Review: Getting Over Homer
"Getting Over Homer" by Mark O'Donnell is a beautiful, tender book that knows that life doesn't wrap up every ending. Few books try to talk about "One Great Loves" that fail, and fewer mention that the ones after that don't always work out either.

The narrator, Red, (nicknamed after the hand-me-down clothing that distinguished him from his twin brother "Blue") is an aging gay man who has never been lucky in love. At one fateful night in a bar he meets Homer, and is never the same after. Their destiny together seems (to Red, anyway) to be preordained by fate: why, Red had written and produced the off-off-off-broadway "Odyssey!", and at last he had found his Homer.

Eventually the relationship sours, and Homer moves off. After a long period of mourning and moping Red meets Teddy, a younger man who is terrified of sex but who becomes the devoted boyfriend of Red nonetheless.

Mark O'Donnell has gift for capturing realistic detail and feeling while maintaining a humorous ironic touch. He deals with issues about huge heartbreak that I've encountered, but rarely seen described: the dismay at realizing that your huge romantic crush not only doesn't return those feelings but has his or her own huge romantic crush, the potential heartbreak from all romances, not just the greatest of them, the attraction your ex can have even when you think you've moved on.

The following occurs long after Red and Homer breakup, when Red is finding a new sense of love (well, stability anyway) with his new boyfriend.

                     I felt almost fictional in my newfound security. Then the law of averages summoned me for my discomfort duty. I was shopping for a wedding gift for newly engaged Lulu at the sleepy boutiques in the West Village, and I had just bought her a blender-- she'd always said daiquiris symbolized elegant happiness. Sunset highlighted the ivy-grizzled brick side street, a golden gravy on the visual feast, and suddenly I ran into Homer. It was as if he were only physically manifested in seductive settings-- like, you'd never see him at the Department of Motor Vehicles-- and I was surprised at my own apprehensiveness, like getting a marine physical sprung on you at age forty, but I reminded myself that I had a devoted and comprehensible beau napping at my apartment.

Why couldn't he have grown a beard, I wished, and dismantled my desire for him? But no, there were those cheeks, those lost fields of home. And instead of being icy, Homer had progressed to being casually warm.

"You great big hunk of He-hood!" he exclaimed-- lovers' talk so inflated it's devalued, the kind salesmen lavish on clients. "I thought of you-- I walked past your building a few weeks ago with a good friend of mine."

That's right, keep it mysterious. "And did you point it out with great sentimental reverence?" I asked, humorously, I hoped.

Homer hesitated at my half joke. "Well... I pointed it out," he said with teasing flatness. Then he added, "Naaw... Actually I didn't even point it out!"

He grinned but saw my face fall. "Aww, Blue, I love teasing you, you are so hilariously sensitive!" He touched my arm, a jolt whose voltage he may not have realized.

"You look good-- like a movie version of yourself!" I smiled. Demonstrate your sanity. "You're prospering?"

"Yep, while I can. Got to while you can."

Vagueness usually signals a will to end a conversation. I grasped for safe subjects. "How's your dad?"

"Fine. The folks are fine."

"Folks? Didn't you say your mom was, uh, dead?"

"Oh right." He paused. "My dad and stepmother, I mean. He remarried. Nice woman."

My game piece kept sliding back to square one. This was my last chance before the crystal again grew clouded. "So... any time-ripened insights into what happened between us?"

"Aww, no, Blue. You're the insightful one. I just... don't ever think about it."

I never could help trying to file my feelings at the Love Library. "I did think it would be my happiness to make you happy."

He smiled again, his crooked smile, like he was either pained or bitterly amused, receiving an unsought award with postage due, and he glanced to his side, as if he were about to cheat at cards. "It's all timing." He sighed and surveyed the shifting light on a flock of pigeons circling the sky to the west, their wings like one great, rippling banner, now gold, now silver as the sunset beneath struck them in their indecisive-looking rotation. "It's not enough to meet Mr. Right. It's got to be at the Right Time. I wasn't ready for you then."

I shivered, as the past's crowded subway went rattling through me.

"You should get a dog," Homer continued. "I think of you as a Dog Person."

I know he meant well, but I imagined myself as a sodden, unkempt half human from the Island of Lost Souls.

"You're seeing someone now?" I asked instinctively.

"Well, at this very moment, you're who I'm seeing."

"You know what I mean."

"Yup. And the answer is, yup," he spoke softly, volunteering no details. He didn't return the question, either. Good taste or indifference?

"Well, he better be good to you," I said.

"Blue, you are the last of your species! You always make me feel good." He smiled. "Well, he's German, not as tender as you, but you know me, you know my excess baggage better than anyone." I didn't think I knew it at all. "I don't always want what's good for me. I'm a complex person."

I wondered why he complimented me so, as if only some external force kept him from loving me. He had always cited his complexity as if it closed all debate, like James Bond's license to kill.

"You deserve someone who cares about your happiness," I pitched myself ritually, knowing there was no negotiation to follow, helplessly steering into the skid of my aching sweet tooth for him. Beauty Fool. Besides, I had someone, didn't I? Our encounter felt illusory in this floorless moment, more rerun than live.

"You can't go back," Homer recited sagely. "You always have to go on... to someone new." His wisdom took on a tinge of the promiscuous there, of one most used to being the thrilling stranger. The setting sun lit his face now, gloriously as a cherub, though with a touch of worldly pain that excused all, and we contemplated each other, fearfully or fondly, who knows? Besides the momentary gold in his brown hair, I saw tiny streaks of veteran's gray at his temples, and incongruously, in his delinquent's sideburns-- rain clouds in heaven.

"I'm overdue at the We Love Us gala," he said smoothly. "Though I'll just be an extra at this one." Even on the street, he was the host and I the guest. He held my hand and volunteered a long, tender parting kiss, the familiar milk and pepper taste. When I felt it expanding into tongue territory, or, all right, when I expanded it, he followed along, either from dormant passion sneaking an uncomplicated free sample or from his passive will to let the situation pass without a scene. Salesmen are compelled to please, and maybe a French kiss seemed a small community service for old crimes. Was I being merely randy, or punitive, or desperate, or is it possible a capsule replay of our relationship was appropriate? It was delicious while it lasted, as any last meal should be.

He smiled but enacted stern eyebrows. "Your mama didn't feed you enough!"

"No." I tried to grin. "She let me get too used to All I Could Eat."

"I'll remember this," Homer said, touched my lips, and tapped his head. "I am a camera!" He turned and headed toward the real sunset as his unreal cowboy legend would have it.

I didn't know what to say, but brandished Lulu's gift. " a blender!"

I had forgotten about that last line when I selected that passage for use in this review- honest! Anyway, this book is a great read. I've never read anything that so accurately captured the hope and anxiety of romances going sour, and that manages to do it with such humor and grace.

You can Get it at Amazon.Com via this link, and send a kickback to the Blender.

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