Off the Record

~1500 words :: Vampire Chronicles :: Louis, Daniel :: 10/11/02
The interview is over, but Daniel has one last question.

“Did you love him?”

Was it that obvious? Am I that obvious? I’m quiet for too long and now he thinks I’m not going to answer him, that he’s offended me.

Fear. It doesn’t show in his face, but it’s there in his mind. Scuttling around, chasing its tail. I can hear his thoughts as loud and clear as if he’d spoken. It’s almost funny, but his biggest fear is not for his life, but that I won’t continue with my story.

My story is all told, though, and there is no happy ending. No ending at all. Just me, here, and Lestat is dead. Or gone.

And at the end of it all, at the end of all I’ve had to say, there is this question. This one burning question.

I sigh and reach for the little tape recorder, hitting the stop button. He notices but doesn’t say anything. Settling back in my chair, I fold my hands and ask, “What do you think?”

“Yes!” His answer is immediate, no hesitation. “Yes, I mean…yes…” He struggles to articulate his thoughts. “It’s just, every time you say his name there’s something. In your voice, I think, I wish-” He pauses again. “I want it to be that you loved him. That that was what you wanted to say. Even with everything,” he looks up at me and his eyes are desperate with the desire to understand, “that you still loved him.”

How long did I deny it? When did I finally admit to myself, not just that I loved Lestat, but that it was all right for me to have those feelings? And this boy who had never really even been in love, this boy saw it right away. Saw it right away and knew it was right.

He doesn’t judge me, not for being a killer and not for loving another man. I am suddenly glad to have taken him up on his offer. And so for him I will try to explain. This is why. Why what? Why everything.

And maybe someday if Lestat isn’t dead, I can explain to him, too. He deserves that much at least, even if he doesn’t care anymore.

Even in these modern times, even in this city – and is it a coincidence that I chose to make this city my home? Even here and now, I think this boy would understand.

But now I have been quiet too long again and he wonders. I smile and that seems to set him at ease somewhat.

“Tell me,” I say, “does your family know that you are a…homosexual?” I say it in the tone I’m sure his father or mother would take, mimicking the look of disgust that would surely accompany it.

He is quiet for a moment and then bursts out laughing. He almost sounds like Lestat for a minute; it’s that same sort of unfunny laughter. “God, no!” He says when he finally calms down. Then a little more quietly, “They wouldn’t understand. We’re not…on the best of terms to begin with, you know?”

I nod. Of course I know. Two hundred years and some things haven’t changed at all. “Did you ever overcompensate? Act exactly the opposite of your natural inclinations in order to try to fit in? To fool them?”

He nods like he knows exactly what I’m talking about. The problem with Lestat is that he didn’t care what anyone thought of him or what he did. It didn’t occur to him that I might not have the same attitude. It didn’t occur to me to tell him otherwise.

“I still do,” the boy says and it takes me a minute to remember what he’s talking about. “With most people. I’m not…myself.”

“Yes, that’s it,” I agree. “For myself there were even times – very long periods of time – where I managed to convince myself that I was that person.

“A wife. Children, the more the better. A big house on a large plot of land. A prosperous plantation. Good social standing. A good reputation.

“This is what I wanted.

“No. This is what they wanted for me. They being my mother and sister mainly, and society in general.

“By the time I was twenty-five, I had fully convinced myself that they were right. Or rather, I had fully convinced my conscious mind of that fact.

“Deep down I screamed and fought against it with all my might, but I was very good at pushing that part of me down. By then I’d had lots of practice.

“But still, that part of me must have had some influence, because a man of my age should have been married with several children already. And yet I was still single.

“There were many eligible young ladies who were eager to wed me. At the time I thought it was only my wealth that drew them, or rather that drew their mothers, the ones actually making the matches. Now I can look back and say that they were drawn by my looks, too, but it was still my position more than anything. That’s how it was in those days. One wasn’t expected to marry for love.”

I pause, finally, to take a breath. Pure habit, breathing. “I hadn’t a chance of marrying for love.

“No one had to tell me there was something wrong with me. I don’t know if they had any idea, not then. Afterwards, when Lestat was living with me, I know my mother knew. She knew then, even when I still refused to see the truth.

“But this was before Lestat.

“I was attracted to men. I tried to pretend otherwise. At various social gatherings I would inevitably stare at the prettiest girls, trying desperately to induce some sort of feeling, some sort of reaction. I would sleep with these ladies and with whores, time and time again, and nothing. I might as well have been using my hand.”

“Did you ever…” His voice trails off, but he doesn’t need to finish the sentence for me to know what he wanted to ask.

“Did I ever sleep with men? Yes. And I hated myself afterwards every time. I hated myself. Always.

“Men are not supposed to be attracted to other men. The…desire I looked so hard for with those women was easily sparked by a glance, a word. It was wrong. It didn’t need saying, it was obvious. As obvious as saying the sky is blue.

“So I danced with the ladies. I slept with women. I tried my best to cure myself of this disease. But somehow I still managed to find excuses to reject suitors. I’m sure at the time I thought all my objections were perfectly well founded, but I was reaching an age where I couldn’t keep turning down these offers.

“And then came Lestat. And escape…”

I looked at him. He knows my story; I’d just told him. He knows there was no escape.

“You asked me if I loved him. God, yes. He was…blinding. Breathtaking. I was his in the instant I set eyes on him. I couldn’t not follow him. Do you understand?”

He doesn’t though, this boy who has never felt love. “But what happened?”

I happened.” I laugh humorlessly. “As soon as I came back to my senses, I was desperately trying to deny any sort of attraction I’d felt towards him. I rebuffed his every advance.

“The only thing I could think about was that I was damned and damned and damned. A killer and a filthy pervert. So I began to fixate on what I thought of as the life Lestat had stolen from me. What could have been mine.”

“Babette,” he says. Very astute.

“Yes, Babette. ‘This could have been your wife, but for Lestat. This could have been your life, but for Lestat.’ Everything became his fault. I conveniently forgot that I had told my mother on numerous occasions that I did not wish to marry Babette nor any of the other girls she tried to foist upon me.”

“When did you realize, admit that you loved him,” the boy asks.

“Admit? Just now. This is the first time I’ve ever told anyone else how I felt.

“I realized…not that I loved him, obviously I knew that, even in my denial I knew. But it wasn’t until after he was gone, and Claudia was gone, that I realized it didn’t matter what anyone else thought, the only thing that mattered was us and how we felt about each other. That I accepted myself. And by then it was…too late.”

He looks at his tape recorder that hasn’t recorded any of this.

I smile; showing my fangs as Lestat so loved to do. “This is all off the record, of course.”