I’m not sure it’s possible to find a story with more elements seemingly tailor-made for my own enjoyment as I found in “Director’s Cut.” It’s got a queer lens that’s grounded in a cultural and historical moment, a pervasive willful surviving and thriving tone, and then a thread of something magical, otherworldly, or strange. Wrap all that up in a bow, tell it well, and you’ve got “Director’s Cut,” from Matthew Bright’s wonderful debut collection Stories to Sing in the Dark.
Eugene Watkins lives in a time and place where his queerness is an unspoken blemish on his family, especially at this time as his sister’s wedding approaches and he feels the constricting, awful otherness inside him. No one speaks of this part of him, and he sort of exists on a periphery of actual living, going through the motions, feeling alone and broken and then he decides to make a terrible, final choice.
And someone stops him. Someone handsome and compassionate, and the next morning Eugene finds himself in a reality that seems all the more confused about what to do with him. His sisters seem to have lost track of things (how is it still his sister’s wedding day, again?) and there are… people… telling him that he needs to go through with what he’d attempted earlier, because that’s the only way his story can end. They seem very determined that he not survive.
But Eugene has someone on his side, even if he doesn’t quite know it yet.
Matthew Bright delivers a triumph here that’s grounded in something so real and so very queer that my throat was tight and sore in that good, bittersweet way you get from something that feels like justice. By the time I finished the story, I felt almost rejuvenated from the experience. Pride Month can be daunting, and exhausting. Stories like “Director’s Cut” are a great way to replenish.
But don’t just take it from me.
From the Author:
This story was specifically written to turn a trope on its head – in this case bury-your-gays trope originating from the Hayes Code era in which homosexuality was only permitted in media if it was punished, something that’s outlasted it’s mandated censorship roots and become a part of the standard portrayal of queer characters. It was enormous fun to be so metafictional – the embodiments of text and subtext literally hound our protagonist – and really shaped the referential, meta-textual, arch narrator voice that I now consider my signature style.
You can find Matthew Bright online at his website.