“Two Kinds of Rapture” by Andrew Holleran from Fool for Love (Cleis Press, 2009).

The main character is one of four older, single, gay men invited to a dinner party at the home of younger friends, a couple named Paul and Tim. The hosts are in their thirties, the guests in their fifties. Each man is profiled physically and psychologically by the main character as he ponders the concept of happiness as it pertains to gay men (though the hindrances presented are not exclusive to that community, not by a long shot). At one point the conversation turns to the biblical Rapture, and the metaphor is clear: Paul and Tim are each other’s saviors because they have plucked one another from single status, while their four older friends have been “left behind” to age and die alone.

It’s interesting that this piece was included in the collection because so many of the stories deal with modeling the way things might be rather than illustrating the way they often are. This is a romance collection, after all. (If you disagree on that point, please see Timothy J. Lambert’s introduction). I think the hopefulness of the majority of the stories I’ve been reading lately is a major contributing factor to why I’ve liked them so much. That said, there is also a place for examining other possibilities. Here romantic love is examined from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have it and feels he has no reasonable expectation of ever attaining it.

That’s not to say I did not like this story; exactly the opposite. I was riveted. I like it when people get down to brass tacks. And oh, how well drawn the imagery is throughout this story. I visualized every detail. I don’t often think in such terms, but this would make a great film. Or part of one, anyway. And yet it’s the poignancy that arises from juxtaposing the visual aesthetic with the underlying emotional truth that makes this a must-read. I loved it.