Stepping Out With Joe Jackson
In the acknowledgments section of Carry the Ocean, in addition to thanking people who helped me write the book, I also have this paragraph.
Thank you, Damien, wherever you are now. I hope you’re happy and fully of love and that you still sing to the mirror in the car. May you still be stepping out with Joe Jackson and always be surprised you never knew you could feel love like this before.
Damien is my Emmet. He is not a computer whiz, could never hold a job. But he was a young man I met when I was twenty-three, working in a program called Teen Place in Iowa City. I was one of several adult counselors in a day camp for teens with a dazzling array of special needs, disabilities mental and physical and sometimes a combination package. We had people with anger issues. We had people with Downs syndrome. We had people with general intellectual disability. We had people with cerebral palsy. We had a few Teen Place members with schizophrenia, one girl quite, quite severe. We had teens with zero impulse control. We had teens with what we then called Aspergers and now is simply classified as autism. And we had several teens with varying representations with very severe autism.
I’ll be honest. I loved all our program participants. The teens with Downs syndrome were very close to my heart. But I will admit, of all of them, the autistic boys were my favorite, and I loved Damien best of all.
Damien was seventeen, and slightly taller than me. (I’m six feet tall.) He had a handsome, boyish face and would for his whole life. He kept himself neatly groomed, and he smiled a lot. He rarely looked anyone in the eye, and he got quite particular about who touched him and how. Except for me. He loved me, to the point I had to be careful because it was clear he had a significant crush on me. I’ll be honest—though I was engaged and in my position it was entirely inappropriate for me to return even a hint of his overtures, had I been in high school with him? I’d have gone out of my way to hang out with him.
Damien was fantastically sunny in his disposition. He always seemed to enjoy life, as if whatever lens he saw it through brought him constant joy. He was smart and clever, but you had to be quiet and patient to notice—which was part of the fun, and I’m sure his intention. He also, above all things, loved music. He had a vinyl collection in 1997 when no one had a vinyl collection, and since they were gifted from his parents, they were all 70s and early 80s fabulous. When he was particularly happy about something, Damien would blurt out, “Stepping out with Joe Jackson!” and then smile big.
His favorite thing of all, though, was when we had to run an errand. If I had to go get something or if the counselors were helping with transportation, which was often, he’d make sure he rode with me, and he always got the front seat. I would always happen to have Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” or Stephanie Mills’s “Never Knew Love Like This Before” in the CD player. Because then Damien would pull down the passenger-side mirror—I’d try to use my husband’s car, because it had a better stereo and a mirror that lit up—and sing to his reflection enthusiastically, off-key, and with a passion like little I’d known before or have seen since.
Damien and the others at Teen Place taught me a lot the two summers I worked there. They challenged me, frustrated me, and pushed me in ways I hadn’t known I could or should be pushed. But Damien in particular taught me joy can be found in the most casual of places, and that happiness, when nurtured, produces a beautiful, confident human being.
He also taught me we all want love, that we all have something to offer a partner. I hope Damien found that someone for him, and that they’re currently singing old songs to each other with a joy only the two of them understand.
Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt Book 1) by Heidi Cullinan
Publisher ~ Samhain Publishing
Published ~ 7th April 2015
Genre ~ M/M Contemporary Romance
Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
The Roosevelt, Book 1
High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.
But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.
As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.
Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.
Due for Release: 7th April 2015
Currently available at Samhain for the reduced pre order price of $3.85 (normal price $5.50). Price correct at time of posting.
Meet Heidi Cullinan
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren't enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first midwestern state with full marriage equality.
Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at www.heidicullinan.com.
The grand prize is a signed copy of Carry the Ocean in paperback, a Blu-ray of The Blues Brothers, an Iowa State magnet, and Carry the Ocean scrapbook art. It’s made by Susan Romito, and it’s absolutely stunning.