Home > Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt #1)

Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt #1)
Author: Heidi Cullinan


   Thank you to Dan Cullinan, Saritza Hernandez and Maura Peglar for beta reading. Your nudges, comments and suggestions made the book better and more authentic. Thank you also to the Mad Spaz Club, particularly Graham, for honesty, humor, and more information than I could have ever hoped to ask for.

   Thank you, Damien, wherever you are now. I hope you’re happy and full 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.



      We certainly hope that you all enjoy the show, and remember, people, that no matter who you are, and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there are still some things that make us all the same.

   —Elwood Blues, The Blues Brothers



Chapter One


   It took me ten months to meet Jeremey Samson.

   I saw Jeremey the day we moved into our house in Ames, Iowa. We moved there before I started my freshman year at Iowa State University. Jeremey’s house was across from ours in the back, on the other side of the train tracks that ran through where an alley should have been. When I walked with my aunt Althea to the organic grocery store down the street, I made her go the long way so I could memorize his house number and the license plate of the car in his driveway. It took a lot of online digging, but I learned his family’s name, and eventually I discovered his too. Jeremey Samson.

   I didn’t approach him, though. I watched him from a distance. I studied him across the yard. I found his Instagram. He was quiet online, which is smart but makes it hard to learn about someone you’re too shy to say hello to in person. I would have introduced myself in social media, sent a message and gotten to know him first in text, but he only posted maybe one picture a month, and he never left comments.

   He was a high school senior then. He had a friend named Bart, which is probably short for Bartholomew. Bart liked to post selfies on Instagram with his tongue sticking out. I followed Bart’s account because sometimes he took pictures of Jeremey.

   Jeremey never stuck out his tongue, and his smile was always small, with his lips closed.

   Sometimes I tried to find a logical reason why I liked Jeremey so much, but romantic feelings have nothing to do with logic. Sometimes what I liked best about Jeremey was the way he spelled his name. Jeremey, with an extra e. I made a computer program to spell his name out in a pretty font, and I always smiled at the third E. It made him special—ordinary Jeremys weren’t good enough to have all the Es.

   Sometimes I liked him for his smile. Sometimes I liked him because he didn’t smile. Sometimes I got an erection because of the way he brushed his hair away from his face. It didn’t matter to my brain that these were odd reasons to care for someone. My brain, my body, my everything wanted to be Jeremey’s boyfriend.

   I wanted to introduce myself, but I was nervous. My first year of college was challenging, and I didn’t have energy enough to deal with so many new things and making a new friend too. I kept hoping I would run into Jeremey on the street or at the library, but it never happened. As the school year wore on, Jeremey came outside less and less, and he posted fewer pictures, sometimes not posting anything for over a month. One day in May he had a graduation party, but not many people came to sit on his back deck with him. When I did see Jeremey, he looked sad.

   I wanted to meet him and find out why he was sad, maybe make him happy. But I couldn’t. The truth was, I had a crush on Jeremey Samson. I didn’t just want to be his friend. I wanted to be his boyfriend.

   Most people would say, Good job. You go get your boyfriend. If I went online to a message board, I could get anyone in the world to root for me. People hardly mind anymore if I’m gay, and nobody cares in Ames.

   There’s one little issue though, something that would change most people’s minds about me. It’s the reason I had to wait so long to introduce myself to Jeremey, the reason I didn’t want to tell my family I had a crush. This tiny problem is the reason moving made me nervous, made college a struggle for me. Though I have tons of online friends, one fact about me changes what everyone thinks when they meet me in person. Because even though the me who writes like this is the same me who walks and talks and rides the bus to college, nobody believes it when they see me face-to-face.

   My name is Emmet David Washington. I’m nineteen years old, and I’m a sophomore at Iowa State University studying computer science and applied physics. I got a perfect score on my ACT. I’m five feet nine inches tall with dark hair and blue-gray eyes. I enjoy puzzles and The Blues Brothers. I’m good at computers and anything to do with math. I remember almost everything I read and see. I’m gay. I love trains, pizza and the sound of rain.

   I also have autism spectrum disorder. It’s not even close to the most important thing about me, but as soon as people see me, watch me move, hear me speak, it’s the only thing that seems to matter. People treat me differently. They act as if I’m stupid or dangerous. They call me the R word or tell me I should be put in a home, and they mean institution, not the house where I live.

   When people find out I have autism, they don’t think I should be allowed to be in love, not with Jeremey, not with anyone.

   Which is crap. It’s like Elwood Blues says: everybody needs somebody to love. I’m an everybody. I get a somebody.

   The problem is, getting a somebody is trickier if you have autism. If I wanted to introduce myself to Jeremey to see if he would be my friend, maybe something more, I couldn’t ignore him or let my autism make me uneasy about possible rejection. I tried to tell myself someone with such a quiet face and nice smile wouldn’t say mean things to me or call me the R word. I told myself to be brave.

   It took me ten months to introduce myself to Jeremey Samson. To learn and memorize the etiquette, to find the right words that would show me to Jeremey, not my autism. It took a long time and a lot of work, but I did it.

   I shouldn’t have worried so much about it. Frankly, I’m awesome, and anybody who doesn’t agree should get out of my way.

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