JANUARY 2000 |
KENNETH A. CHAMPEON, a math teacher by trade, who resides in Portland, Oregon, is a contributing writer for Renaissance Online. His work has appeared in Toward Freedom and Intercultural Writers' Review.
Personal experience had borne this out in my case, and had at that time been no less artlessly expressed. But I also knew the tragic addendum, which was that it didn't eliminate, if it did diminish, my interest in them, nor Matt's. Toy had him, however little she had intended it (and I think it was, after all, quite as little as to be nothing at all) and he would be back at the Pub as soon he was able, to try to wrench her sexual orientation in a direction more favorable to him.
Most of what I knew of their relationship from beginning to end came second-hand as she most commonly stayed publicly so aloof from him as to almost appear ashamed, while he respected this if he did not fully understand it. Meanwhile, from him I heard that they had bar-hopped until 3 a.m. together this night, had taken a motorbike up to Pai that other day; finally, I heard, third-hand this time, that she deigned to permit him a kiss. Had it not been for the reek of gallons of hard alcohol and the tempered veracity with which these transactions must have been lubricated, a third party, me for example, might have seen in this all of the innocent hope of nascent romantic love. As it was, I saw a terribly lonely sop trying to seduce a woman too polite to refuse his attentions.
The tropics have gained notoriety for inducing in visitors to them a license in many cases far surpassing that of the locals, but Matt's license can be attributed to the availability and low cost of potent liquor prevalent in Thailand, rather than something in the undrinkable water or the often unbreathable air. He brought his death drive in his valise, as it were. Thailand only provided the ideal setting: for the drive, tropical life in profusion; for death, the concomitant natural decay.
Thus it was that one night, after Matt had gotten fairly bagged and we stopped to get cash from an ATM, he as fairly disappeared. We had told him that we would pick him up in a few minutes; those few minutes elapsed, and then a score. We had a prior and a rather time-sensitive commitment, and though he had the same, he thought fit to evaporate. We left, with only half-hearted compunction.
As we left him, Matt was scarcely equipped to make his own heart beat, much less drive, yet drive he did. A motorcycle no less, and through some of the most curve-ridden country in all of creation, arriving without a scratch, and without obvious indignation at his erstwhile chauffeur. And he continued, as if nothing had happened, to pound them back.
The ride home was not so well-fated. Taking the tricky turn into the driveway leading to his apartment, he was thrown from his bike and nearly into the throes of a concussion. He lay there for some time before the building's guards peeled him from the ground and led him to what was quite probably the soundest and at the same time most fundamentally disconcerted sleep of his life. My dormant faith in the God who looked out for drunks and children--as Matt was much of one and quite a lot of the other--was stirred.
If Matt's instinct for self-preservation found an expression so indirect as to be nearly mute--and I still believe that such acts as flipping off a motorbike evidenced such an instinct, inasmuch as he was happy in every moment leading up to it, and being happy, or at least not depressed, he could therefore continue to live--his instinct for preserving his genes continued to find expression in devotion to Toy. For the golden moment had come and passed. He had conquered the lesbian fortress! Excelsior! Amen! Et resquiat in pacem! Surely this discharge of misconceived masculinity and fluids was among the greatest perversions of creation conceivable, by a, at best, tragic-comically inclined Creator.
One of the last times he would see her would be at her birthday party, held with all due allegiance to the cause of comradery at Rendezvous Pub. He dutifully bought her a birthday present (colored pens and tracing paper) and she brimmed with tepid gratitude. From my tipsy remove, I yet could have strung the unspoken words of that evening out to the farthest known star and back with enough slack to swing light-year loops for eons. But I could not, the oh-so-human limitation of human scale being what it is, have seen the happy virus setting up shop in my friend.
And, who knows! Possibly it was doing no such thing! But what a cruel dispensation would Fate be indicted with, were Matt's last jeremiads against the Thai sex-workers' insidious calls to him as "friend" and "handsome"--all of these pleas to share the burden of the HIV time-bomb that they carried so pathetically on their lovely shoulders--were these jeremiads to have been more properly acted upon in the case of his perfect girl!
Something after the manner of an 'O, Bartleby!' seems apposite here, but I can only feebly place it within inverted commas. I wish I were a prohibitionist so that I could curse the drink! A preacher so I could damn fornication! What should one be but a fool, to accuse a virus!
Nothing. But nothing, indeed.
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