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The Last Remaining Wonder in the World
The house on Joaquin in Hollywood is a two-story, hardly any carpeting but decently new tile, with old-style screen doors of white-painted pine and an echoing kitchen and living room. I came over to visit just Gordon once, and once for an evening of television and cards with a few other guys, and enjoyed myself. Gordy had stopped looking at me over his coffee by then; he knew it was a given. I managed to hold out for those two visits, and almost two months of hallway meetings. But I was snared in the end, and I found it rather appropriate, when I thought about it, the man setting traps for me in the one narrow way I walked nearly every day.
The bed is white; it always looks white, even though the linens are pale tan or grey. It's the upstairs light that does it, the way the house is positioned here on the hill. I like to wander around and feel the space, especially when Gordon might come around a corner on some student-at-home errand and bump into me, and give me a kiss for appearing out of nowhere. "That was a nice surprise," he says, balancing his dance-illustration book, reading glasses and spiral-bound pad. "I love you. Don't you have anything to do?"
I beam up at him, dreamily, knowing what I have to do but liking to leave him with the sensation that somehow all I have to do in life is laze around his house and get underfoot.
He chuckles at me. "I wish I was as fast at my written work as you. All this time dancing and I gotta _read_, too."
I hug him, and glance at the book. "Why, Gordy, Hon, there are hardly any _words_ in this book."
"I know, but it's not like this is the only required text. Well, off to slave in front of the 'feed."
"'Slick Oiled Hot Gay Men Cook Italian.'"
"Hah!" I mock-punch him. "Is not!"
"'Lassie four-hundred and eighty-seven, _Lassie Watches a Lassie Movie_?"
"That I'll believe."
"Join me down there if you wanna, Handsome. Otherwise I'll talk to you later."
"Okay." I let go of him. His glasses slide off the top of his book, and he catches them in the opposite hand and from there puts them between his teeth. "I love you," he tells me indistinctly around the frames.
He watches me, waiting, never really appearing impatient even though he's standing here waiting to get to his work. I fold my hands behind my back. His knees make him look like he's dancing when he's standing still. He just waits, until finally I say, "Well, you got me." I've said that every day, practically, since we moved me in here.
"I got you." He grins around the glasses. He says he never wears them except when he's sitting down to read because otherwise he's not used to his vision with them on. "I don't think I got too bad a deal."
"You were fooled. It's the mascara."
"Well, in that case, your secret worked even when you revealed it. I gotta go downstairs. Love you, Man."
"I know. Thanks. Gordon, thank you."
"Sure. Thank you, Francis."
He goes downstairs. I wander in to the white bed, and step around it like it couldn't hold me if I lay on it. Then I sit on it and stare at the wall. I want to soak up this place, maybe because it's so different from the formality of a lot of California in the way I see it and critique it. My folks laughed a lot more when they visited here, compared to when we spent time mostly in my apartment, nice as it was. I found myself almost saying things to them when Gordy was around, as if nothing could worry anyone when he was standing there with a beer or a coffee. He has that kind of presence. Still, it's best not to worry loved ones who live far away, in this case my native Canada. I still haven't had another seizure, and the firm would love to have me for as long as I'll stay. I promised them some time after I get my degree, as well.
Art. It's good for you. I recommend it. That's why I like people to tell me to buy them some. I know I can please them. They know I can please them, somehow, too, because they let me do it before they even know me, some of them. Maybe that's why I'm so easily taken with Gordon. He could do with me what I do with clients; tell them what would brighten or dignify their homes, and they listen to me. I listened to him, and I think I'm as glad as some of those folks have been with the results.
The usual people are here. I immediately
glance at the chairs my most anticipated
acquaintances occupy each time, and pause in the
doorway. With them is a familiar face, but he's
never attended a meeting before. I've seen him
once, and I remember his name because I tend to
remember names. But he wasn't in this country
when I met him, although of course I knew he was
Larry looks at me. He stands, and brightens, and then comes the expression that inevitably follows, for even as he waits to take my hands and smile and ask how I'm doing, he must know there is only one reason I would be here, and I know it of him, too. And then it makes sense-- I just never made the names have anything to do with each other in my head before-- because of course Juliet would be his niece. This is her uncle, and it never even registered when I met him. Bethuel smiles, sitting in his usual place on Juliet's right side, and nods to me. "I didn't know you knew Lawrence," he says quietly from where he's sitting.
"We met in Egypt." I cross to Larry now and we do grip each other's hands, and I feel suddenly shy. You don't expect to meet people here that come from other parts of your life. "I just never even thought he was the same Kelly."
"This is my uncle," Juliet tells me shyly, seeing my shyness and tilting her head the way I do when someone gets me off guard.
"I-- I know, yes, well, good to see you again..." I sit down next to Larry and he keeps smiling, but still I do feel awkward saying that. Good to see you. Yes, it is, but it's not like I mean it's good to see that he's a part of all this. I know what happened with him. I know Juliet's story.
"It is good to see you, Mr. Marchiose, Francis," he offers, telling me I'm okay, it's okay that I've seen him in some other setting than an art exhibition.
"Thank you." I feel deeply grateful, I don't know why.
Larry pats my hand, something he never would have done in any other setting, but here he knows I wouldn't be sitting in these chairs without a reason for needing to be sympathetically touched. I look at him. He doesn't seem to mind if I scrutinize him, so I do. I remember that he was pleasant in Egypt, and interesting. The state of Art since the rise of SCABS has interested him, become a sort of crusade of his. I, of course, was there Buying Art. We talked a lot, but he never mentioned his family, and neither did I. It's easier when you know it's all mundane. There are some things you just don't subject business acquaintances to. That's why my parents made me come here, to ensure that I would talk, to make me emotionally safe so I could stay in Hollywood. They wouldn't have let me otherwise.
Gordy leans in at the screen door by the
kitchen. "Come out and see the moon, Francis."
He sounds so serious, I go out solemnly and look with him. He stands with a bluntly awed expression on the hill in back of our house, gaping at the full moon. "People have been there. But then I wonder how many moons like this they've missed, looking at it from the other side."
"Yes." I take hold of his hand. It's sweaty, and he pulls away and wipes it on his tank shirt, then gives it back to me. I pull his arm around my waist and touch my opposite fingers to his hand.
"Nothing going on, I guess, I just wanted you to see it."
"No. Just-- some moon."
"It is." It is, indeed, some moon, and Gordy watches me looking at it and seems pleased. I stand taking it in for some time, then reach up and push a few hairs back behind his ear, where he's sweating and the hair is dampening into little tendrils; the air out here isn't very warm, and in fact Gordy feels fairly cool to the touch, but sometimes I swear all his energy just has to go somewhere and it is as if he is perpetually dancing. I've witnessed him onstage and he radiates something like a smile even when he's only expressing with his arms or his feet. He pats my hand with the arm I haven't taken around my waist, and finally says, "Well, let's go in."
"Yes. Well, I hope I saw what you wanted me to see."
"It was just... Really pretty. I don't know about Art, like you do, you know. But I didn't see how you could critique the moon and find that it's in bad taste or something. So I thought I'd show you this."
"Gordy, you know you can show me anything that you like. I like what you like to see."
"Yeah, but I'm no expert. But I thought this was a very nice moon."
"Thank you. Okay, we can go inside."
"Let's." He leans in and kisses me, and the air changes when I feel it after his mouth has made mine a little moist. It makes everything seem cooler, instead of the rest of us warmer. We go inside, where it is plain and comfortable; we actually have room-temperature rooms.
"I love you." He puts his arms around me from behind as soon as I turn my back to him.
"I love you, too."
"I'm glad you're not a dance critic."
I stay with my back against his torso, and angle my head to look at him. "Oh?"
He nods. "Yeah. That way you don't have to let professionalism get in the way of letting me just dance for you, on stage, you know, or the other way around-- I won't make you be unprofessional just because you like me and wouldn't want to say anything bad about me."
"If there was something I felt critical of, I'd probably say it anyway, Gordy." I grin and reach back to touch his chin. He kisses my finger.
"Well, you know, you're probably right. Okay, you can be a dance critic if you want to."
"Oh dear. Well, if I have my way, you'll shoot straight to the top. Maybe I'm not so professional nor critical as I thought. I'd better keep my deal with the employers I've got and let someone else nit-pick your every move."
"I've got some moves you might like to nit-pick."
"Nit-pick? Or enjoy? Anyway, I'm getting tired of the words 'nit-pick.'"
"Okay. Just enjoy." He pulls me around to face him and kisses me. "When you going to turn into that rabbit?"
"Does it worry you?"
"Not... really... but I hope that if it happens, that's all that happens. I don't want SCABS to be any worse to you than it has to. One seizure, maybe one more to make me worry about you and appreciate you, you know, nothing too overboard. You're such a good guy."
"Thank you, Gordon."
"Francis, did I tell you about being in love with you? It's kind of something I've been pondering a lot lately."
I laugh a little. "I think maybe you mentioned something along those lines."
He growls at me, gives me a long kiss and then stops to look at me for a moment. "Yeah, I guess we've been over that."
"Doesn't hurt to reiterate."
"I love you."
He takes my arm up as if we are in the middle of a spin in a dance, and steps back one step. "Bewitched," he sings, and singing is not his strong point, "bothered and bewildered..."
"I can't dance, Gordy. You know that."
"You could always learn."
I shake my head.
"You--" he pulls me into the next position, although by the time I reach it I'm not quite sure how I got there-- "could always learn..." he puts the words into some approximation of the tune he was already singing.
"Maybe," I say, but then I start giggling and can't stop, and as usual he dances me around the kitchen and I finally stand still with my hands behind my back and fix him with stern glances, and his expression is fiercely glad because there is not one thing he suggests that I really can resist. I may not be a good dancer, but he could make me _want_ to be one, if he desired to.
There's a dance at a party for some producer
of the movie Juliet Kelly is acting in, and
Bethuel, Larry and Juliet get me invited along
with them. It's very forties, with some modern
music and white lights as well, and in a large
space; I'm not quite sure where to stand to take
it in without feeling directionless. I'm used to
webs of pathways across what appear to be blank
floors, for every person at an art exhibit has
designs on each of the pieces and a dance, or
other non-gallery reception, has a completely
different pattern of interactions.
Larry comes finally and stands near me, sliding out of the drift of conversation and introductions he seemed to be in; I have shaken several hands, professionally, but somehow no current caught me up. I'm relieved to have him close to me.
"It seems I have as little in common with these people as I do with most of the guests at most of the parties in Hollywood," he says, to see if I will agree with him.
"It's not the same," I answer, and he knows I'm talking about purposeful gatherings as for the sharing of Art.
Suddenly I feel terribly afraid. The music is sweet, old stuff, and there's nowhere for me to go. It's here or leave the room, and I nearly leave the room. I feel my palms begin sweating.
I glance nervously around, but there just isn't any change. Larry knows who I am, knows all about me. I thought it was nice to know someone with whom I had more than one thing in common, the art and then the meetings. I thought it was nice, but I have come upon the frightening thing: how do I behave when he knows what I've felt and might not approve of anything other than abject sorrow? I find, here, too suddenly, that coming out of it even the slightest bit can be as muddling and terrifying as falling into it in the first place.
"I need to--"
"Come with me." He takes hold of my arm and guides me to an arch off to the side of the main floor. "May I get you anything?"
"No. Nothing." I look at him, and I feel my fingers tighten up into a fist, as if I'm defying something. His blue eyes are concerned, and his moustache black, which it always is, but he uses the color like an expression.
"Francis, I want to talk to you."
"And I to you." I am pleased with the steadiness of my voice.
"I wondered... You know about my theatre in Pennsylvania. I wondered... if you would want to come out there with me next time I go. Have a visit, meet some friends... I travel back here often enough, returning could easily be arranged..."
"I'd like that," I reply without hesitation.
I get home before Gordy does, since I left
after congratulating and praising him on his show,
and he has to stay after to organize his costumes,
clean off his stage make-up and speak to a few
I get out of my theatre clothes and comb my hair, shave and put on the nightgown he bought for me. He was right about it: I do look good in it. It's white and, because I'm not too tall, comes down to above my ankles. I glance once in the mirror, critically, considering, but really it doesn't look out of place on me. I like the short sleeves.
I go barefoot down to the kitchen and turn on some music, my own, Alanis Morisette; Gordy has about two hundred different artists represented in this house and only three of them had I ever heard of before. But we get along all right about what to listen to and when.
"Francis! Take 'er in your arms, and tell 'er-- you there?" Gordon, as usual after a show, is opening and slamming the door, getting out of his shoes, hollering a greeting to me, and singing some number from the show he was just in all at the same time. This time it was a representation of Irish music from ancient history to the year two thousand, and I began calling Gordon "Danny Boy" because he ripped up the stage and has been bombarding me with bad Irish accents and any rolicking song that happens to be the last one he danced to. Now, with the show up, he pulls one from anywhere in the work and flies in the door singing, and takes me, as he does now, out to the barest spot on the floor and makes me dance a step with him before he quiets down.
"You look good, Handsome man, you," he tells me, holding me still by my hands and appraising the nightgown. "I told you so."
"I didn't argue."
"I love you. What did you think of the show?"
"You know. I told you. I thought you were energetic, and charming, and I liked the choreography, and I thought it looked like you took direction well."
"The choreographer's a genius. Well, I'm beat. Tired. Wiped out. Want to have sex?"
I laugh. "That doesn't sound too promising."
"It'll be the time of your life."
I sigh, not out of frustration, but just to take a long breath.
"Come here, Francis."
I line up next to him, arms against arms and faces together.
His breath goes into my mouth when he's talking, since our heights are nearly alike. "Thank you for coming to the show. I was proud to have you there tonight."
"I was proud to meet you after, and be seen with you."
"You really were."
He closes up his arms around me and turns his cheek to my lips, looking a bit dazed as usual after such a show. "I'm going to get myself showered, meet me in bed."
"Lovely. See you there."
Larry is older; it's like the world went
twenty years ahead while I, Francis, spent that
much time in one single night. I aged a hundred
years, and I missed all the physical time the rest
of the world engaged in, and they still haven't
caught up to me. I glance around the room from
behind the pillar of the arch and know that many
here must have lost someone, at one time or
another, but I still feel as if I never shared
that night with anybody else. I feel like an
impossibility, as if I can never fit in physically
with anyone again, as if my age has been folded
back on itself and I am ancient in a very young
body, and to interact with me would open up
paradoxes no one could unravel or control.
It's the funny things you can never get over; 'Slick Oiled Hot Gay Men Cook Italian' and "I Really Like You" by Melissa Etheridge and dancing the entire routine to "One" from _A Chorus Line_ by himself in the living room, with all the lyrics changed to fit your gender and his mood and the fact that he's actually forgotten some of the original lines. If you become immune to those, if they can't make you curl up and cry, then you can't make any more such experiences with anybody else. You can be braced, ready, prepared against the dark and the bad and the senselessness and all the reminders, except the funny ones. Those get you every time, and there's no escape you can take except from the possibility of any more, and if you don't want to smile at anything then what are you living for anyway.
Larry touches me, and I feel his hand, and move my wrist so his skin will touch my skin. He meant to touch only my cuff, to express some concern, to show he knows what I'm thinking of. But I don't want him to be polite. I want to prove that I'm not some impossibility in the ages we are and the fact that I'm touching anyone at all.
You don't expect to do this more than once, in your life. At least, I didn't. Hope is welling up now, and I almost want it to go away. It feels like the most terrific, terrible emotion that could possibly force its way up within me.
Larry says, "I'm sorry."
I cannot thank him, or I risk tears and ruining my mascara. Don't ever let anyone try to sell you tearproof kinds. They don't work. I just look up at him tightly and say nothing. It's the same damn things you just can't get over.