“Hello, Young Lovers” by Simon Sheppard from Best Gay Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Richard Labonté.

The actual next story in the anthology is “Cody Barton” by Martin Delacroix, but I already reviewed it, as number 365/18 for Best Gay Romance 2013 (Cleis Press).

I thoroughly enjoyed this brief tale. That’s probably because I can relate to the main character, Buster. He works in a rock venue. I used to work in performance venues. He’s past the age of going to clubs himself. Ditto here. He can still appreciate the sheer joy for living that the club’s patrons feel, though. And so can I.

Buster notices one young man in particular, and can’t keep his eye from gravitating toward him all during a performance by Scissor Sisters. He doesn’t know the kid’s name and he doesn’t try to learn it. He just admires him from afar.

That appeals to the writer in me. I’ve always been that way, even when I was young enough to go out to clubs. There was a time when my favorite way to spend an evening was to go to the now long-defunct Sparks nightclub, get a beer, climb to the very top of the carpet-covered cubes that lined one wall, and sit cross-legged for hours, watching people dance. It wasn’t a gay club per se, but it called itself “gay friendly” and the owner that I knew (there were two) was most certainly gay. Stephen Irwin (no, not the animal guy) was friends with my boss at the time, and used to borrow set pieces and props from the theatre where I worked, to change up the look of the bar (slightly mind boggling if you think about it, as we were a TYA company). Stephen was a force of nature, a Tasmanian devil of a guy with shoulder length, flaming red hair and an over-the-top personality. He had the same zest for living that the characters of this story do. Not too surprisingly, his heart couldn’t sustain all that energy, and we lost him way too soon.

Buster thinks that “most straight people, even some Respectable Gays, would look askance at” what he allows to happen out on the dance floor that night, between the guy who’s caught his eye and another patron. He’s right, of course. Most people probably would look askance, or even lose it entirely. It makes me think of lines from the Indigo Girls song “Closer to Fine”, which was getting a lot of radio play back in the days when I was hanging around in Sparks:

…darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.

Listen harder. It’s only life, after all.