Territory by David Leavitt, 1983
The magic trick:
Including the detail that Neil and Wayne are careful not to show affection for each other in public
This one is well-titled, because there is a ton of territory to decipher here. Certainly the main boundary in question involves Neil’s relationship with his mother. But I’m choosing to highlight a different trick performed by Leavitt. I really like that he makes sure to mention that Neil and Wayne are uncomfortable showing affection for each other in public. It highlights that for homosexuals in 1980s America nearly everywhere was enemy territory. Neil and Wayne feel compelled to modify their behavior everywhere they go. In a story all about juggling expectations and rules depending on the territory, their inability to dictate their own territory is a very telling point. And that’s quite a trick on Leavitt’s part.
His first view of Wayne is from behind, by the baggage belt. Wayne looks as he always looks – slightly windblown – and is wearing the ratty leather jacket he was wearing the night they met. Neil sneaks up on him and puts his hands on his shoulders; when Wayne turns around, he looks relieved to see him.
They hug like brothers; only in the safety of Neil’s mother’s car do they dare to kiss.