{mosimage}Aqua's story of a dysfunctional, doomed relationship is the topic of a new memoir by MSU grad Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Released by Harper Collins in February, “I Am Not Myself These Days” focuses on one specific period in Aqua's life, a romance with a crack-addicted male escort.

It was Kilmer-Purcell, not Aqua, who read from the book Friday at Schuler Books in the Eastwood Towne Center.

The standing-room-only audience was treated to goldfish crackers and Aqua's signature drink, the Aquadisiac: two parts Absolut Citron, one part DeKuyper Pucker Island Blue Schnapps served straight over ice, garnished with a Swedish gummy goldfish.

The crowd of literature fans and old MSU friends was interested and enthusiastic, laughing at all the right moments as Kilmer-Purcell read the opening chapter of the book.

Tragically, there was not one false eyelash in the crowd — no platform shoes, no wigs piled ceiling-high. Drag queens and groupies should have been lining up to pay homage to one of the great drags, but they weren't. The only trace of Aqua herself was the life-sized banner behind the author.

In real life, the author measures 6 feet 1, but comes across as shorter than that. Lanky and slight, reserved and soft-spoken, now sporting thick-framed glasses and stubble that almost qualifies as a beard, Kilmer-Purcell is not the commanding presence one would expect after reading the memoir.

“There's something that is very poetic about the way Josh recreates himself as Aqua,” said MSU professor and poet Diane Wakoski as she introduced her former student. “He creates a personal mythology.” 

Both in the book and at the reading, Kilmer-Purcell maintains strict separation between Josh and Aqua. Kilmer-Purcell says that when the time came for him to move on with his life, Aqua went not underground but underwater.befitting her name.

Years later, Aqua resurfaced when Kilmer-Purcell needed to exorcize the ghost of a love past.

“I put her away about six years ago, and it's nice to have her out and be doing it again without having a 22-inch corset on,” he laughed.

To relive those days without the physical pain of a cinched waist and blistered feet, and with the perspective of time, has allowed Kilmer-Purcell to approach a sometimes dark time of his life with some humor and poignancy.

“Everyone in their past has someone that they loved that was wrong for them,” Kilmer-Purcell said. “Why do we remember that one person we weren't supposed to love but we loved sometimes more than anyone (else)?”

Kilmer-Purcell feels very lucky that his book was published, recognizing that it would be too easy to market this story simply to gay markets. “But it's more universal than people think — a  love story a lot of people at that age went through.”

Aside from sharing this universal story, Kilmer-Purcell had a very selfish reason for writing the book. “Part of it was that I wanted to find out what happened to Jack, because I hadn't heard from him in the 10 years since the book ended.”

Kilmer-Purcell has since been in contact with Jack and got his feedback on the story. “Initially he wasn't happy, but then he read it and he likes it now.”

That chapter of Kilmer-Purcell's — or, more accurately, Aqua's — life is now closed. The memoir has been optioned as a film by writer/director Clive Barker (“Hellraiser,” “Lord of Illusions”); Kilmer-Purcell finished the screenplay in December.

As for memoirs, he feels the most interesting story of his life has been told. “My life is boring as hell now,” he laughs, noting that his next work in progress is fictional.

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