Facing his imminent death, Gabriel Travers finally begins to peel back the layers and tackle his demons - with a little help from the music of the Divine Miss M and his mom's new wife, a country music-loving priest.
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Gabriel Travers knows he’s dying; he just can’t prove it. Despite his doctor’s proclamations to the contrary and rumors of a promising new HIV drug cocktail, all it takes is one glance into the mirror to tell Gabe everything he needs to know. His ass, once the talk of West Hollywood, now looks suspiciously like a Shar-Pei, prompting even more talk around town.
Back in his 20’s, life had been so easy. Caught up in the 1980’s world of LOVE! MONEY! SEX!, Gabe thought he’d have it all. But every effort to better himself ended in self-sabotage, and every attempt at love left him with only a fake number, scrawled on a realtor’s notepad.
The only happiness he could remember was in high school, where he’d met Keith, his first love. Only Keith had recognized the goodness within, and knew of the brutal attack Gabe had faced, the effects of which still rule his life today.
Now almost 40, and with the clock ticking, Gabe begins to finally peel back the layers and tackle his demons — with a little help from the music of the Divine Miss M and his mom’s new wife, a country music-loving priest.
James Baldwin once wrote that Americans lack a sense of doom, yet here I stand. Although I am not entirely certain that doom is indeed what brought me here, except most literally, that yin-yang, sturm und drang, heaven and hell push-pull has guided me, nay--ruled, since I saw my first hairy chest. Though others have struggled mightily in their quest for self-acceptance, for me, being gay has never been an issue. And in all of my hours spent contemplating the propriety of acting on such desire, I have encountered no downside. For if all roads lead to that same dreary destination of death, why not take the more enjoyably scenic?
Opposite, on the Right Bank, Sacre Coeur perches on the horizon, the late afternoon sun turning its pure white travertine a rich shade of gold. Without bitterness, I offer it a nod, acknowledging its divine providence in leading me to this place.
Wind, bracing here as always, whips through the crowd, prompting a herd of elderly tourists to warily step back from the edge. Watching, I wonder why they bother. For if, by some strange twist, one had been swept up by the prevailing thrusts of the invisible and flung to their death, would it truly have been tragic? Perhaps they would have had an hour, a day, or even twenty years more, but eventually they would have died just the same, albeit in far more perfunctory fashion. But to plunge from la Tour d'Eiffel? Can there even be a more spectacularly impressive departure?
This is a trip I have made many times, but never alone, and never to stay. Now that I am a denizen, my appreciation of Paris is bound to be different; in fact, ordained to be. How I pray, though, that the old pleasures will still taste as sweet. Please, let my former haunts retain their familiar allure! If there is any justice, permit my memories to register as before, unaltered by time or circumstance. For if I am here, and yet everything changed, how will I ever find peace?
The elevator doors send a rush of Japanese out onto the platform, forcing me back inside the vestibule. Turning to view the glassed tableau of a mannequined Monsieur Eiffel visiting with Thomas Edison, I consider my finger-smudged reflection. Not quite as forced as the figures before me, nor as dusty, but not altogether normal, either. My skin retains its ashen tint and the brown of my eyes is somewhat hazy. Still, given the road I have traveled, I could look worse.
It seems impossible that my choices have led me here, to this spot, drained of every ounce of life. Despite my long-held belief that one's journey--or ride, if you will--holds more importance than one's destination, I am no longer so cocksure. For if I, at age 17, had been handed a snapshot of myself as I am right here and now, providing the gift of foresight, isn't there a chance I might have chosen a different path?
Monsieur Eiffel gives no hint as to his view, appropriately leaving Thomas Edison to pop the requisite light bulb above my head. I linger, but none appears.
Perhaps I would have ended up here, regardless of choice. Perhaps it was destiny. Fate. An unlucky draw of the straw. Whichever, it is much too late to ponder, for no amount of wishing can change who I am or what I have done.
Were my life a play, it could easily be broken into three acts: before, after, and redemption. But while living, I never was able to step back, untangle myself, peel back the layers, and see things for what they were. Aside from Jon, life seemed confusing, filled with uncertainty. Now though, I can see that had I just made one single decision differently, all that came aft could have been forever altered.
While the tourists just beyond "ooh" and "ahh" at the surrounding sights, I stare into the masks of Eiffel and Edison, pondering the need for such a display. What could its creators have hoped to achieve? No matter how lifelike, these poses cannot possibly compete with the city below, teeming with the laughter and terror collectively known as "life."
I am about to journey on, shaking my head at their folly, when a thought occurs.
Perhaps these figures serve not to compete, but to remind. Remind us that, in spite of our vision of an omnipotent God, pulling our strings and jangling our nerves, it is the human who debates, chooses, and acts. It is the human who regrets. It is the human who remembers. And it was a human who envisioned a skyline commanded by a metal sculpture of grace, stature, and beauty--and built it.
But for that conscious decision, Monsieur Eiffel's vision would have remained purely spectral. He would have died, just the same, and none would have been the wiser. Wandering along the Seine, tearing chunks from our baguettes, we would have been blissfully unaware of the gigantic hole gaping high above our heads. But, happily, Monsieur Eiffel resolved to act, and this marker upon which I now stand, etched on so many souls, remains as proof of his ride.