We don’t change the world. We only change the corner that we live in. We do that by being kind. In our case, that means making the bedlam bungalow in the outer, outer, outer Excelsior a better home for the family we chose.
This column talks about the sons who chose us: Zane and Aidan. And the dogs who chose us: Buddyboy and Bandit. Brian still says that he didn’t have much choice with me in that I was a rescue husband, but it not true that he found me in a pound.
But before the boys, there were the triplets, and that in itself was an entire book, A Song for Lost Angels.
But before even that there was Tim.
Tim was Brian’s roommate when I met them both in 1985. They lived in a coldwater flat above a funeral home in Jersey City, and within six weeks, I moved in as well.
Living with Tim was like living on a craps table, and we never knew where the dice were going to land. We came home and found that he had painted the dining room Pepto Bismol pink. He took a nap once, forgetting he had left his keys in his pocket, and poked a hole through the waterbed, producing a little rainforest on the coffin during someone’s wake. He brought home stray cats and stray boyfriends, and Tim had bad luck with both.
I couldn’t fight with Tim, because the only steady job Tim ever had was writing pornography, so whenever we argued, he would make my aunt or my mother a character in his books.
But family is the people you love even when you’re mad.
In the summer of 1986, Tim and I took the Long Island Railroad to the ferry out to Fire Island, and there, sitting on the dunes, he told me that he was infected with HIV. At the time it was a death sentence, but Tim was determined to fight. We put up an ironing board on Christopher Street and raised money. We joined the first group of ACTUP in New York. Tim and Keith Haring and I painted bloody handprints on the sidewalk to protest the Mayor’s indifference. We got on a bus, put on clown masks and protested that the President.
No, we weren’t the cure. But little people like us, protesting in our little corners, coaxed money for research and cocktail therapies and protease inhibitors. But not in time for Tim.
As Tim got sicker we all moved to San Francisco, because Brian and I wanted to live here, and Tim wanted to die her. He became a Wiccan priestess, and started his own coven.
Tim’s last night in Davies hospital, I sat in a vinyl chair reading Isabel Allende’s Zorro to him. By this time, he was almost blind, and his sister had mailed him Nells, anisette cookies, and the two of us sat there chewing on the wafers, a last communion of sorts. Brian arrived, and he asked one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to watch then-baby Zane. He asked the nurse to disconnect Tim from all his tubes for just five minutes, “to get a breath of fresh air.” I wheeled him to the outdoor deck, and Brian pulled out a pack of Marlboros. Tim shrugged, “What the heck? At last a guilt-free cigarette.” Took three tries to light it in the wind. Tim and Brian inhaled, their own communion of frankincense and nicotine, as the fog swirled down from Buena Vista Park. I asked. “What do you think happens next?”
Tim replied, “Not sure what I’m gonna be doing. I guess that depends on your religion.” He grabbed my hand. “But, Kevin, remember what the Wiccans say on Halloween: ‘They are dead, so I must live!’”
We remember Freddie Mercury, Rock Hudson, Isaac Asimov, Robert Reed, Anthony Perkins, Alvin Ailey. And Tim.
There are an estimated 1.1 million people living with AIDS in the United States. There are more than 36 million people living with AIDS in the worlds, and, sadly, an estimated million persons die from AIDS each year.
What can I do? What can you do? Our friend, Rich Bennett, rides 545 miles on the AIDS/Lifecycle Tour to raise money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, first established in 1982 and dedicated to the mission of making San Francisco the first city to reach zero new infections.
So do one kind thing today. Go to www.tofighthiv.org/goto/RichardBennett. Donate a dollar or two. Make your corner of your own outer, outer, outer Excelsior just a little bit better