It's not always easy for us old dogs to attract new tricks. We always run the risk of boring them to death with our stories of gay life when the earth was cooling. My own husband is nineteen years my junior, and I'm sure he's sick of hearing some of my tales, regaling the days when I was a disco dinosaur.I've little doubt that there aren't a few that he could repeat verbatim at rote.Most gay men of my generation that dared to leave the house was sure to have witnessed some pretty dark days. In our own struggle to survive and attempts to ensure the survival of younger men, it's only logical that many of us became walking testimonials of doom and gloom.Fortunately, times have changed. Things are looking up, we have more options in treatment for HIV today, and are discovering alternatives in prevention. This old dog has had to find new ways to approach the topic of HIV status when negotiating carnal encounters. We even have new words and terms that didn't exist just a decade ago.I'm personally am dealing quite well with the new face of an old enemy. But, I hope I forget where I came from, or those that were part of my experience.
I swear to you. Every day I promise myself that I won't bring it up, not even as a reference, much less a full blown dissertation. I certainly don't expect you to indulge me, and it's pointless to repeatedly ask you to forgive me. It's not directed at you, it's really not. I'm long past the point of attempting to change the future by visiting the darkness of my past upon the brightness of the present. It's not meant to warn or caution, and in no manner to chastise. I don't expect you to relate, I can't expect you to know what it was, or is like. Actually, I have no desire for you to know what it was like, much less experience it. In fact, I'm not even offended if you don't give a rat's ass and just think I'm an old fart that talks too much. I don't blame you. It's true.
It really has nothing to do with you, or your generation. There is no bitterness here, no sour grapes. I'm absolutely elated that a but hope and a degree of freedom have been restored. I don't repeat this shit to remind you how it was. How could you be expected to remember something that you didn't experience. You weren't there. Actually, I don't even think it's about my own need to remember. Most of those that I'd want to remind and reminisce with are in fact gone. Hell, they're the very ones that created the memory. My motives are purely selfish. Not only is about reminding myself, it's about being certain that as painful as it may have been, that I never, ever think it's ok to forget.
There were just so many. So many that by any reasonable statistics would be sitting here beside me today, on that very stool where you're sitting. Please know, I in no manner resent your presence, on the contrary, I welcome you, that is your seat, you've every right to it. You deserve to sit there, head held high, proud to be recognized as a member of society today. Yes, still despised by some, and merely tolerated by others. But, embraced and treated as equal in the eyes of so many.
At the same time, I want you to know a little about the person that once sat on that very stool. He didn't give it up willingly. It wasn't by choice. I suppose it is fair to say that circumstances left him little option but to forfeit his place. His name? While it matters greatly, it matters not at all. He had many names. But, he was definitely an individual, one of a kind. Talented, witty, bitchy, kind, a tightwad, generous to a fault, never drank a drop, or could pass out, fall over, and never spill a drop of his Dewar's & water, tall glass please.
Call him Greg, Jose, Bruce, Julio, The Countess, Malcolm, Mavis,Ernesto, Cristobal, Miss K, Timmy, Jimmy, Teddy, or Buelah (Miss Buelah loved Dewar's) but at this point I just see him as a friend, a brother. There were even a few lovers, and countless unrequited loves. Yes, you Alfredo, Jorge, Nick, Carlos, Edgar. I still think of you, still pine for you, still lust for you, even though you left half a lifetime ago. I still occasionally think of you and wonder; "what if?" In my eyes, none of you have changed much. When we get together in my thoughts and dreams, gossip a bit, have a kiki a cocktail or ten, maybe even a little bumpsky and head out dancing, it actually never occurs to me that I am in fact two or three decades older than I was the last time we painted the town. In fact you look great. Nobody would ever believe that you'd been ravaged by an invisible visitor, an insidious party crasher that remained anonymous for some time. Too late for a number of you to ever even meet and greet by name.
Carlos, I remember seeing at the club you just last Saturday night, must be 32 years ago by now. You and Tony were raising hell as usual. I was behind the bar and you were swilling down the Smirnoff Cape Cods. (HEY, Smirnoff was top shelf back then) You had stepped out to the patio for a toke or two, came back in, and headed for the dance floor, poppers in hand. You were owning that floor Isadora. I heard you were at Tea Dance with Tony and Eric on Sunday. I was just too tired to go.
When Tony showed up at the bar alone tonight, I just assumed that you had a date or went to the tubs. I asked Tony, he said you seemed a little tired at Tea Dance and left a little earlier than usual. Monday morning you were having difficulty breathing. Your family took you to the hospital. It seems that you had some type of pneumonia, something they were unfamiliar with. Come Wednesday, you were gone. You were 26 years old.
You've actually been gone longer than you were alive. Seems hard to believe. Maybe because it's just not true for me. You're a part of me. That Saturday night 32 years ago was a part of my yesterday. I don’t live in past, but the past lives on with me.
You are not forgotten, at least not while I'm alive.