We Regret to Inform You
Lamb ♣ 01 | LGBTQ+ Serial Fiction
Welcome to the first installment of Lamb—LGBTQ+ serial fiction by me, Troy Ford.
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Two friends on different but parallel paths, from private school through college and their raging twenties, until the abrupt, mysterious end of their friendship.
Told through reminiscences, journal excerpts, letters, and short stories, Lamb is a snapshot in episodes of young men coming of age after the decimation of AIDS—a sometimes shiny, sometimes dark afterparty of gay awakening.
We Regret to Inform You
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It must have been around 2004 when I got the note from Wolcott Academy.
“We regret very much to inform you that the family of your classmate, Willam Broeder, has notified us of his passing earlier this year.”
The shock implosion of the air in my lungs strangled my cry to a whisper. “Lamb.”
No details, of course, nothing so unseemly from that bastion of WASPness. I tried to call both his parents but their numbers were disconnected. His mom was on her third husband, no idea what her new name was. His father was Dutch, a career diplomat with a whole new family of his own. I read recently on Nederland Wikipedia that he took a post with the European Union around then, so he was probably already out of the country.
For almost twenty years since that terse notice, I’ve never really known what happened to Lamb, and if our friend Fugie hadn’t been lying his ass off a few weeks back, I might never have. Now I’m haunted by the image slowly coming into focus, like finding a box full of twenty year old undeveloped film and finally seeing the pictures for the first time.
Just so you know, we called him Lamb, Lambee, Lambchop—whatever the situation called for. He answered to anything, but his real name was Willam, and when we met he went by Lam—like Liam but no i—he pronounced it like they would in Europe probably, like bedlam, flotsam, jetsam, more Lom than “Mary had a little…”
Something you have to understand about Lamb though: at six foot six and sturdy, he sure didn’t look like a little lamb—you would never call him “cupcake” to his face if you didn’t know him. When we were kids he was pretty squishy, running to baby fat, but if there had been a football team at Wolcott the coach would have pounced immediately and run him through the paces. He could have been a real bruiser, but Lamb was soft. Also clumsy, which let him out of lacrosse, and the basketball coach used to shake his head wistfully at the sight of him. He didn’t do any of the team sports—no killer instinct—and at a place like Wolcott, that was the kiss of death. Even I knew that.
That’s when everyone started making jokes about his name. There was another more popular guy named Lam Bo, Chinese-American, and this was around the time of Rambo, wildly popular at an all-boys school. So Lam Bo became Lambo, haha, he loved that of course, and because some of the guys thought it was funny, Lam became Lam-B. (Overheard on the school shuttle: “Wait, why do we call him Lambee?” “Because he’s a huge pussy.”)
No one ever laid a hand on Lamb—he could probably break your arm if you weren’t careful—but he flinched easy, you know, got all flustered and embarrassed. Placid, slouching, meek, Lamb. He actually did fracture this one kid’s wrist—Lamb tripped over his own feet and fell on him—and sure, that kid was pretty rickety, but still.
Anyway, eventually Lamb is just what everyone called him—even some of the teachers who couldn’t hear the difference between Lamb and “Lom” and even later after school, I suppose he adopted it for himself like he was in on the joke, and that was his name from then on.
At one point he got a pretty big tattoo on his back, which looked like a bunch of Japanese clouds or steam from a distance, all black and moody, until you got up close. They were lambs, lambs from behind, little tails, little ears, little eyes poking out. It was super cute, cute like he was cute, you know—not tough. Guys would come up to him and look more closely at his tattoo, I guess thinking “Oh yeah, big thug with some sick yakuza tattoo” or whatever, and then they’d see these cute little lamb butts and they’d be, I don’t know, disappointed?
One time, we were out at a club dancing with our shirts off and this boy was obviously high as fuck, weird little punk dude getting all freaky on the dance floor trying to grab Lamb’s attention and reel him in. Because Lamb was good looking, don’t get me wrong, in that big meathead kinda way. And he spoke Dutch which sounds like German, or at least, not English. I’d be like “Say something in Dutch” and he’d spit out a weather report or something stupid and hilarious, and people always thought, Oh, here’s a real shitkicker, this huge nasty punk with the tattoos and the piercings, the mohawk/faux-hawk/green hair/shaved head of the month.
Anyway, we’re dancing, and this freaky little guy, he gets around the back of Lamb to look at his tattoo, and I could just see his face fall, turn from entranced to disgusted before your eyes. And when Lamb turned around to talk to him—because he said later he did think the guy was cute, even though I could tell he was 100% trouble—once Lamb’s looking right at him, the guy pretends to puke—finger down the throat, retching on the floor—you know like “You and your ‘cutsie’ tattoo disgust me,” and then he just stomps off after putting on that big show.
Lamb was stung, embarrassed, I could tell, he wanted to leave pretty soon after and just grab a bottle and go home. I felt bad for him. I knew it would have just been a freaky one-night stand anyway, but he always took that kind of thing personally. It happened a lot, he would get all this attention from guys thinking he was an uber-alpha male—fuck me into an early grave, Daddy—until he opened his mouth, and Lamb fell out.
Because he really was a gentle soul, sensitive, even fragile, despite the boots and the big and the scary punk and all that.
None of this would have come up if Fugie hadn’t been lying his ass off a couple weeks ago—that’s Refugio, one of Lamb’s college friends that I got to know better when I moved up to the City after college. We were out at dinner with people recently and Fugie was blah blah blahing about his “stalker” Buck, this low-life he and Lamb both dated for awhile. I mean, it’s been years and years since Lamb died, and I guess no one but me to refute anything Fugie says about him—he may not even realize he’s lying, it wouldn’t surprise me.
As far as I know, the first part was true: Fugie was hanging out with this guy named Buck, not his real name I assume, who the fuck is named Buck? I guess things weren’t really going anywhere when Fugie introduced Buck to Lamb and there were fireworks. I wasn’t at the club when they first met, but I was at the party when Buck finally asked Fugie, “Are we on or off?” and Fugie said “OFF.” Buck went home with Lamb that night, and that was it between Fugie and Buck, the end.
Buck and Lamb went out for a few months—that’s another story—and then Buck moved back to Mississippi or Alabama or whatever swamp he crawled out of, and he was dead in a year—AIDS—so I don’t know what Fugie was talking about when he said—lied—that he couldn’t get rid of this guy named Buck he went out with way back when, called him a stalker.
I was thinking, Uh, he seemed more than happy to take the hint and go home with Lamb the minute you finally told him what was what, but that’s Fugie for you. That same dinner he was bragging about all the schools he got into, how he went and toured Harvard and they offered him a full scholarship, he says, but he just didn’t feel comfortable, this brown punk from East L.A. going back East to Harvard. Bullshit! I didn’t say anything, but THIRTY YEARS he never told me this story, not once—and as much as he likes to brag about everything, he definitely would have told me about a full scholarship to Harvard at some point. And why does anyone care now anyway what schools you got into back then? Fuck sake.
The first night we met, Fugie told me he was a “gifted” child. We were still in school, and I came up from USC to visit Lamb at Berkeley. Maybe Fugie liked me, I don’t know, maybe he was trying to impress me. We were on our way to a party sitting in my car at a liquor store on University Avenue waiting for Lamb, who never got carded.
Fugie gives me this song and dance about how he wasn’t just gifted but psychic-gifted, and this institute in New Mexico had begged his mother to let him go there so they could study him and develop his talent. For fucking real. I have a very good memory, and I am not mistaken: a psychic institute in New Mexico wanted little Refugio Muñoz to come and be one of their baby X-Men. Give me a fucking break.
Needless to say, nothing ever happened between me and Fugie, even though I was into Latin boys (Fugie & Friends called me a Bean Queen) and at the time I dug the whole punk vibe he and Lamb were into. But I knew he was lying then, and I knew he was lying about Buck, because Buck dropped him like a hot potato the minute he met Lamb, and that’s why I went back and dug out Lamb’s old journals and notebooks and letters, finally.
I just couldn’t stand the idea of Fugie stealing any of Lamb’s truth—even after all these years, it was just too much for me.
And here we are.
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