“You homo!” cried a familiar voice.
I didn’t have to look to see who it was, even though we had not talked in months. “Only a queen would line up on Christmas morning to see Dreamgirls,” he snarled, and then gave me a hug.
“I’ve gone to a matinee every Christmas since The Fellowship of the Rings,” I said, sounding as if I didn’t fart or masturbate.
We were not alone. The front of the Paramount Theatre looked like the PumpJack patio on Pride Day. There were guys there that I had crushes on in my 20s. Like my acquaintance and myself, they were around the first time Dreamgirls was a hit.
If my generation has anything over the next it’s spit and vinegar, and my old acquaintance was teeming with both.
“Look, look,” he’d say whenever someone pulled on the locked theatre door, then add, just loud enough for them to hear, “No, we’re just standing here because we like the cold!”
One of the few bragging rights I have is that I’ve seen Dreamgirls on Broadway, and I saw this as a rare opportunity to boast about it. “Did you see the play?” I asked.
“No. Did you?”
“With Jennifer Holiday?”
“No. It was a high school trip. I think the original drummer was still in the orchestra.”
“‘I’m Not Going’ is my favourite song in the world,” he said, as though he were about to break into it. “How old are you again?”
“Thirty-nine. For real!”
“I’m going to be 50. Never in a million years did I think I would live to say that.”
That’s when I realized that, technically, neither of us, nor the rest of the men waiting out in the cold, are supposed to be here.
Later, as I was getting goose bumps from Jennifer Hudson’s performance, I was overcome by a sense of what could have been. Dreamgirls was only the second musical Michael Bennett directed before he died. His first was A Chorus Line. It chilled me to think that there are men I have known intimately whom I have outlived by nearly 20 years-men who never lived to see the screen adaptation of Dreamgirls.
After the movie, I passed my old acquaintance on the escalator.
“What did you think?” I asked.
“Did Beyoncé not see the irony in playing this role? Is she so famous she’s stupid?” He continued to rain piss and vinegar on the families below him, just back from Charlotte’s Web, making them visibly uncomfortable.
It was just his way of saying, “I’m Not Going.”