About the Author
Hometown:San Francisco, California
Date of Birth:May 13, 1944
Place of Birth:Washington, D.C.
Education:University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Read an Excerpt
Michael Tolliver Lives LP
By Armistead Maupin
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Armistead Maupin
All right reserved.
Confederacy of Survivors
Not long ago, down on Castro Street, a stranger in a Giants parka gave me a loaded glance as we passed each other in front of Cliff's Hardware. He was close to my age, I guess, not that far past fifty—and not bad-looking either, in a beat-up, Bruce Willis-y sort of way—so I waited a moment before turning to see if he would go for a second look. He knew this old do-si-do as well as I did, and hit his mark perfectly.
"Hey," he called, "you're supposed to be dead."
I gave him an off-kilter smile. "Guess I didn't get the memo."
His face grew redder as he approached. "Sorry, I just meant . . . it's been a really long time and . . . sometimes you just assume . . . you know . . ."
I did know. Here in our beloved Gayberry you can barely turn around without gazing into the strangely familiar features of someone long believed dead. Having lost track of him in darker days, you had all but composed his obituary and scattered his ashes at sea, when he shows up in the housewares aisle at Cala Foods to tell you he's been growing roses in Petaluma for the past decade. This happens to me a lot, these odd little supermarket resurrections, so I figured it could just as easily happen to someone else.
But who the hell was he?
"You're looking good," hesaid pleasantly.
"Thanks. You too." His face had trenches like mine—the usual wasting from the meds. A fellow cigar store Indian.
"You are Mike Tolliver, right?"
"Michael. Yeah. But I can't quite—"
"Oh . . . sorry." He thrust out his hand. "Ed Lyons. We met at Joe Dimitri's after the second Gay Games."
That was no help at all, and it must have shown.
"You know," the guy offered gamely. "The big house up on Collingwood?"
"The circle jerk?"
"We went back to my place afterward."
"On Potrero Hill!"
What I remembered—all I remembered after nineteen years—was his dick. I remembered how its less-than-average length was made irrelevant by its girth. It was one of the thickest I'd ever seen, with a head that flared like a caveman's club. Remembering him was a good deal harder. Nineteen years is too long a time to remember a face.
"We had fun, " I said, hoping that a friendly leer would make up for my phallocentric memory.
"You had something to do with plants, didn't you?"
"Still do." I showed him my dirty cuticles. "I had a nursery back then, but now I garden full time."
That seemed to excite him, because he tugged on the strap of my overalls and uttered a guttural "woof." If he was angling for a nooner, I wasn't up for it. The green-collar job that had stoked his furnace had left me with some nasty twinges in my rotator cuffs, and I still had podocarps to prune in Glen Park. All I really wanted was an easy evening with Ben and the hot tub and a rare bacon cheeseburger from Burgermeister.
Somehow he seemed to pick up on that. "You married these days?"
"Yeah . . . pretty much."
"Married married or just . . . regular?"
"You mean . . . did we go down to City Hall?"
I told him we did.
"Must've been amazing," he said.
"Well, it was a mob scene, but . . . you know . . . pretty cool." I wasn't especially forthcoming, but I had told the story once too often and had usually failed to convey the oddball magic of that day: all those separate dreams coming true in a gilded, high-domed palace straight out of Beauty and the Beast. You had to have witnessed that long line of middle-aged people standing in the rain, some of them with kids in tow, waiting to affirm what they'd already known for years. And the mayor himself, so young and handsome and . . . neat . . . that he actually looked like the man on top of a wedding cake.
"Well," said Ed Lyons, stranger no more, now that I'd put a name to the penis. "I'm heading down to the bagel shop. How 'bout you?"
I told him I was headed for my truck.
"Woof!" he exclaimed, aroused by the mere mention of my vehicle.
I must've rolled my eyes just a little.
"What?" he asked.
"It's not that butch a truck," I told him.
He laughed and charged off. As I watched his broad shoulders navigate the stream of pedestrians, I wondered if I would find Ed's job—whatever it might be—as sexy as he found mine. Oh, yeah, buddy, that's right, make me want it, make me buy that two-bedroom condo! That Century 21 blazer is so fucking hot!
I headed for my truck (a light-blue Tacoma, if you must know), buzzing on a sort of homegrown euphoria that sweeps over me from time to time. After thirty years in the city, it's nice to be reminded that I'm still glad to be here, still glad to belong to this sweet confederacy of survivors, where men meet in front of the hardware store and talk of love and death and circle jerks as if they're discussing the weather.
It helps that I have Ben; I know that. Some years back, when I was still single, the charm of the city was wearing thin for me. All those imperial dot-commers in their SUVs and Hummers barreling down the middle of Noe Street as if leading an assault on a Third World nation. And those freshly minted queens down at Badlands, wreathed in cigarette smoke and attitude, who seemed to believe that political activism meant a subscription to Out magazine and regular attendance at Queer as Folk night. Not to mention the traffic snarls and the fuck-you-all maître d's and the small-town queers who brought their small-town fears to the Castro and tried to bar . . .
Excerpted from Michael Tolliver Lives LP by Armistead Maupin Copyright © 2007 by Armistead Maupin. Excerpted by permission.
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