Beginners Too

Broker’s Pick
Alonzo Douglass

Photo Credit: Marcelo Acosta

Yesterday I sat in Theater No. 1 at the Broadway Centre with my friend Darvel. This is where people in Salt Lake go to watch indie, foreign, and obscure movies. This is one of the venues for the Sundance Film Festival. This is also my childhood theater. No, not the actual one, but one that is so close in nature it always makes me feel as if I’ve gone home.

As I sat in the low-backed chair, looked at the cloth-covered shapes hanging on the walls, remembered how small screens used to be, and expected the exit sign to be lit and in my eyes for the next ninety minutes, I was at peace. I felt comfort.

I couldn’t stop myself from thinking of the one movie I saw in my hometown theater that I can still remember—Fantastic Voyage. Here Steven Boyd was strong, handsome, and fearless Grant and Raquel Welch was top-heavy, sex-bomb Cora. I was nine years old when the movie was released, and one Saturday afternoon I went to see it with all my prepubescent friends. When they left the movie, they could see Raquel’s breasts and feel her body in their minds, and they never looked at older girls the same way as they did before. I know one had impure thoughts about our friend’s mother.

I took Darvel with me to see Beginners. We are not longtime friends. I think we’ve known each other three years. Yesterday Darvel was just being nice to me. He doesn’t like what I call “highbrow” movies. He’s The-Fast-and-the-Furious type. Give him Jordana Brewster and Vin Diesel. Give him Michelle Rodriguez and Paul Walker. Dammit! Give him Raquel Welch.

When I walked out of Fantastic Voyage with my nine– and ten– and eleven-year-old friends, I didn’t imagine Raquel’s breasts and crotch, hips and legs. I didn’t imagine anything. I needed more time to find out who I was. When I did, I came to the knowledge I wanted to see Steven Boyd with his shirt off. I wanted to touch his skin. Beginners is my story. I liked Oliver and Anna. I was captivated by their romantic chase, their split up, and their reconnection. Still my story was told by Hal, Oliver’s gay father.

I love Darvel. He is everything I want. Look and you will see someone who is just shy of my height, who is slight but muscular, who has a full head of hair that looks good hanging over his collar or cut to a quarter-inch, who has absolutely no hair on his arms and legs and chest (I don’t know what it means), and who is missing his left lower canine tooth. His one defect doesn’t make him ugly. Like his strong-sounding name, it makes me love him more.

When Hal came out to Oliver, when we met his boyfriend Andy, when we saw the number of gay friends he made, and when we came to the realization his truth set him free, I sat knee-to-knee with Darvel.

“Dear, dear friend,” I said in my mind. “I am Hal. Come be my Andy.”

Then I remembered Andy is a bumbling fool. Darvel couldn’t be Andy. So, I said, “No, I’ll be Andy. You be Hal.”

Then I thought of the dog and said, “Let me be Cosmo. That way I can live with you, see you every day, and be close to you. Maybe you will let me sleep on your bed, and every night I will say, just like Cosmo did that once, ‘Are we married, yet?'”

Then I begged him to take my hand or touch my knee or, God willing, grab my chin, pull my face into his, and kiss me. The only touch I felt was my hand lightly resting on my knee.

Then I told myself what I’ve always believed. When Darvel was nine years old, he dreamed about top-heavy women like Raquel Welch. He wanted to see the older girl who lived next door naked, and he wanted to touch her. Perhaps he had impure thoughts about his best friend’s mother. He is Oliver. The person he wants is Anna.

When the movie ended, we watched the credits to the end. I hoped. Darvel fidgeted. When we stood up to leave, he said, “Let’s go get a beer.”

“Did you like the movie?” I asked.

“Well, you gotta know, it’s your kind of movie, not mine.”

“I was just wondering.”

Outside on the sidewalk, I said, “Who did you relate to the most?”

“No one.”

“Do you see yourself chasing after a girl like Anna?”

“Yeah, I could. I definitely could.”

My heart was pounding. I wanted to shout, “I love you!” This made me choke up inside, but I felt resolved.

“I’m…” I said. My throat was tight and my voice was slightly above a whisper.

After a short pause, I tried to speak again, but my vocal cords, tongue, and mouth refused to hear my commands.

“You are…?” Darvel said.

I took a full minute to find my voice. Finally, I said, “I’m Hal.”

Darvel stopped walking. I wanted to run, but I made myself stop beside him. He turned his eyes to stare at the buildings across the street, and I knew he understood me. When he took three to four steps away from me, I thought he was going to walk away and leave me and I wouldn’t see him again. Then he came to me, put his arm around my shoulders, and said, “I’m not Andy.”

His words hit me like a bullet to my chest. I was embarrassed and scared. My hope was false. Now I was vulnerable. Could he hurt me? No. Could he cause problems for me? Not many. Still I felt afraid.

“Let’s do this,” Darvel said. “We can start tonight. Let’s go find your Andy. I know where he goes Friday night, and guess what? They serve beer there.”

Once again, I loved him and wanted him.

“I would like it, if it’s okay with you,” I said, “if my Andy was like someone I know. He has a funny name. It’s Darvel.”

“Nope. Can’t be done. There is only one Darvel you will ever know.”

Darvel put more force into the hold he had on my shoulders and started pulling me down the street. I couldn’t move my feet as fast as he wanted me to. My entire body felt as heavy as the pavement I was walking on. Finding someone is hard. I was hoping Darvel was the one. He’s so perfect for me, but all he is a brother, one who at that moment was trying to get me to goosestep down the street with him. Then I thought, “Take some of this weight I’m feeling off me Darvel.” When I decided to believe he would, my steps felt lighter.


Alonzo Douglass holds a master’s degree from Westminster College of Salt Lake in communication with an emphasis in writing. By education and from work experience, he knows how to write everything from a media release to a feasibility study. He does not know how to write fiction. However, he volunteers at Salt Lake Community College’s Community Writing Center. His job is to mentor the LGBTQ writing group. The incredible people who come to his group write fiction, and, because they do and they encourage him, he’s starting to step outside his comfort zone. Email: dw4731[at]

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