Fiction by Tom Campbell
What’s it like to be gay in the year 2033? Rip Van Winkle explores the cryogenic tale of a gay man who wakes up to a new world, where AIDS is a hetero-thing and “breeder” is a dirty word.
He says, “Wanna go back to my place and fuck?”
In 2006, subtlety, it seems, is dead.
He leans in to me, puts his hand over mine and says: “I don’t mean to be crude, it’s just you’re so hot.”
What does this 21 year-old Adonis see in me? Don’t ask questions. Don’t blow your first chance at getting laid in months. With all the false bravado I can muster, I say, “We just met. What makes you think I’m into you?”
He just stares at me, with his piercing blue eyes. I now have a full-blown erection pressing against my jeans. He looks down, then up, and bursts into a deep, wicked, knowing laugh. Within seconds I am following him home in my car.
As we race down dark, quiet streets, the voices in my head start getting louder. Is this really happening to me? Lately my hookups have been primarily cyber, which involves me at home, alone in front of the computer with my boxers around my ankles, and the sound of one hand typing, if you know what I mean.
I miss the days before the Internet, when, if you were horny, you had to leave your house and meet people face-to-face. Even in the seediest of circumstances, you could actually experience another person’s essence; his scent, his style, his masculinity, and God forbid, get a glimpse into his soul.
Or am I just in denial of the fact that I may just be getting too old and ugly to get laid? On high self-esteem days I’m 43, with a hard, masculine body, salt and pepper hair, great teeth and a dazzling smile. To me, I look like the “older guys” I used to lust after when I was in my twenty’s. On low self-esteem days, which seem to be the norm these days, I’m 43, thick in the middle, bald, with grayish teeth, and when I smile my face looks like a wrinkled bed sheet.
Today everyone is young or looks like my friend Max or both. Max is five years my senior, but shows no signs of aging. Instead, he displays the telltale symptoms a middle-aged man who refuses to grow old. In other words, his hair is too dark and too thick, his face too smooth, teeth too white, his pec implants too hard, and his too tan skin glows in the dark. He looks “young” the way a Hostess Twinkie looks “home baked.” But by today’s standards, Max is hot, and I am not. He lives on a diet of protein shakes, steroids, fat cutters, and Viagra. His sexual appetite is more voracious than ever, and he’s always getting laid.
Yet, despite Max’s claims of “better sex through science,” I refuse to call his plastic surgeon, his dermatologist, his trainer, or his drug dealer. Men who look like Max, and the legions of 25 year-olds who’ve already had their eyes “done,” aren’t sexy to me. And, believe me, the feeling is mutual. Exactly when did everything get so out of whack? It’s like I fell asleep in the late 80’s and woke up in 2006, and all the rules have changed. Max calls me Rip Van Wrinkle.
Earlier tonight, I made the mistake of telling Max I was going out to a bar to try to hook up the old-fashioned way.
“Wearing that?” he winced. “Then you better take these,” and he handed me two pills.
“What are they?”
“Viagra…and a little something extra,” he winked. Pointing to the “little something extra” he told me, “Remember, half for you, and half for him.”
I hesitated, and then took the pills from Max. Easier to pocket them now and throw them out later.
Still in fast pursuit, on Adonis’ bumper the whole way, we pull into a small driveway. It’s an incredible home in the Hollywood Hills. “You live here alone?” I ask, my eyes locked on his amazing ass as he climbs the stairs ahead of me.
“All mine,” he says as he unlocks the door. We lunge for each other and fall inside, kissing and undressing each other as we stumble to his bedroom. Within seconds he’s completely naked and reaches to pull down my jeans.
“Wait” I squeak. “Can I ask you a question?”
Confused, he stops what he’s doing and says breathlessly, “Sure.”
“Why me? I mean, you’re a kid, and I’m, well, not.”
“I’m not a kid. I’m 21 years old. I own this house, and run my own business. My whole life, I’ve always been, let’s just say, advanced for my age. From the outside, I’m a big success. But I’m lonely–lonely in a way I could never describe. When I met you at the bar, I looked into your eyes and I saw that same indescribable loneliness looking back at me.”
I don’t know what to say.
He looks down, afraid he said too much. “Does that answer your question?”
As strange as this may sound, I know he is right, but I can’t bring myself to surrender to the feelings. I turn away, sticking my hands in my jeans pockets. I feel Max’s pills. Hmmm, maybe I could use “a little something extra” to get me through this intense moment. I close my eyes, pop both pills and swallow hard.
I turn back toward him. “Just one more question. What’s your name?”
He smiles, “We have the rest of our lives to learn everything there is to know about each other. What do you say for tonight, we act like strangers?”
The next thing I know we are all over each other. It is gigantic. Thrilling. Overwhelming. Tidal waves and electric currents, and, then the weirdest thing happens. I feel myself rising out my body, weightless, looking down at the two of us. I can’t feel anything, but I am keenly aware of every strand of hair on my body. Loud moans are coming out of me, but they are muffled, as if I’m underwater. From above, I see my 21-year old Adonis, shaking me, tears in his eyes, screaming at me “what’s wrong, what’s wrong?”
“I feel great,” I want to tell him, but I am unable to speak. My heart starts to stutter. Calmly, I think to myself, I wonder if this is what it feels like to die? Everything is soft now. Silent. Black.
I don’t remember dreaming.
“Good morning, sunshine” a singsong, male voice calls out. “Wake up, your missing the best part of the century!” He cracks himself up.
I can feel two strong hands between my legs. My eyes pop open.
“He’s alive! He’s alive!” squeals the blurry figure in front of me. A fine mist reaches my eyes and in an instant everything comes into focus.
There, in pink, skintight scrubs is a huge, blonde muscleman rubbing lotion all over my naked body and blabbering on like we’re old friends.
“It’s a beautiful day to be alive. You must have brought the good weather with you. It’s supposed to be 70 degrees and sunny all weekend.”
“Excuse me. Who are you? Where am I? Where are my clothes?” As I try to cover myself, “Did I die and go to heaven?”
“Slow down honey, take a breath. This isn’t exactly heaven, and you are very much alive,” he says slathering more lotion on my crotch. “Don’t worry, silly. I’ve seen it all before. You really get to know a guy after you’ve been caring for him for three years.
“Oh my God, I’ve been in the hospital for three years?”
“Not quite. Let me be the first to welcome you to the General Electric Cryogenics Clinic–We bring good things to life.” He cracks himself up, again.
“Cryogenics? You’ve got to be kidding me. That technology is bunk. You can’t just freeze people and thaw them out like turkeys.”
“Oh, yes you can. By the way, did I mention, this is the year 2033. You suffered what could have been a fatal drug overdose in May 2006—two years before I was even born. Your body has been preserved for the past 27 years. Welcome to the future.”
“Please. Stop. This isn’t funny. Where am I? What’s happened to me?” I’m starting to panic.
“Your formal re-entry briefing isn’t scheduled until tomorrow morning. You regained consciousness sooner than we expected. This must be a little disorienting.”
“Okay, a lot. In the meantime, I’ll be happy to try and answer any questions you may have. My name is Cecil, but you can call me C.C. Everything’s going to be all right.”
I’m not sure which end is up, but I decide to play along. “Okay, C.C., prove to me it’s 2033. Show me a newspaper or something.”
“A newspaper? That’s rich.” He points across the room and an entire wall illuminates.
Out rings a familiar tune: Da-da-da-da-da-da! “Isn’t that?”
“Entertainment Tonight!” he gushes.
So much for the demise of television, I think.
New sightings of the King in Beijing, beg the question, “Is Elvis still alive?” King William dedicates the Princess Diana Tunnel Crash Simulator at EuroDisney and E.T. goes along for the ride. Plus, what’s the real story behind the rumors of a new Cher Farewell Tour? This and more, tonight Tuesday, October 3, 2033. I’m Mary Hart, and this is Entertainment Tonight.
“Cher is still alive?” I ask.
“And that’s really Mary Hart?” She looks awful, like a vinyl, blow-up doll version of her old self.
“Doesn’t she look great? She claims it’s all stem cells, but the tabloids are saying she’s been illegally harvesting body parts from her clones.”
“So why is it that using stem cells is okay, but harvesting your clones’ parts isn’t?”
“Hard to say. Culture wars. Poop from the Pope. Plus, clones have a really strong lobby in DC.”
As I watch C.C. talk, his face and body mesmerize me. Everything is so perfect, so symmetrical, so super-sized. His skin, shiny and smooth, appears to be impenetrable to the elements.
“C.C.,” I had to ask, “Are you–” I want to say human. “Gay?”
“Do you have a case of brain freeze? Helloooooooo. Of course I’m gay. In fact, today, most people are.”
“Okay, I exaggerate a smidge. But this year, over 50% of people in the US identify as gay. It’s just easier.”
“How is that even remotely possible?”
“Well, I’m really not supposed to be talking so much, but I feel like we’re practically family. I’ll give you a brief history of the gay world since you’ve been “away,” if you promise to act surprised tomorrow when they tell you at your re-entry briefing.”
“Promise. But first could you give me something to wear?
“No. Your skin’s not ready. Anyway…”
While applying more lotion, C.C. launches into an overview of the last 27 years.
“The slutty girls of 2006 became the slutty soccer moms of the 2010’s. It became commonplace for at least half of a two-income family’s earnings to be based on a career in the sex industry. Turning tricks between car pools, Internet porn, clothing optional cul-de-sacs helped boost an otherwise sagging economy. GNP was up, but the institution of marriage was destroyed from within. The sexual de-evolution came at a price.”
“The first sign of backlash was the celibacy movement of 2013. After Madonna went celibate, the country followed.”
“Are you celibate?” I ask.
“Better.” C.C. crows, “I’m a virgin.”
He turns me onto my stomach and starts lubricating my back.
“Then around 2020 there was the New AIDS plague. Killed millions. Very sad. This time around it really only affected heterosexuals. It turned “breeder” into a dirty word. Having children through intercourse became just too dangerous.
“It was around that same time that we learned the long-term effects of anti-depressants and steroids: Infertility. Since then, in vitro and cloning are the only viable options for reproduction.
“Men can carry babies now, if they want. But you won’t see a C-section scar on this body.” C.C. raises his shirt, exposing a hairless, bronzed 12-pack.
“With hardly anybody reproducing, the Catholic Church was in trouble. I mean, zero population growth can really drain your quarterly profits. Since having babies was no longer an exclusively hetero thing, and the gays have always been early adopters of new technology, the Catholic Church changed its tune about same-sex marriage and parenting, and let the gays back in the Church. And, again, Madonna was there. Remind me to burn you a copy of her classic ‘Burning Bush’ album.”
“I will,” I say incredulously.
“Now, what else. Oh, yeah. The US is no longer dependent on foreign oil and there still isn’t peace in the Middle East…”
“Wait a minute. So, nobody has sex anymore?” I sound a little desperate.
“Nobody I know. But, you still hear about a few brave souls who belong to underground fetish groups. They’re mostly old people who are immune and survived the plague.”
“Rumor has it that the guy who’s been paying your electric bill all these years is supposed to be one of them.”
“What guy?” I ask as he has me sit up.
“To be honest, I don’t know his name. He’s a big secret. Supposedly, he’s a trillionaire. I’ve only seen him a couple of times when he’s come by to check on you. He’s gotta be at least 150, wrinkled forehead, crow’s feet, gray hair. Me and the other nurses call him Howard Hughes.” C.C. cracks himself up, and then stops as we catch our refection in the mirror next to my bed.
The contrast is startling.
C.C. is smiling broadly, his eyes are twinkling, but his face shows no real emotion. Nothing I recognize.
He sees my weathered face next to his and realizes what he just said.
“Oops. Sorry. I didn’t mean anything.” Scrambling, he says, “In some circles wrinkles are back in style. I have a good friend who’s having tribal creases inserted into his forehead. It’s a super painful procedure because he had his whole face permanently frozen decades ago. But who am I to judge? What price beauty, right?”
“Kind of like paying top dollar for a new pair of distressed jeans?” I ask.
“Think Madonna, ‘Ray Of Light’ video.”
“Yes. Exactly.” He looks like he wants out of this conversation.
His left ear starts to glow. He hushes me by holding up his finger and speaks. “I’ve just finished his full body scrub. I see. Send him right in.”
“I’m going to leave you now. You’ve got a guest coming. Remember, tomorrow’s a big day. So get some rest.”
“Haven’t I been resting for 27 years?”
C.C. cracks up. “Good point. Have fun. See you tomorrow.”
He leaves me alone and still naked. Have I been hallucinating all of this? Is this some kind of bizarre joke?
There’s a knock at my door. In walks a stranger. Except, I know him. It’s Adonis. Except, he is a middle-aged man now.
He smiles, crow’s feet and all.
I say, “I’d recognize those blue eyes anywhere.”
“I was afraid you wouldn’t remember me.”
I shake my head. “If it’s possible, you’re even sexier than the last time I saw you.”
We can’t stop looking into each other’s eyes.
“I missed you,” he whispers.
I suddenly feel very naked.
He looks down, then up, and bursts into that old familiar laugh. “Well, you haven’t changed a bit.”
“There’s so much I want to ask you. Where to begin?”
He says: “I’ll start. I’ve been waiting a long time to tell you this. My name’s Art.”
“I know,” he beams. “You’re a modern medical miracle.”
“And, from what I hear, you are an old-school sex maniac.”
He leans toward me, puts his hand on mine and says, “I don’t mean to be crude, but after you get out of here, wanna go back to my place and…?” •