The David Party
Everyone at the party was named David. This was a deliberate choice on the part of the host, whose name was also David. The invitation went so far as to prohibit the invitees from bringing along friends, partners, or spouses unless they also were named David. Two exceptions were allowed, an Italian named Davide and a woman named Davida, though only after considerable internal debate on the part of the host, whose notions of perfection were exalted.
It should be remarked, for historical reasons, that the party took place in 1987 in New York, in an apartment at the corner of West End Avenue and 103rd Street. David’s Cookies were served, along with Mogen David wine.
“Is everyone at this party gay?” David asked David.
“What makes you assume that just because David’s gay, all the guests at his party should be gay?” David said.
“Is David gay?” David asked. “David the host? I didn’t know.”
“If you ask me, David is just a very gay name,” David said. “Not as gay as Roger—the gayest name of all—or Gerald. Or Philip. Still . . .”
“I object to that,” David said. “My brother is named Phil and he’s not gay.”
“Phil, not Philip,” David corrected. “The diminutive makes all the difference.”
“Hello, I am Davide,” Davide said. “I am from Milano.”
“It’s the decoration that makes the party gay,” David said. “What could be gayer than all these little replicas of Michelangelo’s David?”
“Are you saying there’s something intrinsically homoerotic about Michelangelo’s David?” David said.
“I don’t think that’s an untenable claim,” David said.
David turned to David and said: “I probably shouldn’t have been allowed in. Everyone calls me Davey.”
“If you call me Davey, I’ll punch you,” David said. “I only let my father call me Davey.”
“What’s your father’s name?” David asked.
“Hal,” David said.
“Hal David?” David said.
“No, Hal Kalmbach,” David said.
“That’s a shame,” David said. “If you’d told me your father was Hal David,
I would have been impressed.”
“But then my name would be David David,” David said.
“Promises, promises,” David said.
“What? Who’s making promises?” David said.
“I mean the show,” David said. “Promises, Promises. Music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David.”
“I am not understanding a cock,” Davide said.
“Of course as a rule, straight guys don’t go to all-male parties,” David said.
“But how could a David party be other than all-male?” David said.
“Unless they’re bachelor parties,” David said, “and then there’s just the one woman, the stripper.”
“Excuse me, I am not a stripper,” Davida said.
“We also need to consider that in the early sixties, when nearly everyone here was born, David was the most common name given to boys,” David said.
“David, followed by Mark.”
“How funny! My boyfriend’s name is Mark,” said about thirty Davids.
“Touché,” David said.
“You see?” David said. “This really is a gay party.”
“Too bad,” Davida said. “It kills my ego being the only woman in a room
full of queers.”
“I hear you,” David said.
“My name is nothing but a burden to me,” Davida said. “People always assume that my parents gave it to me because they were disappointed not to have had a son, when really it’s because my mother’s Scottish. In Scots, Davida means ‘beloved.’”
“That sort of thing does happen,” David said. “When I was in college, I dated a girl named Bruceen.”
“In the Bahamas, where I come from, fathers will give all their children names that are variations on their own,” David said. “Hence Anthony’s children might be Antoine, Antonio, Antonya, Toinette. . .”
“And David’s might be Davidina, Davidette, Davidelle?” David said.
“I have known a Daveene,” David said.
“Why not change your name?” David said to Davida. “I’m changing mine. I’m changing it from David Landers to Brad Thorpe.”
“What’s wrong with David Landers?” Davida said.
“Everything,” David said.
“I have always known that someday I would marry a man named Brad Thorpe,” David said. “Something in that name inspires absolute confidence.”
“How seriously am I supposed to take that proposal?” David asked.
“Hi, I’m Ned,” Ned said.
“What?” several Davids said.
“Ned Braverman,” Ned said. “Pleased to meet you.”
“But how can this be?” David said. “How did you get here?”
“David invited me,” Ned said.
“David the host?” David said.
“Did someone call me?” David the host said.
“David, can you explain this?” David said. “This fellow is named Ned Braverman. He says you invited him.”
“There is no beauty that hath not some strangeness in it,” David said.
“What?” Ned said. “Who’s strange?”
“The spot of filth without which the whole cannot cohere,” David said.
“Did you just call me filth?” Ned said. “That’s it. I’m out of here.”
He left, slamming the door behind him.
“What is happened?” Davide said.
“Good riddance,” David said, rubbing his hands together. “We don’t want that kind at a David party.”
David took a position of authority before the window that looked out onto West End Avenue. He cleared his throat. He said, “Excuse me.” He hit a glass with a fork.
“Now that I’ve got your attention,” he said.
“Do you think he’s suffering from dementia?” David whispered to David.
“Look at his cheekbones,” David said.
“Wasting,” David said.
“I heard he’s just out of the hospital,” Davida said.
“Now, you may wonder why I’ve called you all here today,” David said. “Of course it’s because of your name. The name we share. Some of you may think this a silly reason to throw a party, but I don’t see it that way. Families gather. Well, we’re a family. The family of David. I am David, hear me roar. Davids of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains. David row the boat ashore. David from mountains, go where you will go to. The Davids, united, will never be defeated. Lil’ Davey was small, but oh my.”
He started to sing.
Lil’ Davey was small, but oh my!
Lil’ Davey was small, but oh my!
He fought big Goliath,
Who lay down and dieth,
Lil’ Davey was small, but oh my!
“I wonder if he’ll do the next verse,” David said to David, “Oh, Jonah, he lived in de whale,” but he did not. Instead he bowed his head, at which the guests broke into loud applause.
The party resumed. The only person who seemed to want to talk to David
the host was Davide the Italian, who took his hand and said, “I want just to say, I am glad you are not dead soon.”
David and David, meanwhile, had moved together into a corner.
“I find this all deeply depressing,” David said.
“Je suis d’accord,” David said.
“What say we make a run for it?” David said. “Maybe get something to eat?”
David gave David the once-over. It was a considering once-over. Then he smiled and said, “Why not?”
They left without saying goodbye to anyone. Up Columbus Avenue they walked, to Tom’s Diner, which Suzanne Vega had not yet made famous. It was eleven-thirty in the evening and the place was only half-full. One David ordered scrambled eggs with hash browns, the other a hamburger with a green salad, though he would have preferred fries.
“Were you at the march last week?” he said once their food had arrived.
“Which march?” David asked, shaking ketchup onto his hash browns.
“The one on Wall Street. In front of the stock exchange.”
“No, I missed it. How was it? Did you lie down in the street until the cops carried you off?”
“I didn’t,” David said, “but other people did. Actually the thing I remember most about this particular march is the chanting. At first we were all chanting the usual things. An army of lovers cannot lose. We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it. And then this woman—I have no idea who she is, she has horrible teeth— she suddenly started chanting, ‘No more shit!’ All by herself, at first. And then a few others joined in, and a few others, until everyone was chanting, together, ‘No more shit. No more shit.’ Even the people in the street, the people who were just passing by, the stockbrokers we were keeping from getting into the stock exchange, they all got into it. ‘No more shit.’ I mean, you really can’t put it any
more plainly than that. Can you put it more plainly than that?”
“I’m sorry I missed that march,” David said. “I’m not sorry I went to the David party. At first when I arrived I wished I hadn’t gone but then I changed my mind.”
“How long do you think he’s got?” David said. “David, I mean.”
“Who knows? Weeks? Months?”
“I hope longer. With this new drug, I hope—”
“Promises, promises,” David said. “Promises, promises, promises, promises, promises.”
They ate until there was nothing left on their plates. Not a scrap of toast was left, not a fragment of egg or meat. That evening there would be things they would not talk about, conversations they would not have. The what’s-your-status conversation. The sexual-history conversation. The is-oral-sex-safe conversation. Both of them knew that these conversations could not be avoided, that they were just around the bend. And yet, for now, that bend was one they chose, by some unspoken accord, to ignore.
Outside, it had started raining. The rain battered the windows. Every time the doors of Tom’s Diner opened, cold, wet gusts of wind blew through.
“So here’s my question,” David said. “If we get married—I’m not saying we will, but let’s say we did—how will we tell each other apart?”
“I’ll never call you Davey, if that’s what you’re asking,” David said.
“Oh, but you can,” David said. “I’ll let you. You and my father.”
Then he did a surprising thing. He took David’s hand, pressed David’s fingers deep into his water glass, and guided them over his own head. What water his hair did not hold fell over his forehead, behind his glasses, into his eyes.
“There, you have christened me,” he said.