In case you don’t get the joke in the title of this blog, my last name is Storey. And there’s a lot of Leon in Storey now, and a lot of Storey in Leon.
Nearly all of what happened in the first part of this story is what really happened, or immediately adjacent thereto. I did forget what was served for dinner the first night, confusing it with our first night on site. We actually had a burrito bar. I also forgot to write in a conversation I’d actually had with Mr. T and Steven, where Mr. T had suggested Leon judge the bondage contest. So I dropped it in as a quick request relayed through Sinclair at the last minute.
The drag show was truncated, so as not to drag on (har har) with endless descriptions of performers. By contrast, I chose to exaggerate the number of lovers Leon had that night, imagining off-screen party attendees who were present but not played.
There was also no actual sex during the game, so everything I’ve written here is the more detailed way I’ve imagined what was simulated or merely agreed upon as an off-screen scene.
I also did not actually spend the first night in the Pillow Room, I went back to my cabin and went to bed (still feeling kind of miserable). But staying all night seemed like the kind of thing Leon would have done.
I took considerable creative liberties with the poetry I attributed to Rain in this story. I’m pretty sure the actual poetry from that scene was mostly about darkness, more darkness, and also some darkness. But literal poetic license aside, the scene and its follow-up happened essentially as described, and along with the Tantra epiphany, became the basis of the character arc I decided to pursue with the Green Drink. Even though it became incredibly painful, I’m still glad Rain’s player enthusiastically agreed to run with it.
More of Part II than I anticipated ended up coming from post-game conversations with other players, so big thanks to the players of Rain and Sorrento, who let me pick their brains about their characters’ thoughts and feelings so I could incorporate them.
The scenes of Part III included here are also as accurate as I could recall from the second night of the game, but my scope that night was extremely limited. I spent a great deal of time out of character, wanting to see how Leon’s death had affected others while at the same time struggling to maintain my composure. I checked out entirely during the luminaries, standing in the background while I sobbed uncontrollably.
Also, that bit with the shoes is totally true. I bought the smallest pair I could find on Amazon, and still had to wear three pairs of socks and stuff the toes with paper. So while it started as non-diagetic, I absolutely loved that “Leon had small feet!” became part of the fiction.
This project has been a labor of love from beginning to end. Leon became my love and, in a way, my obsession, and I found I could not rest until I had sent him off in the way he deserved. He will always be part of me, and I very much hope to meet other people who have played him, to compare our stories of heartbreak and woe. I have even suggested to one of them we have a Former Leon Support Group at a future run of JaLL, in which we spend all night listening to disco music and crying. He was fully in favor.
In the writing of this I experienced a phenomenon I’d heard other writers describe but never really believed until it happened to me: my main characters each took on a life of their own. I became frustrated and even angry at Leon for some of his choices during Part II, yet found I could not write them any other way.
It is largely for this reason that I dearly hope to play Rain in a future run of JaLL. While I attempted to portray him in a way that resembled his player’s vision, he also became partially mine, and I partially his, and I’m fascinated by the thought of playing him for real to see where else he might have gone. He also lives at an intersection of two of my own major interests, music and writing, making him a character who would be very close to home for me. Should I ever get that opportunity, I fully expect him to break my heart as well.
First and foremost, huge thanks to the organizers of JaLL 2017. It was one of the most memorable and moving experiences of my entire life, which is probably obvious from the amount of time and effort I’ve put into telling this story.
Thank you to all the players who consented to their characters appearing in this blog, and for the invaluable device many gave on their portrayal. While this was my story, I wanted to represent everyone as faithfully as I was able.
Most of my knowledge about the experience of someone dying of AIDS comes from And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts. It’s an excellent book, and one I recommend reading. But know that it will make you very angry, and likely make you cry.
Apologies to all the artists whose lyrics I borrowed for Leon, Rain, and Urban Renaissance. Additionally, if I never again have to come up with words to describe what a piece of music sounds like, I will be more than fine with that. 😆
If you’re reading this, a final thanks to you. While this project was always for myself, it has been a great joy to have it read by others. It has encouraged my writing, and I’m carrying that forward into starting a new project that will be entirely my own, rather than based on borrowed characters and shared experiences.