Mykola's work is often challenging and difficult to read, coming across more as jagged pieces of an imperfect life than as idealised slices of a fantasy. The stories never quite develop the way you expect, or even hope. Instead, they follow their own natural flow, illustrating a small part of an unfinished life, with questions and loose ends aplenty. His characters are not always attractive (either physically or mentally), but they’re real – and that realism is what makes his work come alive.
Dee Dee Day is easily the most accessible of the stories I’ve enjoyed so far. It’s actually quite sweet and romantic in many places, exploring the relationship between a younger gay man and a much older transsexual woman.
It’s clear that Mykola is playing with opposites here, but it’s an approach that works well within the context of the story. Bill is still young and very much discovering himself, whereas Dee Dee is at the age where she’s more remembering than discovering. Bill is somewhat naive and still in the closet, while Dee Dee is both experienced and completely open about her gender and sexuality. Most importantly, perhaps, Bill has temporary lost the love of his life due to his own insecurities, while Dee Dee has forever lost her lover due to the horrors of WW2.
It’s a relationship that shouldn’t work, but which does . . . at least, for a while. They both provide the other with something that was missing in their lives, with a sense of physical and emotional intimacy that brings them closer together. The sex here is beautiful and understated, with as much happening off the page as on the page. It’s not the stuff of wild, kinky fantasies, but of two lovers discovering one another and sharing in the frantic passion of new-found affection.
What ultimately throws a kink into their affair is the presence of George – an old friend and ex-lover of Dee Dee who is unfortunately presented to us as a sad and broken (yet unrepentant) pedophile. It’s another instance of playing with opposites, contrasting the generation gap between Bill and Dee Dee with the even greater age gap between George and his victims. Fortunately, we’re never forced to watch George in action, to to listen to him reminisce, but I (for one) could have done without his presence. Although Dee Dee and Bill are quite clear in their condemnation of George’s sexual history, the fact that they continue to entertain his friendship may be off-putting to some readers. It’s certainly uncomfortable, but also necessary to the plot, ultimately leading to a series of tragedies.
Ultimately, Bill comes out of the story better off than when we first met him, and there is the suggestion that he may indeed enjoy a happy ending. Like I said, it's an imperfect slice of an unfinished life, but one that compels you to keep reading . . . and which ultimately pays off in the end