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1) Woke up from a dream involving my ex. I and some friends and strangers found him sprawled on a divan in what seemed an abandoned office building. Like a pieta he was sprawled, and looked the way he had at the end of his life—thin, riddled with Karposi’s sarcoma, listless.
2) No surprise, but lots of guilt. Last Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of his death, and I forgot to think about him. A few days before, I’d spotted the date on my iCal and made a note to take a moment to visualize him back in the days before AIDS claimed him at the age of 38. Missed it: instead, went down to troll the Lower East Side with spouse, hitting the galleries. I realize that my ex would’ve been honored I’d done that on his death day—he loved to walk this great big city. But still.
3) Ed Koch said goodbye this week. Earlier, when the news reported on his various hospital stays I said to the spouse, “he’s gonna die soon.” I didn’t believe it would be so soon—maybe in a month, or even a year, but not so soon. But then, all death takes me by surprise. My ex’s did, even at the end when it was clear he was never going to check out of the hospital. But that’s me—I tend to want to believe in the best outcomes. Or it could be that I never want to let go.
4) Koch was the mayor when the ex and I moved here from Ohio. The city was crazy then, and Koch was king, a local celebrity right up there with Crazy Eddie and Robin Byrd. When AIDS broke I wasn’t really tracking his reaction to it, or the anger of activists taking him to task. I was in a relationship; as a gay man I felt untouchable, shielded. The disease was peripheral, a blip on the margins of my perceptions. Youth.
5) Reminders remind you. Death is one. The end of last year, the beginning of this, so many folks have passed: Ada Louise Huxtable, Conrad Bain, Abigail Van Buren, the list rolls like a wave. Such passings are pieces of all our hearts, all our lives lived, all our pasts. One death reminds you of all the others, reminds you to be grateful, reminds you of the richness that was. Armistad Maupin says: “Missing people and wanting them back—that’s the price you pay for being alive.” Amen.