A/N: Spoilers ahead!
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan is a story that takes us on a heartfelt and thought provoking journey. Told from the point of view of those lost to AIDS, like a Greek Chorus, they watch as the generations after them, deal with their sexualities and relationships.
In a first person, plural perspective we follow each set of stories, all of them interweaving and disappearing as another joins, all to come to a heart-warming, beautiful ending. The Chorus are, we presume, the generation of gay men lost to AIDS and the stigma that came with that time. Their experiences are a lot like some of the characters in the book, but some are tragically different.
They lived in a time where gay people were seen as vile, sinners. Their families would shun them, try to ‘cure them’, in a time where, not too long ago medical castration was a punishment for having sexual relationships with other men, these are the men of the years long gone.
But their stories are never forgotten.
They were sworn at, abused, raped and murdered, forced to marry their girl friends in the hopes of hiding their sexuality. They were isolated by society, by the government and religion.
Some were accepted by their friends and family, some were supported and loved as any human being should be loved. But many weren’t as lucky. Some knew what it was like to die in a hospital room with no one, but their doctors supporting them.
Some died utterly alone.
The Chorus are the spirits of these brave men, who lived in a time that did not accept them for who they are. And so, they watch now, proud and supportive of the generations that come after them.
They rally behind Cooper who has a homophobic father, who shouts at him and calls him horrible things.
They watch as Peter and Neil float in their love and out of it, only to stay rooted together.
They watch as Avery navigates through his gender changes, they watch as Ryan falls in love with Avery and Avery learns to open up, to be vulnerable and strong at the same time.
They watch as Craig and Harry kiss.
They’re not a couple, but they used to be. To prove a point, they kiss for over 30 hours in front of millions of people – online, in person. They are supported by Harry’s parents, their friends, their teachers and the police. A teacher, known to the Chorus as Tom, is there too, a friend of the men lost in time, one that was with them as they lay in white sheets, as their insides broke and their hearts failed, as their life slipped through their fingertips and their families mourned.
Cooper tries to run away, tries to rid himself of his old life. He tries to commit suicide but is saved and finally, his parents rush to his rescue, crying, begging for resolve. It does not bring back the twelve-year-old who held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, it does not bring back the fourteen-year-old who hung himself. It does not bring back the nineteen-year-old left to die, it does not bring back the thirteen-year-old who took a stomach full of pills. It does not bring any of the Chorus back.
But it does bring Cooper back.
Craig wants to get back together with Harry and at the end, once they’ve beaten the record, despite all the haters, despite all the pain and wooziness, despite the heartbreak and Craig’s family abandoning him, despite all the odds, he knows that he’s done this for himself.
There’s a part of him that wants to get back together with Harry. And maybe Harry does too. Maybe, one day they will, one day they’ll kiss for real or meet each other at a subway station and feel sparks, maybe it’ll be in days, weeks, months, years, maybe it’ll never happen. But it was love and it was real. It is real and true and wonderful. So, if they don’t get back together right at that moment, perhaps one day they will, in the hazy future.
It’s okay that they might not now. It’s okay that they might not ever. Because love is love. And one day, Harry’s heart and Craig’s heart might meet in the middle again.
Peter and Neil might fall out of love and miss each other. They might disappear from each other’s lives and move on. They’re young after all. But that’s not what matters. What matters is what they have now. Avery and Ryan dance over topics and delve into others and the Chorus tells them and us, that it’s okay, there’s time. There’s always time. For us.
They didn’t have time.
Brought to the brink of tears by the end of this book, I can say that I loved it. Moving and wonderfully written, we watch as people have different experiences – Neil’s parents finally say the words out loud, Craig’s family know at last, it’s their problem if they can’t accept Craig, there’s nothing wrong with him. It’s his family that are wrong. Cooper deals with dating apps and creepy, disgusting men. All while, Craig and Harry’s kiss is the centre and tether of it all. Tariq deals with the trauma he’s faced and goes out of his way to help his friends. The strength he shows is truly inspiring.
The Chorus watch us and the couples, they’ve done their part. They’ve seen so much, friends die and friends live to get married and be accepted. Their stories carry the Chorus on. They are never forgotten, not lost in time, but thought of, all the time. Their lives are shown through other’s experiences, through tales told by an older generation, to a new one, which hopefully will have much more than they ever had.
“We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust,” they tell us solemnly, hopefully, gently. They tell us, the only thing they’ll ever ask is to “make more than dust.”
I will try to make more than dust. I will try and make sure that the generation after me are safe and free and happy. That they won’t have to fear who they are or what others will think of them.
I will choose my actions wisely. Will you?