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World AIDS Day
Researchers have discovered how to make tearless onions and seedless fruit. They have pondered genetically altering chickens so they will have four drumsticks or four wings. They grow replacement human ears on the backs of mice and are considering a human/mouse clone. But more than 20 years have passed, and there is still no cure for cancer or AIDS.
Here’s to my friends who are now gone: Danny Hernandez, Tony Curtis, Tom Schoonmaker, Jeff White, Barry Green, Roger Duncan, and Ric Castillo.
Here’s to my friends now living with AIDS: Kevin Jones and Preston Roe. Hang on.
This is the last time I’m going to tell you. Don’t make me say it again. I don’t want to hurt you, but you are leaving me no choice. Just accept it and go from there. Don’t put yourself through it. It’s not worth the aggravation. It’s best not to ask questions; it’s best not to lodge complaints. Just take it like a man. Keep your chin high and your upper lip stiff. Don’t let your surface crack. Stay strong and mean, a feeling machine that won’t be injured today. Grant yourself the permission to cry. Give it a day.
Give and Take
Why play those games? I just don’t see the point. Don’t give me the cold shoulder, the silent treatment. Don’t pull that passive/aggressive shit on me. I don’t want to play. Just say what you mean and let that be that. Sit down. Be direct. Speak. Listen. Don’t forget to listen. You don’t want to hear anything that contradicts your planned logic. You don’t want any bits of truth or insight to clog up the drain. But, sometimes, oftentimes, it’s the words said calmly during the heat that hold the most import, that tell the truest tales.
I’ve known you since college, almost 17 years. Although we have most certainly had our fair share (probably better) of conflict and far too many silly episodes of not speaking (remember all of 1989?), I consider you one of my dearest friends. You’ve done far more for me than you can ever know, and I find myself choking up even now as I write this. When I really needed someone to support me (and that’s almost literal!), you stepped up to the plate. When I reflect on 2002, I think of all the laughs and fun we had together.
Into Me See
It doesn't come with kissing or with fucking. You don't manufacture it like consent. And it doesn't happen in a couple of weeks either. Stop kidding yourself, dear. It takes months of exchanging ideas, of sharing experiences, of giving and taking. It won't happen any quicker just because you want it to. You better let go of that fantasy now. Otherwise, you will go on living in a make believe world that teeters on collapse. You will be living in a bubble in a room full of pins. And they won't be of the "safety" variety either.
Unfortunately, our relationship seems to have been hurt by my residing with you for too long. I try to stay out of the way and to help out around the house, but I guess that it's too late to salvage much of what used to be. I wish we could go back to the times that we hung out together, had lunch, shot darts, played pool, rode bikes, and generally enjoyed each others' company. If not for you, I would probably have not made it on to "Millionaire" and, in spite of my results, I'll always remember that day.
I know I've told you this before, but it's amazing to me that a few months after I turned 12 years old, you were born in Mexico. What sorts of things came together for us to meet? Whatever stars aligned, I'm so glad to have you in my life. You have affected me more than you'll ever know. The trip to London and Paris would not have been as fun if anyone else would have gone with me. I know that, no matter what, we'll always be there for each other. Keep believing in love; it will happen soon.
Even though you can be a total bitch on wheels, you are still fun to be with. Whenever I need to vent, I know you'll listen. We've known each other for more than 20 years--since the days of the Playmakers. Remember when we used to walk to Davis Islands to play tennis? What about those doubles matches at Harold's place? That's when you met my cousin, and now you've been together for more than six years. Those were good times. The one talent you have that no one else can beat is this: No one can shop like you.
Remember when we went to the Bahamas together? That crazy day that we went on the bus tour and visited a liquor store? We bought a couple of bottles and started to drink. By the time we decided to rent the mopeds, we were pretty trashed. I guess I should have taken it a little easier around that first corner, huh? When I hit the curb and crashed, my helmet flew off. You thought my head was still in it. We laughed and laughed. I miss you since you've moved to California, but you have to chase your dream.
It's hard to believe that we've known each other for more than thirty years. Those were the days, huh? No worrying about money or cancer back then. Remember how your horse, Jennifer, ran me into a tree. Later, she broke your pelvis; I pushed you around in your wheelchair. What about that school bus trip? Even though you had your period, you wore white pants. It poured rain that day, and when you got up your backside was covered in blood. You backed out of the emergency exit of the bus and stood in the rain waving at us.
No matter how much time goes by between our visits, we pick it up like there’s been no interruption. Remember when we met? You were playing Pilate in
Jesus Christ Superstar
. We hung out after rehearsals in Ybor before Ybor was ruined by yuppies and restaurant chains. You are probably the funniest person I know, and also one of the most insightful. I am so glad I got to introduce you to John and we all got to spend some time together when you were working here. Those were a couple of the highlights of 2002. I miss you.
I wish you would get your life together. You seem to be at sea with no rudder, no sail, no map, completely at the mercy of the unpredictable winds. I’m so sorry you lost your mother this year; that must have been a shock to you. I know that she provided some guidance for you. But now she’s gone. What will happen to you now? If you want to work in entertainment, be enthusiastic about it. If you’re not excited and serious about what you do, how can you expect anyone else to be? Find what you’re looking for.
My surgeon told me that my cervical disc looks something like a cooked shrimp, curled and fibrous. I asked him to save it for me.
I could never be a surgeon because I have an irresistible urge to eat specimens. When I was in high school,I always wanted to eat parts of the fetal shark.
I hope you resisted. That’s disgusting.
What strange compulsion do you have?
To lick dirty hands.
Yours or everyone else’s?
Just mine, thank God. That’s why I have such an obsession with washing my hands.
So one compulsion led to another.
There’s a ghost ship at the bottom of my aquarium. The little lifeboat on its deck moves silently up and down, spitting out bubbles every once in a while. The fish don’t seem to mind. They are not afraid. They explore the ship, swim deep into its guts, turn around, and emerge unscathed. They like to hover above the ship so the bubbles tickle their bellies. They swim under the broken mast and let it scratch their backs. They are unaware that, long ago, people lost their lives here. They scattered on the deck, looking for a way to live.
Laugh away, twisted brother. Send your guffaws far and wide. Let them rock the house. Let them search for a way out when the walls begin to rattle and the plaster starts to crack. When the foundation starts to crumble, where will the go? Will they seek you out and demand reentry? Will they hate you for letting them fly? Or will they be happy for their moment of freedom, satisfied with a temporary happiness followed by a fatal blow? Will you be laughing then? When all you know is gone and you’re all alone with your misery. We’ll see.
Love is a stranger in an open car to tempt you in and drive you far away. Love is never having to say you’re sorry. Love is blind. Love is a many splendid thing. Love hurts. Love changes everything. Love is a red, red rose. My love does it good. Can’t get enough of your love, baby. Love is a bitch with no pedigree. Love is to blame. Love leads to dangerous places. Do you believe in life after love? What’s love got to do with it? Love lies bleeding in my hands. Love lifted me. Love broke my heart.
The day before.
Tomorrow is the big day. I’m rushing to finish my work, to straighten my office, to clean my aquarium, to take care of my plants. Later, I’m going to the Indian restaurant for vegetarian buffet. You know the old saying: Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you may…. Well, you know what it is. I’m quite anxious about this operation, more so than the last one.
one seemed urgently necessary; this one less so. The last time, I had more support from friends who are now too busy with holiday things. It makes a difference.
Today is the day. I have to be at the hospital at 11 for surgery that’s starts at 1:30, tough since I couldn’t eat anything past midnight last night. I hate the wait. Staring into the blank faces that line the pre-op waiting room, I try to diagnose the others: a stomach tumor; a knee operation; a hysterectomy. My throat is about to be slit. I joke with the nurse. Make small talk with the anesthesia assistant. My doctor comes in. I didn’t realize how very young he looks. What’s that on his neck? Did he cut himself shaving?
The heat creeps slowly from my feet to my chest to my head. Pressure is building, and I feel it blocking my throat. I reach to loosen the collar that protects my neck and discover that it is not that tight. I pull on it anyway. The bandage is too heavy. It is collapsing my trachea. It is trying to suffocate me. I can't get comfortable. An elephant is sitting on my chest. I need to take a breath. I need to swallow. I need to move. I can't. I am shocked awake and then struggle to sleep again.
: I’m sorry. I can’t eat this. I’m vegetarian.
: I told them to bring you something else.
: Can you just take this tray away?
: Can I bring you anything?
: Some juice would be nice. Chocolate milk. Or a Bloody Mary.
Bitch in the other bed
: This ain’t a bar; it’s a GODDAMED HOSPITAL! Nurse. Nurse. Bring me a heater or a blanket. That fan she’s got over there. It’s blowing on me. And someone needs to help me change my tampon.
: Yesterday, you wanted a fan of your own. Make up your mind.
I hate happy endings. They just seem so unreal, so forced. Think about it: How many times do real-life situations get tied up in a nice little package with a pretty pink bow? I’ll tell you how many: None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. If I go to a movie and everything is happily ever after at the end, I am pissed off. I feel like I have been had. Like someone has pulled one over on me. So, when I make my movie, don’t expect a happy ending. At least the one that you might expect. I won’t deliver. Thank God.
Gimme this. Gimme that. Gimme everything I want or you don’t love me. Show your love with a diamond. Show it with some gold. If you really loved me, you’d buy platinum encrusted with rare stones in a beautiful filigree pattern of old. It doesn’t matter if you listen to me or not. It doesn’t matter if you care about what I do. As long as I have a token of your love, I’ll know your love is true. So go now and buy me some sugar. Spread it high upon the wind. Show me how much you love me.
It’s about time. It’s about space. It’s about the crunch of finding my own place. I don’t want to compromise. But I’ve got a deadline staring me in the face. Who knows why the time was moved ahead? The timing couldn’t have been worse, with me flat on my back in bed. My neck’s in a brace; now I’ve got to race. I’m not supposed to drive, and someone’s riding my back. I’ve got to get going, get my train on the track. But all in all, it will be better. I’m feeling the pressure ease up already.
Christmas Eve at St. Joseph’s
In the emergency room. On a hospital bed tucked in the hall. Out of my head with pain. My arm is on fire. It gets worse every hour. I’ve taken one-two-three-four pills and one-two-three-four injections. It’s finally getting better. One the other side of the door, an old lady, also undignified in the hall, has had an unexpected bowel movement. Beyond her is a drunk with a sickle cell attack. He wants Demerol too. I don’t blame him. I discovered blood on the toilet seat of the patient’s restroom. No one was resting in there.
Keep Christ in Xmas
Here in this so-called “Christian” nation, with our so-called evangelical president, we act nothing like Christ. Christ, I think, would be offended to see what happens in his name. We use this name like a weapon and a shield; it is our tyranny and our excuse. G. W. Bush once claimed that Jesus Christ was the political figure that he most admired. Once you get past the absurdity of that remark, you can see the hypocrisy that hides behind it. Bush does not ask himself “What Would Jesus Do?” He does not care. He really doesn’t.
Don’t you think I would get out of here now if I could? I mean, you invited me to move in. You promised you’d build a place for me. You looked for a new house with a room for me in mind. But now I have to get out by March. Why didn’t you tell me earlier? What am I talking about? I wouldn’t have gotten that date unless I brought it up. We’re all adults, I hope. Why not come out in the open and discuss these things? I’m trying as hard as I can. You know that, right?
When I was in second grade, I wanted nothing more than to be a Brownie. One day my mother took me to Maas Brothers department store and used her credit certificates (back then, there were no cards; you were given a booklet of different denomination certificates; the booklet was your credit limit) to buy me the whole outfit: a dress, belt, hat, matching coin purse that clipped to the belt, shoes, the whole shebang. The following Tuesday was Brownie day at school. I proudly wore my outfit. All the other kids made fun of me, saying, “You’re not a Brownie…”
After school, the real Brownies met in one of the classrooms. I was not allowed in, not even to watch. Because my mother thought I would be in the meeting, she did not pick me up from school, so I was stranded alone. I stood outside the open window of the Brownie room, peering in. After she got off work, my mother picked me up. She, of course, was outraged that the teacher made me wait outside alone. I was wracked with guilt and sorrow that my mother wasted all that money on me. I never wore the outfit again.
That’s right. Let me sit on the floor. The dog can be up on the furniture, but I--fresh from spine surgery--have to navigate down to the cold, hard tile. I eat my lunch there, leaning over the coffee table. One dog is sleeping peacefully on the ottoman; the other is hounding me for morsels of food. I have only soup and bread, but she is determined to get something. The floor is so cold, and my neck and arm are hurting, so I struggle to stand. I stand watching Oprah, trying to find a comfortable position. Then I give up.
1. I will lose weight.
2. I will have a house of my own.
3. I will recover.
4. I will exercise.
5. I will be less in debt.
6. I will nurture relationships more.
7. I will be a better teacher.
8. I will be a better friend.
9. I will see at least 120 movies.
10. I will keep track of those movies.
11. I will keep better records.
12. I will be less angry.
13. I will be less anxious.
14. I will win my lawsuit against a certain poor driver.
15. I will save money.
Tonight, at midnight, I will be warm in my lover’s embrace. I will feel completely at peace and be totally happy. Perhaps we will be in an exotic climate, surrounded by tropical flowers and wild animals. Or we may be in an exciting metropolis, enjoying the taste of city life. We may be safe and warm in a tent that’s pitched at the edge of a lovely wood, the crackling campfire keeping us warm. It doesn’t matter where we are as long as we’re together. My lover is my refuge, my strength, my solitude. My lover is my sweet slumber.
The Tip Jar