“So what have been up to, Graz?” Nino asked, finally. “What’s been going on in your life?”
Graz hesitated for just an instant before his sense of humour kicked in. “Well, as a matter of fact,” he said, “I just came out of the closet.”
Since Graz isn’t gay, why did he say something this silly? Well, for one, he’d had a few drinks, and he knew it would shock Nino, har, har. For another, how do you summarize 37 years for someone you haven’t seen at all during that time? Third explanation? Just for a second, he lost his mind.
Nino, obviously having learned a few things since junior high school, didn’t blink. “That a fact?” he said. “Well, more power to you.”
The two school mates chatted for a few more minutes, and Nino drifted away to talk to someone else. The Reunion continued, Graz had a few more drinks. On his way back to the bar for still another drink, he bumped into Nino Sassi again and his mind went missing once again, more seriously this time. Graz looked Nino in the eyes and said, jokingly, “You know, Nino, you’re starting to look pretty good to me yourself.”
Nino laughed, and skittered away. Graz got his drink, drank it, drank another, talked to more people, etc. Eventually he left, made it home safely and didn’t give the Reunion another thought.
Weeks later, he began to notice that an unusual number of his old acquaintances were showing up at the café, asking if things were okay, and leaving without really waiting around to hear Graz’s answer. Eventually one of them popped the question: “So, Graz, is it true that you’ve gone over to the dark side?”
Graz looked up, startled. “What?”
“Is it true that you’re gay?”
“No, of course not. Where did you hear that?”
“It’s just a rumour. Not a problem for me if you are, eh?”
“Well, I’m not,” Graz said, “so if you hear it again, tell them what I said.”
The next afternoon, he picked up a phone message on the Dooney’s system from another friend asking the same question. This friend had been at the junior high school reunion, and something clicked in Graz’s mind. He called the friend.
“You didn’t hear about this from Nino Sassi, did you?”
As it happened, he hadn’t. He’d heard it from his brother, who’d heard it from his sister-in-law, who’d heard it from etc., etc.. Hey, no problem if the story was true, he just wanted to hear it from the horse’s
Are you starting to get the gist of this, here? Virtually everybody Graz knows had heard that he’d come out of the closet. A few days later, for instance, Graz was talking on the phone to an old friend who lives in Florida.
“Oh,” Graz said, “Have I got a funny story for you.”
He launched into the junior high school Reunion, and what he’d said to Nino Sassi, but only got a few sentences before his friend cut him off. “I heard about it from my sister at a funeral last week,” she said.
“You’re gay. Is it really true?”
Nino, it turned out, had gone to a poker game the next night with eight of his friends. Most of them knew Graz, or knew the Marchese family.
All he’d said, apparently, was this: “Hey, I ran into Graz Marchese last night. He told me he was gay.”
Several responded with things like “I’ll be damned,” or “who’d have thought?” The others merely shrugged.
But before Graz got wind of it, everyone in Toronto Italian community knew that Graz had come out of the closet.
Now, none of this would be a problem, except that Graz is not only not gay, he is, as Calabrese men tend to be, extremely not gay. And of course, the moment he denied that he was gay, the more undeniably gay he appeared to his friends. They don’t care if he’s gay, really. Lots of people are gay. Being gay is cool. But why deny it?
Last week I saw just how trapped he is by it. An old friend—one who claimed not to know the story, dropped in to the café. Graz told her the story, she shrugged it off—“Hey Graz, it doesn’t matter, etc.”. In desperation, Graz took me over to the table to testify on his behalf.
I looked into the woman’s eyes and said, “Really, Graz isn’t gay”—and then started to laugh. I was laughing because the look on the woman’s face told me that she thought I was Graz’s gay lover.
So really, everyone. Give the guy a break. He isn’t gay. Really. Ian Adams, who also isn’t gay, will likewise testify to Graz’s non-gayness. So will Bill King, who isn’t gay either. I know it doesn’t matter if Graz is gay, I mean, more power to him if he was, but it just isn’t so.
You probably don’t believe me either, but I’m not Graz’s gay lover, and neither is Ian or Bill. And I’m not Ian’s or Bills, and they’re not mine, more power to us if we were. But the truth is that we’re all just nice hetero guys, caught in something Graz can’t get out of. And that something isn’t being gay. Although more power to him if it was.
It’s enough to make you question just exactly what gay power has morphed into, and how tolerant of diversity, as they say, we’ve become.
1000 words, March 4, 2008