Kurt Han wasn’t the sort to fan-squee. Not a lot. In Kurt’s opinion, at least. Pa would’ve disagreed; he’d announce to the world that That Kid, Ah, spent most of the weekly allowance on posters and CDs of people Pa had never heard of. Then again, performing on stage is not the sort of aspiration much encouraged in this country. There is something immoral about the theatre.
Just about the sort of immorality that suited Kurt, as much as Pa tried to protect his child from it.
Kurt was at the coffee shop, after school – the one near the arts building, because he’d rather da bao on the way home than endure Pa’s attempts at stir-fry celery again – and distraite enough, humming the tune to Sweet Transvestite, to tread on the feet of the man ahead in the queue at the or luak stall.
‘Omigod,’ said Kurt, because Pa had raised his child polite. ‘Excuse, sorry.’
The man half-turned.
‘It’s alright,’ he said, smiling lightly, and Kurt saw his face, and Kurt was in heaven.
‘Omigod,’ said Kurt again, eyes widening with recognition. ‘You’re him.’
‘Yeah,’ replied Ryan Eu (the Ryan Eu! Kurt’s mind was screaming). Ryan’s shrug was almost apologetic, and he perhaps-sighed. He proffered his hand, anyway. ‘Ryan Eu, late of Broadway, and it’s always nice to meet a fan.’
* * *
Their school was middle-class enough that Ryan Eu was on an honour roll outside the general office, with the embossed metal proudly announcing his receipt of a Juilliard Scholarship 2008. Of course, someone with Ryan’s wealth wouldn’t need the money; the $1,000 was just a token sum. But it was a reminder of how good he was.
During breaks, sometimes, Kurt abandoned everyone else singing in the empty classrooms, sneaking away to the foyer just to stare at the name. The arts are not for career-making, Kurt knew that. And not for people like… well, not Kurt’s people. When people like Kurt went into the arts it was with the full awareness that they were there for drag, that they were there for comedy.
Still. Kurt was seventeen and stubborn. Nothing’s impossible when you’re like that.
* * *
Today was turning out to be the best day ever, not that Pa would believe it. Ryan (‘please, it’s just Ryan, not Mr Eu, you’re almost my age!’) had been ever so gracious about being jostled in the queue, and then he’d said, ‘Look, let’s have lunch, you’re my junior, aren’t you?’ and now they were bonding over fried oyster omelette and sugar-cane juice.
‘It gets better,’ said Ryan, ‘no, seriously, it does. But you don’t just wait for it to get better.’ And he tipped Kurt a wink and threw Kurt a smile, and said, in all earnestness, ‘I know I’m a role model for lots of people. Well, I started out wealthy, I had an advantage. Nonetheless I am bloody going to do my best to make sure it’s better for you, too.’
Then he’d hugged Kurt, and passed a name card – ‘I’ll be going back to the States in two weeks, though my sister Shirley will always take a message if you need’ – and promised to maybe perform at the old alma mater.
Mercedes will love that, thought Kurt to herself, and beamed.