had your lunch pale in your hand, wearing those suspenders that made you look like a life-size Chucky doll."

"Yup," I said, patting the old man on the back.

"I'm so proud of you," he continued, returning the pats.

"Yeah, I know, listen we have to go. We have less than an hour to get to the church. Should probably go and take your shit now," I said, trying to remove myself from his strong grip.

"Oh," he returned, letting go.

An awkward silence ensued, but my dad was quick to retrieve the fumbled conversation.

"Go ahead and start the car, I'll be out in a jiffy, God willing," he said.

"Sounds good," I told him, the both of us splitting into separate directions.

While picking up my red cap and gown and heading for the car, it hit me- this was it. My high school days, which were so often referred to by my dad as the 'days you'll never forget', were over. By 10:30 AM today, I would have my diploma in one hand and adulthood in the other. I was always thinking of how great this day would be, but I just wasn't sure if I was ready for it quite yet. Ready or not, this day was going to happen and I was going to be a Class of 2004 Village Christian School graduate.

CHAPTER TWO - 10 AM

Seated in alphabetical order, I found myself sandwiched between David Cohen and Jake Dubowski. David, who sat to my left, was the class nerd. He slicked his hair back, harvested numerous pimples on his frail physic, and when he laughed was either in need of an inhaler or a shovel to his face, as it was the most annoying sound you'd ever hear. To my right was Jake, who was rumored, and has been rumored for several years now, to be homosexual. Before the graduation ceremony he'd told me in an act of what seemed to be confidential, "You know what would have been really cute? If they'd made the cap tassels a variation of colors and not just gold. You know, like a mixture of red, gold, and white." In return, I had told him, "You should be a graduation gown designer" to which he replied, with a snap of the wrist, "Laugh out loud, I know!"

Yup, he was gay alright.

The church was humongous, but looked smaller thanks to the hundreds of parents and family friends that compacted the place. Scheduled to be an hour ceremony, within fifteen minutes I was already beginning to grow weary of the tedious event. The day had already started off as a warm one, 85 degrees I think the thermometer outside had indicated, and the stage lights were of no help, as it beat down on our polyester gowns with an unrelenting mercy. We all just sat there, under the hot lights, like a bunch of impatient chicks ready to escape incubation.

Turns out I wasn't the only one growing impatient. Looking around, I found many of my fellow graduates entertaining themselves- Brandon and Kevin, two of my best friends, were busy abusing each other. Brandon would smack Kevin upside the head, knocking off his cap, allowing a few seconds to pass until he repeated the action, while all Kevin did was thrust his clenched fist towards Brandon, stopping just inches within physical impact as if his arm were being restrained by a chain. This 'art of war' pattern continued throughout the ceremony.

Daniel and Jim, two of my other friends, who sat several seats away from each other, had connected their Game Boy's together- the two of them fighting to the deaths, a brutal game of tetris. It didn't take long for their game to be interrupted though, as Miss Floyd, the 11th grade American History teacher who looked like Dustin Hoffman (perhaps the reason she was still a "miss" in her 53rd year in life) pulled the connecting cable, whilst quietly scolding them. Their reaction to the incident was similar to how two preschooler's would respond to a bully knocking over their building blocks, only in this day and age, their response included not only a look of disappointment, but also the middle finger, which the two of them made sure would be facing her backside as opposed to her front.

Lisa, a former girlfriend of mine and current 'undecided', sat in her chair, pulling and retracting a string of gum with her finger. As I watched her, I found it funny how throughout the years, she'd been able to drag me on a roller coaster of emotion, frequently changing what I felt for her along the way. From love to hate, friend to foe, and back to friend again, one thing was certain- we had history together, much of which had formed me into the person I was today. So, no matter how often I'd thought of how we came to be, what had ended our dating relationship, I couldn't deny the impact she had left on my life. She had led me to believe that it's the people who change us that deserve a place in our lives, not the one's who don't. For better or worse, I came to the decision that she was a keeper.

"Supposed to be on the left side pal," Kelly whispered into my ear, sliding my tassel from the right side of my cap, to the left.

I turned around in my seat and found Kelly smiling at me. I was eighteen years of age, and even then, Kelly always somehow managed to make me feel like a shy little seven year old that was still susceptible to cuddies. At the same time, Kelly also had the tendency to bring out the very best comedian in me- that, I believe, was due to her smile, which was a sight to inspire any man to become a funny one.

I returned the smile and waved for her to lean in closer. Once she was close enough, I moved her tassel to the right of her cap and whispered, "So you can be cool like me."

She laughed and leaned back into her seat. God she was beautiful. Sometimes her beauty was intimidating, making everything around her ugly, including you. She'd been going to Village Christian for seven years and in those seven years, I noticed her, but that's about it. Then, just this last semester, we shared a theater arts class together that forced us to be on speaking terms. As the months pressed on, we became more and more comfortable with each other, to the point where she started calling me just because she was "bored". I guess she got bored a lot.

"Devin!" Miss Floyd interjected, calling my attention towards the front. She placed her finger in front of her lips and pointed towards our high school principal, Mr. Plaisance, who was in the middle of giving the graduation address. I nodded my head apologetically and turned my head to face Mr. Plaisance.

"This is it you guys," Mr. Plaisance, an overweight man of color said, "from here on out, everything that happens, happens because you made it happen. You're the boss- you make your own decisions under your own permission and restriction. I can only hope that your time here at Village has made you aware of what those right decisions are. Take everything you've learned here at school and apply it to the hereafter."

The man paused, turned his head to face us and said, "I'm going to miss all of you and it's truly a privilege to end my career as a high school principal with you guys, the class of 2004. That said, let's graduate you knuckle heads!"

And then it started; the never-ending distribution of diplomas. There were 135 graduating seniors, with about 25 of them having last names that were composed of seven syllables, most of which were of the Armenian nature. It took forever for the diplomas to be handed out and for the graduate to shake a line of hands that belonged to the school board- maybe it just seemed like it took forever because I was purposely slowing motion to make the moment last. Whatever the case had been, it was amazing to watch the people I'd grown up with graduate into, what we were being called, 'adults'. It was all too surreal, almost unaffecting because the thought of us growing up and moving into adulthood seemed impossible.

By the time the diplomas had found their way to every letter of the alphabet, Mr. Plaisance took in one last look at our graduating class and breathed the following words that ignited our freedom: "Congratulations class of 2004, you are now Village Christian High School graduates."

To my surprise, and I'm sure to the surprise of the audience and faculty, very little hats were thrown into the air. The majority of the class, myself included, were more preoccupied with the thought of moving after having spent an hour seated underneath hot lights.

"Graduates!" Mr. Plaisance addressed, just as we were making our way off the stage, "Don't forget! The busses to Disneyland leave at 6 PM sharp. So make sure you show up at school at least fifteen minutes ahead of time. Anytime past 6 PM and we'll leave with or without you."

Making my way down the stage steps, I decided to swipe away any emotional feelings lured out by the graduating moment and label them as 'unneeded' as the day was not over. Grad night was still to come and even more memories were in store for the class of 2004- our last moments together had yet to arrive.