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Dead Letter

School began not long after we returned from the South.

The children’s lives are divided between their mother’s house in the suburbs—formerly, our shared marital domicile—and our apartment in the city. The schools in the city are preferable to those in the suburbs, so the kids are registered in my local school district. This means all school related mailings come to my address.

This makes my ex Lucy anxious for two reasons.

First, she dislikes any factor of the children’s lives that is not completely under her control. To get the information contained in a school mailing, she needs to deal with me.

Second, I get an outrageous volume of mail. I have to confess that sorting it is not always my highest priority. I make sure to separate anything requiring immediate attention, and allow the rest to pile until I just can’t stand to look at the heap. Lucy is aware of this.

One evening, Lucy called.

“Henry, we are expecting a mailing from Jason’s school. It’s important because it includes his new class assignment.”

“Right, I have my eyes out for that.”

“Did you receive it?”

“No, not yet.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Henry, this is very important . . .”

“I realize that.”

“Can you please go through your mail to look for it?”

“It’s not here, Lucy.”

“Can you please look?”

“I will look, but as I said, it’s not here.”

“Fine. Call when you find it.” Click.

I sorted my mail. No letter from the school. I called.

“Henry, how could you have lost this letter? Can’t you focus at all on the children’s education? Don’t you know that that this is a critical year for Jason?”

She began to pace her words, as she broke down a crucial fact so that even I could understand its import: “Your son Jason. Needs to get. Good grades. In order to get. Into a good high school.”

“I recognize the value of a good education. And I’m aware of the correlation between grades and high school admissions. I am just reporting that the letter did not arrive.”

“Fine. I’ll have to call the school. Thanks a lot.” Click.

Lucy sent an email to say that the school gave her the assignment, so the letter was no longer needed. She had taken care of it.

She also reminded me that I had agreed that she and her brother Richard would join us for dinner on Saturday, during my weekend with the kids. I replied that it was great news about the school information, and of course, I looked forward to seeing Richard.

Richard is a fine fellow. He’s very smart—he would be on my short list of people to call as a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”—and he keeps above the fray of our divorce even as he provides a sympathetic ear to his sister.

On Saturday, I took the kids swimming at a friend’s pool. It was a lovely warm day, as summer drifted into autumn. I periodically reminded the kids that we were having dinner that night with Uncle Richard. They were excited. As five o’clock rolled around, I toweled the kids and we dressed to return home, where we would meet Lucy and Richard.

“Hey Richard, welcome back!” I kissed him on the lips, as we do.

“Nice to see you Henry, you look great.”

“Uncle Richard, Uncle Richard!”

“You look great too, Lillie. So big! I can barely lift you!”

“I want to show you my video,” Collie tugged. “We did a play last year. I was a star!”

“I heard all about it! Let’s watch it in a minute, after I talk with the grown ups.”

“Boring!” Collie teased.

“I know, I’m a dull uncle.”

“Do you have any beer?” Lucy asked.

“I was just about to offer,” I replied. I went to the kitchen and brought out three glasses of Kingfisher. Richard was sitting on the couch. I place the beer on the coffee table.

“Lucy, here’s your beer.”

“Thanks, just a minute.” She was sorting through my mail.

Richard and I sat, talking.

“Jesus Christ, Henry!” Lucy held up an envelope.

“Don’t tell me you found the school letter?” I asked.

“No, but look at this. It’s a newsletter from my union, dated last month. You have to get my mail to me!” She looked at me, her face contorted into scowl that read “This is so fucking obvious, moron.” She took the newsletter to the kitchen and tossed it in the trash, unread.

“Maybe you want to save that, and let them know to correct the address,” I suggested.

“That’s not the point,” she said from the kitchen.

I shrugged to Richard. We picked up the conversation.

I could hear Lucy opening cabinets. “Henry, why do you buy Capri Sun?

“I’m sorry, what?”

She emerged from the kitchen. “Capri Sun. It’s not one hundred percent juice. You shouldn’t buy it for the kids.”

“Okay.”

She sat down and took her beer. She noticed a book on the table.

“T. C. Boyle? Since when do you read T. C. Boyle?”

“That’s a bestseller, Lucy. I’m not the only person to read it.” I heard the undertone: T. C. Boyle, like Paul Auster, was her author. I had no business reading her authors.

“Oh, I know that book,” Richard said. He began to discuss it. I was glad to let him handle the conversation.

Collie came out to remind Richard about the video. Richard took his beer to watch in the other room. Lucy returned to sorting my mail. Jason came out to join me on the couch. “I’ve seen that video like a hundred times,” he said.

“Me too. So where should we go for dinner?”

“I dunno. Sushi?”

“I’d like sushi. Anything but pizza, really.”

Lucy overheard our discussion. “You are not invited,” she said, her back to us.

“Excuse me?”

“You are not invited to dinner.”

Jason rolled his eyes. I was surprised. “Are you saying that you are taking the kids on my night, and I am not invited?”

“That’s right.”

“Huh. Well, how about that?” I shrugged to Jason and went to the other room.

I was not going to get into it with her in front of the kids.

As they prepared to go, Jason said he would see me later.

“You’re not joining us?” Richard asked.

“No, he isn’t,” Lucy answered, tying Lillie’s shoes.

“But Dad,” Collie asked, “What will you eat?”

“I’ll eat something here, don’t worry. I’ll see you afterwards.”

Jason looked at Collie, holding a finger to his lips. At the door, I told Richard it was great to see him again. I took his face in my hands and kissed his lips. As we do.

Lillie watched. She laughed. “You kissed a man! That is so gay.”

Richard feigned shock. He took Lillie’s hand. “Let’s just begin to discuss all the ways that is an inappropriate thing to say,” he said, leading her down the hall.

I closed the door. I was famished. I ate a simple dinner.

I emailed Lucy.

Lucy, I spent the day telling the kids we were having dinner with you and Richard. It came as a shock that this was not the case. It came as a greater shock that you chose to tell me this in front of Jason. Can we please do better?

Also, you need to respect that when you are at the apartment, you are in my home. You are not invited to go through my belongings. If you need to see something, just ask.

I was hurt and angry, and took great care in choosing my words. I recognize that Lucy is not entirely to blame for her moods. There is something about me that makes her furious. I regard her outbursts as akin to those sparked by Tourette’s Syndrome: unpleasant, and not entirely within her control. I try not to let it get to me.

Still, I am resolved to point out when she crosses a line. Being rude to me in front of the children is not acceptable behavior.

The email was deleted the next day, unread.

“What did you eat for dinner?” Lillie asked when they returned.

“Some pasta. How was the Chinese?”

“It was so good! Why didn’t Mom let you come?”

“Um, I don’t know, honey.”

“Yeah, that sucked,” Jason said.

“I’m glad you ate,” Collie said. “I was worried. I brought you a fortune cookie, you want it?”

The kids went back to their mom the following day. I left town on a short trip. When I returned, I found an email from Lucy.

The judge signed our agreement. I guess that’s it.

A few days later, I received an envelope from my lawyer.

Dear Henry,

Enclosed please find an executed Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law and a Judgment of Divorce. Congratulations, you are divorced!

I remain,

Yours truly,

Elizabeth Weiner, Esq.

Enclosure

Also enclosed was a bill for seven thousand three hundred and forty-five dollars.

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That night, after my talk with the teenagers, the sex dreams took a turn for the incestuous.

Following our afternoon on the boat, Lynn’s boyfriend had broken up with her via telephone. Lynn made a tearful call to break this news to her mother, my brother Jesse’s ex wife Teri.

This got me to thinking about Teri. I realized I had not seen in her in a couple of years.

My subconscious took hold of that realization. I would see Teri that very night.

In appearance, Lynn and her brother are perfect amalgams of their parents’ combined traits. Both parents are attractive, blonde, blue-eyed, with glowing smiles.

Their children share that description, but for one additional factor. In marrying Teri, Jesse had added several inches to the gene pool. She is around six feet tall, as are the kids. My brother Jesse, at five foot seven or so, is dwarfed by his ex and their children—an amusing detail in any family photograph.

My brother and his wife broke up a decade ago when she decided that she was a lesbian.

This came as a great surprise. At the time, Jesse and Teri had two young children and a new house.

My brother was distraught. Are you sure? he asked. Can’t we work something out? Maybe you can be a lesbian without divorcing me? Shouldn’t we stay together for the kids?

What else could he say? Divorce and homosexuality are equally alien in our family. All we know is that families stay together, no matter what.

It wasn’t possible, Teri said. She was already in love with someone else—a woman.

My parents were equally distraught. I might even venture that my mother’s distress surpassed even that of her son Jesse, arguably the person more affected by Teri’s decision.

To their great credit, though, my parents made it clear to Teri that that they loved her no matter what. Divorce or no divorce, she was still their daughter. She was still family.

(This by contrast to Teri’s own parents, self-styled sophisticates who told Teri to clear out her childhood bedroom in their home, as they no longer had a daughter.)

Mom called me with the news. I was stunned and felt terrible for Jesse and the kids, not to mention my mother, who could barely talk about it without crying. I hated what this was doing to my family.

But, I said, if this is what Teri wants, then that is the way it is.

How can you say that? my mother asked. They have children! What about their responsibilities to them?

I know, I replied, but what is the alternative? If she’s gay, she’s gay. She can’t stay married and pretend otherwise. I’m sure they will continue to meet their obligations in a new family arrangement.

Besides, I went on to say, it was very brave of Teri to come forward with this revelation. Coming out is very difficult, particularly given her family’s reaction. I felt compelled to support that. In fact, I was happy for her.

Mom hung up on me. Perhaps I had gone too far.

Teri’s girlfriend left her not long after the divorce was finalized. Teri told Jesse she had made a terrible mistake and asked him to take her back.

It’s too late, he said. He was already engaged to someone else.

Since then, Teri has dated a string of men. None has quite stuck.

Naturally, this family history has been much in mind since the end of my marriage. Mine was the second divorce in my family, and my marriage was also ended at the wife’s behest.

“She’s going to regret this,” Mom says of my ex, “Just like Teri did.”

“Maybe so,” I say. “And if so, just as in that case, it will be too late.”

Mom nods. “Good. You can do better.”

The conversation with my niece and nephew must have brought those thoughts home. Thoughts of Teri brought her into my dreams.

I suppose that if I were going to have sex dreams with a family member, it was commendable that my subconscious had the decency to switch dials from my niece and nephew to their mother.

In the dream, I was giving Teri a tour of a house my parents had recently purchased. It was large, ancient and utterly devoid of furniture. “Kind of drafty,” Teri said, shivering.

“If you are cold, I can show you a little secret to this house,” I said. “But you have to keep it between us.”

“Oh, I’m curious,” she smiled. “Show me.”

“You promise to keep it secret?”

“I do.”

I bit my lip. “Okay then, follow me.” I led her into the butler’s pantry and opened a closet door. “This way,” I said, reaching for her hand.

We descended a dark staircase, entering a sauna. “Hey, that’s a nice surprise,” she said.

“Isn’t it? I love a sauna.”

I opened the door and led her into the steam. When my vision adjusted, I could see that the sauna was full of nude men. Some were touching one another. All noticed us standing there, fully clothed.

“Oh!” Teri exclaimed, her hand rising to her mouth.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “This must be men’s day. Come on, let’s go this way.”

I led Teri into a room with plastic mats on the floor. I recognized it as a swinger club.

I only vaguely recollect the rest of the dream. It had to do with me fending off advances from entreating couples as I led Teri in search of the staircase upstairs.

I awoke and lay in bed, wondering at the occasional transparence of dreams.

Teri, so far as I know, is the only other member of my birth family to have any experience with bisexuality. Yet our experiences are so different that there is no reason for me to expect that she would understand my current life better than any other family member.

That following evening, we took Lynn back to her mother’s house. Teri came out to say hello to me and my kids. I stepped out of the car to hug her neck.

“Well, you look great,” she said, pulling me close. “You’re getting some sun.”

“Why thank you, I feel pretty. And you look as lovely as ever!”

“No, no, I’m fat! Look at me”

“Nonsense, you are wasting away, you scrawny thing,”” I said. “You need to get some meat on those bones. Now come over here and say hey to the kids.”

It felt familiar to indulge in this exchange, so common among reuniting Southerners.

Teri leaned into the car and cooed at each of my children in turn. Lynn reminded the kids that this was her mother. Teri reached around the car seats to hug my Mom and Dad.

“My goodness,” she said, standing to face me. “Your babies are so big! I feel so old.”

“Tell me,” I replied, my arm on Lynn’s shoulder. “I’ve been hanging out with this one, you know.”

We talked about our growing children for a bit before my kids grew restless. “We should get going to eat,” Mom called.

I kissed Lynn’s cheek and stepped forward to hug Teri goodbye.

“Keep in touch,” she whispered into my ear. “We’re still family, you know.”

I buried my face in her hair and kissed her neck. “Bye, Sis.”

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Viviane poured two stiff bourbons, on the rocks. “Okay, show me your driver’s license,” she said.

I pulled out my wallet.

“Okay, good. Now take this,” she said, handing me a pen. “And this,” she added, handing me my drink. “Cheers.”

“Cheers.” I took a belt, opened the pen, and changed the course of my life.

My lawyer had given me very clear instructions.

There were five copies of the final divorce agreement. Lucy and I needed to initial every page on all copies—there were over two hundred pages involved—and sign each copy in the presence of a notary public.

Lucy signed the papers at the end of the day on Friday and brought them to me. I had to have the signed agreements at her lawyer’s office before nine on Monday morning; they were being filed with the court at ten.

I had to find a notary over the weekend. I thought immediately of Viviane.

Viviane is also going through a divorce. We’ve met a few times over drinks to discuss life, art and the beginnings of our new lives. We’ve kissed, which was sweet and passionate.

I once left two hickeys on her bosom to remember me by.

She agreed to notarize my signature, but at a cost. She had gone without sex in the two years since her break up. She wanted me to break that streak of bad luck.

She drove a hard bargain. But what could I do? I needed a notary. So I agreed to emboss the sheets of this smart and attractive notary public.

“Now,” she instructed. “Sign here.”

I did. She countersigned, stamped the page and attached her seal.

“Again, here.” I held her hand as she left her stamp.

“Again.” I ran a hand along her leg.

“Again.” My hand on her back.

“And once more.” A kiss.

And so easily as that, my marriage ended.

If there is a God, the Lord spends too much time on irony. As I kissed Viviane, her stereo was playing Frank Sinatra singing “I Love My Wife.”

She took me to her bedroom. We undressed, kissing. Her kisses grew hungry, awakening my mouth.

My mouth traveled all over her body, leaving kisses, nibbles, bites.

We went at it passionately.

When I left, my divorce was signed, sealed and ready for delivery. Viviane was covered in hickeys, her streak broken beyond repair.

Feeling light headed and giddy, I went to meet a friend for dinner and theatre. He is a former professor of mine. He served as the best man at my wedding. His signature witnessed my marriage certificate.

He was visiting me for the weekend, along with his husband of eighteen years.

“Well,” I announced, “I’m pretty much divorced.”

“Rather ironic, given what we are seeing tonight,” he laughed. They were taking me to see “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

But first, we were having dinner with another former student of his. The former student brought his boyfriend. His boyfriend is Jake Shears, lead singer for the Scissor Sisters. They joined us at the play and for drinks afterwards.

Throughout the evening, I reflected on the loving affection of the two young men and the longevity and commitment of my professor’s relationship.

Perhaps I will find those things as well.

But as George and Martha bickered on stage, I took solace that at least those days were behind me.

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Tainted Love

In the autumn of my senior year of high school, my heart was broken for the first time.

Debra was a junior, a vivacious and silly girl, with freckles, porcelain skin and wavy hair. She was hanging out with Allan when she got to know me. We decided this was it, and fell fast in love. We held hands, wrote each other notes, the works.

She lost her virginity on the floor of my family’s den. My family was asleep. I built a fire. We had wine. It was so perfectly romantic.

My then nine-year-old brother discovered us the next morning, asleep, naked on a blanket. Poor Debra was mortified—she was a good girl, forever to be considered a slut by my mother.

Debra became the first woman with whom I had sexual intercourse on a regular basis.

I say “regular basis,” but that’s not quite right. See, she had a reason she wanted to lose her virginity that night—her parents were moving her to Seattle at the end of the semester. And she wanted to lose her virginity to someone she loved as intently as we loved one another.

We had a month remaining in which to be lovers.

Our friends became co-conspirators, sneaking me into the girl’s dorm, pretending she was at a sleepover when she was with me, anything we could dream up.

Just as intensely as Debra loved me, so too did she worship Donnie.

Donnie was much admired, without question the most talented actor in our school. I scarcely knew him—we had a few classes together—but everyone extolled his sense of humor. He was also very handsome, with blond hair, blue eyes, chiseled features. He was rail thin.

A skinny blond funny boy—those were my best attributes too. I was a little threatened by Debra adoration of Donnie, but he was gay, so I had no insecurities about our romance.

Debra desperately wanted Donnie and me to be friends. I was game, though the circumstances felt forced.

One evening, I saw him in the window of his dorm.

“Evidently we are supposed to be friends,” I called up.

“So I hear,” he replied. “We’ll see, huh?”

Debra’s last night came too soon. Donnie arranged for me to sleep in his dorm room, though I would actually be sneaking over to the girl’s hall.

Debra’s roommate slept elsewhere. Debra and I stayed up all night, talking, making love, crying.

At dawn, I crept back to Donnie’s room. I feel asleep on the floor.

Donnie woke at eight, and took Debra to the airport. She didn’t want me to do that.

When Donnie left, his friend Chuck felt me up as I slept. I stopped him. Geez, how insensitive. Chuck was a creep.

Donnie didn’t care for Chuck, but he felt responsible to watch out for the other gay kids.

The deflowering of Debra, and our subsequent torrid romance, was the soap opera of the season. Everyone followed it, and expressed their regrets to me when she was gone.

It also identified me the boy who could put an end to a girl’s virginity. Debra’s friends queued up. I was suddenly having a lot of sex.

One night, Donnie and I sat on a porch, watching a party across the street. We talked about Jesus, we talked about Tom Robbins. And just like that, we were friends.

I told him about my experiences with Allan. I had told no one else. He was touched that I confided in him, and asked all the right questions. It felt great to have him to talk with about how mixed up that felt.

He took me to my first gay bar, a small dive called Belle’s. We were underage, but that was no problem. I had free drinks and we danced. Donnie never drank.

It was only a matter of time before we were having sex.

The first time, in his dorm room, he blew me. He complained that it took so long to get me off. Think of it as staying power, I said.

The truth is, though, I was nervous. Donnie was gay. That struck me as somehow different than being with Allan, because we were both straight. Allan and I loved each other, but it was always pretty clear that our primary sexual partners were women.

It would be a while before I understood bisexuality.

Donnie and I traded notes throughout the days at school. He put his notes in interesting containers—a cup, a found envelope, a chocolate box. They grew increasingly elaborate in format, requiring me to open secret panels, or to fill in blank areas to read the full text.

I opened up to him in our correspondence.

Donnie fell in love. That scared the hell out of me.

A group of us went skinny-dipping at my house one night. It was late, and by some miracle, my family did not wake up.

We wound up in my room, splayed about naked on the floor, in pitch darkness. I was massaging Jamye, slipping my finger inside her.

Her sister wanted a massage too, so I rubbed her. It was nonsexual, as we didn’t go there.

Anyone else? I offered.

Donnie signed on. I straddled his buttocks and ran my fingers up his spine, branching outward along his muscles. He squirmed under me. He raised his ass. My hand traveled between his legs; he was hard.

Elsewhere in the room were the sounds of couples kissing. I could hear Peabo coo soothing words to Jamye’s sister.

Donnie was sucking me. Loud, wet and fierce.

His mouth felt so good on me. But I worried about the noise. If anyone heard the sounds of sex coming from this corner of the room, they would know it was us. I would be outed.

I lay back and stretched myself to reach Jamye. Her head was near mine, her body stretched in the other direction.

She was asleep, or feigning sleep. I found her face and kissed her lips. She pretended to sleep through it. I scooted back to suck her nipples, loudly. Donnie stayed on me as I moved, sucking me, loudly.

I wiggled to her hips. I raised a leg so that I could get my mouth down on her. She moaned softly and ran a hand down my chest, to my belly.

I stopped her hand before she reached between my legs. There would have been a surprise there.

Donnie worked me until I was about to come. I stopped him.

Light was coming in my window. The sun was rising.

I saw my friends off.

Once Donnie confessed his love for me to his best friend Michelle, she set her sights on me. It was a stupid thing, but she wanted anything he had.

She was a gorgeous black girl, and I was easy. We started having sex.

Donnie was hurt. His letters to me were filled with betrayal and anger. And, perversely, with the tenderest expressions of love.

He loved me too intensely. I didn’t know what to do with him.

He would be pissed at me because of Michelle, but forgive me immediately when I agreed that his new favorite song, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” was insanely great.

After graduation, Donnie moved to New York. I came up to see him often. It was a twenty-four hour trip by train, each way, but I couldn’t afford to fly. I was working for minimum wage in a movie theater.

I came to know the city through his eyes, by his side when I was here, through his words in the letters he wrote.

In the summer of nineteen-eighty-five, I was in New York with my parents and grandmother. After being a good tour guide all day, I was given the night off to hang out with Donnie.

He gave me a sex tour of the city. We were twenty-one.

He worked at the box office of a gay cinema in Times Square.

At his theater, men watched porn projected on a vast screen. I saw men walking onto the stage and going behind the screen. “Where are they going?” I asked.

“Behind the looking glass, Mary. Come on.”

I followed him. We walked along a narrow corridor behind the screen; looking up, I saw porn actors, seventeen feet high, as projected light.

We went upstairs. There, we found a park, created from stage props and Astroturf. Men were having sex on park benches. I had never seen men have sex, and now I saw dozens of them.

Donnie held my hand as we toured around.

He took me to a few of his haunts. We ended up at the Anvil, in the meatpacking district. We walked into a bar with a dance floor. Go-go boys in jock straps danced on the bar, and many of the dancers were shirtless. We swam into their midst to dance.

After we were good and sweaty, he took me downstairs.

Porn was being projected on a screen, as men blew each other on plush sofas.

We sat as far as we could from the action. As we talked, a man came over and jerked off in front of us.

Donnie took me further.

There was a narrow corridor, lined with men. They turned and smiled at us as we approached. It was pitch black at the opposite end.

I decided I had seen enough.

Back at Donnie’s tiny studio, we kissed as his roommate slept.

He asked me to keep my socks on as he blew me. Why, I wondered?

He wanted me to fuck him. He had just started to bottom. No, I can’t, I can’t.

I was just too freaked out.

I cabbed back to the hotel. My family was more than freaked to see me drag in at sunrise. I escaped into sleep.

Five years later, I was out of college, and Lucy and I moved to New York. Donnie, of course, was still here. Debra had moved to the city as well.

Donnie helped us unload the truck when we moved. We hung out as I settled into the city.

I was well into Lucy then, and certainly not up for sex outside of that relationship. Donnie never brought it up. We were good as friends.

One afternoon, I met Debra for coffee. We had a high time talking and catching up. We were both thrilled to be back in a place where we could be friends again.

After a while, she said, “I should get going. I told Donnie I’d visit him in the hospital.”

I knew what she was going to say next. I had to pretend otherwise. I had to.

“Hospital? What happened?”

Nothing had happened. I knew.

“Hank . . .”

Stop. Don’t.

“Donnie has AIDS.”

He had not told me.

I went with her to the hospital.

I saw Donnie almost every day for the next two years.

On the morning he died, I was in a cab, racing to the hospital.

It didn’t matter if I was there when he breathed his last. His family was there. Our friends were there. He was already doped to incomprehension. I had already been with him through the worst of it.

I needed to be there.

The cab’s radio was much too loud. The sun was too bright. The sky was shrill.

Three blocks from the hospital, the song on the radio ended. I heard the opening tones of “Tainted Love.”

He was gone.

I don’t believe in omens, but he did. Donnie delighted in good endings.

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Donnie Says

It is very hard to summarize a relationship into a single posting in a blog. But I did want you to know Donnie.

The thing hardest to get into a summary is his voice. I didn’t even try. Instead, I will let him speak for himself, by sharing one of the letters he sent me soon after he moved to New York.

At the time, we had a rule: We had to write back the day we received a letter.

Sweetest Dear,

It’s July third, nineteen-eighty-three at five fifteen am, and I’m on a sixth floor fire escape in the big Greenwich Village.

The apartment actually belongs to my cherished friend Cheryl, but my cherished friend Stevie is living here in Cheryl’s absence. Cheryl, you see, is at the present living in Dublin (Ireland, y’know) attending the (sniff) Joan White Theatre School. She’s studying the classics and all that shit (oh that word!).

Stevie and I just finished the latest installment of one of our favorite pastimes, which we call “closing the Duplex.”

Insty-Explanation

The Duplex: one of my (and my friends’—i.e., the aforementioned broads) favorite nightspots. Try almost the only nightspot I’ve ever been to here. No joke. No matter, it’s all (almost all) I need.

It’s a mostly gay club in the Village with two floors: the upstairs where I’ve never been which houses various specialty acts (transvestites, torch singers, etc.); and the downstairs where I’ve always been—a piano bar (sing-along style) with light bulbs (one row) along the walls (a la dressing room chic) and framed theatre posters. It’s kind of in a basement, and we are talking MAJOR small. There’s a jukebox, a cigarette machine, and some video/pinball machines in the back. Nothing lavish here.

Everyone screams Broadway tunes for hours. There’s also a little spotlight and microphone if anyone has the urge to wing it one their own. Usually it’s barmaids and bartenders (who are mostly preciously cute) who sing alone. I think you would like it except for the fact that one can’t help but feel a little left out if one doesn’t know any of the words. (Chide, tease.) (Not really.)

It’s very low pressure (none of that Belle’s shit (!) where you get groped by about twenty people while trying to buy a drink) and usually very warm. In a way. I mean, for all the warmth being passed around the place, there’s still the knowledge that in about an hour or so, you’ll be asked to leave, and everyone with go home. Alone. Unless, of course . . .

END

Dawn has broken during the course of this narration.

This is beautiful. This time and space, I mean. I wish you could see and feel it. It’s very warm, but not disgusting yet.

The West Village is this tumbledown motley of multi-colored, flaking brownstones and little ancient churches. I can see a clock tower and an old tall building topped with what looks like a Greek temple, and I can see a tiny square of the Hudson River.

I went on the roof first (Cheryl’s on the top floor), and got views of the Empire State and World Trade that not only ought to be postcards, but were postcards in the first light of dawn. (However, there was nowhere to sit.)

This neighborhood is wonderful. Everywhere is Off-Broadway theatres, boutiques (clever to offensive), clubs, restaurants, and everywhere, EVERYWHERE is every handsome man that God ever made.

And they’re ALL GAY!!!

This pen will burn in hell.

Henry. Uh, I am so sleepy. I am so sleepy I just dozed off and almost fell off the fire escape.

So . . . could I bend the . . . uh, rules just a tiny bit? I mean, I promise I’ll finish the letter tomorrow, and the mail doesn’t run until Tuesday. And . . . and . . . ohshutup. I’m going to sleep.

(Ouy fo maerd dna.)

Figure it out, You don’t get anything for free.

P.S. Thank you for the letter. Honestly. How I love you.

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