I dreamt I died of AIDS. It was a startling dream, not really a nightmare however. It was my funeral and everyone from my life was in attendance. It was surprisingly peaceful.
People gave eulogies. Fink said some charitable words about my writing style. Later on I’m certain he put out a cigarette in my ashes. I’d be honored. The most touching, and the image I remember most distinctly, was my dear little brother weeping. It’s the kind of dream image that lingers with you.
Was my mind telling me something?
My crazy uncle Michael has lived with HIV for close to 15 years now. He’s my only gay relative that I’m aware of. I’ve only met him once.
It was at an AIDS hospice in a run down south DC neighborhood. I got off the subway and the African Americans who passed me on the street gave me nervous looks as if to warn me I shouldn’t be where I was.
The hospice was actually a run down house. The living room, the kitchen, several bedrooms all contained hospital gurneys upon which men - all black - lay prone. These men were skeletons. So thin, all of them. Some of the men watched daytime soaps on a giant wood encased television. Some of them just stared at the ceiling, as if waiting. These men were to die in a humid, cramped urban hospice with “Guiding Light” playing in the background, even worse with my crazy Uncle Michael changing their diapers.
My uncle Michael was there, giving a sponge bath to a young man when I entered. It turned out the patient was 24, my age at the time. He looked like he was 60. The young man was too weak to speak. We made eye contact. And I felt ashamed of my foolish sexual encounters. I wanted to be apologetic. I wanted to vomit. Uncle Michael led me outside into the barren concrete backyard and we sat at a black wire table.
I was amazed at how similar to my mom he looked. I recognized her eyes, her nose. I definitely heard her voice when he spoke about these needy bitches and how they’re always whining about this and complaining about that. His candor made me laugh. Another emaciated black man passed by and said, “Don’t believe anything this guys says. It’s all lies.”
The two of them laughed and slapped at each other like schoolgirls.
AIDS is that elephant in the room that the gays don’t want to talk about. When writing about AIDS, I feel like I need to paraphrase with “Oh, I’m negative.” Hell, do I even know? No. It’s been over two years since I’ve been tested.
I asked Uncle Mike if he was afraid of dying. He said why should he be afraid of dying from AIDS? He could walk into the street and get hit by a car. “AIDS wasn’t driving that car, maybe a crackhead, but not AIDS.”
Why do I keep dancing in traffic?