Losing My Best Friend to AIDS

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    Jan 08, 2013 1:04 AM GMT
    The thread "A word about aids jokes from CASH" upset me, and prompted me to write about something that's been on my mind for quite a while. It's so long I have to break it up into two posts, but I wrote this as a form of release strictly for myself, but I thought I would post it in case anyone would like to read it....

    Ken and I had been friends for many years. When we were younger, people called us the "Terror Twins". We weren't really bad, but we were always planning for the next party and trying to shock people (yes, we were very immature). No drugs or anything, just being wild. Our favorite past time was crashing the lamest hotel lounges by bribing the DJ to play the most offensive music we could think of. We came with CD's of music that would make these stuffy old business men piss their pants. When Planet Claire by The B-52's came on, we would completely bounce off the walls. I frequently had a green mohawk and safety pins freshly shoved through my lip (it was the 80's and no one had ever seen this in small town Alabama). The moment our music came on, we would rush the dance floor slamming into each other so hard everyone left the floor. Our mutual friend accompanied us often and she too would wear anything we told her to. One time we wrapped her in clear trash bags and she wore it out. People were scared of us because we looked and acted so bizarre. She was very violent on the dance floor too. When we got bored with the hotel lounges, we moved on to redneck bars. Looking back, I'm embarrassed by some of the things we did, but no one got hurt, LOL.

    Ken and I were so much alike and so close, we referred to each other as our "brother". But the mohawks and safety pins eventually faded away as our hair began to thin and our little brains finally gave in to maturity. We were very different in some ways too though. When the AIDS epidemic began, I wasn't too worried about myself because I couldn't relate to casual sex at the time anyway, so my sexual encounters were only with guys I was seriously dating. Ken on the other hand had a voracious sexual addiction. At the end of the night, I always knew I would be going home alone, because he refused to sleep alone and we were strictly platonic. He was into thugs….that was just his thing. He had been robbed by these guys on several occasions but told me how much he loved getting fucked by them. I urged him to be safe, but he refused to use condoms (ever). As you can imagine, his luck eventually ran out.

    I felt like we both needed to get away, but we were broke at the time. I found a great deal on a trip to Cancun and asked him if I charged it to my credit card, could he pay me back. He said it would be no problem but it would take a couple of months. So off we go to Mexico and were there for 10 days. We had a blast. Of course he ended each night with a hookup, but that was no surprise.

    Two years went by and he had still not paid me any of the money back. I was in a tight spot and desperately needed money. I begged him to pay me something but he said he didn't have it. I mentioned this to our mutual friend and she told me he just purchased a new video game console and new games. This infuriated me, so we had it out and stopped speaking for four years.

    Four years later: This same mutual friend calls me up and tells me that Ken is in the hospital dying. My heart sinks to my stomach. She said he was hanging on so he could see me. I called him at his hospital room to see when I could come visit. An old lady answered the phone. I asked to speak to Ken and the voice said "this is Ken". His voice was so weak and frail it was completely unrecognizable. I started shaking uncontrollably. He said he needed to see me and that he was sorry for being a bad friend. I told him I could come that weekend but he said he didn't think he could hang on that long. I drove the 3 hours to see him that night.

    I walked into the room he told me he was in, but realized I had entered the wrong room when I saw someone else lying in the bed. I quickly backed out of the room, only to feel a hand on my shoulder. It was his sister. She whispered in my ear "that's Ken". She gently pushed me back into the room. My best friend had been changed into a living corpse. Just a skeleton with skin, expect for his left arm which was swollen with edema to about three times it's normal size. I swallowed the shock inside me and forced the actor in me to take over. I smiled my biggest smile and ran over to hug him. The room was filled with family members I had never seen before. We all sat there awkwardly trying to make conversation, each of us desperately pretending he was going to be fine. His sister was trying to convince him to let the nurse turn his lights off at night. Apparently he was afraid to sleep with the lights out as he was scared of dying in his sleep. Suddenly Ken says "hey, you wanna see something cool?" He takes his right hand and squeezes his swollen left forearm. When he released it, it retained the shape of his fingers. Everyone collectively said "Ken!" He smiled his sick smile, knowing he had shocked us all with his morbid sense of humor.

    The nurse came in and broke the silence. She handed him a small paper cup that contained his pills. He instructed her to just put them on the table but she said, "you know better. I have to watch you swallow them." He cursed at her, put the pills in his mouth and weakly managed to throw the empty cup at her. As soon as she left, he asked me if I would get his shaving kit out of the closet. I handed him the shaving kit and watched him as he discreetly took the pain medication out of his mouth and into a medicine bottle from his shaving kit. The bottle was about half full. I said "Ken, what are you…." He gave me an evil look and in a hushed tone said "mind your own fucking business". I figured he just wasn't in enough pain to take the pill, so I dropped it. He then removed a pin from the shaving kit and told me he wanted me to have it. It said "Fuck the red ribbon, find a cure".

    After about ten minutes, they all nodded at each other and left us alone. He told me that he had plans to start an organization to help other people with AIDS and about his plans to raise money. He was talking about the future like he wasn't going to die. He was so scared. I could see it in his eyes. I gently told him I thought he shouldn't fight it and he agreed. He said "I guess I just needed someone to tell me that". He asked me if it would be okay if he haunted me. I told him I would love for him to haunt me. We agreed that if I played a particular song, he would know to enter my spirit. I suggested one of our favorite songs: Depeche Mode's "I'm Taking A Ride with My Best Friend. He suggested The B52's, Planet Claire, another favorite of ours. In the end, we agreed that both of those songs would be his cue to visit me. I explained I had to be at work in the morning, but I would return after work. He just looked at me and squeezed my hand. Ken had never showed physical affection to me ever, so taking my hand was a first. We had known something many gay men never experience....a truly platonic friendship.

    At 5AM the following morning, his sister called me and told me they found him dead just four hours after I left his room. She said after I left his room, he told the nurse she could turn the lights off. She said "he was waiting to see you". I cried harder than I had ever cried before, even now as I'm writing this.

    (Continued on next post)......
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    Jan 08, 2013 1:06 AM GMT
    ............

    My friends and I frequently go to a local bar here that has an 80's night every Thursday night. Remembering my agreement with Ken, I reluctantly went…afraid they would play one of the songs we had talked about. Halfway through the night and a few beers in my system, I hear the unmistakable beginning of Planet Claire. I was already on the dance floor so I just closed my eyes and tried to keep dancing, pretending Ken was in his rightful place in front of me. I suddenly got very dizzy…so much so, I just stood there motionless in the middle of the dance floor. It may have been my imagination, but I felt like I was channeling Ken. It was like someone had slipped a drug in my drink. I was able to start dancing again, but was hit with an overwhelming sense of sadness. So while everyone is dancing to this crazy upbeat song, I walk over to a barstool and sob uncontrollably in public (which is very unlike me). Later in the night, "I'm taking a Ride with My Best Friend" came on. This time I was able to slow dance by myself while trying my hardest to receive Ken's energy. I can't really say if he was there or not….all I know is I was incredibly sad, yet happy for the memories in the same moment.

    Fast forward one year later: I called his mom and she told me she was about to get rid of some of Ken's personal belongings. She asked if I'd like to go through them and see if there was anything I'd like to keep. When I got there, I dug through a box and ran across the shaving kit from the hospital. I asked her if I could have it. She seemed dumbfounded that out of all his possessions, I wanted a cheap vinyl shaving kit. I can't even say why I wanted it, but I did. After getting back home, I opened the kit and saw what you might expect….a razor, shaving cream, toothbrush…and that bottle of pain pills he had been saving. Except when I picked it up, it was empty. It was then that I realized why he died just a few hours after I left. I never told his mom about the empty pill bottle because I knew it would only upset her more.

    So when I hear someone make fun of people with AIDS, it's like they're insulting my friend directly....and that really hurts.
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    Jan 08, 2013 1:08 AM GMT
    Lets hug it out icon_sad.gif
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    Jan 08, 2013 1:33 AM GMT
    I didn't expect him to make joke. Thanks
  • HottJoe

    Posts: 21366

    Jan 08, 2013 1:35 AM GMT
    I can't stop crying from this. It's so heartbreakingicon_cry.gificon_cry.gif

    Thank you for posting. He definitely lives on in you.
    icon_cry.gif
    icon_cry.gif
  • mv03

    Posts: 201

    Jan 08, 2013 1:35 AM GMT
    An incredible post of rememberance. Thank you for sharing.
  • barriehomeboy

    Posts: 2475

    Jan 08, 2013 1:38 AM GMT
    That was too many words to read. Sorry about your friend though. AIDS is no longer a fatal disease, if HIV even develops into full blown AIDS. Don't drop your rubber bois, but I was there when it was a plague and I remember the pain of lost friends.

  • Jan 08, 2013 1:38 AM GMT
    I think it's very unfortunate that you lost your friend to AIDS. What a horrible disease. I have never lost any loved ones to AIDS, I have several in my life living with HIV.. I think if you were to ask them how they feel about people cracking jokes or being ignorant about it. They would tell you to move on with your life and that you're not going to change society's behavior. Just make sure that you're doing the right things day by day and that's how you'll make your difference in this crazy world! Sorry to hear about your friend! I'm sure they miss you as much as you miss them!


    Hug!icon_smile.gif
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    Jan 08, 2013 1:39 AM GMT
    Thank you for sharing.
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    Jan 08, 2013 1:41 AM GMT
    I'm so sorry for your loss. A beautiful and heartbreaking story. *Hugs
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    Jan 08, 2013 1:44 AM GMT
    I hear you. *Sending out positive empathy and compassion*.

    It is hard to comprehend how it must feel to watch a loved one die of AIDS. I've had an aunt die of cancer when I was 10, and that was pretty horrible, but thankfully I was shielded from seeing her in her worst moments of physical/emotional deterioration.

    I remember once when I was about 13 years old, and had to have a blood test at my local hospital (to see why I kept on getting repetitive severe migraines), and whilst in the waiting room for the blood tests I sat across from a guy who may have been in his late 30's-50's, perhaps, but it was hard to tell, as he was so thin, and his face was quite sunken in. He looked ill. Something immediately in my head said 'AIDS'. I couldn't help but just keep looking at him. Despite his deeply emaciated features, his face still looked noticeably kind.

    This was first time I had knowingly seen somebody actually suffering from this, hitherto, abstract and far removed word 'AIDS'. It was humbling, and very sad. My mother who sat next to me said ''it's really sad how people now seem to have forgotten all about people with AIDS''.

    Philadelphia the movie was probably my only reference point about the disease up until that point. This man however was real, and the sadness/tragic feeling to the scenario was palpable.

    I don't know if there is a definite moral or piercing point to this anecdote, but, nevertheless, that moment has stuck with me.

    I think the more a person has been closely affected by a/any disease, and the more mature they are at a given point, the more aware they are that jokes like the ones you're are referring to are hurtful and not funny.

    So, personalising AIDS, or any other disease/sensitive topic, with personal stories like the one you've told can only be a help to promote empathy from those us with less direct experience with it.

    I can respect that.

    Here's to Ken:

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    Jan 08, 2013 1:49 AM GMT
    I am so sorry for your loss Scruffy!!!!!
    Stay strong your friend is watching over you right now!
  • CityofDreams

    Posts: 1173

    Jan 08, 2013 1:49 AM GMT
    I don't even know what to write, I am speechless. I am sorry for your loss, and may your friend live within you forever.

    HIV is not a disease to poke fun at, shame on all you ignorant bastards who take the loss of so many in our community so lightly.
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    Jan 08, 2013 1:53 AM GMT
    I am speechless ....eyes full of tears....and thinking how lucky people are to have you in their lives. Thanks for sharing. Bill
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    Jan 08, 2013 1:53 AM GMT
    I'm so glad you shared this story. It's amazing to hear what people have experienced. I don't like HIV jokes either.
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    Jan 08, 2013 1:53 AM GMT
    I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this. I know it must have been painful. icon_sad.gif
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    Jan 08, 2013 2:01 AM GMT
    turtleneckjock saidNot only am I torn internally from reading your story, Scruff, I am even more angered at Cash for making fun of a disease that has hit home for a lot of us and claimed many of those we truly love.

    I have never cared for Cash's attitude and he was blocked ages ago. After reading your story, I believe that those of us offended by Cash even posting such a forum, should also block him---and voice a complaint to Administration.

    If Cash were to read this, maybe he will find it in his cold and callous heart to post a retraction, provide you with a heartfelt apology, and do something about his outlook on life and how he treats others.


    WTF???

    Are you SERIOUS you blithering idiot???

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    Jan 08, 2013 2:02 AM GMT
    Thanks for sharing man. Very sorry for you loss. Nothing to joke about!
  • RaggedyMan

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    Jan 08, 2013 2:03 AM GMT
    wow, your friend sounded amazing. sorry for what happened between the two of you. sorry for your loss, scruffy. thanks for sharing
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    Jan 08, 2013 2:04 AM GMT
    Its hard to put my feelings into words after reading this.

    Even though I didn't grow up in that era, I have heard stories and those stories frighten me.

    Then we have stories like this while there are people (mostly around my age) who don't even think about using a condom because even if they become HIV+ they have this notion that they will be fine because of new medicine.
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    Jan 08, 2013 2:08 AM GMT
    Before this thread gets sidetracked, here is a link to the Cash's thread to which Scruffypup is referring. It is a thread coming out against AIDS jokes, not a thread in which AIDS jokes were told. I hope that clears things up.

    http://www.realjock.com/gayforums/2917103
  • thatirishbast...

    Posts: 3523

    Jan 08, 2013 2:11 AM GMT
    turtleneckjock saidNot only am I torn internally from reading your story, Scruff, I am even more angered at Cash for making fun of a disease that has hit home for a lot of us and claimed many of those we truly love.

    I have never cared for Cash's attitude and he was blocked ages ago. After reading your story, I believe that those of us offended by Cash even posting such a forum, should also block him---and voice a complaint to Administration.

    If Cash were to read this, maybe he will find it in his cold and callous heart to post a retraction, provide you with a heartfelt apology, and do something about his outlook on life and how he treats others.


    This is not a place for you to seize the opportunity to air out your dirty laundry and attack someone you don't care for while the attention is on you. This is a chance to put a face and a broken heart to something that so often becomes a statistic.

    I've never seen Cash act as anything more than a very good and caring man, but that is not the point. This is not about you. This was lower than tasteless. Make sure it doesn't happen again.

    A beautiful story, Scruffy.
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    Jan 08, 2013 2:12 AM GMT
    Wow Scruffy you really have me in tears right now reading your story. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a best friend. I'm so sorry for your loss and offer a big hug to you!
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    Jan 08, 2013 2:12 AM GMT
    I'm grateful I don't live my life like that today. Thank you.
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    Jan 08, 2013 2:13 AM GMT
    Scruffypup said
    ...After getting back home, I opened the kit and saw what you might expect….a razor, shaving cream, toothbrush…and that bottle of pain pills he had been saving. Except when I picked it up, it was empty. It was then that I realized why he died just a few hours after I left. I never told his mom about the empty pill bottle because I knew it would only upset her more.

    A very touching story, thanks. As for the pill bottle:

    Your suspicion may be correct. But also consider this possibility - the hospital removed the pills after his death. It's standard practice for the hospital to inventory the possessions of the deceased, and remove any kind of medication before releasing the items to the next of kin, as a matter of safety and in compliance with laws governing pharmaceuticals. It happened when my late partner died of AIDS in a nursing home. No medications may be handed over to the family, and the hospital staff will go through the possessions looking for any.

    Being in the condition he was, the hospital having called his family in, it's likely he died of his illness alone. So it's good that you haven't mentioned the pill bottle to his mother, because it may have signified nothing.