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  • In 1984, 50 percent of gay men in San Francisco were infected with the HIV virus.

    --LGBT archive, San Francisco.


    Imagine clear-cutting an entire forest. The madrones. The manzanitas. The redwoods.

    Where there were once trees, now only stumps.

    It was like that in the Castro. Bloody.


    His lover infected him.

    He had wanted to be a singer like Liza Minelli. Judy Garland.

    His Jewish parents wanted him to be a doctor.

    He attended medical school, developed a private practice in internal medicine.

    His stomach swelled. Like a watermelon. His cheeks were sunken. Not an ounce of fat.

    Before he died, he rented a small venue and invited his friends. He gave a farewell concert.

    Somewhere now, I know he is singing.


    We often saw him dancing shirtless in those dark warehouses, surrounded by throngs of men, also shirtless, muscled.

    He was beautiful. Even in that dingy millieu, despite the thump-thump of the techno music, perforating our eardrums, despite the sour odor of male sweat and poppers, his movements were svelte, undulating with grace, like a ballet dancer. Like Nureyev.

    One day, he disappeared. We know longer saw him at the clubs.

    Months later, I ran into him at a café. He walked with a cane. He wore black sunglasses. He was going blind.

    In a year, he would die.


    He looked like a thug, an ex-convict. His buzz-cut hair. His body was covered in tattoos.

    But when you talked to him, he was a sweetheart.

    A man-child. He liked to knit. Scarves.

    At fifteen, his Christian fundamentalist parents threw him out of the house.

    He had been a sex-worker. The infection was a hazard he contracted from his career.

    He was diagnosed with the virus when he was twenty-two years old.

    Before dying, he buried his lover. Then his friends.

    Fever. Rashes. Stalking fear.

    If I close my eyes, I can still see him with a red scarf around his neck, walking his dog.

    The last time I hugged him, I did not realize, that in a few months, he would be gone.


    There are other stories from the plague.

    The bigoted Christian family from Ohio, who after their gay son dies, would try to evict the lover, seize the Victorian, the home in which the two had lived together for more than a decade.

    The denial of hospital visitation rights because the lover was not “family.”

    The sister who did not want her gay brother to kiss her children.

    The heroism of ACT-UP.

    The murderous indifference of Reagan.


    Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood.


    What a vile disease. A moment of pleasure, intimacy, becomes the possibility of dying.


    A forest regrows. But if you look carefully you will still see an absence of old growth. The scars.


    To those who are now vanished. I miss you.
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