The End of The Beginning

The Agents of Death are restless and agitated. They demand fifteen names this time, and are shouting at us to finish “quickly, quickly!”

I was pretty safe last year, so I only add my name once. I am sitting, as usual, with Santiago. The dreaded “death music” plays on loop. Instead of choosing names from the hat and reading them immediately, the Agents take the hat and exit the cabin, leaving us to look around at each other, wondering what was happening. At first, I expect them to come back and tell us who they will be taking. But they don’t.

I glance around the room at each person, wondering how I’d feel if they were called. As my eyes rest briefly on each person, I have the sudden realization that there is not one table in the entire room that doesn’t have at least one person I care deeply about sitting there. My chest feels tight, and tears are already cascading down my cheeks. No, I think, I don’t want to lose anyone else. But I know that I can’t stop Death.

I stand up, wanting to hug my friends. I find Charlotte sitting next to Sorrento and lean down to embrace them both, tears running down my face.

When I straighten up, Nate approaches me. He straightens my shirt collar and smooths my hair, murmuring a soft, “There you go,” before moving on to someone else.

The next person I spot is Ike sitting at the table across from Charlotte. I go over and hug him tightly. He hugs me back. When I finally take a step back, he gives me a sad half-smile. I give the same sort of smile back and nod before squeezing his shoulder, speaking without words.

I look around for Artie. We make eye contact and immediately walk towards each other. He envelops me in a bear hug, and I squeeze him back.

I make my way around the room like this, stopping every few feet for a long, tearful hug. Saying goodbye is too much for me to bear thinking about: I’m simply looking to both give and receive comfort.

Nate is staring out the window, pretending to fix his hair as he wipes tears from his cheeks. I can tell that he is trying to be strong for everyone else. I go over and place a comforting hand on his shoulder. When he turns back around, his face is once again calm and composed. He wipes a tear from my cheek with a finger and smooths my hair again, smiling sadly. “There. All better,” he says soothingly, and turns from me to do the same for someone else.

I let him go. I can tell that he’s struggling not to lose it.

Finally, the Agents return. “Follow us,” one of them says. No names are called.

Together, we trudge toward the field where the coffins lay in the sunshine. The beautiful day seems almost mocking. I walk slowly, terrified to see whose names would be in those coffins. We are told to remain in a single file line. People are sobbing ahead of me. Dragging my feet, I take a deep breath and approach.

First, I see Eli and Max. I find no comfort or relief in seeing people I was not close with. Death is death.

The next name I see is Nate’s. Oh, god. Not him. I begin sobbing in earnest.

I keep walking, tears blurring my vision. The next coffin is Steven’s. I feel a small gut-punch upon seeing his name.

And lastly, Nick. Another friend.

I weep into a tissue forlornly, circling the coffins and and making my way back to the grassy field so that others can see who we’ve lost.

I am distracted from my own grief by a loud keening. It’s Sinclair. “NO!” he wails. His face is bright red and crumpled in grief, and he is barely able to stand. He is being held up by Ike and Ruben who stand on either side of him as he reaches out for Nate. I immediately go over to comfort him, but… how does one comfort a friend who has just lost the love of their life? I reach out and hug him, feeling helpless.

Nate finally appears and the two embrace. I step back and leave them to their goodbyes.

When I turn around, Steven is standing there. I throw my arms around him. “You changed my life,” I choke out between sobs.

“And you changed mine,” he replies. I look at him in amazement and gratitude, and my shoulders quake. He turns to allow others to embrace him, saying their own goodbyes.

“It’s time,” says the Angel of Death. Steven, Eli, Nick, and Max head to their coffins and lay down. Sinclair is weeping and clutching at Nate. Nate is attempting to extricate himself, but Sinclair refuses to let him go. “No! NO!” he shrieks, grasping at Nate’s arm.

Nate seems just as calm as he was earlier in the main cabin, though his eyes are shining and wet. He holds Sinclair by the shoulders, looking into his eyes and speaking quietly and earnestly. He closes Sinclair’s fist around something and manages to take a step back. Finally, he turns and walks to his coffin, his head held high like the Queen we all know he is.

Sinclair is inconsolable. “Wait!” His voice cracks as he pleads through his sobs, “Take me! Take me instead!” He has to be physically restrained by Ruben and Ike from throwing himself in Nate’s casket. The Angel of death simply bows their head in sorrow.

The Angel of Death finally speaks. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Eli.” I hear someone sniffling behind me. “We are gathered here to mourn the loss of Max.” The Angel pauses between each name, looking around at the mass of grief. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Steven.” I flash back to Steven’s speech last year. He really did change my life, and I am glad I had the courage to tell him. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Nick.” I blow my nose and hand my packet of tissues to whoever is standing besides me. I don’t even look to see who it is; we all need them. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Nate.” Sinclair cries out in anguish, falling to his knees. I and a few others try to help him up but he is inconsolable, crumpling to the ground in a heap of despair.

The Angel of Death’s voice seems to become even quieter as the final name is announced. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Howard.”

My eyes widen. Howard, the kitchen boy? I’d kissed him once, in jest, simply because I’d been enjoying making him blush. Pepper, Priest and I all had a laugh when he’d backed away in shock and then his junk fell through the leg of his tiny shorts. He’d been mortified. I would smile now at the memory, if I weren’t so miserable.

As the ritualistic sounds of “Just A Little Lovin” reaches my ears, I am crying so hard that I can barely breathe. There is an ache deep in my chest, and I am turning to hug whoever is closest to me. Is this what people mean when they refer to heartache? I wonder. Everyone around me is also seeking out friends and loved ones for solace. I am both comforting others and being comforted in turn. Santiago, Artie, Charlotte, Sinclair, Ike and Ruben, Terrence, Enrique, Claire… everyone I love who is still here: we all mourn together.

Just a little lovin’
Early in the mornin’
Beats a cup of coffee
For starting off the day

Just a little lovin’
When the world is yawnin’
Makes you wake up feeling
Good things are coming your way

This old world
Wouldn’t be half as bad
It wouldn’t be half as sad
If each and everybody in it had, yeah

Just a little lovin’
Early in the mornin’
That little extra somethin’
To kinda see them through

Nothing turns the day on
Really gets it dawnin’
Like a little bit of lovin’
From some lovin’ someone like you

This old world
Wouldn’t be half as bad
It wouldn’t be half as sad
If each and everybody in it had

Just a little lovin’
Early in the mornin’
(Just a little lovin’)
(When the world is yawnin’)
Just a little bit of lovin’, ah
Oh, in the morning
Nothing turns the day on
Really gets it dawnin’
Make a little bit of lovin’
It’s so good, it’s so good

T and Me

Once Sinclair has headed back to his cabin, I peek into the Pillow Room. Fernando is there, but it is otherwise empty. “Quiet in here,” I remark.

“Yeah,” he says. “I think everyone else has headed off to bed.”

“Hmm. I’m not ready for bed yet. I’m gonna take a stroll around and see if I can find anyone.”

“I just did that a little while ago. I guess it’s possible, but seems unlikely,” he says.

“Couldn’t hurt,” I say.

I stop in the Darkroom first. The lurid gay porn is still playing, but the cabin is otherwise empty. I’ve never seen it so quiet; it’s almost creepy. I walk back out and head over to the main lodge. The grounds are quiet. I’ve resigned myself to heading back to the Pillow Room and sleeping alone, but stop in the main lodge anyway, just to make sure. I am surprised when I hear voices talking quietly.

“Hello?” I call out.

“Hey, babe,” I hear Santiago’s voice from one of the tables in the back. She is sitting and chatting with Sorrento. I sit down next to her and lay my head on her shoulder as she and Sorrento chat. A few moments later, Nick and Terrence walk in.

“Hey guys,” says Terrence. “What are you doing up?”

“I’m just waiting for my fiance to come to bed,” I answer. “What have you two been up to?” Nick flushes, and I laugh. I stand up. “I’m going to sleep,” I say, kissing Santiago’s forehead. “I can barely keep my eyes open. I’ll be in the Pillow Room, if you want to join me.”

“Is that invitation open to the public?” Terrence teases.

“Sure,” I say, “The Pillow Room is public domain. There’s plenty of room!”

“That sounds like it could be fun,” says Santiago, looking around. “Let’s all go!”

“Yeah, why not?” says Terrence. Nick shrugs.

I raise an eyebrow. “You fags wanna come cuddle with the lesbians tonight?”

“Not me,” says Sorrento. “You guys have fun!”

The four of us traipse off to the Pillow Room, which is empty. I guess Fernando found something else to do after all, I think to myself. I lay down with the pillow and blanket that I’d dropped off earlier. Santiago lays on one side of me, Terrence on the other. Nick lays on the other side of Santiago.

I turn onto my side and snuggle into Santiago, facing Terrence. Nick and Santiago are deep in conversation. I’m tired, but content to stay awake and chat now that I’m finally horizontal.

“So, you and Nick, huh?” I grin.

“Yeah, well. You know me…” he says.

“I sure do!” I answer. “You are the founder of these parties, after all.”

He is quiet for a moment. “Sometimes I wonder if they were a mistake. With all of the sex and everything…” his voice trail off.

No,” I say emphatically. “Terrance, these parties are where so many people have met and developed friendships and relationships. Hell, it’s where Santiago and I finally got together, and it’s where I proposed to her. Did you think that was spur of the moment?”

He smiles. “No, I guess not. Charlotte would never let you do something so big without planning every moment of it.”

“So true!” I pause, then reach out and take his hand. “It’s not your fault, you know, I say softly. “The disease? It would have spread regardless. But your parties brought people together.”

He squeezes my hand briefly. “They brought Kimberly and I together,” he says.

“I know,” I say. “She told me.”

He is twisting one of the rings he always wears, and I am suddenly nervous. Terrence never fidgets. “Terrance?”

“I’m positive,” he blurts out.

I freeze in shock. “What?”

“Yeah. I found out earlier today. I don’t expect to be around much longer, honestly.”

I feel as though the wind has been knocked out of me. Terrance? He’s one of my oldest friends. He’s a condescending know-it-all pain in my ass, but he’s my friend, and I can’t imagine the world without him.

“Don’t cry,” he says. “It will be okay.”

“I’m not–” I blink. Shit. I am. I wipe my eyes furiously. “This sucks.”

“It does,” he agrees.

“We’re gonna find a cure, though. We’re gonna get this place opened up and then–”

“Let’s not worry about the future,” he interrupts me. “Let’s enjoy the here and now.” He leans forward and kisses me.

I’m overwhelmed at the sudden surge of passion and tenderness that flows through my body. I kiss him back, wrapping my arms around him tightly.

“I don’t want to– can we just–” I struggle to find the right words.

“Of course,” he says. Changing the subject, he says, “Hey, did you see the shirt Eli was wearing earlier?”

We talk all night. It starts getting light out before my eyelids become too heavy to keep open anymore, and I succumb to a restless sleep.

Katherine To The Rescue

I am walking back towards the main lodge to see if anyone is still dancing when I spy Sinclair and Chain along the path, and stop to say hello. “Hey, guys!,” I say, smiling. “What’s up?”

“Hey,” says Sinclair flatly. Chain doesn’t answer. Instead, he turns so that his back is toward us and stares off into the distance.

“Hi, Chain,” I try again. “How’s it going?”

Chain stalks off in the direction of the Pillow Room. Sinclair and I exchange a look.

“Uhh… is everything okay?” I ask. “What did I just miss?”

“He says he wants to talk to me,” Sinclair answers.

“Oh. About what?”

“I don’t know!” he says, sounding frustrated. “I tried to ask him and he wouldn’t tell me.”

“Okay, that’s… weird,” I say.

“Yeah.” He’s looking at the ground, and angrily kicks a stone that is laying on the path. “I just don’t know what to think. I don’t know what he could possibly want to say to me. I’m with Nate now.”

“Wait… back up. I think I’m missing something here,” I say.

“I kissed him once, a few years ago. It was stupid, and I shouldn’t have done it. I was fighting with Nate, and I was high, and… ugh,”  he says, shaking his head in annoyance. “It was wrong of me. And apparently it was a big deal to him, because that was two years ago, and he’s still upset.”

He is quiet for a moment before speaking again. “Do you think I should talk to him?” he asks me in a small voice. I follow his gaze to a small clearing beyond the trees; the same clearing where the Saratogans have their ritual or whatever every year. Chain is leaning up against a tree, staring out into the darkness. He looks miserable.

“Well,” I say carefully. “Do you think we should just leave him there?” I don’t know Chain well, and in fact have barely ever exchanged more than a few words with him. Every time I’ve seen him he’s been smiling, laughing, happy-go-lucky. But this year, he’s looked mostly sad and angry. Something about the look of defeat on his face and the way he is staring off into the forest  makes me worried about leaving him there by himself.

“I don’t want to talk to him,” Sinclair says glumly, looking at the ground again.

“Do you want me to talk to him?” I offer. He looks up and seems to be seriously considering the idea. “I mean…” I continue, “I don’t really know him, so I have no idea how he will react, or if he will even speak to me at all.  We’re essentially strangers. But who knows, that might make it easier for him.” I shrug. “I really have no idea.”

Sinclair studies me for a moment, then sighs. “No. I don’t know. I just… I don’t want to be alone with him. I’m not sure what he might do.”

“Do you think he might attack you?” I ask.

“No. I’m afraid he’ll try to kiss me.”

We are both silent for a moment.

“Would you rather I just come with you while you talk to him?” I ask gently.

He looks relieved. “Yes. That’s a good idea. I just need to have someone there, just in case he… you know.”

“I know.”

We start to head over to the clearing. As we get closer, I instinctively slow down. I feel like we are chasing a scared rabbit, and that the rabbit is going to run away any second.

“Maybe I should hang back and just watch. I’ll stay close so I can see what’s happening. But he may not talk with both of us there.” Sinclair nods without looking at me. He continues walking over to Chain as I veer left and hover near the door of the Pillow Room, pretending to be waiting for someone.

Sinclair stops carefully, several feet from Chain. I can’t hear them, but I am watching their body language. Chain is sullen, and shrugs a lot. Sinclair is gesturing and looking frustrated. After a few minutes Sinclair turns and starts walking away, saying, “Fine. If you don’t want to talk, then–”

Chain interrupts him, but I can’t hear what he says. Sinclair stops and goes back. People entering and exiting the Pillow Room give me curious looks, but I just smile and pretend to be looking around for someone.

After about ten minutes, the two of them start walking down the path in the direction of the main lodge. I try to discretely follow behind them. When they stop in the middle of the path and continue talking, I walk casually past them, pretending that I’m just wandering through the campground. A moment or two later Chain passes me, and I turn and make my way back to Sinclair.

“How’d it go?” I ask.

“It was… okay,” he says. “He wanted to talk about what happened, and explain why he was hurt. I apologized, but I explained that I’m with Nate now. He wasn’t too happy about that. But I think he’s accepted it. He seemed more cheerful, anyway.” He turns and hugs me. “Thanks for being here for me. I’m gonna go to bed now.”

“Of course!” I exclaim. “That’s what friends are for, and all that shit, right?”


Like a literal sex magnet, the group gets larger and larger as we walk over to the Darkroom. All told, we wind up with fourteen people: myself, Santiago, Enrique, Claire, Sam, Pen, Sorrento, Chain, Sinclair, Charlotte, Lawrence, Chantelle, Morgan, and Rain.

When we get there, Enrique empties his pockets and shouts, “Enjoy!” as condoms go flying everywhere. There is a chorus of laughter, and people begin taking over benches and corners. There is a rustling of clothing and the wet sounds of people kissing and licking and sucking each other. At one point, someone calls out, “Who wants to be spit roasted?” and I laugh as Santiago eagerly volunteers. I am gazing at my fiance, enjoying watching her when I hear Lawrence say to Rain, “Don’t ever call me Larry while my fist is in your ass!” Morgan and Chain co-top Claire and Chantelle for a while, and Rain receives one of his infamous “poetry blowjobs,” reciting poetry in between grunts and thrusts. Everyone is enjoying themselves, but it’s not just the sex. There is a camaraderie that permeates the room. A few years ago, this would have felt like a bunch of strangers fucking. It still would have been hot, but this is different. This is a room full of friends and lovers, people who care a great deal about each other, who are not there just to get off. It feels like a community.

Suddenly, a fist grasps my hair and hauls me up from the leather bench I was sitting on. I gasp, a tingle traveling through my body that starts at the hand on my scalp and settles in my loins. Santiago drags me to the center of the room and pushes me down to my knees. “Time to show everyone that you belong to me.” She says something else, but it doesn’t register. It doesn’t matter. I know what she wants.

I grasp her hips and lean forward, purposely letting my hot breath fall against her pussy before I even touch her with my mouth. I kiss her outer lips softly, then open my mouth and lick at them gently. I hear her suck in her breath, and I grin. I love having that effect on her. Parting her lips with my tongue, I begin lapping at her clit. She moans above me and clutches my hair, pushing my face harder between her legs. I tense up the tip of my tongue and swipe it up and down, just the way I know she likes it. After a few moments, I can tell she’s getting close. I slide a finger inside, then another, and fuck her with my hand while she humps my mouth. She convulses around my hand, smothering my face as she cums. I wait until I’m sure she’s finished before removing my fingers.

As soon as she catches her breath, she pulls me up and kisses me passionately. “My turn.” She drops to her knees to return the favor.

“Oh, god,” I cry out as her tongue quickly finds my clit. Hearing her cum has me so turned on already that I’m cumming in less than a minute. “Oh– oh, god– yes, yes– Maria!” I gasp out. “Maria, oh, fuck, yes, please, ahh, god!”  My nails dig into her shoulders as my body shudders. “Maria, Maria, oh, fuck, Ma–Ma–MARIAAAAAA!

I’m leaning against her, still catching my breath, when I dimly hear a voice somewhere in the room ask, “Who the fuck is Maria?”

It’s Not A Party Until…

I am hanging out on the back porch when Enrique, Claire, Pen, Sorrento, Nate, and Sinclair. “Heyyy, Katherine… you busy?” Enrique asks.

I study the group. Claire is watching the exchange and giggling. “Umm… not really. I was just dancing. Why, what’s up?”

“Well, a few of us,” Enrique gestures toward his entourage, “were thinking about going over to the Darkroom.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Okay… so?”

“So, I was wondering if you’d like to come along.” He tilts his pocket toward me, and I see that it’s stuffed full of condoms.

I laugh and I glance over my shoulder at Santiago. “I might be convinced. Is this party invite-only?” Santiago catches my eye and comes over.

“What’s happening over here?” she asks, wrapping an arm around my waist.

“Enrique’s just invited us to a little gathering over in the Darkroom,” I answer, nodding my chin towards the pocket that he is still displaying.

“Oh, fuck yes!” Santiago exclaims.

A Test You Can’t Study For

I almost miss the opening ceremonies again. I hurriedly shove my lipstick into my purse leave the bathroom, wading through the crowd to find Charlotte and Santiago. A couple of people do a double-take as I walk past, and I grin. I’m wearing a long-sleeved gold-colored shirt with decorative cut-outs around the collar. The shirt stops just above my midriff, and I’ve matched it with a pair of plain black slacks. It was not my usual style to show so much skin, but I am having fun showing off a little. Besides, I no longer have a job that I need to “look professional” for. What I didn’t tell people was that the shirt had actually been a loan from Kimberly, and this was my way of making sure she attended the party with us, at least in spirit.

This year, Terrence has arranged for HIV testing to take place on-site. Santiago and I decide to head over and get it out of the way at the beginning of the party. There is a long line of folks ahead of us. We’ve both been safe since the debacle last year, but sitting in the waiting room is still nerve-wracking. I am next in line when I see Sinclair rush through the waiting room. He doesn’t even notice us sitting there. A moment or two later I see Nate rush through the room after him. I turn and give Santiago a worried look, opening my mouth to speak.

“The doctor will see you now,” says the nurse.

I stand up, and Santiago also stands. I turn to her. “It’s okay. I can go by myself.”

“I’m coming with you,” she says. Her voice is insistent.

I sigh. “I don’t need–” I stop when I look at her face, seeing the fear behind her eyes. I nod. “Okay.”

The nurse leads us into a room where the doctor is waiting. “Hello. Please have a seat. Can you confirm your name?” His bedside manner is cold, brusque. I pretend that I’m not bothered by it, and cover up my nervousness.

“Katherine Stockton.”

“And why are you here?”

“For the AIDS testing,” I say.

He studies me. “Hmm.” His face is expressionless, but I can’t help feeling judged. “Tell me about your habits.”

I take a deep breath. “Well, I’ve had some unprotected sex over the years, since the outbreak started. Mostly with women, but last year there were a few men…” my voice trails off. I’m still embarrassed about that night, especially with Santiago standing next to me.

“I see,” the doctor says. “And this is your girlfriend?”


“How long have you been together?” he asks.

“About three years now,” I answer.

“And you’re exclusive?”

“Well, no… but it’s pretty much just women.” The doctor is scribbling in his notebook and nods without looking up.

“We’re going to do a few tests.” He takes a few vials of blood and hands them to his assistant. The assistant leaves the room while the doctor scribbles some notes and Santiago and I wait silently.

A few moments later the assistant returns, handing the doctor a small slip of paper. The doctor reads it and then looks up at me. He is not smiling, and my heart skips a beat. “I have good news,” he says. I breathe a sigh of relief and sag slightly in my chair as he tells me that my results are negative. Santiago squeezes my hand, and I stand to let her take my seat.

The doctor goes through the same questions with Santiago, and takes her blood. I know that I’ve been riskier than her, so I’m pretty sure that she is fine… but I still let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding when the doctor tells her she’s negative.

We walk back through the waiting room into the hallway, giddy with relief. “Let’s wait for Charlotte and Sorrento,” Santiago says, gesturing towards the window that shows who is still waiting.

I nod. “Of course.”

A few moments later, Charlotte walks out. “Negative.”

“Thank goodness!” I hug her. “Santiago is just waiting for Sorrento, and then we can–” I stop when I see Claire over Charlotte’s shoulder. She’s walking slowly, looking dazed.

“Claire?” I ask. She looks up, and her face immediately crumples. Oh, no. I embrace her. “Oh, honey.” I stroke her hair. “It will be okay. We’ll take care of you. We all will.” I step back and Charlotte and Santiago also hug her, trying to sound reassuring.

Charlotte walks Claire back towards the party while I wait with Santiago for Sorrento. When he finally comes out, we look at him expectantly. He starts talking about something else when Santiago interrupts him. “So are you…”

He hesitates for a few seconds. “Oh! Yeah, I’m fine,” he says, shaking his head. “Negative.” I turn away to roll my eyes at his nonchalance.

Failed Marriage

Luke, the player cast as Sinclair Everett, asked me to play his wife Mary in a black box scene. He knew what he wanted the outcome of the scene to be – that the marriage would end in divorce – but he wasn’t sure how it would play out. He wasn’t sure yet how he envisioned Mary’s character, if the breakup would be amicable or not, etc.

He’d also asked Jamey (AKA Simon and later Artie) to help by directing the scene. Jamey suggested that we start playing out a few scenes in several different ways, and that at key moments he would stop us and ask, “Is that how it happened?”

We started with Sinclair coming out to Mary. Mary was doing some chores in the kitchen when Sinclair comes home after a long weekend “campaigning.” Sinclair tries to come out to her, but she is in denial.

“I have to tell you something.” Sinclair says.

“What is it?” I dry my hands on a dish towel and turn to face him.

“It’s serious. You might want to sit down,” he says.

My eyes widen. “What is it? Are you sick? What’s going on?”

“No, no, I’m fine. It’s not that.” He hesitates. “I’m just not sure how to say this.”

“Sinclair, you’re scaring me. Oh my god, is it drugs? It’s drugs, isn’t it?”

“CUT.” Jamey says. “Is that how it happened?”

Luke pauses very briefly, then says, “No.”

“Okay, let’s try it again.” Jamey turns to me. “This time, you’ll be angry.”

We start over.

“I have to tell you something.” Sinclair hesitates. “But I’m not sure how to say it.”

I dry my hands on a dish towel and turn to face him. “You’re gay.”

He gapes at me. “You knew?”

“Of course I knew,” I spit, my voice dripping with venom. He recoils as though I’ve hit him. “You haven’t touched me in years.” Sinclair is silent as I glare at him. “Well? Do you have it?”

He looks perplexed for a second, then understanding dawns on his face. “No! Mary, no.” He reaches out for me, but I take a step back.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this now.”

“I know. I’m sor–“

“Have you even thought about how this might affect our children, if this gets out? How do you think people will react? They’ll be laughingstocks. We all will.” Sinclair gapes at me, seemingly at a loss for words. I take a deep breath, trying to calm down, but my anger takes control. “Get out.”

“Mary.” He takes another step toward me. “I–“

“Get. Out,” I say again, loudly and more forcefully. Sinclair freezes in shock. I lift one shaking hand and point to the door. “Get out, get out, GET OUT!”

“CUT.” Jamey’s voice interrupts the scene. “Is that how it happened?”

Sinclair looks down at his shoes sadly. “Yes,” he says softly.

We chat as players for another moment. For the next scene, we decide that the characters will reconcile and agree to stay together, for their children’s sake.

I enter the bedroom to put the laundry away and freeze when I find Sinclair in there, packing a bag. I hadn’t even heard him enter the house. We look at each other awkwardly. He places the pile of clothing from his hands into a suitcase that lay open on the bed. “I’ll be out in a few minutes.”

I hesitate, then walk over and pick up some of the clothing from his suitcase. “What are you…” His voice trails off as I place it back inside the dresser drawer.

“We have to be strong. For the children.”

I can feel his eyes boring into me. “So… I can come back?”

My voice is quiet as I reply. “Yes.”

His relief is palpable, his body visibly relaxing. He moves closer and takes my hand, holding it in both of his own. “I’m going to be better. I’m going to spend more weekends at home. A lot more.”

I nod silently, sitting down stiffly on the bed. “And I want you to call your doctor. You need to get some help.”

“Yes, of course. Anything you want.” He kneels down in front of me. “Do you really want to do this? Can we be a family, for the children?”

I look into his earnest face. Pulling my hand away, I answer him honestly. “No. And yes.”

“CUT. Is that how it happened?”

Luke nods almost immediately. “Yes.”

Luke then points out that we still don’t have the desired outcome of the failed marriage, so we fast forward a few months. Sinclair has been home even less than he was before, if that’s even possible. At least half of that time really was for campaigning, but he’s been spending more and more time with Nate at Club Diamond. He comes home in the middle of the night, drunk.

I am laying in bed, wide awake, when I hear the front door open. I wait until Sinclair stumbles into the bedroom and closes the door behind him to speak.

I don’t move from my position on the bed. “Where have you been.” My tone is low and cold, more of an accusation than a question.

He jumps guiltily. “I was… campaigning,” he slurrs slightly.

“Bullshit,” I snap. “It’s 3am.” I sit up in bed, glaring at him. “You were at that bar again, weren’t you?”

He is silent. He doesn’t admit it, but he also doesn’t deny it.

“You missed your son’s baseball game,” I tell him. “Again.”

He looks dejected. “I know. And I’m sorry–” he says again.

I cut him off. “How do you think this makes me feel?”

He shakes his head, not meeting my eyes. “I can’t even imagine how you must feel right now,” he says softly.

“CUT.” Luke and I pause, glancing up at Jamey. “Switch places,” he says. Jamey points to Sinclair. “You’re now Mary.” He turns to me. “And you’re Sinclair.” My eyes widen. Brilliant! Luke and I switch places. “Now, pick up exactly where you left off.”

I shake my head sadly. “I can’t even imagine how you must feel right now.”

“I can’t do this anymore. You need to leave.”

“No. Mary, no. We can make this work.” I take a step toward her.

“Don’t touch me,” she hisses. I flinch. “We’re through. I want a divorce.”


Her hands come up in front of her, and I watch in horror as she twists the wedding ring from her finger and flings it carelessly to the ground. As if in slow motion, it bounces off the wall and rolls under the bed.

“I’m keeping the house. And I’m taking the kids.”

At this, I fall apart. “No. No, no, no. please, no!” I’ve falled to my knees, begging and groveling at her feet. I don’t even remember how I got there. “You can’t do this to me!” I bawl. Mary steps away from me in disgust. “You can’t take my children away from me!”

“CUT. Is that how it happened?”

Luke sniffles, wiping a tear from his eye. “Yes.”

Spending Pink Dollars

In the time between 4th of July 1983 and New Year’s Eve 1984, there was a string of events that were not played out by actual scenes, but were decided by the players. Katherine decided to not only print one article in the Times, but to go out with a bang: she paid off some of the staff at NYT to help her publish an entire Sunday edition dedicated to educating people about the ongoing AIDS crisis. The front page headline splashed, “NYT Editor Katherine Stockton Comes Out As Lesbian”. Sinclair Everett also came out publicly, and the infamous interview with him was included in this issue. (He consequently was divorced by his wife Mary, who was awarded custody of their two young children.) There were obituaries and memorials for Simon, Leon, Trevor, Kimberly, and Abner – though oddly, Katherine never was able to find a copy of Abner’s poem that she’d promised to publish. Before Kimberly died, she headed out to San Francisco along with Eli and Dawn for a project photographing people in poverty and those who were sick and dying from AIDS. Sadly, she died before the project was finished – she got sick while on the road and passed away shortly after flying back to New York. Katherine included many of those pictures in the paper as well, along with a long memorial dedicated to her friendship with Kimberly. Included in the memorial was a picture of Katherine holding Cassandra Kimberly, Charlotte’s infant daughter, whose middle name was in honor of her late “Auntie.” Katherine was of course fired from her post at the Times, but she had been expecting it and was prepared. She freelanced a few articles for Out magazine with Nick’s help, as well for an LGBT magazine called The Advocate. When she wasn’t freelancing, she was writing grant proposals for the new Saratoga Center, and was spending most weekends on-site helping out with whatever needed doing. She had far less less money, but far more passion for her work, and she felt more alive than she had in years.

Casual Cruelty

After the ceremony, the kitchen staff brings out a tray of the Saratogan’s infamous Green Drink. Kohana calls out to those gathered. “The color green holds the energy of life and growth.”

Kim, standing by his side, continues for him as the tray gets passed around. “We are survivors and in this green and growing place, we take health and life into our bodies.”

Kohana speaks again. “Drink and become vital, become vibrant.”

They speak the last word together: “Live!”

I haven’t tried it before, but when the tray comes around, I shrug and take a cup. I take a swig and almost gag. God, that’s foul. I set the cup down gingerly and look around.

“Where’s Sinclair?” I say aloud, to no one in particular. I haven’t seen him in a while, which strikes me as unusual.

Francis, Artie’s best friend who happens to be standing nearby, answers me. “He got pretty high and wandered off somewhere.”

“What? Shit.” I take off down the path to find him.

Sinclair has not been doing well recently: he’s been fighting more and more often with his wife Mary, who keeps demanding that he spend less time campaigning and more time at home with her and their children. She doesn’t know that at least half the time he’s “campaigning,” he’s actually been at Club Diamond with Nate. And he’s been getting pushes from several of our friends to come out publicly, which he is not quite ready for. I know that he’s been feeling pulled in a hundred different directions, and lately he’s been turning to drugs to escape. I’ve been asking him to slow down, to no avail.

At this point I’m feeling pretty sober, though the Green Drink does seem to be having the effect of heightening my emotions. I’m worried about the article I’ve promised Ruben I’ll write, I’m worried about the spreading disease, and I’m worried about the friends who will inevitably get sick. But right now, I’m focused on worrying about Sinclair.

I peek into the Darkroom, but he’s not there. I head for the Pillow Room. I don’t bother taking my shoes off; I simply peek inside. He’s not there, either. I turn to check the private room that’s in the same cabin as the Pillow Room, and find myself face to face with Ike.

“Hey, Ike. Have you seen Sinclair?” I ask.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Ike says.

“Where is he? I’ve been looking all over for him. I heard that he was… not in a good place.”

Ike glances over his shoulder, then back at me. “He’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” I realize that Ike is not just casually hanging out – he’s guarding the door.

I eye him suspiciously. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. He’s with Ruben. They’re talking,” he says.

I relax. “Oh, okay. Good.” I trust Ruben. “Well, just… make sure he calls his wife, okay? She gets pretty upset when he’s out late and doesn’t call to tell the kids goodnight.” Ike nods, and I turn to go.

Just then, Chain walks in and marches straight up to Ike. “Where’s Sinclair? I need to talk to him.”

“He’s busy,” Ike says, firmly planting himself in front of the doorknob.

“Oh, come on,” Chain says. “I just want to talk to him.”

The door to the Pillow Room opens yet again. “Where is he?” Nate demands. Ike steps aside and lets Nate into the room he’d been guarding, then stands in front of it again, blocking Chain from following.

“What?” cries Chain. “Are you kidding me? Why does Nate get to go in?”

Ike sighs. “Because he’s Nate. Nate does what he wants.”

“What, does Sinclair need protecting? From you? You couldn’t even protect your own boyfriend from getting attacked,” Chain spits angrily.

Last New Year’s Eve, Ike and Ruben had ducked into an alley for a quick kiss. Unfortunately, they were spotted and attacked by some thugs who decided to “teach those fags a lesson.” In his fury and in trying to protect Ike, Ruben had ended up getting beaten so badly that he’d been airlifted to the hospital. He’d needed emergency surgery, and it was weeks before he could even speak. Even today, he still sometimes gets stuck on words or loses his balance.

I gasp at Chain’s callousness. I don’t know Chain well, but his words seem uncharacteristically cruel.

Ike shrugs, seemingly unperturbed by Chain’s comment. I hear a scramble behind the door, and Ruben bursts from the room. He advances on Chain, fists clenched. “What the FUCK did you just say to him?” he snarls. He’s standing so close that I can see bits of spittle land on Chain’s face.

“Ruben,” I say softly, laying my hands on his fists and gently pushing his arms back down to his side. He ignores me.

“How fucking dare you. Don’t you ever speak to him like that. EVER,” Ruben growls. His fists raise back up to his sides, and I push them down again before placing a hand on his shoulder. He is shaking with fury.

“Ruben,” I say again, gently. “Come on. You don’t want to do this.”

Thankfully, Chain seems to come to his senses. “You’re right. I should not have said that.” He turns to Ike.” I was very upset, but that’s not your fault. I’m very sorry.” He turns back to Ruben. “That was unfair of me. I apologize.”

Ruben scowls at Chain down for another moment without speaking, then turns and goes back into the room, pausing only to stroke Ike’s cheek briefly.

Awkward Savior

A loud knock sounds at the door, startling everyone. Charlotte opens it, and Enrique strolls in. He and Santiago lock eyes for a brief moment.  “Thanks for coming–” she begins, but Enrique cuts her off.

“It’s not for you. It’s for her.” He strides over to my bed.

“Well, thank you anyway,” Santiago finishes, sounding sad.

“What’s that about?” Sinclair asks Santiago softly, but she only shrugs in response.

Enrique feels my forehead, listens to my lungs and heart, and pokes and prods me for a few minutes before standing up. “She’s going to be fine. It’s pneumonia.” He takes out a few bottles of pills and cough syrup from his medical bag as the others let out audible sighs of relief.

There are several cries of thanks as he gathers his things to leave. He fixes Santiago with another piercing stare. “I told you… it’s not for you.” He then turns and walks out without another word, leaving the rest of us in awkward silence.