The Last Gay Man

The light bulb flickers, crackles, burns hot. Light floods the chair and the man sitting in it. He winces against the light, resituates himself, begins to sweat from the intensity of the now three bulbs bearing down on him. All he can see now is shadowy figures in the background and the somewhat more clear outline of the lady interrogating, interviewing, him.

The voice of one of the technicians from afar: “All ready. All set.”

Another voice: “Cameras on.”

The woman: “Are you ready, Mr. DeVene”?

He opens his mouth, closes it, opens it again. “Yes, but it’s a little hot, isn’t it.”

“That will be all these lights,” the woman says, not unkindly. “Would you like us to set up a small fan for you?”

“If you wouldn’t mind.”

“Of course.” He doesn’t see her make any motion, but a moment later one of her lackeys has come up with a small, portable fan, has plugged it in, turned it on, and let it send a cool, false breeze on his face.

“Better?”

“Better.”

“Good. Are you ready to begin?”

“I’m ready.”

Again, a flurry of movement behind her. He prepares himself, closes his eyes, offers up a short prayer. Please God, just let me get through this. Please, God. You owe me that.

“We’re ready. In five…four…three…”

He goes silent, ends the count with his fingers. The lights flicker and intensify, red lights appear on the cameras. The woman, now fully illuminated, speaks to the camera over his shoulder:

“This is Holly Mather, with a very special interview for you tonight. Mr. Edward DeVene, known to his friends as Eddie, to his nieces and nephews as Uncle Ed, and to the rest of the United States, as the Last Gay Man.”

She turns her face subtly, addresses DeVene. “Thank you for being with us.”

The camera lens catches the image of a balding man, easily 70 or 80, his thin white hair defeated with sweat, his wrinkled face, the advancing army of liverspots marching up his cheeks. He wears a pale brown sports jacket, a soft grey shirt, a strong patterned tie. He is immaculate, desparingly so. And his eyes seem younger and older than he. They are full of life, but a life that has existed for centuries and knows only of sorrow.

“You’re welcome, Holly. May I call you Holly?”

“Of course, Mr. DeVene, of course. I just want to repeat what a treat it is for you to sit down with us. For the past ten years, since the deaths of Michael Stewart and Mitchell Provense, you have declined any interview, either televised or written. My first question then is, why now? And why me?”

He shifts, speaks softly. “I enjoy your interviews, Holly. You seem to be respectful yet strong, something rare in this time.”

She smiles, sincerely. “Why thank you, sir. But I suppose I wouldn’t me fitting your mold if I didn’t ask you again: Why now?”

“Ah, well, I’m dying you see. A cancer occurring inside my lower abdomen. Quite incurable. I’ll be gone within a few months, I suppose.”

“Mr. DeVene,” she says softly, acting suprised, though in truth she suspected something like this.

“Well, as my mother said, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.” He offers a strained smile.

“So, Mr. DeVene, considering this prognosis…what is it that you want to say? You did come to us, though we were more than happy that you did so. Is there something that you want to say to the American people?”

He smiles, a bit more warmly. “Well, I did come to you, Holly, but only after the eleven requests that your agency sent me. And, I am sorry to disappoint, but there is nothing of particular importance that I would like to say to the American people. Nothing to stir the hairs on the back of their necks, nor sway their moral compasses by a degree. I only agreed to interview with you because…”

He falters here, slouches somewhat, the shadow of pain crossing his face. Holly swings an eye to her producer, who gives her a reassuring nod.

“Are you alright, Mr. DeVene?”

“I’ll be fine,” he murmurs, eyes squint shut. Slowly he opens them, works out another small smile. “As I was saying, I only acquiesced to this interview because…”

He pauses. Holly leans forward. “Because why, Mr. DeVene?”

He laughs a humorless laugh. “Because I figure the people out there in TV land deserve one last look at an extinct species.”

“Does that cause you heartache?”

He smiles at the floor. “You think it would, but I have been alone for quite some time.”

“Yes, your partner, Toni Salvador, he passed on in 2080, correct?”

“Correct,” he says blandly.

“And you were not as politically involved as the other remaining gay men. You did not attend the rally at the Democratic Convention of ‘68, nor the Dinosaurs’ March in ’54, nor..

“No, Holly, I was not politically active.”

“Do you regret this?”

Clearly, she has been eager to ask this question. He pauses, and…

“No. I have no regrets.”

She begins to speak, but he is first. “Except for one.”

“Which is?” she responds quickly.

“The death of Henry Largess.”

“The death of Henry Largess, creator of the Largess vaccine? You regret his death?”

“Yes, but not the way a Christian should.”

“What do you mean, Mr. DeVene?”

The old man closes his eyes, seems to prepare himself, then chuckes.

“Mr. DeVene?”

“It’s just funny. When you’re slated to die, you tend to not care so much about the things you say, even though you’re a lot closer to those pearly gates.” He opens his eyes, looks at Holly. “I regret that he did not live to see what he had done. He died too soon. I think his death was somewhat merciful; would that someone would have come to kill me then.”

This rush of bitterness is unexpected, but Holly Mather is a pro.

“You’re saying, Mr. DeVene, that you wished Henry Largess would have lived so that he could have suffered more?”

“Correct.”

She lowers her voice. “Do you hate Henry Largess?”

His eyes are flints of steel. “Yes,” he breathes.

“You realize, Mr. DeVene, that Henry Largess, by many accounts, did not know what he had done? That is to say, he had no political motives, no particular concerns regarding homosexuality, his discovery was purely-”

“Accidental.”

“Yes, sir. Accidental.”

“I understand.”

“And you still hate him?”

He breathes deeply. “Yes.”

“Is that all?”

A tear escapes the corner of his right eye. “No”

“What else, Mr. DeVene?”

“I hate them all.”

“To whom are you referring?”

“All of them. America. You. Those camermen, that producer. I hate you all. You did…”

He leans forward again, grasping his stomach, as though in slow motion. He rocks with pain, both physical and emotional. His nose almost touches his knees.

“…you did nothing.”

There is only silence to answer him. Holly is temporarily frozen. Finding strength from somewhere, Edward DeVene raises his head.

“I hate you all. I hope you rot in a special corner of hell, for allowing such evil to spread. For doing nothing.”

“Mr. DeVene, in the beginning many non-homosexual people…”

“In the beginning. But not in the middle. Not in the end. When they told you that all children would be safe, from Down’s and autism and premature births, you fled. Never mind, that ‘accidents’ still occur. Never mind that. You sold us up the river for empty promises, for the hope of perfection. Your fear that the world would not be exactly as you planned for it, as you wanted. You cowards. And now we’re all gone…”

He struggles, slowly stands. So much pain. He sees his bitterness reflected in their eyes, his weakness. But so much hatred. It eats away at him, competing with the cancer. He has to purge it from his system, or let it swallow him whole.

“Different is not evil. Different….they say Michaelangelo was autistic, and he painted the Sistine Chapel. They say…I once heard the words of a young lady with Down’s syndrome, I once….the way she spoke…but you couldn’t, you couldn’t…”

He clutches the back of the chair, backing away. So weak. He thought he would have the strength to do this. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he thinks of Toni and laughs. Somewhere…

He turns his back on them and walks away. Holly cries out his name but only haf-heartedly. He has fulfilled his duty; he has given them something to show. It won’t amount to anything, but there it is.

He stumbles away, away from the interview and from the people. He goes home and waits for death, the last gay man.

The Last Gay Man

William H

Joined December 2007

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