I’ve got this book, The Movie Lovers, and what follows is the third installment of the first and most popular chapter, entitled The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. The first two scenes of Low Spark were posted last night and the night before, and response being what it was, I’ve decided to serialize the full chapter.
My storytelling style is a bit like abstract art. Each chapter is a whole story divided into visual chunks. You might imagine it as a group of postcards on a refrigerator door arranged by Picasso. The order is not chronological so much as a tumble of memories that collide like shards of glass in a kaleidoscope, and that’s The Movie Lovers: a kaleidoscopic carnival ride; an adrenaline-driven, road-trip-in-heels kind of story that rearranges the happy family portraits, scribbles graffiti, and raises single-finger salutes to the standard ideas about sex, family, and intimacy. From the beautiful to the unbearable to the ballsy, all is laid bare in this story of love, death, and friendship.
I have no idea if this will work as a serial told scene by scene, more or less, rather than chapter by chapter. We shall see. I hope it entertains you.
PS - Tonight you’ll meet Rob, but really you’ve me him already. Low Spark opens with him and me and the first pair of boy’s underwear I fell in love with.
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
He was crying when he called from jail. When he talked the next day at school, he was back to his old self, running on like a tape-loop voiceover, the one from an animated short he took me to at Cinema 21, the one with the heavy back beat and the voice that yells, “Hello, Dad? I’m in jail. Hello, Dad? I’m in jail. I like it here.”
My first openly gay friend and I became best friends my last year in high school. It was Rob, we’ll call him Rob, who introduced me to classic black and white movies, the Animation Film Festival at Cinema 21, and Patti Smith, reigning Queen of Punk in the late ‘70s. We met when he sat next to me one afternoon on an airport-style ottoman in the student commons. I was an Oregon Scholar senior skipping chemistry. He was a scruffy-looking junior who clearly spent most of his time outside of class. Depressed and irritable, I was giving off the don’t-bother-me vibe, but he walked right over in his torn jeans and his uncombed wire-brush hair, hair that alternated between being matted down and sticking straight out, sat down right next to me and said,
“Some people are over the line.”
“They are,” I said, both a question and a statement.
“Yes,” he said, “on a different side.” And then he gave me one of those loopy grins I would come to think of as his trademark and drew a line in space. “Here’s where most people are,” he said. Then he pointed to another point in space somewhere off the continuum. “And some people are over here. That’s where I am, over the line.” It was the ‘70s, like I said, and it wasn’t the thing back then to come out of the closet in high school. It certainly wasn’t in vogue. Hell, it just wasn’t done. All the same, I knew what he meant, gay, which meant no come-on line; he just wanted a friend. Okay. I let him stay. We became inseparable. Now, I don’t know if I was the first best friend he ever had who was a girl, but for sure Rob was my first best friend who was a gay guy. I make this point because of an odd experience I had not long ago. In getting to know another woman at a party, I indicated that the man I’d arrived with was my best friend. The woman looked confused and then said, “But he’s gay.” Yes, I said, now confused as well. Her face cleared up when she said, “You mean he’s your best gay friend,” as if a person might have a wardrobe of best friends from differing categories. “No,” I said, “He’s my best friend. He’s also gay.” I’ve had a number of best friends over the years -- I’m a best friend kind of girl -- and these best friends have been male and female, gay and straight, intellectual snobs and partying fools, white people and brown; some have disappeared the way people do as circumstances change, some remain Christmas-card friends, some suddenly decided we were enemies, and some have died. The woman at the party made several other attempts at defining best friend categories for me, and then she sighed and told me she was from Utah. I laughed. I laughed because I liked her and hoped we would be friends, and I laughed because I have to laugh whenever others feel the need to edit or reduce the terms of my life to simple categories. It was a need for simple categories that had landed my high school friend in jail.
Rob’s favorite place was Mildred’s Ballroom, an underage gay disco housed in the old Knights of Pythian building downtown. Sometimes he took me with him. Sometimes I danced with a girl, if one asked me. And whenever Rob went to Mildred’s, he wore his favorite boots: thigh high, spike-heeled, shiny patent leather boots. Every once in awhile, he’d complain about how hard it was to walk in them, to which I would snort, “Tell me about it!” Like all teenage girls at the disco end of the ‘70s, I was a veteran of the strappy, spike-heeled, platform sandal made of solid wood. Like I said, my best friend and I shared just about everything. The night he got pulled over he was just outside the disco, and sitting next to him in his black Rambler sedan was a regular from Mildred’s, a crop-haired bleached blonde with dark roots. (Hello, Dad?)
It’s after midnight, so the cop snaps, Outta the car, which is when he sees those boots, those leather-sexual-fantasy boots, and he starts rapid-fire, first about my friend, Where you been? Where you headed? then about the girl, Is she really a girl? Has she always been a girl?
Hello, Dad? I’m in jail!
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