Red, White &Royal Blue By Casey McQuiston , Chapter 11

A <[email protected]>                9/3/20 6:20 AM to Henry H, Shit.

Do you think you’re going to enlist? I haven’t done any research on it yet. I’m gonna ask Zahra to have one of our people put together a binder on it. What would that mean? Would you have to be gone a lot? Would it be dangerous??? Or is it just like, wear the uniform and sit at a desk? How did we not talk about this when I was there????? Sorry. I’m panicking. I somehow forgot this was a thing looming on the horizon. I’m there for whatever you decide you want to do, just, like, let me know if I need to start practicing gazing wistfully out the window, waiting for my love to return from the war. It drives me nuts sometimes that you don’t get to have more say in your life. When I picture you happy, I see you with your own apartment somewhere outside of the palace and a desk where you can write anthologies of queer history. And I’m there, using up your shampoo and making you come to the grocery store with me and waking up in the same damn time zone with you every morning. When the election is over, we can figure out what we’ll do next. I would love to be in the same place for a bit, but I know you have to do what you have to do. Just know, I believe in you. Re: telling Philip, sounds like a great plan. If all else fails, just do what I did and act like a huge jackass until most of your family figures it out on their own. Love you. Tell Bea hi. A
P.S. Eleanor Roosevelt to Lorena Hickock—1933: I miss you greatly dear. The nicest time of the day is when I write to you. You have a stormier time than I do but I miss you as much, I think.… Please keep most of your heart in Washington as long as I’m here for most of mine is with you! Re: Hometown stuff
Henry <[email protected]>                9/4/20 7:58 PM to A Alex, Have you ever had something go so horribly, horribly, unbelievably badly that you’d like to be loaded into a cannon and jettisoned into the merciless black maw of outer space? I wonder sometimes what is the point of me, or anything. I should have just packed a bag like I said. I could be in your bed, languishing away until I perish, fat and sexually conquered, snuffed out in the spring of my youth. Here lies Prince Henry of Wales. He died as he lived: avoiding plans and sucking cock. I told Philip. Not about you, precisely—about me. Specifically, we were discussing enlistment, Philip and Shaan and I, and I told Philip I’d rather not follow the traditional path and that I hardly think I’d be useful to anyone in the military. He asked why I was so intent on disrespecting the traditions of the men of this family, and I truly think I dissociated straight (ha) out of the conversation, because I opened my blasted mouth and said, “Because I’m not like the rest of the men of this family, beginning with the fact that I am very deeply gay, Philip.” Once Shaan managed to dislodge him from the chandelier, Philip had quite a few words for me, some of which were “confused or misguided” and “ensuring the perpetuity of the bloodline” and “respecting the legacy.” Honestly, I don’t recall much of it. Essentially, I gathered that he was not surprised to discover I am not the heterosexual heir I’m supposed to be, but rather surprised that I do not intend to keep pretending to be the heterosexual heir I’m supposed to be. So, yes, I know we discussed and hoped that coming out to my family would be a good first step. I cannot say this was an encouraging sign re: our odds of going public. I don’t know. I’ve eaten a tremendous amount of Jaffa Cakes about it, to be frank. Sometimes I imagine moving to New York to take over launching Pez’s youth shelter there. Just leaving. Not coming back. Maybe burning something down on the way out. It would be nice. Here’s an idea: Do you know, I’ve realised I’ve never actually told you what I thought the first time we met? You see, for me, memories are difficult. Very often, they hurt. A curious thing about grief is the way it takes your entire life, all those foundational years that made you who you are, and makes them so painful to look back upon because of the absence there, that suddenly they’re inaccessible. You must invent an entirely new system. I started to think of myself and my life and my whole lifetime worth of memories as all the dark, dusty rooms of Buckingham Palace. I took the night Bea left rehab and I begged her to take it seriously, and I put it in a room with pink peonies on the wallpaper and a golden harp in the center of the floor. I took my first time, with one of my brother’s mates from uni when I was seventeen, and I found the smallest, most cramped little broom cupboard I could muster, and I shoved it in. I took my father’s last night, the way his face went slack, the smell of his hands, the fever, the waiting and waiting and terrible waiting and the even worse not-waiting anymore, and I found the biggest room, a ballroom, wide open and dark, windows drawn and covered. Locked the doors.
But the first time I saw you. Rio. I took that down to the gardens. I pressed it into the leaves of a silver maple and recited it to the Waterloo Vase. It didn’t fit in any rooms. You were talking with Nora and June, happy and animated and fully alive, a person living in dimensions I couldn’t access, and so beautiful. Your hair was longer then. You weren’t even a president’s son yet, but you weren’t afraid. You had a yellow ipê-amarelo in your pocket. I thought, this is the most incredible thing I have ever seen, and I had better keep it a safe distance away from me. I thought, if someone like that ever loved me, it would set me on fire. And then I was a careless fool, and I fell in love with you anyway. When you rang me at truly shocking hours of the night, I loved you. When you kissed me in disgusting public toilets and pouted in hotel bars and made me happy in ways in which it had never even occurred to me that a mangled-up, locked-up person like me could be happy, I loved you. And then, inexplicably, you had the absolute audacity to love me back. Can you believe it? Sometimes, even now, I still can’t. I’m sorry things didn’t go better with Philip. I wish I could send hope. Yours, Henry P.S. From Michelangelo to Tommaso Cavalieri, 1533: I know well that, at this hour, I could as easily forget your name as the food by which I live; nay, it were easier to forget the food, which only nourishes my body miserably, than your name, which nourishes both body and soul, filling the one and the other with such sweetness that neither weariness nor fear of death is felt by me while memory preserves you to my mind. Think, if the eyes could also enjoy their portion, in what condition I should find myself. Re: Hometown stuff
A <[email protected]>                9/4/20 8:31 PM to Henry H, Fuck. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what else to say. I’m so sorry. June and Nora send their love. Not as much love as me. Obviously. Please don’t worry about me. We’ll figure it out. It just might take time. I’ve been working on patience. I’ve picked up all kinds of things from you. God, what can I possibly write to make this better? Here: I can’t decide if your emails make me miss you more or less. Sometimes I feel like a funny-looking rock in the middle of the most beautiful clear ocean when I read the kinds of things you write to me. You love so much bigger than yourself, bigger than everything. I can’t believe how lucky I am to even witness it—to be the one who gets to have it, and so much of it, is beyond luck and feels like fate. Catholic God made me to be the person you write those things about. I’ll say five Hail Marys. Muchas gracias, Santa Maria. I can’t match you for prose, but what I can do is write you a list. AN INCOMPLETE LIST: THINGS I LOVE ABOUT HRH PRINCE HENRY OF WALES 1. The sound of your laugh when I piss you off. 2. The way you smell underneath your fancy cologne, like clean linens but somehow also fresh grass (what kind of magic is this?). 3. That thing you do where you stick out your chin to try to look tough. 4. How your hands look when you play piano.
5. All the things I understand about myself now because of you. 6. How you think Return of the Jedi is the best Star Wars (wrong) because deep down you’re a gigantic, sappy, embarrassing romantic who just wants the happily ever after. 7. Your ability to recite Keats. 8. Your ability to recite Bernadette’s “Don’t let it drag you down” monologue from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. 9. How hard you try. 10. How hard you’ve always tried. 11. How determined you are to keep trying. 12. That when your shoulders cover mine, nothing else in the entire stupid world matters. 13. The goddamn issue of Le Monde you brought back to London with you and kept and have on your nightstand (yes, I saw it). 14. The way you look when you first wake up. 15. Your shoulder-to-waist ratio. 16. Your huge, generous, ridiculous, indestructible heart. 17. Your equally huge dick. 18. The face you just made when you read that last one. 19. The way you look when you first wake up (I know I already said this, but I really, really love it). 20. The fact that you loved me all along. I keep thinking about that last one ever since you told me, and what an idiot I was. It’s so hard for me to get out of my own head sometimes, but now I’m coming back to what I said to you the night in my room when it all started, and how I brushed you off when you offered to let me go after the DNC, how I used to try to act like it was nothing sometimes. I didn’t even know what you were offering to do to yourself. God, I want to fight everyone who’s ever hurt you, but it was me too, wasn’t it? All that time. I’m so sorry. Please stay gorgeous and strong and unbelievable. I miss you I miss you I miss you I love you. I’m calling you as soon as I send this, but I know you like to have these things written down. A P.S. Richard Wagner to Eliza Wille, re: Ludwig II–1864 (Remember when you played Wagner for me? He’s an asshole, but this is something.) It is true that I have my young king who genuinely adores me. You cannot form an idea of our relations. I recall one of the dreams of my youth. I once dreamed that Shakespeare was alive: that I really saw and spoke to him: I can never forget the impression that dream made on me. Then I would have wished to see Beethoven, though he was already dead. Something of the same kind must pass in the mind of this lovable man when with me. He says he can hardly believe that he really possesses me. None can read without astonishment, without enchantment, the letters he writes to me.

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