It is Presidents’ Day weekend and Jonathan’s college roommate has gone home for three days, leaving Jonathan alone to plan a romantic time with his boyfriend of six months, full of sex, food, and wine. Jonathan is anticipating Kyle’s arrival, but instead of the romantic embrace he is expecting, Kyle arrives telling Jonathan that their relationship is over, that he simply doesn’t love Jonathan anymore.
Jonathan is left heartbroken and confused and Kyle is convinced that his actions are unselfish, though the pain he feels is just as raw as that of the man he has just walked out on.
The title of Rick R. Reed’s short story, Class Distinctions, perfectly explains Kyle’s reasons for ending his relationship with Jonathan. Their parents are due to meet soon and Kyle is convinced that Jonathan’s mother and father, who are both professionals and live in a six-bedroom house, will disapprove of his diner-working mother, who has raised him single-handedly in a one-bedroom apartment.
Obviously, the influence of both families is significant in this story and I really liked how Reed includes Kyle and Jonathan’s mothers in phone conversations with their respective sons. These short exchanges not only give the reader clues as to the similarities between the two women, but Kyle and Jonathan themselves.
It appears that both young men hold their mothers in high regard, with Jonathan referring to his as “tormentor, savior, nurturer . . . chief confidant.” Kyle’s thoughts about his mother are initially harsher, but they quickly soften and with them, I felt my detachment towards him fading.
Short stories are never going to be my favorite thing to read, but Reed is quickly becoming one of my must-buy authors, to the extent that I would probably buy an instruction manual on how to make toast if he wrote one! There were small aspects of Class Distinctions that I felt fell short of Reed’s normal brilliance, such as Jonathan’s declaration that going out in the snow was “suicidal” and “playing out some little ‘Match Girl’ fantasy.” I am sure it was not Reed’s intention, but Jonathan’s drama-queen tendencies just made me laugh!
I also felt disappointment towards Kyle for the attitude he originally displays towards his mother, begrudgingly complimenting her but then describing her as “seriously overweight, with bulging thighs, broad hips, and flabby breasts.” On the other hand, I think Reed allows the reader to relate Kyle’s harshness to his mood at the time and with this, I feel we fully appreciate that the emotional pain he is experiencing is because he feels so protective of the woman who has raised him alone.
Despite my personal low points during Class Distinctions, I did love the profoundness that Reed’s writing brings to the story, even though it is only short. We only see a brief physical exchange between Kyle and Jonathan but still, Reed communicates this belief that they are right for one another. This is mainly achieved in the way that Reed astutely captures the emotions of both his characters, talking about their relationship in so much more than just sexual terms: “all the days and nights of happiness, passion, kindness, and yes, friendship.”
Class Distinctions may not be a story I am in a rush to re-read, but it is enjoyable, heart-warming, and certainly not a bad way to spend a lunch break!