So. How's junk?
Lots happened since we saw you last, looking (forgive us) less than your best in that sterile chamber; silent, save the regular beeps and whirrings of all that infernal machinery.
Where to start? Chronologically: an election was stolen, the twin towers (and a nation's optimism) reduced to dust, a war or two. We've fallen in (and out of) love. Worked several jobs. The writing briefly took off, then stalled. In short, life has been occurring. Time has its pedal to the metal these days; milestones fly by in a dizzying blur.
Some developments you'd find interesting: marriage equality and the supreme court stare each other down at the OK corral. Soon our soldiers will be allowed to be gay, honest and employed – all at the same time. A recent rash of homo teen suicides has God's favorite country shaking its head and tossing the word "tragic" around like frisbees at a picnic (we suppose we should be grateful that suddenly it's "tragic"). There's even a YouTube phenomenon called "It Gets Better," where hundreds of well-meaning folks, famous and not, have posted video platitudes for gay youth about how everything gets better.
It's a lovely lie. You knew that better than anyone, having made one clumsy attempt in your youth. Suicide happens when "tomorrow" is too long and terrible a road between "today" and "it gets better." What's more, it doesn't "get better." But we do develop spines. We grow into our armor. Those slings and arrows become easier to deflect.
The two of us are of a certain era, aren't (weren't) we? We're the ones who came of age while watching the ones we adored morph by the dozen from "happy, youthful and vibrant" to "blind, emaciated and incontinent," sometimes in the space of a month.
Our coping mechanism was withdrawal. Numbness over fury. We seldom cried. But now in our 46th year, the ice has thawed a tad. The novocaine's worn off. Some of us are lonelier that we'd prefer to admit. There are so many of you we miss. Maybe we drink more than we ought.
Middle age crises strike every man, of course. Suddenly we feel a tender brotherhood with the poor sap we used to ridicule; the one driving his Corvette down the avenue, hair plugs to the wind, Huey Lewis blaring on the stereo. A lesson you'll mercifully never learn: it's terrifying for a dude, waking up to discover he's past his prime. But enough about us.
What an infuriating, original, beautiful and flat-out cra-zay-zay creature you were. The consummate host who could (and frequently did) clear a room with a venomous remark. You were the big brother we never had, and we fought accordingly. Often. But lord, how you were loved. By everyone.
Your final night on terra firma, we got what we knew would be our last look at you. The faint furrow in your unconscious brow, your body heaving slightly as you refereed the hushed battle between AIDS and your respirator, those impossibly blue eyes clinched shut. Somehow we wound up on the floor, our cheek against the lime green tile of Beth Israel's terminal ward, our nose filled with Pine-Sol clean. We never cried harder or longer, before or since.
Through the alchemy of time, we turn around and a decade separates us from the tiled floor of Beth Israel. We can still smell the Pine-Sol, though.
Remembrance has its irony. We're the big brother now, to the memory of that sweet man on cusp of 40, hooked up to a breathing machine. Funny, isn't it? Life's unexpected reversals.
It's a beautiful autumn Sunday. The air's crisp, the sun brighter than it has a right to be, the sky so blue it borders on cruelty. So...
So we raise a glass (ginger-ale, tonight) to your miserable, glorious, bi-polar, gorgeous ass.
Happy birthday, B.
You would have been fifty today.