Books

Book 604: Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies – Michael Ausiello

Talk about a gut punch—I knew going in this one was going to be brutal, I mean it’s right there in the full title: Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, but I was not expecting to cry as much as I did. I’m not talking about a single tear escaping as I gaze wistfully into the distance. I’m talking snot running down my face, holding back sobs, and generally making people uncomfortable around me as I read it.

Yup, you read that right. I didn’t hole in up in my room or stay at home to read this, even with the very clear warning on the cover. I read it in public, on a cruise ship on the way to the Caribbean. Smart right? The timing wasn’t the greatest, but it came in at the library and I’ve been waiting to read it since it appeared on Towleroad, so I figured I would plow through it and I did. I got a chapter or two read on the plane after reading Don’t Be Cruel (#3 & #4) and then blazed through this, snot, tears and all, while laying out by the pool on the ship.

Part memoir, part touching memorial, Spoiler Alert covers a lot of ground through the lens of Mike and Kit’s 13ish year relationship. From their first meeting to Mike’s final goodbye, there is humor (often times dark), anger and jealousy, friendship, and, most of all, love. There is without a doubt that Mike and Kit loved each other and worked very hard to overcome their differences to stay together over the 13 years they had together.

“It felt good to fight for something without worrying about my emotions getting the best of me or how I’d be perceived or what the possible blowback would be. It felt good to love someone so much that literally nothing was as important as making sure that person was safe and comfortable and protected.” (132)

The most touching parts of the book, as you might expect, where when Mike was reminiscing/observing Kit in the last year of his life. There’s one scene where Mike breaks Kit’s rule about cancer videos and films and the way he describes what’s happening in the video and how it personifies everything about Kit. It’s just so wonderfully written you’re physically moved to where they are and your actually watching the video, with all of Mike’s thoughts narrated with you.

“If I’d taken on other video that entire weekend. I’d have been happy. In that short sixty-second burst, I captured all of the quintessential Kits: There was Heartfelt Kit, who could make me feel like the most special person on the planet with just a simple look; Cunty Kit, who could simultaneously embrace and throw shade at the Jersey Shore; Oddball Artist Kit, who could bring the same level of passion to a photo project involving a plastic bubble wand and some glycerin as he would to one showcasing a $40K Eames rocking chair; and Slightly Terrifying Kit, who could send a shiver down your spine with just a few words and a minor tonal shift.” (173)

And I really appreciated that Mike wrote about his own vulnerabilities. It could’ve gotten old, but somehow it didn’t. And my stomach started hurting from laughing when I read the passage about Kit going to Mike’s place the first time. I actually read it out loud to Tim because it was so funny. Mike’s slight obsession with Smurfs nearly put Kit over the edge. That section alone is worth reading the book for. Here’s the start,

“The Smurfs craze, and my subsequent obsession, eventually faded by the late eighties, by which time I had amassed upward of seven hundred pieces, which included not only figurines but mushroom houses and stuffed plus and mugs and posters and scratch-and-sniff stickers and Christmas ornaments.” (137)

“And then like a thunder bolt, it hit me: I’m engaged. I’m going to be someone’s husband. Fat Mike from Roselle Park, New Jersey—or ‘Fudgepacker Mike,’ as John Valentine called to taunt me every day at the start of Mr. Bangs’s Chemistry class, just loud enough so everyone could here—was getting married to the man of his dreams.”(51)

Even, now as I went back to type up the quotes the love that shines through this book and the all invasive sadness of Kit’s death is a bit much. I haven’t teared up, but I can definitely feel it there. I’m not sure if anyone has, but I’m glad Jim Parson’s has acquired the film rights and I cannot WAIT to see what comes of it.

Recommendation: If you can deal with being a mess as you read it, then most definitely read it. Chances are you’ll end up like me with puffy eyes and snot running down your face while laughing. There is so much humor that I didn’t even touch on in this, because even though it was wonderful and witty, it wasn’t the piece that hit me hardest.

Opening Line: “Our relationship was over before it began.”

Closing Line: “And with that, we begin to make our way down the quiet, twinkling street. Together.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)

Additional quotes from Spoiler Alert
“I was constantly in a rush to be somewhere other than where I was at in any given moment. And it was exhausting.” (16)

“On the bright side, a long walk afforded me an opportunity to catch my breath and process the wild eight-hour Tilt-A-Whirl ride we had just climbed off. On the downside, processing the past eight hours was a daunting prospect. I found myself immediately missing the frenzy. As stressful and emotional as it all had been, it had left little time for me to be alone with my thoughts. The marriage stuff in particular had been a perfectly timed distraction coming out of the Sloan appointment. Now all the noise was gone.” (102)

“We arrived at Sloan and I proceeded to the sixth floor. Kit found a seat as I walked to the front desk. ‘I’m checking in my husband Christopher Cowan,’ I announced to the receptionist, accentuating ‘husband’ because (a) we were here, we were queer, we were betrothed—get used to it, and (b) it was my first time introducing anyone as my ‘husband’ so, naturally, I was going to lean into the word a bit.” (129)

“Kit was prone to reacting emotionally, irrationally, and with a compromised internal censor during his waking hours, too, particularly in situations wherein he was faced with obscene incompetence or he felt he had been wronged.

Case in point: If a car sped up to cut him off as he was crossing the street, he would pound on the trunk as the vehicle zoomed by. If a pedestrian was walking too slowly in front of him, he would hiss so loudly it’d startle them dead in their tracks, giving Kit the sidewalk opening he needed to pass them right by.” (192)

“One of the perks of having a boyfriend was getting to share the things you loved with the person you loved.” (194)

“I didn’t recognize half of these freaky items, or the person they belonged to. I imagined his mother finding them, and having all of her base fears about gay people being sex-obsessed deviants confirmed. That is, if she had such fears. Maybe I was projecting my own mortification on her? And on Kit? No matter, I didn’t like how the treasure trove of erotica was making me feel, so I grabbed the lid, secured it tightly, and tucked the shoe box so far under the bed a cockroach would have trouble finding it.” (208)

“As I held Kit’s cold hands in the ambulance on the way to Bellevue, I looked at him—scared, confused, traumatized, and covered in his own shit—and flashed back to our special night on the deck in September, where he confided that he was worried what the end would look like. He would later express interest in fleeing to Oregon, which had a law allowing its terminally ill citizens to die on their own terms. I briefly looked into it, but quickly discovered that the Death with Dignity Act, as it was called, carried with it a number of residency requirements.

At this moment, I found myself really wishing New York State had a Death with Dignity Act. There was no dignity in what was transpiring tonight. Kit deserved a better end than he was getting.” (237)

“Apologize for not loving him better. He will tell you that you could not have loved him more, which is true, but you need to tell him that anyway.” (239)

“And then it hit me: It was privacy he craved more than anything. He just wanted to pee in a bathroom by himself like a normal human being. He was fighting to hang on to what little dignity he had left. I had never been more in love or felt more empathy for another human being than I did in this moment.” (243)

“‘Any change?’ I asked, adopting my best library voice (because I found, libraries and deathbeds share many of the same unspoken auditory rules).” (250)

“‘One more?’ I asked. He shook his head. He’d had enough. I decided not to let the remaining three ounces go to waste, so I finished it off myself. It was what Kit would have wanted, seeing as how during the hundreds of frozen yogurt dates that had preceded this one over the course of our thirteen years together, Kit had always ended up sharing his final two or three spoonfuls with me. And that was because I tended to attack my frozen yogurt like a honey badger at a competitive eating event, while Kit preferred to take his time, savoring each and every bite. That resulted in my finishing long before Kit, which, in turn, resulted in Kit being forced to make a decision: Did he eat the rest by himself while I stared at him licking my lips, or did he push his cup to the center of the table and go halfsies with me on the rest? Lucky for me and my insatiable fro-yo appetite, he usually opted for the latter.” (251)

“Of course, I knew there still existed a chance—no matter how slight—that Kit could die while I was trudging away on an elliptical machine. I was reminded of something one of the hospice counselors had told us early on: ‘He will go when he is ready to go. And if you’re not present, that means he wanted to spare you the moment.’ It sounded a little crackpot to me at the time. But it was proving useful now as I felt the strong compulsion to burn a few hundred calories.” (253)

“You listen to me, Fuck Stick. I am going to be OK. It’s going to be unbelievably hard, but I will be OK. You go get heaven ready for us, because thanks to you, I have high standards. Thank you for the past thirteen years. Thank you for giving me a family. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being my Bodge.” (255)

“And then, suddenly, I was started by the…silence. The deafening, ear-splitting silence. It was the sound of the most important person in my life no longer making a sound. The oxygen machine was still clanking, and Marilyn and Bob were wailing, but all my ears could register was the noise I wasn’t hearing. I hadn’t realized how deeply tethered my soul had been to his breathing. Until, at 10:30 p.m., it stopped.” (257)

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