Thursday, March 25, 2010

AIDS Before Beauty

Glen and I began having regular sex in junior high school, although we were not queer. We just liked the feel of a dick in our mouths. I, perhaps, was more on board with this than he, since I liked the idea of penis flavor and quickly learned to dislocate my jaw like a python, whereas Glen had to have my erection coated in Avon strawberry lip gloss in order to keep from gagging. It's not that I was big; I just didn't bathe that often. But the strawberry smell brings back memories. To this day I cannot order shortcake at Bob Evans without getting half a boner.

We attended the same, private, Christian school, which perhaps would explain our insane, at-the-time, denial. You were not allowed to be homosexual. There was nothing in the rule book saying you couldn't have a dick shoved halfway down your throat, you just weren't allowed to be gay. Since we didn't speak with a lisp and run an antique store, clearly, we were not.

After graduating we kind of got what was really going on, which was problematic for Glen because he had a fiancee named Penny who collected glass unicorns. If giving me head didn't switch him, I imagine this would have, all on its own. But he also had a boyfriend named Billy, at the same time, he would sneak into his bedroom window every night while still living with his parents. Glen was either insane or daring; I'm not sure which.

I felt sorry for Penny and begged Glen to just cut her loose, but he wouldn't. No doubt she began to suspect, as she would call me in the middle of the night and ask me, her whiny, West Virginia accent pleading over the phone lines, "Tell me! Is Glen Allen gay?" My loyalty was with my friend so I'd pretend to be half asleep, as if that were not the one question that would instantly jolt me awake, and mumble "What? Huh? Are you insane?" She was, pretty much, but she'd nailed the gay thing nonetheless.

Some time later I met Tor. He was exactly what I wanted in anyone, except for one thing: He wasn't into me in the slightest. He tried, but no. I just didn't do it for him. When I look in the mirror I understand completely.
Glen knew how badly I had it for Tor so hid the fact that he and Tor were hitting it off famously. "I've been hanging out with Tor lately," Glen said, as though their shared interest in horror movies was where it ended. "He's nice."

"He's so much more than nice," I said.

"Really?" Glen asked, as though this were news.

I found out they were lovers, the late-eighties way of saying boyfriends, when they moved in together. Glen had created a sculpture, an H. R. Geiger rip-off I loved despite the fact it was total plaigarism, he promised I could have. But he told me Tor wanted it so therefore I couldn't have it. It was then I began to suspect that the person I'd always considered my best friend was now fucking what he knew to be the one person I wanted most.

Glen, the slut, was now in love. With Tor.

What the hell. I could kick them both to the curb and what would I be left with? No best friend and no one true love of my life. I also understood the one true love of my life was simply that because he was clearly best friend material wrapped in a hot, long-haired body. Tor understood me, perhaps even better than Glen ever did. What's not to love about someone who gets you? While it is well within the scope of my personality to be the world's most jealous prick, there was something about the Glen and Tor combination that made perfect sense. Tor wasn't into me, so his being into my best friend was a close second. I was somehow able to let it go. (This would not happen later, when he fucked my ex and then married a woman I'd introduced him to; a clear theme developing along the lines of anyone in my sphere of influence is somehow profoundly attractive to him except for motherfucking me.) The idea of Glen and Tor, though, became a good thing.

It would have stayed a good thing, a happy thing, were it not for the fact that in between Billy the boyfriend and Tor the true love, Glen went boy crazy and racked up numbers instead of emotion. He also racked up a little virus called HIV.

Although I loved him, Glen was a lying bastard and did not tell me about this when he knew. He grabbed my hand and pressed it against the back of his skull. "Feel that?" he asked, sobbing, "It's a lump. Brain cancer." This was his way of telling me he was HIV postive in the same way we used to suck each other's crank and not be gay. I was too stupid to get the message.

"Well, at least you don't have AIDS," I said. I might as well have been telling coon jokes on Martin Luther King Day.

I was spending the weekend with Glen and Tor when I found out what was really going on. Glen's temperature shot into the stratospheres and he was rushed to the hospital. "We found out," Tor said, "that Glen is HIV positive."

I did not cry. Apparently one thing I can do, despite all my other dysfunction, is pretend to be normal in a crisis situation. I went to the hospital and strolled the corridors, a pensive look on my face, as if that were enough to change everything. It must have been, as a month later Glen was just fine.

"You really scared me," I said.
"You scare me just by virtue of you being you," he said in the West Virginia accent I'd managed to shake but he couldn't get past.

So everything was ok. Until the next time. Once more Glen was in the hospital.

A month later we were at a Laurie Anderson concert. This is the way it went: he'd get sick, then get better, then get sick again. Sick of course meant that he was in the hospital and just might die.

He was there again, so bad his parents were in the hospital room. This terrified me, as I couldn't help but feel if I weren't the first guy to ask if I could jack him off he might not be in this ugly situation. Being held captive in a trailer surrounded by glass unicorns would certainly be its own private hell, but come on. Mortification is worlds better than a homo handjob pointing the way toward death. I was sure that his parents somehow sensed this and blamed me.
Glen's pain was so intense the hospital had fed him with Demerol. It caused him to hallucinate. He held out an invisible, ceramic bowl to his father. "Here, I made you some soup."

Glen's father was in the med corps in the Korean War. "That's Demerol," he said. His mother continued to glare at me as though I had purposefully injected her son with a deadly virus.

They understood that Tor took care of Glen in between the times it was necessary, when there was no other option, for him to become hospitalized. While never, ever, mentioning it aloud, they knew that Tor had cleaned up when Glen had shit the bed or vomited all over himself. They gave him a break. I did not fare so well. "Hello, Dan," Glen's mother said, her look and tone of voice effectively communicating "Spread any death around, lately?"

They left and Tor and I were in the room alone with Glen. "I'm cold," he said, so we moved to reposition the sheets. "I'd like to go to the bathroom, but I can't. There are moles in there."

We looked at one another and turned our heads to keep from laughing. Because when your boyfriend and a guy you've known since junior high is raving about rodents in the bathroom due to a fatal illness, you're not supposed to laugh. But oh god. It was so fucking funny. Moles, of all things.

"Moles," Glen explained, a month later when he was better. "Russian spies. I thought that they were in the bathroom, keeping watch and reporting back to the Kremlin." That Glen could remember his hallucinating state of mind when he was so close to death was amazing.

My phone rang, later. It was Glen, saying his last goodbyes without a trace of sarcasm. That he was not making jokes had me truly frightened. My friend Lola called next, saying she would drive from Columbus to Cincinnati and pick me up, then take me back there, so I could see Glen. It is odd the things you remember in a time like this. I started reading a new Rolling Stone that had an interview with the so-called comedian, Carrot Top. It described how, ew, in all his college appearances some girl will always try to seduce him. "I will not fuck you, Carrot Top," the article claimed the girl said. Yet she did. This was what I was reading when the phone rang again.

It was Glen's mom, who had always hated me. She was in tears, explaining how Glen had called her and was saying his last goodbyes. I told her how he had done the same thing with me. She kept crying and I had nothing to say to console her. What could I possibly offer? Your son was a man whore and brought it on himself?
Goddamn motherfucker. A month later he was fine. He and Tor and I were smoking dope and lauging about the whole thing. "You mean my mother actually called you?" he chortled. "What did you two say?"

"We talked about cross-stitch patterns, Jesus Christ and the fact that you were dying," I said. "Then I placed an order for Avon strawberry lip gloss."
Tor called me some weeks later. Glen was sick again, but I was done. I was tired of jumping up and rushing across the state just so he'd be back to normal in a week or two. So I didn't go. I spent the weekend curled inside a pot pipe.
Tor called again. "He's gone," he said, his voice breaking. "Glen died this morning."

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

It was horrible. Glen had been on a respirator, unable to breathe properly on his own. He signaled for pen and paper, scrawling TAKE TUBE OUT NOW. "No," said Tor, "if I do that you will die." Glen pointedly stabbed at the note with his finger, getting the point across. Tor didn't do it. I couldn't have either. I could do it for a cat with liver disease but not my best friend.

Some months prior, Tor heard a loud crash from Glen's bedroom and had ran upstairs. He found Glen, who had been trying to make it to the bathroom on his own but too weak to do so, sprawled across the floor with explosive diarrhea everywere. As Tor cradled him in his arms, wiping him clean, Glen said, "I thought we said we'd never let it come to this."

"I must have been lying. Because I love you."

P.S. Tor finally gave me the goddamn sculpture.

1 comment:

  1. I still have Glen's ashes in the same blue bottle. He's currently on the deck of the ship in the left side of this picture.!/photo.php?pid=34274&id=100000357550259&fbid=101410603214191

    This is an earlier habitat, but you can see him more clearly.!/photo.php?pid=27562&id=100000357550259&fbid=101148343240417