1. M

    My own personal mythology, the one where everything revolves around me, had me in Houston having drinks in the evening at the Hyatt and Greenway Plaza one day and then “promoted” to a position in Eunice, Louisiana the next. Happily, Eunice has a few watering holes of its own and I was able to survive.

    So, that was all 1981’ish. I clearly recall sitting alone in my house and flipping through to the second page of The Eunice News and reading a “one” paragraph article, blurb really, about “gay cancer” and just staring at it, somehow knowing intuitively that the story would soon take up more space.

    Scroll forward 18 years and I found myself standing in parking lot on Olympic Blvd. in Los Angeles having a 1:1 with Dr. Michael Gottlieb who along with his associates first identified what was then G.R.I.D. I had driven 70 miles across “town” to bring my friend R to keep his appointment and as it turned out he needed to be admitted. (Meds were certainly available at that point and he was taking handfuls several times a day. It embarrassed him to be seen taking them and he’d perfected the sleight of hand of taking them in full view of anyone present without anyone noticing–Cuban– extremely proud.) He didn’t last very long after that. but he did manage to finance two Princeton educations for his nephews which, in my humble estimate, is fairly impressive for someone thrown out the family home at 15.

    I went out to smoke while R was admitted to some miserable “for profit” hellhole that most assuredly wasn’t Cedars-Sinai with its endless lobby full of donor plaques. And Dr. Gottlieb caught me in the elevator and wanted to talk. As it turned out R was one of his favorite patients and he felt some duty to evaluate this interloper from Louisiana. So we walked and talked and ended up leaning on his Porsche for an hour and I eventually worked up the courage to quiz him about the first days, in fact the days before the first days when the situation was so undefined that he and his colleagues were simply and collectively beside themselves, knew they had some sort of invisible tiger by the tail–had lab results, had Kaposi’s sarcoma and yet had no clue.

    So, we parted ways and I went to the hospital room for a few hours and then drove the endless drive back to suburbia. “Los Angeles” has this reputation for glitz and glamor and sunshine and beaches but the Harbor Freeway at midnight is one of the most foreboding, dark and alienating drives. I’ve felt safer at three in the morning driving across Wyoming. I only mention it because it was the perfection of alienation under the circumstances.

    Of course, scrolling forward again a few years found me sitting at a computer at zero dark thirty, much as I am now, back in Lake Charles and staring at the screen that let me know the OTHER “R” in my past–the one I actually loved–had passed away on January 31, 1989. Athletic, handsome, popular, smart, charismatic and the first person to ever tell me he loved me besides my mommy. 🙂 His father was retired upper level military. As you might expect they published a brief two paragraph obituary, basically listing their own names as survivors—–the day after the funeral. That’s what happens when you Google people at two in the morning because you’d like to get back in touch and have a cup of coffee or a beer sometime soon. You find out they died twelve years ago.

    And then we scroll to the present a few weeks ago where I find myself in Girard Park taking photos of anhinga anhinga when this young couple, two guys who I seriously doubt were twenty, come walking down the sidewalk hand-in-hand utterly oblivious to their surroundings in a park full of people, cute as they could be–clearly not worried that anyone was going to apprehend them or arrest them or beat the life out them. And then, I walked around past the pavilion over the water to find one of Jehovah’s Witnesses manning her new age information booth so it was all just the perfect little mind fuck for me in the moment–gazing around at the families and variety of folks in the park and wondering if any of them could possibly begin to know or comprehend or somehow share a story of their own.

    You concluded your essay with “We’ll never know.”

    I would like to take exception to that.

    The answer is “yes.”

    • Bookscrounger

      I hope you’re right. I can’t imagine how many men and women spent how many lifetimes living in a constant setting of pain and fear and humiliation. We can hope it is finally ending.

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