TITLE: Come With a Friend
AUTHOR: Patient Lee
SUBGENRES: gay, crossdressing, high school drama
Come With a Friend is a story of transitions and self-discoveries, of internalized homophobia and self-hatred, of catharsis and renewal. Its protagonist—the depressive, isolated Jason—never quite self-identifies as trans or queer… and that’s kind of the point. What author Patient Lee manages to recreate is nothing less than the feeling of isolation, insecurity, and sexual confusion experienced by teenagers. These are characters stumbling toward self-expression and self-identification… and if that has to come through some emotionally charged hanky-panky, so be it.
Of course, the contrivances that propel our characters to this point are more than a little complex. Jason is a high school outcast—bullied, suicidal, possibly queer and in denial—with a tragic past and dismal prospects. He’s someone I think most of us can identify with. Things take a decidedly odd turn when Timmy, a childhood friend, enlists him to dress as a woman in order to trick one of his tormenters at a school dance. He agrees, albeit trepidatiously. Of course, we soon find out that this isn’t exactly what Timmy has in mind.
At first, I found groaning at these various plot machinations… that is, until it’s all revealed to be an elaborate ruse. That was something of an “aha!” moment, as the ulterior motives of each character really felt real and relatable. I won’t spoil what happens at the school dance, but I will say that it is touching and ambiguous in the way it handles its final coupling. It’s important to note that we end precisely at a moment of indeterminacy. The climactic moments, so to speak, are bracing in their intimacy and sincerity, but also hint at a future that may or may not come. In Patient Lee’s narrative, sex heals old wounds even as it threatens to open up new ones. And isn’t that always the case?