When I was seven, my babysitter sat me down on the plump couch in our basement and promised me an entire bowl of butter pecan ice cream if I would be quiet while she watched a DVD. I think she had a report due for class and had decided to rent the movie rather than read the book. As the opening credits ran for Kiss Me, Kate I stuffed spoonful after spoonful into my mouth. But by the time the cast sang “We Open in Venice” I had forgotten about the ice cream and stared wide-mouthed at the television. My legs began to swing with the music, upsetting the bowl. Melted, sticky goo spilled over both our laps.
That night my eyes opened to new wonders, my ears heard a new heartbeat. I began begging my parents to buy me that DVD, and others, too. My fairy tales were movies featuring Princes Charming like Danny Kaye and Gene Kelly. I didn’t lack for ogres—such as Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors—or wicked witches with appetites—for that, there was Lola from Damn Yankees.
Since then I have wished life were more like musicals. But people don’t burst into song and dance when their emotions rise or fall. Mouthing lyrics while listening to your iPod or wailing in the shower while shampooing your hair don’t count. I want a chorus to warn me of danger while singing verse. I want the romance of being serenaded, of the duet. And all I get is high school.
One night, my boyfriend asked me to come over to study. My hope was we’d be making out rather than struggling through Moby Dick, a book that squashed my brain like a lead weight whenever I tried to read more than a few pages. Then I saw what Hugh had done to his bedroom. Photocopies of thick-bearded old men had replaced the posters of Bob Dylan, Morrissey and the Red Caps.
“Herman Melville and Walt Whitman,” he said, with the blatant ardor most gay boys reserve for pop stars thick with eye shadow or young actors infamous for stripping off their shirts on film.
“Like the bridge?” My experience with Whitman involved crossing the Delaware River from South Jersey into Philly so we could hit the Trocadero Theater to watch indie bands.
“Like the gay poet.”
“Oh.” I collapsed on his messy bed. I lay on my stomach and rested my chin on my hands. “So you like…really want to study?”
He nodded. “Remember, our oral presentations are due this week.”
“Fine,” I sighed. Being at the tail end of the alphabet, I had planned on procrastinating until Thursday. “Can we work out an incentive program? I’m thinking it’s about time someone invented Strip Book Report.”
Hugh raised an eyebrow. The left, which went a little wild near the center of his forehead. I wanted to pluck the few errant hairs while he slept. But it matches his mop of unruly curls. “Not book reports…oral presentations—”
“Imagine. We take off our sneaks after writing the introductory sentence.” I rolled over and dramatically kicked off one cherished Converse All-Star. “State our thesis, off come the shirts.
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