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spacer Charles Coffey, Sausalito, California, 2003
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Charles Coffey, Sausalito, California, 2003

Charles is my spiritual godson. I learned much of what I know about people from watching him move through life. When Charles was three or four, his mother said that she was taking him downtown to have his picture taken. She told him to go upstairs and put on his best outfit. When he reappeared he was wearing a Superman costume. At a party at my house when he was six, he kept asking my girlfriend Wendy to sit beside him. When she finally did, Charles walked over to my friend Chip’s girlfriend and asked her to join them. “I can’t help myself,” Charles said. “I just love women.” A year later, Wendy and I were driving Charles and his sister Alison from their McLean, Virginia home to a Christmas Eve lunch at the Palm in Washington, DC. As we were cruising down the George Washington Parkway, Charles turned to me and asked, “Tom, do you think Santa Claus is a homosexual?’ After nearly losing control of the car, I regained my composure and said, “Huh? What would give you that idea?” Charles said, “Doesn’t it seem a little odd that a grown man would spend an entire year holed up with a bunch of elves?” He was not playing this for laughs. “But, Charles,” I said. “What about Mrs. Claus?” He folded his arms across his chest, and in dead seriousness asked, “How do we know there really is a Mrs. Claus?” When we got to the Palm, our waiter was John Rosenholm, a gay friend of Wendy’s and mine with a wicked sense of humor who would eventually die of AIDS. I said, “John, Charles here thinks that Santa Claus may be a homosexual.” John shook his head in an emphatic no. “I doubt it,” he said. “How about Mrs. Claus?” Then he leaned over to me and whispered, “If he was, I probably would have fucked him.”

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