Seth was from the Midwest, near Moorhead,
Minnesota, where the winters were particularly hard to endure.
He always considered himself a survivor of snow and ice, a
child of farm parents, who were very old by the time he was
born. He sometimes wondered if the fervent prayer which dominated
the house after dinner, as everyone gathered in the lit circle,
books in hand, was what gave his mother and father the energy
to endure one more son—"the surprise" and
baby of the family.
He grew up hard and strong, perfectly attuned to the land,
which went from snow and ice to sunflowers in the summer,
waving lazily beyond the meandering river. There were certain
still moments during high school days, when he would stand
on the hill with his shirt off, look down at the valley and
feel that passionate love of man and God—steepled church
in the distance, the sun forming arcs on the water, whose
stones he could see even from here—which told him he
had the right design for living.
Chandler was lanky and wiry. He grew up in Seattle, fatherless,
with his mother. He loved helping her with things, loved working
part-time in high school to lessen the expenses. There was
a busline that went right by their small cottage where the
two of them lived like a couple in a nursery rhyme. It made
him feel important to leave study hall at 3:15 p.m., walk
to the printer's shop where he swept up and did odd jobs,
and then ride home with the rest of the city at six o'clock.
Usually perfect pink clouds, the color of cotton candy, would
bloom in the sky just above the mountains, and the bus window,
for him, would become like a painting hung in a museum crossed
by twilight. The print shop inspired him to try a little poetry
in his bedroom. He started reading Keats, and sometimes, at
night, he and his mother would read aloud before bed. These
were wonderful, spellbound moments, with the autumn garden
sending its pale breath through the cracks around the door—the
house was cozy but very drafty—and he often felt that
nothing could ever drive him from this special life that seemed
Came a time, though, when ambition went through Seth's nerves
like an electric current. He had a high school sweetheart
by that time, and he told her all sorts of things were happening
out West. Plenty of good people out there, too, and if they
played their cards right, they could build a wonderful God-fearing
life out in a new land—for themselves and the children
they would bring into the world. They knew that the earth
was destined to burn eventually, but until then, God had a
blueprint for the two of them. They would get educated, and
they would settle into their version of everything they had
known here in the Midwest. Seth had a vision of planting sunflowers
on the acreage they would buy just outside that Western town.
They would have their own farmhouse, too, with evenings reading
in a circle. And there would be time for everything else,
because God wanted us to be more than just vessels of Scripture.
It said so in Scripture itself. New technology was on the
horizon, and he would learn how to use it. He would craft
his God-given talents in college; he would come to terms with
them, and through fervent prayer discover what was the best
path toward Prosperity, not just for himself but his wife
Somehow he knew this would all come to pass. It would be
a part, almost, of Manifest Destiny. He would hold on to that
moment on the Sunflower Hill. He would put forth muscle and
energy and work hard, and become the kind of example God intended
him to be. He felt so strong—capable—his very
body clamored to be strong. He was even given, as they planned
their journey westward, to taking up with exercise, the exertion
of his body. It all seemed part of the plan. The incredible
breadth of his shoulders seemed to long for a challenge; it
invigorated him to exhaust himself daily. He loved the feel
barbells, for example. The bar would come down close to his
massive chest, almost like a caress or kiss, and he would
heave away feeling the blood pump through him as though it
were a transfusion of energy. With this sort of ritual, practiced
every day, and with the wonderful lovemaking he imagined with
his-soon-to-be-wife every night, he could only find that the
plan of moving, of going to school, of finding the job of
his dreams, was unfolding with inevitable beneficence.
Chandler's mother, despite herself, encouraged him to leave
the nest. They were at their favorite restaurant—Round
the Clock, the one with the blue water glasses and the green
dinner plates—when the subject came up. She said, "You're
going to go nowhere, Dear, unless you apply to college."
"But I'm O.K. just the way things are."
"Maybe now. But not forever. Later you'll regret not
getting on the train later—when there's no train to
He thought about it now on the bus. (He had graduated from
high school and worked full time at the print shop.) It was
true that things had become routine, but he absolutely loved
this city! Just to walk down Fifth Avenue on Saturday night,
with the world all neon and streetlights, the shop windows
glowing like bubbles newly out of the pipe, was enough to
make it all worth it. But, still, there was something to what
his mother said. It was consonant with what had been going
on in his poetry, which had flowered nicely, had gone into
landscapes he had never dreamed possible, into the shapes
of idealized men, hammering their strength into the earth,
on the clean anvil of his metered lines—men muscular
and supple and clean-limbed—who were tender with a glow,
as if born on stars. He had forsaken, lately, Keats for Whitman.
And as his small life in the print shop had pattered itself
out, and avenues for reformulating and publishing his poetry
had made themselves known, he had noticed a blossoming inside
himself, very minute, very subtle, but a sign, a warning light
maybe, that he had ignored some major point of darkness within
him, growing. Not a talent, really, not a skill, but something
to do with this whole world he had seen in high school but
had felt alien from. Dating. Courting. Matching. Seeing girls.
Punching the shoulders of his male friends and talking about
Sally. Always Sally. Or some name like that. In the past,
he really had hated it. Had withdrawn. Had thought his mother
the only woman worth knowing. Had stayed away, then, from
the whole arena. Had kept to himself, and yet he knew now,
perhaps because of the poetry, that there was passion inside
and it had to do with men. At first he had always felt that
it had been a grief-stricken and constant longing for his
father, who had deserted him when he was two. But it was more
that. Different from that. He wanted so desperately—and
he only admitted it now and on the bus!—to unite with
another man, skin against skin, in a naked union of one flesh.
He flushed all over thinking of it, and he knew if he stayed
in the city with just his mother, he would never experience
any of it. He had to make a clean breast of his life—try
the world outside this bungalow city—if he was ever
to meet up with this lifelong dream in whatever form it was
intended to happen.
So he agreed with what his mother said. They prayed about
it. For while they could in no ways be called Godfearing in
the old-fashioned sense, they believed. They were dedicated,
devout in their own way. They attended their special church
faithfully every week. And their minister—a friend to
them during all these years—gave them his blessing.
Chandler certainly needed to try his wings. A man should leave
his mother and cleave unto his wife ("Whoever that should
turn up to be," the minister smiled.) And Chandler had
felt confused, yet certain this was an inevitable breaking
There was some merriment at Seth's wedding, even though they
had stated their vows solemnly, with Ames (Brother Ames) officiating—merriment
nonetheless, with June looking shy and flushed, and Seth feeling
his heart would nearly bust with pride when he saw her at
the end of aisle. She allowed herself blue satin, and her
skin shone against it. That night he would take her. Take
her. And he thought of himself as handsome and strong now,
ready to break out of the tight ribbing of his black suit,
his mind hurrying ahead to the moment she would see him naked
for the first time. And so their hands were joined and the
rings exchanged, and that night, they did make love, but it
was not as he had imagined—she did not desire his body
with full desire, she was awkward, removed, and could only
say "God meant me for you," over and over. And he
just lay there passive, unacted upon, spent, a mere vessel
that had broken upon itself, and he wanted to say, "St.
Paul said that you my wife own my body now. Please treat me
that way." But all he could do was to soothe her, reassure
her how wonderful it had been for him, their first time together.
In the next weeks, they made ready for their new home West,
for the promise of everything they had built and planned for.
Their furniture was sent; the presents packed up. They were
given a circle of blessing by the congregation—one more
time. The morning they were to leave, the family lined up
in the living room of the farmhouse. Standing there, Seth
felt the terrible void that had formed the night of the wedding—only
now he felt it in the pit of his stomach while his father
strong-armed him with a handshake. Saw the sunflowers in the
windows, while his mother kissed him, then June, goodbye.
He knew, somehow, standing there, that Prosperity was in the
offing; it would be inevitable. Sure as Jesus looked at him
from the above the fireplace, he knew he was one of the Elect.
He knew they would succeed in college and graduate school,
but he knew that the success would not take care of the terrible
Chandler found things going stunningly well at college in
the idyllic valley in Oregon. The literary magazine appreciated
his work; he had made himself vulnerable with it, and he had
even developed something of an audience. That came in the
spring when the soil seemed rich with every sort of potential.
The cut of tulips, so vibrantly green, seemed to come up through
the soil like knives, and he felt them in his heart. He was
moving toward some sort of self-understanding which, comfortably,
kept him awake all night. He glowed hot for contact again.
It felt so strange to be joining the human race, not looking
in from the outside anymore. His mother had been right. When
he was not studying, he would take walks off campus (for he
had no car, could not afford one, and had to work in a cafe,
bussing tables), walks which eventually led down rural roads
where the fields breathed with spring potential, too, as if
the corn might rise as though in time lapse photography at
any moment. He stopped at a roadside stand where a farmer
sold early spring flowers in galvanized buckets. His name
was George, a man of the earth. He was old and wizened and
wiry and to Chandler very magnetic. The man had property that
seemed to stretch endlessly and was covered with every sort
of flowering vine imaginable, and later the clematis seemed
to bloom all over and through the house. With this man Chandler
was able to reach an understanding. Not only about the flowers
but making love. Making love with George was like rolling
naked through rich soil. He felt the imprint and the grain
and the vitality on his body long after. When they were together,
Chandler would just rest there and see how beautiful George's
skin was, how beautiful his own—old and young, tan and pale.
For George was raw and rougher and more callous, with the
sun having darkened him for years, and the hair growing from
the muscles on his chest. Perhaps this was what Chandler,
feeling so young then, liked the most—the feel of the roughness
of age upon his young skin.
Seth graduated from the college out west, which had now become
a university, and he was hired on in an investment firm, for
the Lord had been good to him and June. June had gotten her
degree in nursing, but they had it planned that as soon as
he was settled, they would bring children into the world.
And so it came to pass, but the terrible hole inside him was
By then they lived out of town. They had their own farmhouse,
their own horses, their own chickens, a huge vegetable garden.
He managed to keep it all together. House, job, family. He
even had a group of men he worked out with.
Actually, he even had to pray about it, rather ludicrously,
he thought, but it seemed indicated. The place he had chosen
as his gymnasium seemed so wonderful it sometimes seemed like
the work of the Devil. It was draped around with neon, it
lit up at night, it flashed with energy, and with the bright
clothes the fashionable people chose for themselves. His heart
thrilled the moment he stepped inside on those days at noon.
All the people there moved gracefully, and he couldn't help
but feel how particularly beautiful the other bodybuilders
were as they stood before the mirrors. He could hardly articulate
what it was, but he knew such an energy might completely subsume
him, turn dangerous, and so he made an appointment with Gideon,
his new minister, and they prayed together. Gideon was severe
upon Seth's severity, warned him of the dangers of becoming
rigid, of becoming too arrogant for this world. "We are
not," Gideon told him, "to hide our light under
a bushel. And it just so happens your body is one of your
Seth had not known how to reply. He seemed unworthy of it.
The Body! Knew he was unworthy of it. For lately, things for
him and June had been a disaster in bed and he had noticed
now they could scarcely speak to each other when, a few hours
after dinner, with the children all tucked in, their own intimacy
loomed over them.
So June threw herself into the family, into the household,
and he found himself—now that Gideon had provided this
clearance—throwing himself into his investments, which
prospered, and into this treasure house of a health club,
where he made friends rapidly and was coaxed into becoming
a runner, even, a few days a week.
It was after college and soon after Chandler took the reporter's
job in the university town that he developed a passion for
running. At first, after being somewhat at loose ends with
an unmarketable degree, he took up smoking pot, and avoided
all strenuous physical activity. But the taste in his lungs
soon sickened him, and with the stress of the new job—of
tracking down stories and chasing, he liked to think, after
ambulances—he felt himself needing to channel his energy
in one direction.
At first his new life with gay men was enough in and of itself,
but there was something always lacking. He loved the shape
of their shoulders, the smell of their hair, loved the excitement
he felt when they would pick him up in their new cars, and
open the doors for him, smelling of cologne as they brushed
his shoulder. But the fact was, he could never recapture with
them those wonderful moments with George, who had died very
suddenly of a heart attack. That's what they said. Chandler
had had to stand by and watch everything on the farm auctioned
and carried off by distant relatives, who hadn't a word for
how George had thought or lived, and now the beautiful vines
were all chopped and turned under the soil, to make way for
some kind of hideous new house which would soon cover the
spot. And after that, Chandler had only been aware of this
enormous hole inside him—a disaster, a curse—which
had been unfillable until he had finally taken out a pen and
started writing poetry once more.
And with the writing had come the job and then, strangely,
the running. They were interlinked. In some mysterious way.
He would write and write—the poems, and then the stories
for the job, and although he loved it, he would feel all bottled
up inside and in need of that wonderful landscape which George
had shown him—for they had taken walks together before
he had died, walks which, in their own way, had made the lovemaking
so wonderful before and afterwards. George had shown him the
river, the fallen logs, pointed out the parts of trees, which
he had climbed in the Forest Service when he had worked for
them as a young man. "There's a double crest there. A
widowmaker there." Chandler had become more observant
because of their friendship, and the long running routes out
there called to him to remain so. It was as if every run was
a commemoration of his precious, private George, his first
And now, too, he was coming out of himself; he was getting
ready to tell more people who he was. And the running somehow
helped. Every time he would put on his running shoes, he would
feel the energy bound through him—I am who I am!—as
if he were a winged Mercury, putting on his shoes FTD, with
heart-shaped messages to give to everyone saying, I am who
I am, I am gay, Love, Chandler.
Seth had been a member of the health club several years when
he saw the strange new man arrive. The man seemed like a clown
almost, because he was dressed in such motley colors. Seth
liked colors himself, when he wasn't dressed for work—a
good maroon knit shirt showed off his body just right on a
non-work day—but this man was a walking rainbow, especially
when he outfitted himself for running and went out all alone,
always alone. Nevertheless, he was one hell of a runner. He'd
seen him out on the path one day—and they had given
each other "hellos"—and he was tearing up
the course, racing by in the opposite direction. Seth himself
was in a pack of runners (his friends, the lawyer, the professor,
the doctor, the psychologist), when he had taken him in; they
were a veritable society on the run, often getting together
afterwards, and their wives would meet and run on the side.
But here was a man completely unto himself. Vibrant, tanned,
wiry, mysterious. Word was out that he was a poet but put
food on the table by working for the Tribune. That
made sense. This man's whole face conveyed that. "Considered
beauty," although Seth would never have put it that way
to others. But somewhere, deep down, that's what his body
told him. This man was utterly foreign, yet somehow near.
Seth was sure he probably knew nothing of religion, nothing,
even, of what it would be like to be a Christian, to have
a true faith and live the steadfast life. He sensed the man
was single and independent-minded. And yet, in seeing him,
and in realizing that man—his name was Chandler—was
in many ways a better athlete than he was—Seth felt
he must seek him out, plummet his depths. Introduce himself.
He wanted to speak a word to him, ask him to join them. What
possible harm could there be? It wouldn't be out of line—it
would be a significant kindness. But then something happened
which caused Seth to shut down altogether.
He was out on a road trip up north—just for the day—and
with a little time left over, he decided to take a back route.
It was mid-summer, so he had taken off his tie and opened
his shirt, blissfully letting the sweat roll after a long
hour in a lunch meeting. His body clamored for the exercise
he had missed during his usual noon time, and so he pulled
over by a roadside stand and got out. The attendant was obviously
a farm worker, just about his own age, and beautifully put
together. He was wearing a sweaty tank top and a marvelous
smile, which went ear to ear the moment he saw Seth draw up.
Seth smiled back, picked out some plums he might eat in the
car, and asked if the man had a faucet where he could wash
them off. The man grinned knowingly for some reason, signaled
around to the back and Seth followed. Handing a nozzle across,
the man looked him all over and made a comment which Seth
completely missed. "Come again," Seth said.
"I said," the man repeated, "I've got more
than a hose I could hand you."
Seth, flabbergasted and catching on at last, dropped the
water and ran to the car, not so much afraid of the man as
the extraordinary danger inside him. God forgive him but he
wanted to kill the man. He had never felt such feelings like
that since the days of the Midwest winters when he used to
fight at school. A hideous clanging went through his flesh
as he roared away, only aware now that he had brought the
plums with him. The shimmer of the summer landscape whisked
by, with mountains and beautiful hills, still greened over,
but all Seth could do was start grabbing the plums and devouring
them, still in a rage but altogether aware of what he was
doing to his soul. He knew perfectly well that Wrath led straight
to Gluttony, but as long as I'm this far into sin, he said
to himself, let's go for it.
When he got home, he could scarcely hide what had gone on,
and so he called his family together, and made a lesson of
it for all, not about murderous thoughts, but the sins of
Sodom and Gomorrah. His children were only eight and ten,
but obviously God wanted them to learn of such things, and
what such vile desires led to—accosting an innocent
traveler out all alone on the road. Seth could not help but
think he was doing his family a good turn as he talked, that
he had taken evil and turned it to good. But later he had
to seek counsel with Gideon, because he could see that his
serenity and contact with God were not coming back. Even his
desire to be hospitable and kind with whoever crossed his
path was far from him. The mainstay of his spiritual life.
Gideon warned him again about his severity—towards himself
and others. He advised him to pray for the man with the same
love and charity he might wish for his own family, and even,
especially, himself. Seth resisted that exhortation; he knew
this man was right, but it was the one thing he could not
do; it was asking too much. He knew that he himself was a
man of God but not much of one. He was devoted and Godfearing,
but he simply was not among the Highest Chosen, the way Gideon
was. That would have to come later, if at all.
Chandler had noticed Seth from the start. He couldn't stop
looking at him as a matter of fact. The man was massive and
beautiful, but it was far more than that. He reminded him
of George, except that this man was so much younger. There
was an honesty, an ingenuousness to the man that caused Chandler
to go head over heels. The man always smiled hello whenever
they happened to pass each other in the locker room, and Chandler
would lie awake nights thinking how he might strike up a conversation.
He sensed the man was conservative and religious and righteous
and probably terribly homophobic, but was there any reason
on God's green earth why he had to come out to everybody who
crossed his path? He had more of a life than just the bedroom.
He got so sick sometimes of introducing his latest boyfriend
to someone and feeling their eyes perceiving him naked, or
wrapped in a bed sheet, his hand on his friend's ass. Sex—sex.
It drove him up the wall sometimes! He was goddamned sick
of it. He confessed that to Marianne, his minister and spiritual
counselor. "It may be," she said. "But remember
that we are all physical beings on this planet and some self-acceptance
is required. You've always had a inclination to be too hard
on yourself." Then she suggested he get some body work
done, and pray very hard to have God develop his whole person.
To have his psychic energy lifted from his lower shakras.
Chandler had listened intently and then had gone out, following
her orders. But the massage therapist had been so hunky and
beautiful, it had been crazy-making to have his hands on him,
and Chandler knew he'd try to seduce him right there in the
clinic if he ever came back. This was a rare case where Marianne
was wrong. Right now it seemed the answer was not in coming
out to every being in sight, or in bodywork, but in trying
to get a grip on how the other half lived. Men like Seth,
whose name he had just learned. He was sure this Seth had
a wife, children, a full-time job, a dog and a cat, and an
existence free of the compulsions of sex. The man was genuine,
complete, hooked up, connected to the world, not some gay
bar whose revolving door jettisoned men in and out like sausages
on a string. Well, bad metaphor (mixed metaphor), but Chandler
knew in his own mind what he meant. (He made a mental note
to stop going to the bar so much.) Seth was a walking opportunity
from God to have a friendship with a man without sex, to develop
a spiritual connection, such as he had never had before. He
didn't even know if he was capable of it, but he'd like to
try. A test. A stretch of the spirit. Such as he might have
had with his father, had he not deserted him. He went back
to Marianne and made a clean breast of the whole thing. "Yes,
it sounds like a wonderful idea." Then she smiled. "But
don't you think you ought to meet him first?"
"Yes, yes, of course," Chandler said quickly. "But
I know it will work out. I know he wants to be a friend, a
Provided, he wanted to add, leaving her office, provided,
of course, I can keep quiet about the whole gay thing.
"We'd be glad to have you run with us," Seth heard
himself say, passing Chandler in the locker room. "I've
seen you out along the river, by yourself. If you ever want
company, join us for sure."
"That would be great," the man said, glowing. "Yes,
my name is Chandler, and you, I understand, are Seth."
No one else showed up that day, and so they went out, just
the two of them. It was Indian Summer, and they were without
their shirts. They started out with five miles, but the weather
being what it was, and their spirits being so unfettered,
they settled on ten. Seth could not remember when he had felt
himself freer. The leaves, tan and red, were reflected in
the river, matching their bodies, which heated up, incandescent
in the sun. Chandler spoke of the landscape in a poetic way
which Seth always expected from him, and immediately he was
pitched back on that hill looking down into the sunflowers.
Seth described his own place, his farm, his life in the investment
company, and then slowly, toward the end of the run, some
of his hopes. This proved to be the first of many runs just
like it through the following months, always hot, always glowing,
and always intimate. Seth found himself drawn in, attracted,
by this subtle spirit who gave himself to writing and yet
to his own higher world, too, which surprised him. It was
the wrong faith, of course, he was clearly not one of the
Elect, but he also felt that Chandler had tapped in on something
that he wanted for himself but was clearly still out of reach.
The hole inside his heart came back to him, larger than ever,
but this time with the promise of being filled. How he might
be filled was not yet clear, but it seemed that Chandler had
the answers buried somewhere. Seth felt this extraordinary
curious freedom to reveal himself, be almost naked in front
of him when they were alone on their runs, even from the first
day, and felt an extraordinary candor which allowed him to
speak of things he would never mention to the lawyer, the
doctor, the psychologist, the professor, not even June. Things
about, in fact, June, his children, himself. He knew that
if he was not careful he might end up loving Chandler, and
while he wanted this for himself, he was fearful. Every other
man he had loved had always turned dominant, strong-arming.
His brothers, his father had been that way. Yet he believed
Chandler would never be that. Chandler never took advantage,
never gave advice. Just listened, and then spoke about his
own life experience. Which was very remarkable, too.
Chandler felt he was in the grips of something he wanted
more than anything in his whole life. More than a husband
or a life-mate. He wanted a friend, a buddy, someone to hang
out with. He never tired of talking with the man, of revealing
his past, and even of bringing out a few poems, which now
captured the brick-colored trees along the river, the dash
of the water over the pebbles (which Seth said reminded him
of home), or the blue butterflies which, in the hikes they
now shared together, would descend upon the flowery cliffs
like a single shadow passing over the sun. Aquamarine, dazzling.
But then something happened. Something terrible. Summer waned,
and then came autumn and the return of their fellow runners,
who had been away for various reasons. The talk turned political
and sharp—the lawyer, Wayne, keeping them abreast of
the issues—and it was suddenly there upon them, a state
initiative to keep gays and lesbians from marrying. To Chandler's
horror and yet expectation, Seth turned vociferous and violent
on the subject, "Those gay men make me sick. Just to
think about what they do turns my stomach." And launched
off on a furious story about some farmhand selling fruit.
Gave him more fruit than he asked for, Chandler thought, hearing
Seth rant on and on. If I had been the farmhand I would have
done exactly the same thing. Nevertheless, running there in
the group, Chandler felt himself flushing all over with shame,
especially when Seth came to the part about handing out a
moral lesson to his wife and children. Just yesterday, Chandler
had been fixing on getting himself invited over to meet his
family. Of visiting them on their farm. Good luck.
And as the men had talked—the rest of them liberal,
shouting down Seth—Chandler had reflected what a coward
he was for not speaking up. What in the world was the matter
with him? He had spoken up dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times
before, under various other circumstances. He had been one
of the most out men on campus. Carrying signs, shouting slogans.
Handing out his poetry like handbills. But not now, thanks.
And Chandler knew why. It was Seth's sweaty body beside him.
Seth going on and on as if Chandler were simply one of them,
even if he apparently didn't agree. He never again wanted
to be outside looking in. Face pressed up against the bakery
glass. His childhood had been too much like that. Not with
his mother but his friends. And lately, now, he and Seth had
been given to crosstraining, with Chandler joining him in
the weight room on alternate days. Their idyll had become
the best yet. The extraordinary strength and energy he had
gathered from their times together—their intimacy—even
when they didn't even share the same lifting stations—was
beyond belief. They were in accord. In contact. "Would
you mind holding down my body?" kept coming up again
and again from Seth, once they got to the lat-pull. Seth put
so much weight on the stacker, he had to be held to pull it
down. Chandler would rather go on lying through his teeth
for 2000 consecutive years than give up that. He could feel
Seth's whole being with his arms around him. Warm, alive.
It was better than slow dancing.
But now Chandler felt himself slam down tight. He went home
and fled into a corner. He knew that if he didn't do something
positive he'd go destructive on himself again. He thought
a long time about it, and as he cried about what Seth had
said, the image of his mother came back. They were riding
a city bus to go see a movie, and seeing himself as a child,
he felt once more all the excitement of watching the streets
bloom in front of them. They were going to just a little movie
house in an odd district, a theater built, actually, in the
previous century, which now showed second-run shows. "The
Bay Theater." But it was the gift of it—the blue
in the neon around the small marquee. And the film itself
had been about magic and magicians and a floating carpet which
hovered above Egypt, with the Sphinx baking in the heat, as
set against the pyramids.
Lying there, he longed to go back to that refuge, but as
he retreated further, he remembered he had not told his mother
about himself either and that somehow the block between him
and Seth had to do with the block between himself and his
past. He must call her, arrange that he visit for the weekend,
and have a heart-to-heart talk. That would be the beginning
of an answer.
So with the hunger still driving him, he found himself on
his way to the city with his sights on the Round-the-Clock,
where he was to meet her the moment she got time off for dinner.
("What is it?" she wanted to know over the phone.
"Why so urgent? Can't we talk now?" "No,"
he had answered, "it needs to be in person.") And
now as he sat waiting for her, the neon around the clock kept
lighting up the way it always did, starting with a dot and
then forming a full rim, round and round. And watching it
from their table, he told her the truth the second she came
in, and she was fine with it, said she had known all along,
but was afraid for him, and hoped he would not get hurt. And
he had told her he had been afraid for himself, too, but that
everything had turned out differently than he had expected.
He had never been gaybashed as he thought he might, almost
never was afraid of AIDS because of safe sex, but that he
had discovered something far worse which was this ridiculous,
"Vulnerability?" his mother asked.
Yes, he had gone on, a constant susceptibility to men who
haven't the slightest idea of what your own attraction to
them is. And with that, life becomes a putdown, constantly.
"But there are other gay men."
And, yes, that's wonderful, he told her. And told her about
George. But most gay men were not like him. Could she understand
that? Good old normal George was a dying breed—literally
that had been true. Gay men did not live, most of them, in
isolation out in the country, but amongst one another in the
cities—amongst their own proneness, if you will—and
that made them crazy, because they tried to protect themselves
by practicing distantness on one another.
"I don't think vulnerability is such a bad idea,"
his mother said. "It's how I married your father."
"And you have no regrets about that?" Chandler
asked, trying to be as tactful as he could while feeling all
the wildness which came up with "father."
"No," his mother answered. "I could have lived
all that time just by myself. Had a perfect life here in the
city. By myself. Being a secretary. Working nights at the
library. Reading and reading and reading. How much you used
to remind me of myself at that time! But then came a time
to be open to something new. It did not turn out the way I
had hoped. God knows it didn't. But I wasn't perfect either.
And then you came into the world. How could I ever regret
that? How could I regret any of my life?"
Chandler sat there and smiled, taken aback, somewhat stunned.
Took her hand. With the city still imminent, he thought, it's
like I grew up in a goldfish bowl, but different from what
the saying usually means. I mean everything was luminous and
nurturing, and filled with bright and orange specks, grandeur
and poetry everywhere even though I was such a slow and mediocre
boy. But everything in that bowl was luminous; there was the
sunken castle with the deep-sea diver and the mermaid with
golden tresses such as you'd find in Woolworth's. When Mom
and I used to go out to the movies, everything would seem
to be at the bottom of a deep ocean, and we would look out
at the world as though in a bathysphere, noting lit-up creatures
which floated by and caused us to smile at each other. But
then too great a dragon came along, the Loch Ness, and it
was no longer possible to let the rest of the world just roll
by. It was just too big, and now I have Seth standing in front
of me, and he seems a cliff too huge to scale.
Seth had seen a photo essay in the Sunday section telling
about The Disciples, an emerging Christian men's group, which
was slowly sweeping the country. Evangelical. Pledging to
be honest with and protective of all women and children. Witnessing
was being done in every state of the union, gathering force
as it went. These particular photos were from the Carolinas,
and Seth got a special jolt when he saw two men, naked to
the waist, embracing in sweaty ecstasy in the aftermath of
the hot July gathering. Eyes closed, smiles euphoric. Hands
cupping each other's head. Seth could hardly believe what
he saw. Christian. Evangelical. A part of the Light. But also
naked chest-to-chest. He did a little asking around. Looked
into it. The movement was as sound as a church. The idea was
to redeem men's tarnished image in the eyes of this nation.
Make good on all their broken promises to their families.
Stop all this perpetual abuse and abandonment. Learn to apologize
where fitting and turn to their Maker and Redeemer for forgiveness.
Oh, he could rally his spirit to that. He knew he had numerous
amends to make to June, who lately had turned sweeter and
warmer towards him, even though they weren't making love.
So he looked into the movement once more and saw that it was
actually coming to the bigger city just to the north, to the
football stadium for three glorious days. He wrote for all
the literature, read deeply into it, when there was time at
the investment firm. Saw that The Disciples were about the
very thing which worried him the most—the breakdown
of the family unit in this country. The disparagement of man's
God-given position as breadwinner and head of the household.
And despite the skin photo, the movement was also about putting
to route all the sins against Nature as defined in the Bible,
including the one of Sodom and Gomorrah.
At the health club, he shared his enthusiasm—what he
could of it—with Chandler. While they were weight training.
But Chandler was distant. Of course the man was not of the
same faith, but with his being so spiritual, Seth thought
he could at least sympathize with what this meant to him.
Actually Seth felt a little hurt.
Nevertheless, when the moment came to do one of the exercises,
Seth had to ask Chandler again, "Would you mind holding
down my body?" And this time Chandler only smiled distantly
and complied without a word.
For a moment while Chandler was holding on, something strange
happened. Seth, grunting and growling, was suddenly aware
not only of Chandler's arms but—he was sure he wasn't
mistaken—of the man's face pressed against his back.
Turning afterwards, he checked to see if there wasn't something
different or odd in his face, but there was nothing. Just
a mystery somewhere.
After coming out to his mother, Chandler found there was
no turning back. He fought hard against the anti-marriage
bill, and even though it carried, he was determined to get
out of the closet again. All the more so. He heard the Gay
Games were in the offing for next summer, and so he did an
advance registration, signing up for the marathon. What greater
way to express himself?
He started socializing with the other men at the club, let
them know he was gay, and none of them was surprised. In fact,
they started inviting him over to dinner with his various
dates, and sometimes they even went out to the movies, as
a foursome. They started popping up at each other's parties.
Everyone was in the know, except Seth. And Chandler was going
to take care of that. He definitely was going to take care
But always you had to start slowly. So he simply began wearing
a pink triangle on his chest whenever they went out running.
Then on his cap. Later he changed to "Training Gay Games"
as spring neared and advance t-shirts become available. But
frankly, Seth seemed not to notice, primarily because he was
so busy talking about The Disciples.
The summer boiled in on them. The month of June stood like
a hot pivot. The running group had decided to do a run that
would take them through town, all the way to the base of a
gigantic hill. Chandler felt all lit up in white and neon
pink—triangles everywhere, with the oblivious Seth beside
him. Chandler thought, if I see the sweat break out on those
beautiful shoulders one more time, I'll scream. If I admire
his body one more time without him knowing what's going on,
I'll run away and never come back. I can't stand this any
more! I love this man even though he hates me. Or soon will.
But just then, Seth came out of his dream and said, "You
know I forgot to ask what you're training for."
And just as readily Chandler replied, "The Gay Games,
Without another word, Seth was gone—up and over the
hill. Disappearing into the stratosphere. Chandler, frightened
and crestfallen, could hardly follow, but only plodded after
the rest of them up the slow, beautiful hill of rockeries,
with the azaleas—appropriately pink, as company. He
was drenched with sweat and felt his body glow with the sun,
but he was also crying. He could hardly stand the shame of
it—but it all just came out as though a dam had broken.
Arriving at the crest of the hill, he looked down and saw
the men at the foot of it, tearing up the street and trying
to catch up with Seth, who was way in the lead. They seemed
a part of some remote planet, strong and able and blessed
with some peculiar rhythm. But in this case straight. In predetermined
unison. They were a part of some grassy land, Edenic, with
the sun coming up over the peaks and keeping them perennially
warm, but he was shut out. Standing there, catching his breath,
he felt himself go cold very suddenly. And later, when he
finally got back to the health club, he wasn't surprised when
his friend the psychologist said, "Seth says he's going
to keep as far away from you as he can."
Seth went home that night and felt like smashing something.
He couldn't get beyond that. He wanted to punch out a wall
with his bare fists. "Would you mind holding down my
body?" turned in his head over and over—he had
actually asked him to hug him like he was his own mother.
And now he knew why he had felt something pressed to his back—Chandler
had probably kissed him! His whole chest shrunk in revulsion.
Why had Chandler lied to him? Even if he was a faggot, he
must have had some shred of conscience, some semblance of
honor. To have strung him along. And then there had been the
humiliation of the conversation with Alex, the psychologist,
when they had gotten back from that disastrous run. "Everybody
knows Chandler is gay," Alex had said. "Where have
you been? Valerie and I have been socializing with him and
his boyfriends for a long time."
"And so you kept it from me, too," Seth said. "And
I've known you for over a decade."
"It wasn't my place to tell you," Alex answered.
"Besides, Chandler's been nearly black and blue with
pink triangles and gay insignias for over a year—every
time he shows up to run. Haven't you noticed?"
"Of course not," Seth said. "I don't even
know what they mean."
And so the humiliation began to gather force. He imagined
that all of them had been talking and laughing about him all
along, having fun, making fun—Seth the big musclehead.
The one who had made all the money but who had never gotten
touched by his education or the twentieth century.
But meanwhile the hole inside came back. Very suddenly. It
came back so violently that he realized, with anguish, that
for a long time it had been filled. By Chandler. And it was
horrible, anguishing to realize, that he could never speak
with the man again. Never have contact. Never share. He would
have to sever all bonds if he was to protect himself. And
with that, a hate like hardening mud set in. In dreams, his
brain got busy scheming revenge on all of them, but especially
Chandler. He started thrashing at three a.m.—so much
so he kept waking June up, and he had to tell her.
"Imagine the man—a homo in our midst. I can't
live with it."
She took his hand under the covers. But sounded strange.
"What can't you live with?"
"The hate between us."
"He's told you that?"
"Told me what?"
"That he hates you?"
"No. He hasn't said anything."
"Maybe he doesn't hate you."
"What kind of talk is that? You taking his side?"
Suddenly Seth felt his whole body flare beneath the covers.
Never before had he so felt her indifference as much as he
"No, I'm not taking his side. I'm just asking you if
you've got the facts."
Finally he yelled—"It doesn't matter what he thinks.
I've got enough hate for the two of us!"
She shrank, let go his hand. "I'd advise you to go see
Gideon. Immediately. Tomorrow. Or at least bear witness in
the Circle. Ask God to take this from you."
"What do you want me to do? Tell everybody I've been
cavorting with a homo for all these years? Have everybody
at the Community reject you, me, and the kids. That would
be a fine mess."
"Not everybody feels the way you do," she told
him. "Not even in the Circle. That's true not only on
this, but a lot of things."
"We'll talk about it later," she said. "Not
in the middle of the night."
Chandler was fully aware the entire club was buzzing with
the rift—that in some ways the whole state had been
getting ready for it, quietly and cunningly lining up the
sides in the wake of the Election. Hate crimes were breaking
out all over—and especially in Seth's rural neck of
the woods. It was getting awkward and even fearsome to show
up at noon, not just for himself but for everybody. If he
and Seth would come in at the same time, they did a kind of
pas de deux, which flung one of them back outside,
until the other had suited up. Sometimes Chandler would get
in late, and Seth, all ready to run with the rest of them,
would take off for parts unknown.
Chandler would have liked to have said, Screw it, who cares,
and besides with the political climate being what it is, what
else could you expect? But the fact was, every time beautiful
Seth would show up in his shorts and take one look at him
and head off, it hurt like nothing else. It reminded him of
the time his mother had finally told him about his father,
how he was different from other boys, because not only was
Dad gone; he wasn't coming back. It felt like that but worse,
and Chandler tried to snap himself out of it—what were
these few years of mere friendship after all—but it
counted, counted, counted. And it had to do with Seth being
different from everyone else, every friend he had known. It
was because he was conservative-married-homophobic-sexist-patriarchal-evangelical
that the fucker mattered so much. Try explaining that one.
The magnetism was beyond belief, and Chandler couldn't keep
from going back to the health club just to see if Seth was
going to show up that day, take him in, turn tail, and hurt
him once more. Stop being such a fool! he wanted to yell.
You've got other choices. But right now he couldn't help himself.
The tension came to a boil, and one day Seth, walking in,
said, "Him or me" with Chandler standing there in
the middle of the men, about to run.
"I'm not sure what you mean," Wayne the lawyer
said. "You can't be putting us to some kind of choice,
"That's exactly what I mean."
Alex, always the psychologizer, said, "Why don't you
and I just talk this one out on the side. We're here to have
a little fun, not make scenes."
"Scenes or not," Seth said. "Make up your
"We don't rat out on our friends," the professor
said. And for a terrifying moment, Chandler thought they meant
"I'm sorry, Seth," Wayne said. "And I think
I speak for everybody. You're being just a little bit ridiculous."
"You want to run with us," the doctor said. "You
run with everybody. Chandler's not dropping the same either/or
number on us. Why don't you go home, cool down, and call me
in the morning."
But Seth only steamed pink to his forehead and stormed out.
"Well fuck him," the doctor said. And the rest
patted Chandler on the shoulder.
"Don't let it bother you," they all said.
And though the aftermath was briefly sweet, and Chandler
was on the brink of tears with gratitude, he still felt devastated—the
more so, because he had apparently won. He still felt like
going back for more. That this thing between him and Seth
was not over.
He broke his pledge and went to the bar and started hatching
schemes in the ill-lit den. The smoke seemed to form all kinds
of demon-shaped clouds around him.
Something would inspire him there, he was sure.
Then he spoke with Marianne.
"I have the feeling that the only way to get this settled
is to confront him," Chandler said. "Ask him if
he wants to talk. Tell him even"—he blushed—"that
I love him as a brother."
"I wouldn't discourage that," she answered. "Just
pray for the right moment."
But Chandler did not end up praying exactly. He went back
to the bar, picked someone up, and then afterwards, in the
aftermath of easy sex, felt inspired again. Enthused. He would
drive over uninvited to Seth's farm one of these hot nights,
take him unawares and demand they talk.
It did not matter that Seth's friends had rejected him. He
could see it coming ever since the Election. True, his side
had won, but only because of other parts of the state. In
the outlying areas. But the actual university town was a nest
of liberals, including his so-called running friends, and
the bill had failed miserably here. He would just have to
seek out new company, that's all, and lo and behold if it
wasn't time for The Disciples after all. It was July. He'd
just settle into all the comforts there, and let that devil's
playground of the health club sink into hell.
So he made ready to travel to the city just to the north
as though it were a pilgrimage. June wished him well, but
said there was something they still needed to talk about.
That was fine, eventually. He'd had enough of confrontations
for a while. He just wanted to be replenished with the Word.
And as he drove off, he felt as though he were nearing his
old church back in the Midwest, but on a huge scale. For slowly,
there the grand and beautiful dome of the huge rally was—emerging,
just waiting for him in the huge arena The Disciples had rented.
He felt the shadow of Jesus, and he felt inside that mating
of his soul with the Spirit which had eluded him during these
trying and sometimes horrifying months. The episode with the
man at the roadside stand vanished in a breath, and as he
entered the spectacular stadium, and saw the gestures of blessing
everywhere, he felt whole once more free of Chandler. Rock
music was actually being played from huge speakers—that
surprised him—but as he listened he realized that the
word was Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, my Maker, Maker, Maker, Maker
Blest. So it was O.K. His broad shoulders, which had seemed
to be in a vice for months, relaxed at last. He took in the
air in deep, powerful breaths, and everywhere, men, plain
honest men like himself—in jeans, bib overalls, feedcaps,
with great bodies—smiled back at him. Music, for days
it seemed, volleyed him back and forth in a sweet rhythm.
So did the incantations from the pulpit, as thousands upon
thousands, flocks upon flocks, were addressed. How many are
ready to stand and witness for Jesus? How many are ready to
stand and witness for their families? How many are ready to
stand and witness especially for their wives? And in a whirl
of dance such as God might have known on the last day of Creation,
Seth stood and shouted, laughed and cried. He was ready to
embrace the evangelist speaker, hug the man next to him, and
let go of this impossible, unbearable pain—all smashed
together and having to do with Chandler, June, and the men
at the club—and be made whole again.
In fact he felt at the crisis on the last and third day.
The sky had opened up into a beautiful heavenly blue. The
stands heated up hotter than a firecracker, and the brother
at the podium opened his hands wide to what few thousands
of them remained for the closing benediction. "Men, I
would like you to embrace the brother next to you. With a
hug or handshake. Let him know that you are full of the same
Holy Spirit. Let him know that you will stand by all the promises
you have made to God, man, woman, and child during these enduring
days we have spent together."
And Seth, turning to the beautiful farmer next to him, felt
wild with release and realized God was about to give him the
naked, chest-to-chest hug he so desperately wanted. But the
man, naked to the waist also, but seeing him coming at him,
glowered suddenly, and nearly shoved a handshake into his
gut as if to ward him off.
Seth, repulsed and instantly frightened, felt himself shrunk
suddenly to nothing. The shame was beyond belief. And he slunk
instantly away, not even willing to speak the closing collective
blessing the minister was now insisting on.
Grabbing his shirt, he ran out, drove at top speed all the
way home. Could not answer when June met him at the door.
"How was the rally? Did you find what you needed?"
Seth could only hustle his way back to the bedroom with
He knew she had something else to say. Something entirely
in accord with the handshake thrust into his stomach. Knew
now suddenly that the reason she had been so sweet to him
for the past months was because she was leading up to something.
"Seth," she said, "I would like to get a
He couldn't answer.
"What do you think—" she started to say again.
But before she could finish, someone was at the door. And
in accord with the fist in his stomach, in accord with June
now speaking what he feared, Chandler stood standing there,
asking to come in.
"What do you want?" Seth asked.
"I want to talk," Chandler said. "Please.
I value our friendship. I can't take this silence any longer."
"Get out of here," Seth said. "You're a pollution
to my wife and children."
Chandler couldn't speak. Backed away and turned off.
June came up to him. "I can't believe you said that."
She was flushed with fury seeing the man retreat.
"I told you he was a homo," he said.
"I don't care who he is," she answered. "He
was your friend. And if you don't take this to the Circle
and to Gideon, I'll leave you. By God, I will."
Chandler, running from the farmhouse, had time to think
back on all the other houses he'd seen just like it. He thought,
Distant Windows. That was the name of one of his poems. How
often, it said, out on a walk, have I looked through the top
of a door just like this one—three small rectangles
of glass, spaced like steps one above the other, as though
people of different heights could stare in? Have seen families
happy and families sad. Seen Christmas lights and silverware.
Cats asleep. Children at play. Beautiful people, even, in
states of undress when I shouldn't have been looking. And
now I've tried to gatecrash at last, and been turned away.
That farmhouse should have been my family tonight. Tonight
Seth will fuck his wife in bed, and she will enjoy his body
when I could have been the one. She will be glad to belong
and to have cast the faggot out. She will feel protected,
provided for, looked after. Consummated. I know, I saw her.
And so now what? I'll tell you. I'm going to go down to the
bar for a little further self-pitying colloquializing with
myself, and then I'm going to head off on a little midnight
run. I need to do a good eighteen miles anyway. So we'll just
start a little earlier than planned. Run my fucking brains
out. Get myself back home before sunup. And I can do the whole
highway by then. Pound out my anger, just pound and pound
on until my feet can't carry me any further. Maybe do twenty
miles, twenty-six, thirty. Who the fuck cares?
And so after the bar, he was off, all costumed and triangled,
past all those night houses again—one after the other
along the highway. The hurt in his soul felt like thorns,
turning in. He loved that man more than life, and now he had
made a fool of himself, trying to get him to talk. And now
the curse came back—"Pollution"—and
as he thought of it, a certain horror followed. Perhaps maybe
Seth was right. Maybe he did carry something vile. Vulnerable,
isolated, running along the highway, he felt he could actually
crawl inside Seth's mind and see himself for who he was. And
when that happened, a thought sprung on him that maybe George
had not died of a heart attack but of AIDS, and that maybe
they had not been as safe as he had remembered and maybe now
he carried it within him, and was slowly spreading the disease
all over town, the world. Maybe the scientists were wrong.
Maybe there was some unknown way gays infected themselves
and others with a mutant germ, and people like Seth sensed
it and fled. Perhaps that was the vulnerability that he had
named to his mother.
For a moment, he thought he might pass out from these thoughts—for
the isolation and cold of the midnight road had at last caught
up with him, and then very suddenly he realized he had run
out toward Seth's farm once more, that there was a car heading
toward him, which looked like Seth's, and as it began to bear
down, Chandler felt himself drawn to it the way a moth is
drawn to the light. However, just as it overtook him and struck
him sideways, he saw that the driver, enraged and insane,
was not Seth. Not at all.
He wished him dead. Lying there trying to sleep with June
as far from him as possible, Seth had to admit it. O.K., O.K.
It was just a little match flame that puffed and died. Wished
him dead. A-little-match flame-puff-and-die. But it was hardly
the end of the world. Certainly it was understandable. Thinking
back, he saw that his life had been fine, had never gone off
track, until Chandler had come into the picture. So it was
The next day, he knew June had him at spiritual gunpoint
to go see Gideon, so he visited him first thing before work.
But as he spoke, he found there was no way to minimize it
at all. The little-match-flame-puff-and-die was a roaring
"I have a terrible feeling that it's going to cause
something awful to happen to Chandler." (Where did this
come from? Where was his self-righteous anger? All he could
feel was concern, remorse, horror at what he had said in his
own living room.)
"We don't wish anyone dead," Gideon answered. They
were in his back office in the meeting house. "For to
do so would be to play God. I'd advise you to take this to
the Circle. Confess openly, and have all the brothers and
sisters pray for you. But you must not be too severe upon
yourself, either. No one can create evil for others just through
"But what about Matthew 5:28—he who has committed
adultery with a woman in his heart—"
"You are not committing adultery in your heart. You
are trying to learn to hate the sin and not the sinner."
But as Seth confessed openly in the morning circle, he felt
as though his long-time friends and neighbors were shrinking
from him—a potential killer—and that what Gideon
had said at last was not enough or, even worse, it was dead
wrong. And then at noon, when he walked into the club, he
heard very strange goings-on.
"Chandler was out running last night," Wayne said,
"and got hit by a car."
"It was in the middle of the night," Alex said.
"Clear case of hit-and-run."
"How is he?" Seth asked, feeling himself blanche
from head to foot.
"Critical at first," the doctor said. "But
the report's just been changed. He's stable now, I think."
"Strange case of hit and run," the professor said.
"Right, right, strange. It was clearly a hate crime."
"What do you mean?" Seth asked, still paralyzed.
"He was wearing his Training Gay Games t-shirt,"
Wayne said. "They think some car spotted him and ran
him down deliberately."
"Maybe," the doctor said. "But the report
said there was alcohol in his—Chandler's—bloodstream."
"Crazy queen," Alex said. "What was he doing
out on the road at midnight in the first place? And looped
A long slow poison went through Seth's whole body. Match-flame-puff-and-die.
And suddenly he felt an urgent desire to confess to something
he didn't do.
"Strange thing is," the professor said, "he
was right out by your place, Seth."
Seth burst into fury. "It wasn't me! I was nowhere near
that highway. I was in bed. I was with June. She was sleeping
beside me. She'll tell you."
Everyone was looking at him, aghast. "You don't think
we were accusing you?"
But Seth, realizing in the next moment they weren't, felt
so debased, so ashamed, he grabbed his clothes and ran out.
Where was he to go? There was no one left. Slowly, one by
one, he had destroyed his own options. June, his family, The
Disciples, the men at the club, the Circle, even Gideon. He
tried to get clear in his mind what exactly had gone wrong,
but the skein was too tight to get unraveled. Strangely enough,
though, he didn't feel cut off from God now. Rather, something
had snapped just a moment ago, something had broken through.
So there was the skein and there was the clear space, and
now he saw the match flame was gone. It was simply gone—out.
He worked through the rest of the day, speaking with as few
people possible. But there was something else to be finished,
to be resolved. Death seemed like a clear alternative. Seemed
entirely sensible. But in the offing as well was something
else. It was either death or that. He slept on it that night,
with June now closer to him. (She knew about the Circle, the
talk with Gideon.) He got clear in his mind that while he
had wished Chandler dead, he did not feel that way now. He
had toughed out the dark night of the soul last night and
had passed through that horrifying match flame. And because
he had done that, he had not been the one in the car.
Breaking out in a relief of sweat, he threw off the covers,
and getting up without waking June, showered, letting the
water flood his whole body, over and over.
Dressing in a suit (why a suit?), he wrote a note to June,
"I must do what I must do," and got into the car
and drove out to the highway, seeing the house he had worked
so hard to create in the rearview mirror.
He was intending, dramatically, to head for a cliff, but
somehow the power of the car would not take him there. He
was driving, inevitably, into town, into a midnight parking
lot. Pacing back and forth with hours passing, he realized
he was waiting out the morning, working up the nerve, and
that he was in the shadow of the town hospital. Strange but
he knew which window to look at. What was it he had to say?
He was not going to kill himself, and in light of that, the
only thing he could do was to go up to Chandler and say, "Chandler,
I was wrong." If he was to stay at all alive, he was
to say it, or at least something like it, not because he was
magnanimous or high-minded or even godly but only because
he preferred to stay alive.
And so when morning came, he went inside the hospital and
got a pass and took the elevator up to the third floor. Finding
Chandler's room, he could hear female voices inside, and at
first Seth thought that maybe Chandler had died in the night,
and that the nurses were clearing things out, and then he
would not have to say he was wrong, and he would be lost without
this man. But soon two older women emerged, dressed in plain
clothes, women who smiled at him. "Chandler," one
of them called, "you've got another visitor."
"Please come in," Seth heard the voice say, and
Seth, because he really, definitely, preferred to stay alive,
went in and approached the man who was lying on the bed.