Chapter 22

There are two ways to be fooled.  One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.  Søren Kierkegaard
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true. Søren Kierkegaard

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Homo!: Chapter 22

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SUMMARY: What if you were homosexual but refused to admit it to anyone, especially yourself? The year is 1971 and fourteen year old Jimmy Barnes has discovered growing up in a small town can be boring in a way not even the solitary masturbation sessions he enjoys so much can relieve. When his best friend takes a job at the local newspaper, Jimmy finds himself on his own for the summer. What follows is a decade long saga with numerous twists and turns, a tale that’ll reveal the best and the worst of the nineteen-seventies and beyond.

WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Unless otherwise noted, all of the characters in the story are fictional; any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. While some of the places described or mentioned in the story are fictional as well, others may be real. However, some liberties may have been taken with the truth to enhance the story. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like For approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.

NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters or fictional places in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.

NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so.

HOMO!

Part IV – May 1982

Chapter 22

Returning to the office after my meeting with Tim Ward, I tried to focus on all the work staring me in the face. But my mind was elsewhere. Realizing I was accomplishing nothing, I stuffed a bunch of things into my briefcase and decided to go home. I had made my decision, but there was still a phone call I needed to make.

“I’m taking off early today, Annie,” I told our receptionist on my way out of the office. “If the boss wants to know where I am, tell him I’m not feeling well and I’ve gone home. He can reach me there if he needs to.”

“You must be feeling awful, Jeff,” she responded. “I’ve never seen you leave early in all the years I’ve worked here.”

“Not that it’s really early,” she added, smiling at me. “It’s 5:30 p.m., which is when most normal people go home. I guess you’re entitled to pretend your normal like everyone else.”

“Thanks,” I said.

By the time I got home I was angry. Loving Jimmy as much as I did, there was no way I was going to let him die just because no one else could be bothered. I picked up the phone immediately and put in a call to Ned, but all I got was his answering machine.

“Hi, this is Ned. I’m probably with a client right now, but leave your name and number after the beep and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks.”

“Hi, Ned, this is Jeff Landry. We spoke about Jimmy Barnes last evening and I promised to get back to you. I’m at home now and plan to be here the rest of the evening. When you have time, please give me a call. I realize you’re busy, but I’d like to speak to you tonight if possible. Thanks.”

I went upstairs to change into something more comfortable, but had barely stripped down when the phone rang. Hoping it was Ned, I picked it up.

“This is Jeff,” I said.

“Hi, Jeff, it’s Ned. Today’s been crazy and I’ve been avoiding the phone as much as possible all day. But it sounded like you needed to talk. What’s up?”

“I spoke with some people today and I’ve been thinking about things,” I replied. “I’m not sure I know much more than I did after talking to you last night, but I want to help Jimmy however I can. That includes letting him move back in here with me for starters.”

“I’m going to need a lot of advice about how to help him, Ned. I was wondering whether I could stop by to see you this evening to talk about that. The sooner we get started, the better I’ll feel.”

“Hmm,” he muttered. “My last counseling session is at 8:00 p.m. and I was looking forward to getting home a little sooner than usual. But if you want to drop by around 9:00 o’clock, I could see you then. Otherwise I could do it tomorrow evening around 7:00 p.m. What works best for you, Jeff?”

“How about tonight?” I said. “I hate to pile on to what seems like a heavy schedule. Like I said, however, the sooner the better.”

“That’s fine,” Ned responded. “I’m used to having to rearrange my schedule a lot so it’s not a problem. My only caveat is that sometimes the people I counsel have a crisis. If that happens, I might have to call back and reschedule; or you might have to wait.”

“I understand,” I said. “I’ll be here until about 8:40 p.m. if you need to cancel. After that I’ll be in my car driving over to your place. And, uh, thanks for seeing me on such short notice. I appreciate it.”

“No problem,” he said. “I’m grateful you got back to me so promptly. I’m pretty use to never hearing back from people once I’ve made my pitch. See you later tonight, Jeff.”

****

After finishing my conversation with Ned, I made dinner, turned on the television and started watching the local news. Soon enough my mind drifted off. Finishing dinner, I pulled some work from my briefcase. The events of the last two days had put me behind schedule and I did my best to catch up.

The next time I looked up it was about 8:15 p.m. Surprised at how much I had accomplished in the interim, I walked upstairs and looked in the mirror.

You look fine, Jeff, I said to myself. There’s no need to change into something more formal. Ned was dressed pretty casually yesterday.

Reaching over, I grabbed a picture from the chest of drawers and sat down on the bed. It was one of my favorite pictures of Jimmy and me. It had been taken long ago when both of us were younger. Just looking at it caused me to smile.

Jimmy was only 18 then, still just a boy. But I could also see something of the boy in myself as well. I may have been older than him chronologically, but emotionally we were much closer in age at the time the picture was taken.

I recall wondering what Jimmy would look like the next time I saw him.

You need to prepare yourself for that, Jeff. You can’t expect Jimmy to look like he did in this picture. He’s older now and has a very serious disease.

I remember sighing.

I love you so much, Jimmy, I said to the face staring back at me in the picture. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me.

And then I found myself crying uncontrollably again. I was sobbing; and yet I wasn’t sure what I was crying about or who I was crying for.

I remember wondering what Jimmy had been through all these years and hoping there had been more good times than bad for him. I had always wanted whatever was best for Jimmy. And yet somewhere along the line things had taken a bad turn for him and he had contracted a disease no one knew anything about.

But we can beat it, Jimmy, I tried reassuring the face staring back at me. I’m going to do whatever it takes to help you beat it; and once we’ve put it behind us we’ll get back together if that’s what you want. If not, I’m open to just being friends.

Looking up, it was 8:45 p.m. I should have already left by now, but I could still make it on time if I pushed things.

****

I managed to get to the Clinic just around 9:00 p.m. and quickly made my way up the stairs to Ned’s office. He was waiting for me.

“Sorry,” I said. “I got absorbed in my thoughts and left later than I should have.”

“No problem,” he replied.

“So like I told you, I want to help however I can,” I said. “I spent a lot of today learning more about this disease. I tried to find out what the Federal government is doing to address it. Not very much I gather.”

“Correct,” Ned said.

“Like I said, I’m willing to help, but I’m probably going to need as much help from you at the beginning as I can give Jimmy,” I added.

“Understood,” Ned responded. “And I guess the first thing I should mention is that it won’t be like it was before, Jeff, assuming Jimmy is willing to accept your help at all. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve gone out on a limb by tracking you down, calling you, and telling you as much as I have about Jimmy’s condition.”

“When he finds out what I’ve done, he won’t be happy with me,” he continued. “I can’t blame him. I gave him assurances of confidentiality at the beginning and now I’ve broken my word. I won’t be the first person to have done that to Jimmy over the years from what he’s told me, but his level of trust is already pretty low.”

“So don’t be surprised if he says no, at least at first; that he doesn’t need any help, especially your help. He’s feeling pretty guilty about leaving you and that may be a problem. But that’s an issue for another day. For now what’s important is you need to understand things aren’t going to be the same as they were when you and Jimmy were together before.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Uh, well, based on everything he’s told me, your relationship with Jimmy back in 1975 was, uh, heavily driven by sex; at least that’s the impression I have. Would you agree?”

I recall shifting uncomfortably in the chair I was sitting in.

“I guess that’s fair,” I conceded, grudgingly.

“So the first point I’d emphasize is that you and Jimmy can’t have sex because you’ll be putting yourself at risk if you do. You won’t be much help to Jimmy if you contract the disease.”

“I think Jimmy understands that better than most people. When the doctors told him to stop having sex, he wasn’t like many others. A lot of guys just blow off the doctors, but Jimmy stopped having sex immediately.”

“In fact he’s told me that even after he’s explained to some guys why he can’t have sex with them they say they don’t care and still want to get it on. He’s still that attractive.”

“Really?” I said, surprised. “I thought he might look, uh, more run down; you know, older, more haggard.”

“That’s one of the mysteries about this disease,” Ned replied. “Some people progress rapidly, others more slowly. Some you can look at and guess immediately while it’s harder to tell with others. In Jimmy’s case, the most noticeable signs of the disease are purplish spots on different parts of his body; and lately he’s been struggling to maintain his weight.”

“In any event, like I said, he looks good and gets propositioned a lot, both by those not aware of his condition and even by some who are.”

“At first I found that hard to believe; that someone would knowingly put themselves at risk. But later I began to realize many gay men are convinced they’re going to come down with the disease no matter what.”

“That’s probably true. A lot of them will because of the long incubation period before the disease manifests itself.”

“How long?” I asked, concerned. “Could Jimmy have had the disease back in 1975?”

“I doubt it,” Ned responded. “From what he’s told me, he probably became exposed about two years ago.”

“How?” I asked.

“Like most people who contract this disease, Jimmy was quite active sexually; more to the point, he was having sex with many men. We’re not talking a handful here, Jeff. We’re talking scores, perhaps even more, as he moved from one guy to another to survive. And what we’ve found is that the more sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to contract the disease.”

“People don’t understand, but the truth is you’re not just having sex with one person when you have sex. You’re also having sex with everyone that person has ever had sex with.”

“May I ask how sexually active you’ve been in recent years, Jeff?”

I remember shifting uncomfortably in my chair again.

“You’ll probably find this hard to believe, but Jimmy is the only person I’ve ever had sex with.”

“Really?” Ned said, surprised.

“Yeah,” I replied. “The truth is, as much as I lusted for Jimmy, I was genuinely in love with him as well; and I was never able to find anyone who could take his place. Like a lot of people in Washington, I threw myself into my job. It became a substitute for sex. I realize it’s embarrassing to say something like that.”

“Not at all,” Ned responded. “Actually I find it quite commendable; and if that’s the case, the chances of you contracting the disease are probably negligible although there are very few things we’re certain about with this disease.”

“Is there some test I could take to see whether I’m infected?” I asked, hoping what I had heard from Tim Ward earlier in the day was wrong.

“Not at the moment, Jeff,” he responded. “The medical people are talking about that. But for now there isn’t a test. The only assurance I can offer is that most of the people I counsel share one thing in common; they were quite sexually active. That doesn’t describe you.”

“To get back to the point, Jimmy is infected and the advice we give to people like you is to avoid any sexual contact with people who are infected. Do you think that’s something you can do?”

Knowing how much I had enjoyed having sex with Jimmy, I remember wondering whether I could.

“It’ll be hard,” I finally replied. “But I don’t want to die; at least not at a young age.”

“That’s good, Jeff,” Ned said, nodding his head.

“What else should I know?” I asked. “Can I sleep in the same bed with Jimmy; I mean, assuming he’s open to that? Can I kiss him or touch him? What are the rules?”

Ned sighed.

“Again, I wish I could tell you there are clear rules in all of this, but there aren’t. You could probably sleep in the same bed, but you may not want to. Like I told you, you’ll have to avoid any kind of intimacy and that’s hard for people like you and Jimmy who have strong feelings for one another. Sleeping in the same bed could be a temptation. It could also be frustrating.”

“As for kissing, the medical advice seems to be that chaste kisses are fine; a quick peck on the cheek but nothing more intimate. Just so you know, however, most people avoid kissing entirely or any physical contact for that matter.”

We went back and forth like this for perhaps thirty or forty minutes, with me pressing to find some way to express my feelings for Jimmy and Ned discouraging almost everything I suggested. When we had exhausted the topic, Ned posed the question.

“Based on everything we’ve talked about, Jeff, are you still certain you want to help? And don’t be afraid to be honest. The point I’ve been trying to make this evening is that there won’t be any reward for helping Jimmy; nothing except a lot of pain and suffering as you watch the person you love slowly deteriorate and then likely die in front of your eyes.”

“It’s not shameful to say I can’t do that,” Ned added. “I’ll understand. I’m not a judgmental person and I think that would be hard for anyone. I know it would be for me.”

“You’re right,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “I’ve been thinking all along that somehow I could help Jimmy beat this disease and we would live happily ever after once he did. I’m not going to throw in the towel and say I know Jimmy is going to die. I’m going to do everything to prove you and the rest of the medical people wrong. But I understand I could be the one who’s wrong.”

“Look, Ned, I loved Jimmy back then and I still love him. I want to help. I just don’t know how.”

“No one does, Jeff,” he responded. “It’s something you’ll have to figure out as you go along. Not every decision you make will be right. But knowing he’s loved is the best help Jimmy can get right now. I just have to persuade him to accept your help. I’m not looking forward to that.”

“Do you really think he’ll resist help from someone who loves him?” I asked.

“He’s been betrayed many times by people who’ve told him they love him, Jeff,” Ned replied. “I’m just the latest person to betray him.”

“But you haven’t betrayed him,” I protested. “You’re trying to help.”

“I am,” he said. “But he won’t see it that way, at least not initially. In any event, we’ve taken this as far as we can tonight. I’m seeing Jimmy tomorrow evening at 6:00 p.m. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll be in touch with you one way or another after that counseling session. For now, thanks for coming in; and thanks for being willing to help.”

****

As promised, I got a call from Ned the next evening, but it came much later than I expected.

“Sorry,” he said after the two of us exchanged greetings. “Our session went into overtime. I thought it might.”

“How did it go?” I inquired anxiously.

“It was bad,” Ned responded. “He was angry. He said I had betrayed his trust and didn’t have any right to do what I did. After that it went downhill. I mean, I’ve never seen Jimmy that angry before. He was screaming at times, saying he didn’t need my help or yours or anyone else’s; that he could take care of himself.”

“Early on he stormed out of our session and said he was never coming back. I was pretty concerned when he did that, but about twenty minutes later he did come back. For a while it seemed like he had simply used the time away to recharge his anger. It got nasty there for a while. But finally he began to calm down.”

“That’s when I asked him whether he’d be willing to see you.”

“Absolutely not he responded. He said he was too ashamed to see you again. But eventually I was able to persuade him to do so. He sees it as an opportunity to apologize for walking out on you the way he did, not as anything else. Perhaps that’s a good place for him to begin.”

“The whole thing left me pretty drained, Jeff,” he added. “Honestly, I don’t know how much longer I can do this job. I understand how the anger builds up inside people and realize it’s good to get it out. But it’s tough; very tough.”

For the first time I realized just how hard a job Ned had. Unlike my job, where I could direct my anger at Reagan and his cronies and try to advance proposals to counter their policies, there was no one Ned could direct his anger at.

He was dealing with an implacable disease and there was nothing he could do to stop it. I didn’t envy the guy.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sure he didn’t mean it, Ned; that it was just the unfairness of the situation that got to him.”

“I know,” he responded. “I’m constantly surprised how stoic my patients are most of the time; how they accept responsibility for what has happened and don’t complain. But the anger is always there buried away deep inside; occasionally it comes pouring out. Like I said, I’ve never seen Jimmy so angry.”

“The good news is that he did get it out and I think he left in a much healthier frame of mind; and he did agree to meet with you to apologize. But he could change his mind; and whether he’ll be willing to accept help from you is another matter. Still, meeting with you and knowing you don’t hate him will be a plus; assuming he shows up.”

“When can we get together?” I asked, anxious to see Jimmy.

“I took a chance and suggested the two of you meet at my office tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. I don’t know if that works for you, Jeff, but I wanted to try to set something up while Jimmy was in a receptive mood. And we’ll be meeting together first to go over things before he sees you. He’s definitely nervous about it.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “I can make it then.”

“Good,” Ned replied. “I wish there was something I could suggest to help you better prepare, but I can’t. All I can tell you is there’s a lot of emotional turmoil going on inside Jimmy. Do your best to understand that.”

“I’ll try,” I said.

“I arranged for the two of you to meet at my office so I could try to get things started on a positive note. But it would probably be better if you went off by yourselves at some point and chatted privately. There’s a coffee shop across the street where you could do that; and we have private conference rooms at the Clinic, of course.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” I agreed.

“That’s all I have at the moment,” Ned said. “Like I mentioned, I’m pretty drained emotionally about now and I think Jimmy is as well.”

“I understand,” I replied. “And, uh, thanks again, Ned.”

“For what?” he asked.

“For caring,” I responded; “for caring about Jimmy and all the rest of your patients and for caring about me. I know it must seem frustrating at times, but you are making a difference; a big one.”

“Thanks,” Ned said. “See you tomorrow night.”

****

Thursday evening I made my way to the Clinic. I was nervous. I didn’t know how Jimmy would react when he saw me; or how I would react for that matter. That assumed we would actually be meeting, but there was no guarantee we would. It was possible Jimmy would never show up or change his mind at the very last minute.

When I reached the Clinic, the receptionist at the front desk stopped me.

“You’re Mr. Landry, correct?” she asked.

“I am,” I said.

“Uh, well, Ned asked me to take you to our conference room on the second floor,” she said. “He’s, uh, still meeting with his previous patient.”

Knowing Jimmy was the patient in question, I was surprised.

“Is there some kind of problem?” I asked.

“No; not really,” the receptionist replied. “It’s just that his meeting is running longer than anticipated. It may run quite a bit longer actually.”

As I stood there staring at her, I could hear loud voices coming from somewhere above.

“Uh, is that what I think it is?” I asked.

“Probably,” she replied. “It’s been, um, kind of loud for quite a while now. But that happens occasionally. Could I show you to the conference room?”

“I guess,” I said.

She stood up and led me up a flight of stairs to the second floor. I followed her down a long corridor and into a nondescript room.

“I’ll let Ned know you’re here,” she added.

“Uh, well, are you sure you want to do that?” I asked.

“Oh, I won’t be going up there,” she said, smiling. “But I can press a button and he’ll know you’re here.”

“I see,” I said, sitting down at the conference table.

I sat there alone for a while, uncertain what was happening. Finally, perhaps twenty minutes later, the receptionist reappeared.

“Ned said he’ll be joining you shortly,” she volunteered. “I think someone will be with him, but I’m not positive.”

“Okay,” I replied. “Thanks.”

If I had been nervous on the drive over, I was even more nervous now. It was apparent Jimmy must have had second thoughts about seeing me and that he and Ned had been arguing about that. Then, before I could contemplate anything more, the door to the conference room opened and Jimmy walked in, followed by Ned.

“Jeff,” Ned, said, “thanks for coming. I think you know who this is.”

“I do,” I replied, standing up. “Hi Jimmy; how are you?”

“I’m fine,” Jimmy said, averting his eyes. “I don’t know what Ned has been telling you exactly, but everything’s fine. I don’t need any help. I’m sorry Ned suggested I did and for making you come all the way over here after working all day.”

“It isn’t a problem,” I said. “Ned just told me you were back in Washington and I indicated I wanted to see you.”

“Why?” Jimmy replied, suddenly looking up and staring at me.

“Why what?” I asked, confused.

“Why would you want to see me?” he replied.

“Uh, well, because we’re friends, Jimmy; that’s why.”

“You are unbelievable, Jeff,” he said, shaking his head. “How many years has it been since I dumped you; seven? And you still want to see me like nothing happened?”

“I gave you reason to dump me,” I said; “but that was then. This is now. I don’t hold any grudges. I still consider you a friend.”

Jimmy just stood there staring at me. He shifted uncomfortably, uncertain what to say.

“I hope you still consider me a friend, Jimmy,” I continued. “I missed you, but I’ve never wanted anything except what’s best for you.”

“Damn it, Jeff, would you stop, please,” he said, his eyes now suddenly pleading with me. “This is hard for me and you’re making it even harder by being a saint about the whole thing. I dumped you, Jeff; left you for someone else without even telling you in person. I’ve had sex with tons of guys since I dumped you and now I have this disease. We can’t have sex, Jeff. You need to find someone else, not me.”

“This isn’t about sex, Jimmy,” I said. “I realize we can’t have sex. This is about two people renewing an old friendship.”

“I can’t do this,” Jimmy said, looking at Ned who had been silent up until now. “I told you I couldn’t. I told you the guy loves me and that’s the biggest mistake he ever made.”

“He doesn’t think it was a mistake, Jimmy,” Ned said. “And I don’t think you believe it was a mistake either. Jeff is the only person you keep coming back to whenever we talk. Why is it so hard to admit to yourself you still have feelings for him?”

“Because I’m dying, Ned, that’s why,” Jimmy responded, raising his voice. “I’ve already screwed Jeff over once. I don’t want to do it again.”

“The only way you would be screwing me over, Jimmy, is if you told me you were never my friend; that it was just about the sex, nothing else,” I interjected. “But that isn’t true. I know the sex was important. It was as important to me as it was for you at the time. But there was more to it, Jimmy; at least I think there was more. Do you have any feelings for me?”

“Of course I do, Jeff,” he responded, and I knew immediately he was telling the truth. I could see it in his eyes.

“That’s why it’s better if we don’t see each other again,” he added. “I broke your heart once. I thought about that a lot over the years and it’s always bothered me. And I don’t want to put you through that kind of emotional turmoil again. I’m a dead end for you, Jeff. I know it and you know it as well.”

“You’ll never be a dead end for me, Jimmy,” I responded. “If you don’t want to see me, I’ll understand. But don’t try to pretend you’re doing me some kind of favor. You’re not. It’ll hurt even more knowing you don’t want anything to do with me.”

And that’s when it happened.

Turning around so he wasn’t looking at me, Jimmy started to cry. His shoulders were heaving and I could hear him struggling to stifle the sobs. That caused me to break down as well.

“Oh, God, please don’t cry, Jeff,” he said, turning back around. “Please, Jeff?”

I moved closer and tried to embrace him.

“Don’t, Jeff; please don’t,” he said, stepping back. “You shouldn’t touch me or even get close to me. They don’t know just how contagious this disease is.”

I leaned over and kissed him quickly on the cheek, then stepped back and wondered whether I should have done something impulsive like that.

Jimmy touched the spot on his cheek I had kissed with his hand. Then he started crying again.

“Sorry,” I said.

“It’s not you, Jeff,” he replied. “It’s just that I haven’t been kissed in a long time by anyone. No one’s touched me at all for months. Do you know how hard that is; to be like some kind leper no one wants to be around or touch?”

“But they’re right to feel that way, of course, and you shouldn’t touch me either, Jeff. But thank you. I know you care and I appreciate it.”

****

With the tension broken, Ned maneuvered us to a couple of chairs and we sat down on opposite sides of a table, facing one another.

“I’m going to leave the two of you alone for a while,” Ned said. “But I’ll be back later.”

Left to our own devices, Jimmy and I started to fill in the blanks since the last time we had seen one another. I did a lot of the talking as Jimmy obviously didn’t want to go through everything that had happened over the years. About thirty minutes later the door opened and Ned reappeared.

“As I’ve told both of you separately, the reason I wanted to get you together is because it’s been apparent to me for some time you have genuine feelings for one another; and, uh, the other reason is that each of us knows that Jimmy has GRID and is going to be needing a best friend to help him deal with that.”

“Although it may seem like a one way street, I think both of you will gain something if you decide to renew your friendship. The question you have to decide Jimmy is whether you’re willing to move in with Jeff. He’s told me he would be happy to have you do that; and that would be a massive improvement over your current living situation.”

“I don’t know,” Jimmy said, shifting uncomfortably in his chair.

“Perhaps you should try it for a week, Jimmy,” Ned continued. “It may not work out, but at least you’ll know you made the effort. Where’s the harm in that?”

“I don’t know,” Jimmy said again. “I mean, the guy who owns the bar where I’m staying has been after me to find another place to live. He’s a nice guy, but says it’s bad for business having someone like me around. When did you think I should move, Ned?”

“Why not tonight; assuming Jeff’s fine with that?”

“I am,” I replied.

“Uh, well, I don’t have my stuff,” Jimmy said. “My stuff is back at the bar.”

“From what you’ve told me, Jimmy, you don’t have very much stuff,” Ned responded. “You could probably pick it up on the way back to Jeff’s place; or stop by the bar and pick it up tomorrow if you prefer.”

“Uh, well, I’m not sure what to do,” Jimmy said. “Maybe I should leave it there in case we decide it isn’t working out very well in a day or two and I decide to move out.”

“Let’s pick it up tonight,” I countered. “It doesn’t sound like we’re talking about a lot of stuff.”

So that’s what we did. After thanking Ned for his help, we left. Jimmy directed me to the bar where he kept his stuff in the back room. Ned had been right. The place was terrible. I was glad he wouldn’t be sleeping there that evening.

It only took a couple of trips to get everything into my car. Having done so, I headed back to Capitol Hill.

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10 thoughts on “Chapter 22

  1. Rough chapter. Great writing on your part though as you have captured the reality of what happened at that time, I know things will get worse before they get better. I sure look forward to hearing what happened to Jimmy during the past 7 years.

    1. Wow! The four of you guys (m.b., James, Adam, and Jordan) were up late last evening or very early this morning. I think that’s a good sign the story is holding your interest 🙂

      I made the decision to skip the story forward seven years for several reasons, m.b. Partly because I thought it would lengthen the story excessively to go into a lot of detail about what happened to Jimmy during that period. But also because I felt that what’s happening now is the heart of the story, the tale that really needs to be told.

      Having said that, we’ll find out some of what happened during those seven years. It may not come out immediately or all at once when it does. It may come out in bits and pieces as Jimmy becomes more comfortable talking about his past.

      I guess the point is you’ll have to be patient. I understand that’s difficult. But think how difficult it must be for Jimmy to share any of that with Jeff or anyone for that matter.

  2. Glad to see them renew their friendship.

    Hope we find out most of what Jimmy has been through.

    Last friend I lost to AIDS died Nov 30, 2006 at the age of 34 it took to Aug 2010 between his sister, brother in law and myself to track him down. The last time he called was June 2003 and he had quit calling his family before that. We were not lovers but really good friend and I had known him since 1987. The hardest thing for us is not knowing what went on for the 3 years he was out of contact.

    Good chapter Kit, definitely keeping my interest while at the same time bringing up bad memories.

    1. Thanks for sharing that story, James. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been to go through.

      I think it’s very hard for people like Jimmy or your friend to share everything that happened with those they know who love them the most. The sense of shame in many of those who contracted the disease is quite powerful and they feel like they let so many people down.

      Dealing with the stigma that comes with having HIV/AIDS is very difficult. Being supportive without being inquisitive can help. But obviously in the case of your friend who disappeared entirely for so many years, the frustration of not knowing what happened must be hard to cope with.

      Your have my heartfelt sympathies.

  3. This is sad and brings back memories. I am probably older than most of your readers but I knew three people in the 80’s that had AIDS. Two were boys, one 15, the other 17, and a man in his 30’s. I have never forgotten them after all of these years.

    1. Keeping their memories alive in your heart (and in our hearts as well) is important, Adam. Never underestimate the importance of remembrance! Indeed, if you and James are up to it, I would welcome learning more about these young men; not just the bad thing that happened to them, but the positive things you remember.

      So many lost at such a young age, but 15 and 17 is just so incredibly heartbreaking. But keep the faith, Adam. Nothing can ever offset the devastation, but it didn’t always turn out so badly. There are positive stories to share from that era and I hope to share a couple before we finish this tale.

      For now, however, thank you for sharing.

  4. All I know to say is I love your writing Kit…the happy and the sad! I teared up reading this chapter…pretty emotional stuff! Thank you for sharing your work with us.

    1. Thanks, Jordan. There will be more tears before the story is over, I fear, but hopefully there will be a few things to smile about amidst the devastation as well. The struggle between good and bad is eternal; and while the bad may seem to have the upper hand at the moment, don’t count out the power of good.

  5. As usual you tell a very well crafted story. I was around then and you have a good “read” on how it was. I am always waiting for the next chapter. Glad to see you are getting more comments these days to keep your nose to the grindstone. Hope it helps.

    1. It actually does help, Captain; getting more comments, I mean. It helps me to see things I may have missed or underestimated.

      For example, I was surprised at just how outraged people were that Jimmy just dumped Jeff without ever talking to him.

      A lot of my sources said that was pretty common back then. It seemed like it wasn’t dumping Jeff so much that bothered people, but how Jimmy did it and that led me to make some changes in the chapters that followed.

      The point is that comments can make a difference in how the story evolves. Having more is better than less.

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