When she thinks of him, her arms rise up and out as though to prepare an embrace, a hug, an enfolding. I suggest to her that this relationship is long over, that she’s being co-dependent to a narcissist, but she just laughs. I really can’t know anything about it anyway, even though I’m the omniscient narrator of this tale, who is creating it as much as recognizing it.
Both of them are covert, one intentionally underground and evading people who seek him for malicious purposes because they think he is someone he is not. The other living almost secretly in a small town where people depend on knowing about each other. But they can only learn what they’ve known before. The privacy of the internet — though it is illusional — somehow gave each of them enough cover to communicate.
In quantum mechanic terms, it was an entanglement — both distant and adjacent, if not intimate, but in only a virtual way since there was no proximity. Still it was complex and mysterious, at least on the terms of conventional relationships and the class ordering of society. How does an old woman relate to a younger man with a quite different view of existence? Because they both think a lot about different theories. They share the questions.
She has value through education and books; he has value through experience that she can barely name. Her ignorance of the dark world — death, suffering, hatred, evil — suddenly was flooded with blind cold and velvet void. His was a sudden access to the thought world of comparative theology, far more powerful than workshop therapy he’d tried as a young man and now used as a seasoned redeemer of boys.
She had known gays before, but they were from her undergrad work long ago when they were all theatre majors and they were closeted “gentleman” gays. They remained gentlemen all their lives, skillful and achieving, just rather mysteriously bachelors until marriage between men became legal.
This specific man was pansexual, ur-sexual, mind-fucking, on an entirely different level of sexuality as separated from fertility. On her part, she was well read in terms of the biological basis of meiosis that requires two generative elements and all the things that happen after that, particularly in terms of human relationship and culture. She had read Masters and Johnson and all the ensuing inquiries and opinions. She just didn’t care to get involved with the actualities and didn’t live in a way that invited them.
Even now, she looked at hard core porn and simply saw human beings, looked at seemingly innocent underwear photos and saw them as displaced eroticism used for mercantile and domination purposes. The exaggerations of both male and female framings were interesting, but in a sort of novelistic way. Story possibilities. She was not a feminist nor even a humanist, but an observer, a note-taker who was surprised when reading made her wet or shaking.
He was rueful about his own adventures and obsessed with saving the boys, but many died. Too many died. They needed care, food, money, and enfoldment in love. The world forced him to come up short on all but the last. She had no movie either, but as a former teacher on the rez, she knew many boys like these, whole sequences of boys, moving in small groups, with only each other to trust.
They both wrote story after story about these boys in all sort of situations, but hers were imaginary and his were real. At least most of them were real. His boys went in pairs, sometimes declaring they were in love, and sometimes they wrote as well. He took photos and taught them how to do the same. He stayed with them, holding their hands in the hospital even as they died.
If they didn’t die, they grew up, became men. They passed on what they knew. As he himself began to die, they turned to him, promised to hold his body in their arms, his ideas in their hearts.
The old woman wanted to tell this to others. Maybe they would help. But he had been attacked before and it was too risky. She tried to hint but people only thought she was a figment of his imagination. He already had a figure in his head that she called “The Blue Fairy”-- you know, like in Pinocchio. Or the good witch in that gay classic, “Wizard of Oz,” over the rainbow. There had been several real examples — he was not the kind of gay that hates women. But he was the kind of gay who knows the world, the SM way a slave understands the overseer — of necessity. He never learned to love the whip.
Her story was dominated by two commands. The first came from being the oldest and only girl with two younger brothers. The assumption was that she was a surrogate mother, maybe even an assistant mother, and the command was “take care of your brothers.” She couldn't.
The second command was to search for a father. She found him and married him, fulfilled that goal while hardly realizing it but learning the enormous value of protection in a dangerous world. She could be childish an extra ten years. She wasn't reborn, but she had time to grow up.
He also had two commands: to be a genius, a major success, and meanwhile to save himself by saving others. The struggle was whether the two could ever be reconciled. She tried to help. But couldn't. Could only watch.
There was no danger of viral infection. This was a “virtual” world of words and ideas that came from the past and went on through to the future, making stories in books, blogs, photos, performance, religious thought, correspondence and even sexwork. It has happened before and will happen again. Throwing one’s arms out as she did was only an attempt to express the long horizon of the relationship, how vast, how far.