Story and art by Frank-Joseph Frelier
We called ourselves “The Jupiter Moons.”
It started at Kimberly Hobson’s docks, the summer of 2003. She always threw the best river parties – picnics and barbecues, rafting and wakeboarding, cliff jumping, kayaking and canoeing – but this was a blowout. Our green caps and graduation gowns hung fresh in their plastic bags, but our high school classes were over. We’d made it.
The day before graduation was spent basking in the pure Idahoan sun, enjoying the magnificent stretch of water before us. The Snake River was the life of our small farming town, and for many of my friends, their families depended on it. The ever-present ffttt! fffttt! ffftt! of wheel lines watering nearby fields was a sound so in sync with our way of life, I hardly gave it a second thought.
Signing yearbooks on the grass, I noticed my two best friends kneeling on the dock, peering over the edge and poking at a bobbing dead fish. The boys were always up to some mischief; baby-faced Matt the antagonist with the far-fetched ideas, and long and lanky Nick the executor. Countless evenings had been spent howling in unison at their antics – Jared and I buckled over, clutching our stomachs from laughter as Nick’s repetitious cackle joined Matt’s booming chortle.
I was just reading over Megan’s note when the all too familiar cackle arose. “You are amazingly funny, smart, and talented. I expect to see you in lights, and your name on the big screen one day! Use your potential, and keep smiling. Idaho will miss you.”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” screamed Kara. “Nick, you are DISGUSTING!” Inevitably, it was Matt who had found the stick, and Nick who had sent the fish hurtling toward us.
“A flying fish!” he gasped between cackles.
“Get in the boat, we’re going cliff jumping!” ordered Jared, flashing past me. Sculpted by Michelangelo himself, Jared was lean and fit from hours logged building potato cellars for his father’s construction company. His sun-kissed skin was the color of mahogany, and he lacked the typical marking of a farmer’s tan. He had been my secret crush since the 7th grade.
“Franklin, when are you leaving for California?” asked Abby, Jared’s girlfriend since kindergarten. If Jared was Michelangelo’s greatest work, then Abby was Botticelli’s. They were the golden couple, the best of friends, and two of my closest confidants.
Jared revved the motor, and we sped upriver. “Two weeks, actually. I’m spending time with my grandparents before orientation,” I yelled as the warm river breeze whipped around us.
She slid over the hot leather cushions and embraced me, “That’s so soon! We’re going to throw you a party.”
“A river party,” Jared chimed in.
I stared across the calm expanse of river before us, the sun-drenched cliffs quickly approaching.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
I wish we could have this conversation in person. I never intended, or wanted, to tell you via email, but I thought you should be the first to know. As one of my best friends, I hope you can forgive me for holding this huge secret from you.
I’m gay. I’ve known for years – since grade school. I tried to suppress and hide my feelings, did my best to be “normal.” But I’ve learned that being gay is part of who I am, and I pray this doesn’t scare you away.
Coming out as a gay man has required tremendous strength and courage. The open-minded, liberal environment of college has allowed me to do so, and I am happy to have finally found my voice. I hope you can understand why it was impossible for me to do so in Idaho.
I don’t want you to think that I am a different person. I’m the same Frank you grew up with, and my feelings for you have not changed. You’re my best friend and nothing will change that. I just don’t want things to be different. I hope we can move on and still remain close friends. Thank you for understanding.
My eyes swelled with tears, and I brusquely swiped them away, transfixed on the computer before me. Not two days had passed since I’d hit “send” that I received my first response. Matt, like the other three boys, was serving his Mormon Mission abroad. It was weeks before Christmas, and the only way he could communicate with this family for the next two years from Mexico was for limited amounts of time online.
Frank, you’re an idiot if you think this effects our friendship in any way. You’re my brother, and I will always love you.
“This is it! We’re no longer boys, but men!” Jared beamed. It had been his idea to jump from the 40-foot cliff, the highest point along the sheer drop, and a feat none of us had dared try before. Even Matt had not been so bold.
“Oh my heck, this is going to hurt so bad!” Nick nervously laughed.
“Keep your legs shut, or you’ll bust you’re junk.”
“Would that really happen?” Nick asked in alarm. He stood steadfast, a dozen feet from the edge, arms crossed.
“We’ll find out.”
Fifty feet from the cliff two boats bobbed, waiting to scoop us out of the murky river. Abby and Kara egged us on while our other friends sat in expectant silence. Waiting.
“Everyone’s watching. We can’t chicken out,” I warned. “Nick, are you going to make it?”
“Why is everyone so worried about me? Matt hasn’t said a word since we started climbing!”
We turned to look at Matt, who was sporting his mischievous crooked grin, “Take your suits off. We’re going to moon them on the way down.”
Naked and exposed, the four of us stood side by side, our bare-white flesh for all of Idaho to see. Across the river lay a patchwork quilt of fields and farms, while the gentle mountains that curtailed the Snake loomed in the distance. Below us, our friends cheered, their voices echoing across the cliffs, cutting through the thick summer air.
“The Jupiter Moons,” Matt grinned.
We clasped each other’s hands, and took a deep breath.
And we jumped.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Frank-Joseph is an illustrator and designer living in Manhattan. He works in the film industry, and pursues drawing and writing as personal creative outlets. His graphic style is influenced by the expressive line work of Rene Gruau, and J.C. Leyendecker’s masculine, idealized men. He is currently working on his first graphic novel, “Leo,” chronicling the adventures of a college freshman. Frank-Joseph graduated from Art Center College of Design with a BFA in Illustration. Until he gets a site up, you can see more of his work at franklyillustrated.blogspot.com. His other interests include dinosaurs, Mogwai, shiny objects, and the silent “p” in pneumonia.
Interested in being a Featured Artist? Just lemme know!