We spoke after getting our numbers for showers. I was number 87 and you was 86. Later that night I got out of the truck and smoked and you asked me something and then you got out and we talked for a bit. You are one nice guy and very sexy. I wish I would have been brave and asked you. If you read this what did you ask before getting out of your town? Would like to talk more and see if anything could happen.
Oscar Wilde reminds us ‘Youth is wasted on the young’. But… that was before the selfie, and the advent of the age of terminal narcissism. Thousands of American children arrest their own development by killing themselves with guns and drugs. They remain forever young on social media, perfectly pimped and pouting, biceps glistening, shirts lifted to reveal hairless abs… before the lethal opioid injection. I didn’t bother killing myself when I was young because I genuinely thought somebody else would do it for me. A bullet speeding through my brains.
Did you share a moment with yourself when you were young? A moment when you caught a glimpse, accidentally saw yourself in the mirror, a beautiful stranger looking back at you? Momentarily recognising your own youth and beauty? Has that happened to you?
I am 22, I’d been swimming in the Balham community swimming pool. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My black, wet hair stuck to my forehead, beads of water on my face, a slight blush on my cheeks. I knew I’d never be as young or as beautiful ever again. I never forgot his face, that… hopeful young man. I think I fell in love. I hanker for him… a chance encounter… a missed connection with the man I would always love above all others.
Recently I felt angry about the past. Something I couldn’t change… but it changed me. I felt angry our generation of gay men had not been allowed to flourish in the same way this generation has. I felt angry because I didn’t take relationships between men seriously, after all… what could a relationship with another man possibly lead to? Then AIDS came. Those haunted faces. Was I just meant to ignore the possibility of a gruesome death? The loathing I have for most entitled, white gay man had its genesis there… if I cannot love you I must hate you. Born out of shit covered sheets and young men begging not to die.
You were in the men’s dressing room at Balham Community Swimming Pool. Tuesday, round 2pm. July, 1982. Do you remember? You caught a glimpse of me in the mirror and smiled. You have a beautiful smile. We exchanged the briefest moment. I knew instantly you are the man for me. When I turned around… you vanished. I am from out-of-town. I have never returned to the pool but I often look in the mirror, wondering if you will be there. I wish I had been brave and asked you. Will you marry me?
All through my early 20’s I was convinced I had AIDS, I refused to believe the doctors when they told me I was not infected. I thought there was a conspiracy, doctors and nurses unwilling to tell me the truth. I had HIV test after test even though I was not having sex with anyone. I was so convinced I was dying of AIDS I ended up in hospital for my crazy obsession with death. One day a therapist asked me about my mother and the trauma of being handed over for adoption. “It’s life or death.” She said. Taken from your mother. Will you live or will you die? Fighting for life. Nothing else matters… but living. I wanted to live so badly. Yet the fear of death gripped me, driving me, defining the man I would become.
I must be safe, I must have a roof over my head, I must eat. Nothing else matters.
There’s an english baby called Charlie Gard, he’s on a life support machine. There are many people who don’t accept his doctor’s grim prognosis, they want him to have experimental treatment in the USA. The experts say it’s no use. The Charlie Gard Army they call themselves, emboldened by shoddy science and encouraged by Donald Trump they are fighting for his life in the courts. These people are much like Americans who hang around abortion clinics intimidating women having abortions. They are frail like a baby, they are powerlessness like an unborn child, they are mortally injured by contemporary life, they are fighting the establishment the only way they know how. They are oblivious, in denial that Charlie Gard is already dead… much like themselves.