4th September After Mix

He was still a teenager when we met, new to the life and new to the City. He was obsessed with Nazis, epilepsy, and accident victims--all the things he wasn't--an All-American boy from Twig, Minnesota.

He thought I was beautiful because I acted spontaneously. Poor thing didn’t realize that it was my only talent—a cultivated ruse that required hours of preparation. It took most of my energy to be able to bat my eyelashes like I didn’t give a damn.

What was left, I gave to him…of course it wasn’t enough.

I didn’t blame him. How could I? I’d been exactly the same, once—straining at the bit, eager to try everything and everyone.

(For every season, turn, turn, turn…)

I saw him again when I got back from Europe. He was positive and on the streets. He lifted his shirt to show me the scar from where they removed part of his liver. He had a novel’s worth of medical reports printed on green paper and shoved into the bottom of his bag.

“You have to read these,” I said, smoothing the sheets out on the table. “You have to stop partying and you have to call your parents.”

He recoiled at these suggestions. Drinking kept him sane and calling his folks was a no-go. They’d kicked him out because he was gay—finding out he was positive would confirm all their fucked-up notions about the disgusting, disease ridden life that he led.

“Please don’t make me, please!” he begged, but I did just that. I told him he couldn’t stay with me unless he called. I let him float for a few days, but then (after I’d put back a few myself) I became insistent. I threw the rest of his Scotch in his lap and dialed the numbers I found in his little black book.

“What difference does any of it make?” he said, “What does any of it matter in the end?”

I’ll never forget his face when I pressed the phone against his ear--the way the perfect arches of his eyebrows slumped to the sides and the tendons in his neck stood out like guitar strings.

“Mommy?” he said, timidly.

She hung up on him when he told her. He tried to call back but no one answered. A few days later he went to the pharmacy and was told that he was no longer insured.

I saw him once more—slumped against a bus stop on 7th Ave. His lips were white and his hair was twisted into funny little braids.

“Please,” I begged, as though this was all a game that he could stop playing at any time. “It’s late and cold out.”

He’d like to but he couldn’t, he said, polite as always. He was due to meet up with a good friend.

“I’m going to stay at the Chelsea!” he squealed, high out of his mind and filled with a childish delight that broke my heart.

They pulled him out of the river two days later. Apparently he had left a note rolled into a Starbucks thermos, but the police gave this to his parents, who sued me for harassment when I showed up at his funeral and demanded to see it. The judge dropped the case, but unfortunately, he couldn’t make them tell me what it said.

RIP, Baby B


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