REICHEN A. LEHMKUHL
Marino's book certainly touches and reminds us all of the tender time in our youth of coming out to ourselves.
In Thomas Marino’s oddly titled memoir, Tomorrow May Be Too Late, one might expect to discover handsome lovers with suspenseful careers and personal secrets dashing to expensive rendezvous at exotic locales and engaging in sizzling, passionate sex.
To a degree, that’s what Marino delivers in this sincere but long winded epic of his ten-month affair at the age of twenty-one with another man—there are provocative and questionable jobs and plenty of personal secrets, lots of showers and hot sex (though the luxurious globe-trotting adventures take place between New Jersey and Philadelphia nightclubs and restaurants circa 1988), and the extravagance comes with a price tag of quibbles over spending too much money.
A more appropriate title for Marino’s exposé of falling in love with the “good-looking bad boy” might have been “Lessons I Learned from that Awful Affair,” and what Marino details is what many gay men have also experienced at some point in their lives: Getting into bed with the wrong guy.
But let’s start at the beginning, which is where Marino starts, when handsome Tom meets handsome Tom: Marino meets Tom Shaw at a New Jersey club. Marino is separating from his wife and inching his way out into accepting his homosexuality and having brief affairs with other guys. He is instantly smitten with his attractive new boyfriend. Within days the two men are inseparable and talking about moving in together.
Marino, a banker by day, is also a part-time stripper on weekends—he strives hard to bring some nobility to this questionable profession in his passages, detailing his work at bachelorette and birthday parties, though his credibility suffers somewhat from his own narcissism and self-indulgence, as he and his acquaintances constantly comment on his attractiveness page after page.
Shaw, too, is apparently a looker, but instead of suffering from Marino’s flaws of youthful innocence, naiveté, and sincerity, he is a drifter and a hustler-in-training, setting up scam after scam and initiating a relationship with Marino, who finds himself financially liable for Shaw’s every compliment.
Money, money, money seems to be at the root of all evils in this hot-sex relationship, though it is clear that Marino is not telling the entire story about Shaw, nor is he sugar-coating his own behavior. As Shaw disappears for free time from the relationship to “go driving” and clear his mind, Marino engages in his own bad behavior, more hot sex with more hot men as well as a dalliance with a female co-worker.
All of this is detailed in diary-like entries with prose that is clean, concise, and minimal, and which makes this a remarkably swift read, given the length of the work. On an emotional scale of one to ten, Marino’s residual burn from Shaw is about a four or five—there have clearly been other nasty affairs recorded that are much more disastrous than this—but I make no bones about professing that this book was an addictive weekend read. I could not put it down once I started; it was like knowing a train crash was imminent and wanting to see who survived and how, particularly as I began to see many elements of my own youthful mistakes in both Tom and Tom’s behavior.
What else is there to say about young Marino? In addition to his administrative job at a bank, he works as a stripper. And he is very, very taken with himself. No, really, he could give lessons to Narcissus in self-adoration. And in case the reader should forget, Marino mentions on virtually every page how hot he is, how much he enjoys looking at himself, and how lucky we all are that we can look at him, too.
The young Marino can’t change clothes without pointing out how smashing he looks in whatever he’s wearing; can’t pass a mirror without stopping for a let-me-admire-myself moment. In short, if you already suspect that great-looking guys with chiseled bodies tend to be shallow and self-absorbed, there’s nothing in this story that will change your mind.
The book’s main concern is Marino’s relationship with a man, also named Tom, whom he meets at a club. Instantly falling in love with each other’s looks, they fall into bed and then into a relationship. I use the word “fall” advisedly, for the affair is a plunge toward disaster from the very start. I’m giving nothing away by saying that Tom is a sociopath who is just out to get all he can get from Marino. (One of the first things Tom does is to get Marino to hand over all of his credit cards. Hello!)
Anyone who has been in a train wreck of a relationship will identify with Marino, who realizes he’s in trouble but can’t do anything about it because he is so deeply in love. And in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes: when two perfect-looking guys have sex, it’s just perfect. If this book was a novel, you might put it down early on and never pick it up again. But the fact that it’s a memoir changes everything. Marino is nothing if not honest, and there’s something compelling about the way he leaves nothing out when it comes to his own past behavior. I’m talking binge drinking at every opportunity, cheating on Tom with other menand a woman, and masturbating while driving. That last behavior disturbed me deeply because, let’s face it, New Jersey drivers are bad enough when they have no distractions at all.
Speaking of Jersey, yes, this is what you get—a story played out in exurbs and suburbs, among strip malls, greasy spoons, and cul-de-sacs. It’s fitting that this story of shallow people takes place in such shallow waters. And yet, and yet—I recommend this book. Its saving grace is this: it’s compulsively readable. You know already that the story can’t end well, but you keep turning the pages for the same reason that bystanders keep looking at an accident: watching a tragedy in progress is so damn fascinating.
So by all means, take Tomorrow May Be Too Late to the beach this summer. Reading about perfect guys having perfect sex isn’t all bad, especially when you’re half comatose from lying in the sun. You can skip the superfluous Epilogue, in which Marino tries to put the best face on things by saying that his 10 months with Tom was the happiest time of his life. Unfortunately—and this makes the book a very guilty pleasure indeed—it’s the unhappiness that keeps us riveted to the page.
design by sorodesign