I know this will strike some people — not that anyone else is ever going to see it — as inappropriate or non-PC or whatever, but when I spend 55 minutes (on a good day!) driving down here when there are lots of much more enjoyable things I could be doing, I wonder if you could make just some vague semblance of an effort to look presentable. I mean, all right, you’re dying, and in pain, and on so much morphine that you hardly know your own name. I get that. I genuinely get that. But would you mind thinking of someone other than yourself — in this case, me — just a little bit? You’re grey — no, ashen. Your eyes are sunken. You look around 112. I won’t deny that it upsets me. You’re three and a half years — not even that: 20 months — older than I. Do you not, in those rare moments of lucidity the morphine allows you, realise that I look at you and think, “There but for fortune go I,” on the good days, but, “Behold what awaits me!” on the bad ones, which are far more frequent?
You seem to be off in Morphineland again, so I’ll tell you some things I’ve wanted to tell you for decades. I knew, in the early days, that you were in love with me, and I’m haunted by my having pretended I didn’t know. But I was 22, for crying out loud, and it wasn’t yet a time when a young man wanted even to consider the possibility that he might have it in him to fuck another guy. (No. Strike that. My word choice is so revealing, isn’t it? So fake-macho, so devoid of anything resembling tenderness. Not fuck. Make love to.) I think I’d been a little bit in love with The Beatles, as I suspect a great many young men were at the time, and with James Franciscus, the actor who played the eponymous character in my favourite TV programme, Mr. Novak. But I certainly wasn’t about to let on, was I! I had some self-respect. And yes, I am of course saying that with tongue in cheek, having come to appreciate, over the intervening decades, that there was no good reason that a bisexual or even gay person shouldn’t respect himself. What a fucked-up world I came to manhood in.
The fact is that I was reciprocally in love with you, though I think I might have been less attracted physically than you were to me. I loved your seeming to know everything worth knowing, and God knows, your admiring my work. At that time in my life, except for the two consecutive creative writing awards in junior high school, I hadn’t experienced much admiration. Yours made me feel as though I’d stepped out of a frigid grey room into buttery warm sunshine. It made me feel as Neil Young’s exquisite “Expecting to Fly” did, transported and incredulous. Not, mind you, that I ever entirely trusted your admiration (or anyone else's). I thought that at any moment you were going to burst into laughter and say, “You can’t honestly imagine I think you’re any good, can you?” And maybe that dread made me love you all the more.
I kept my love well hidden, though, and looked for all the world like one of those not-a-queer-bone-in-my-body types. I liked sports. No, I adored sports, though I suppose adore isn’t a verb a guy without a queer bone in his body would use. And God knows I genuinely lusted after pretty women, and seduced and abandoned more than my fair share, if you factored in my immobilising shyness! But at the core of myself, I always knew I was living a lie. I married one of those I didn’t abandon, and what could be more vivid proof of my not having a queer bone in my body than our three kids, and, more recently, the four grandkids? But I never stopped longing for you.
So maybe tomorrow, or, if Jean needs to use the car, Thursday, when I come down again, you’ll maybe bribe a sympathetic nurse’s aide to rub some blood on your cheeks (a trick women in concentration camps used to make themselves look healthier, and thus less likely candidates for Zyklon B showers), and comb what’s left of your hair. I sure hope so.