An Unusual Person

When I first started writing my novel I had it l in my mind that certain things were certain things. Historically speaking. As I’m finishing it my perspective on a great many things and individual people in history and in the present has dramatically shifted.

But perhaps the most disturbing shift has been my perspective on Lem Billings. The supposed paramour and long-time best friend of JFK… I went from assuming he was gay and profoundly but tragically in love with JFK to highly suspecting that he was actually an abused, straight, extraordinarily lost character in history. Not JFK’s “other person” but more JFK’s long-term victim.

And yet there was this nice little lull in between those two views when I thought he might actually have been bisexual. A deeply fascinating, daring, wild and free-spirit. Sort of like a male Zelda Fitzgerald. Gorgeous, sexy, and decidedly unique. I thought his attraction to women was rare and never well discussed, although Red Fay had hinted at it. I thought he was a sublime sort of personage, probably…

But then this gnawing, terrible “sense” that he was indeed not bisexual but shockingly heterosexual overwhelmed me. Sort of like when I’m at a horribly haunted site (like Gettysburg) and I feel the strong presence of something otherworldly that emphatically wants to be heard or acknowledged. Like someone unseen is literally screaming at me. Yes, yelling at me. It feels a little bit like the internal feeling of being verbally accosted by someone alive standing off to the side or behind you but without the noise…

And so, over time, I started to form the hypothesis that he was this…extremely misunderstood man. A truly tragically straight man who made a fairly innocent and wildly daring leap in thinking he was homosexual to explain away a very traumatic experience of being abused and a generally difficult time in his life. And Lord knows homophobic non-straight people sometimes use abuse stories to excuse homosexual behavior away from their declared orientation. I recall reading one such story written by a man who I felt was lying in an edition of my parent’s “Charisma” magazine around age 12 or so… …But for every fake story like that…there’s likely to be one or two that aren’t fake. And now I think Lem might be one of them as a psychologically hidden, nearly cloistered, self-confused into knots, super-intellectual, deeply romantic man. A man who I’d sadly bet killed himself feeling he’d ruined his life and hated himself for it. Loathed what a fool he felt he’d made of himself. Possibly was grossed-out by his faux sexuality and the way he’d cast himself incorrectly as someone else. Lived another man’s life…and made himself a pariah to himself. Felt incredibly alone. Trapped in his “persona.”

Might still sound preposterous until you consider his life-long obsession with Tintoretto. That part of his psychology makes absolutely no sense with the view of him being gay, in my humble opinion. Or possibly even bisexual. (And no, not only non-straight men are fascinated by or “good at” art.) It’s…in Tintoretto’s art as seen through Lem Billing’s eyes that you might see a true reflection of Lem Billings. The real one. The possibly straight one.

Of course, I could be wrong. But what if I’m not? What if I’m right? It haunts me daily. We’ll see if it ever ceases. If it doesn’t, it will affect me. Of course. It already has.

And how has the possibility affected me? I realized my own lies. Or rather, more accurately, careless, depressive over-concessions. Possibly not lies, as they’re told to appease and allow for harmony, peace and psychological privacy. But they’re lies even if not told necessarily with a lying heart.

I don’t often relate to other people’s shadow sides. But I suppose that’s the beauty of writing. You can sort things out if God let’s you.