In Memory: P.L. Ripley

With sadness and respect, we honor the passing of author P.L. Ripley this past July. He is survived by this partner of twenty-four years as well as a large extended family and devoted friends. To honor him we have put together an anthology of his works, Breaking and Entering, to be released November 21, 2017.

We are turning this space over to one of those friends to give  him a tribute P.L. Ripley would appreciate.

The Story of Ripley

by Patrick J. Gallant

My introduction to P.L. Ripley began as a blind date, set up by a mutual friend. When we first met, I took in all 6′ 5” of his slender frame and instantly thought, “There is a lot going on in there,” I wasn’t let down in the least, but in fact found I’d forever be educated and entertained by this unique creature who’d entered my life. The date consisted of going to the local gay bar, and though he wasn’t into dancing and I loved it, he made the effort, and then we sat and felt awkward in a commonly, sorry way. When he made the suggestion that we go back to my place, I think the world heard us sigh when I agreed. After getting settled on my loveseat, we both sighed and laughed. He said, “I’m so relieved that you aren’t actually blind!” followed by that delicious laugh.

That broke the ice and we talked, and talked, and talked, until we knew everything there was to know about each other. We both were the only boys in a household of women; he had two sisters, I three. He didn’t believe in God, I did. He worked, I was on disability. He’d had a relationship, I had yet to. You’d think that, having so many opposites, we wouldn’t have clicked at all; and yet, four hours later, we were still both wide awake and had talked and laughed the night away.

He looked at me and said, “I could get serious with you, but I wouldn’t want to ruin what I think would be a long meaningful friendship.”

I said, “Ditto.”

He told me he’d pick me up next Friday, and we’d go to the bar to hang out. I usually would take that as, “don’t wait up because I’m not really coming back,” but I knew I’d be going out next week and the next, and next, and… I did.

Time spent with Ripley was anything but boring. His story-telling of real life events was legend, from the woman who came in to where he was working, wearing bunny slippers  and a toilet seat cover on her head, referring to her as “the lady that stole so many pieces of the cutlery and china that she must have a full set by now,” to the cab driver with one foot, whose wife had fingers missing on each hand, and he capped it off with, “and you should see their kid!” I would usually be sitting across the table from him at Burger King, just about to swallow when he’d hit the punch line, nearly choking me every time. He had terrific timing, and would roar with laughter as I sprayed water across the room.

He had this unique way of telling me important things at the worst times. Driving at night on the interstate, taking a swig of the two liter bottle of soda he went nowhere without, he calmly informed me that the wind was blowing so hard, that he had the steering wheel turned all the way into the wind to keep us on the road, and that if the wind changed direction, we’d be somewhere in the middle of the field to my right.

I responded with, “That was so nice of you to share that with me.”

He replied, “Well, I thought it only proper to inform you of your possible oncoming death, so you wouldn’t be rudely surprised,” followed by that laugh. I’d be laughing, while saying a novena to myself.

Or the time when we were on the interstate, on an overpass, when he informed me that he was hydroplaning, and a semi was on my right. I closed my eyes and said, “Tell me when it’s over.”

He said, “I was going to close mine and have you tell me when it’s over.”

Ripley used humor like an F-bomb, for shock value, when in a public place. He was blunt and to the point when he talked to you, and the more humorously insulting he was to me, the more I knew how much he loved me.

Once, when I’d gone into the gay bar ahead of him, the greeter said, “Where’s your other half?”

I said, “I have another half, where is he?” laughing.

Ripley walked in behind me and she said, “Oh, there’s your other half.”

Ripley said, in a calm be succinct voice, “As a friend, I love him to death, but I wouldn’t fuck him if he were the last man on Earth.”

I said, “Ditto.”

Then he said, “Come on bitch, let’s find a seat.”

Ripley could write. I thought I was good at fiction, until I read some of the master’s work. When he was writing a piece for a writing course, he let me read what he had. It was not only the most disturbing piece of literature I’d ever read, but the most enthralling. I had visions of him one day taking over Stephen King’s throne as the master of horror—he was that good. So good, he created a genre yet to be named, that was probably too intense for a book publisher to market. If it wasn’t extreme, it wasn’t Ripley. He couldn’t be tame if his life depended on it. He made the macabre look like a children’s book. And it was one of his greatest traits.

There were only two things Ripley was scared of: Death and Love. I remember him saying he couldn’t read a book that was scary, that resulted in death, if it was possible to die that way. It disturbed him. But given a book with horrendous but unreal ways of dying, he would relish it.

As to love: One of the weekends he came to pick me up, he was giddy as a teenage schoolgirl. I said, “Ripley, you’re in love.”

He said, “I met this guy, Larry, and he’s very hot and nice, but I’m not in love.”

The next week, “Ripley, you’re in love.”

He responds, “No, I’m in extreme like.”

Two weeks later, Ripley walks up my stairs, stars glittering in his eyes, a big goofy grin on his face. He says, “I’m so fucking in love that I can’t stand it!”

I said, “It’s about time you admitted it.”

He said, “We went at it for 4 hours, nonstop and I wanted more.” I said, “You had sex for 4 hours!” He said, “No! We had a four hour kiss. It was better than sex.” Before long, he brought Larry over to meet me and we hit it off immediately, and took pictures of each other, sitting in crazy poses, on the picnic table of my backyard. They were together from then on. At first I missed our weekend bar hopping, but was so happy for him that it didn’t matter; it was true love. But we always got together, for a Christmas visit, or a Summer day, or my visits to their place for a week.

I can’t thank our friend enough for setting us up for that blind date decades ago, and I am so glad we decided to just be friends. It was meant to be that way. We shared a common love for each other, in the most honest, zany, one of a kind way that two friends could ever wish for. I can’t imagine, yet, that he’ll not drive into the yard one day soon, call me on his cell phone to see if I want company and that he’s coming over, and two seconds later ring the doorbell. That was his way of letting me know ahead of time. When the doorbell rings, and I’m not expecting anyone, I get that rush of excitement, and then pretend to be happy when greeting whoever’s at the door.

I am somewhat psychic, and after each family member or friend has passed, I’ve contacted them at night using the flashlight method seen on ghost hunting shows. I find it amusing that of all people, Ripley answered a question that nobody else would answer, when I asked. The question was, “Is heaven as beautiful as they say it is?” If so, turn the light from dim to bright,” and Ripley did. And this, from a man who didn’t believe in God. As always, I’m still being educated about the story of Ripley.

P.L. Ripley (1968-2017) was a born storyteller weaving worlds since he could first express what he saw in his head. Fascinated with human sexuality, erotic fiction was a natural place for him to explore the connection between sexual excitement and our emotional responses to it. He lived near Bangor, Maine with his partner of twenty-four years. Writing was a very important part of Ripley’s life, and he was as delighted to publish his works with us as we were to work with him.

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