by Trebor Healey
(Harrington Park Press)
Iremember the first guy I ever slept with; a high school friend who crept into my bed one night during a sleep over. We rolled around for hours, wrestling and kissing, waking the tentacled octopus of desire that had lain dormant since birth. A person's first lover is always special. Even if the experience sucks, there is a singularity in sharing intimacy for the first time with another fleshy creature. It is a time of screwy emotions and clouded judgement, but a period of growth we must all endure.
Neill Cullane, the closeted 21-year-old protagonist of Trebor Healey's novel, Through It Came Bright Colors, is living with his upper middle class family outside of San Francisco. His younger brother Peter, the jock Adonis of the family, has been diagnosed with cancer and has to undergo a series of graphic and debilitating surgeries. Neill becomes caregiver and cheerleader to Peter, as their parents prove incapable of dealing with their son's slow demise. In the midst of this chaos, Neill meets another cancer patient, Vincent Malone, in the chemo waiting room. Vince is one fucked up cookie; a derelict junkie thief with flaming orange hair, which seems paradoxical to Neill's goody-goody persona.
Neill and Vince embark on a relationship of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf proportions, spending weekends together in Vince's room at a flophouse in the Tenderloin. Within this triangle of responsibility, desire, and secrets emerges a moving story filled with contradiction and heartache. It is a near-perfect rendering of being 21, gay, and faced with mortality. Neill, as the narrator, is never a victim; but instead waxes poetically about his situation, which left me grasping for my highlighter, eager to mark such passages as, "Cancers and queers, and all of them butterflies; my life a cocoon of fitful sleep. He showed me the route out. He showed me in blood and scars; he drew me a map under his eyes, across his own flesh."
Healey imbues his prose with the juiciness of poetry without breaking the speed of great storytelling. Through It Came Bright Colors is a lovely fucked up fable for the modern gay. MICHAEL SVOBODA