Chapter 31

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 31

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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 – October-December 1982

Chapter 31

October proved to be an eventful month indeed. Congress recessed early as all eyes turned to the mid-term elections, the first chance for the American people to weigh in how Ronald Reagan was doing. And yet for all my anxiety about the outcome, my attention was focused elsewhere.

There were the interviews Tommy was conducting, of course. With all the questions about our sexual escapades, I wondered whether the story he planned would capture just how loving our relationship was. He assured me it would.

October was also the month we celebrated Mark and Leo’s commitment ceremony. In retrospect, I remember thinking maybe there were some things my generation could learn from younger people. At the time, however, what I mostly recall is being surprised when Mark raised the idea with me.

“What’s a commitment ceremony?” I asked, confused.

“It’s kind of like getting married without all the legal rigmarole,” he responded. “It’s a way of affirming Leo and I are in a committed relationship with one another in front of our friends; and then there would be a party to celebrate that and have fun.”

“I see,” I said, nodding my head even though I didn’t have a clue what Mark was talking about. “I’ve never heard of something like that.”

“Neither had I until Leo raised it with me,” Mark replied. “But I liked the idea after we talked about it.”

“Isn’t Leo a little young to be doing something like that?” I asked, still not convinced. “I mean, he’s only fourteen. And you just turned nineteen yourself, Mark. Are you sure you’re ready to make that kind of commitment?”

“I am,” he replied. “And, yeah, I had exactly the same reaction at first when Leo suggested it. I told him I thought he was too young to be making a decision like that. But then he explained how it wasn’t really that different from what we’re already doing.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The thing is, Leo and I get up every day knowing both of us can walk away from our relationship at any time. But we don’t. At the end of the day we end up in bed together. By doing that, by coming home every day and sharing the same bed, we affirm our commitment to one other.”

“I see,” I said.

“The commitment ceremony doesn’t really change that,” Mark continued. “It’ll still be a decision we have to make every day and there’s no guarantee. But the ceremony is a way of telling our friends we love one another and we’re going to try to keep that love alive every day for the rest of our lives.”

“Plus there’s the party, of course,” Mark added, grinning. “Leo’s getting a little tired of having to be so responsible all the time. He’s looking forward to the chance to blow off some steam with our friends.”

That caused me to laugh.

“Party or no party, I approve,” I said, impressed if still skeptical. “It’s, uh . . . it’s a very nice idea; different from what I’m used to, but definitely commendable.”

“I’m glad you feel that way,” Mark responded. “Leo and I would like you and Jimmy to be our witnesses when we exchange our vows. Jimmy’s already agreed and I’m hoping you will as well.”

“Absolutely,” I said, finally caught up in the spirit. “Thanks for asking me. Is there anything I can do? Rent a room for the party? Hire a deejay? Whatever?”

“Probably,” Mark replied. “We’re still working out the details. The original idea was Jimmy’s. Leo usually spends a couple of hours talking to him after school every day. It’s good for both of them. Jimmy hardly ever has the energy to get out of the house anymore so it’s good for him to have someone to talk to; and it’s good for Leo as well. He can share things with Jimmy he would never share with me.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“I think the biggest thing is his frustration we’re not having sex,” Mark replied. “I can understand where he’s coming from. It’s been frustrating for me as well. But it’s probably even harder for Leo because he’s actually kind of a romantic deep down beneath that tough exterior he puts on. He sees it as making love more than having sex; and since we’re not making love, he worries I’m not really committed to him.”

“It isn’t true, of course,” Mark continued. “Over the course of these last six months I’ve come to recognize I really do love Leo. But I still worry he’s too young for sex.”

“He turned fourteen in August,” I interjected, trying to put Mark’s mind at ease. “He seems very mature for his age. I suspect he gets a lot of that from you.”

“Yeah; he really has matured a lot since I first met him,” Mark said, agreeing with my assessment. “It’s pretty amazing actually. But, um . . .”

“But what?” I asked.

“I think I’m using his age as an excuse to avoid taking the next step with Leo,” he responded. “The real problem for me is AIDS. I know Leo is okay. He’s never actually had sex and he doesn’t do drugs so I’m certain he isn’t infected. But I’m less sure when it comes to myself. I wonder whether I’ll wake up some morning and discover I’m infected.”

It was a concern I was hearing from many of my friends lately. Never sure how to respond, I tried to be as positive I could under the circumstances.

“Uh, well, you’re not the only one who worries about that, Mark,” I said, “but you’ve never done drugs except pot occasionally. So we can rule that out as a source of infection.”

“Yeah, but I’ve had sex with a few guys over the years,” he countered. “Not so much the first couple of years after I got to Washington. I lived with three different guys back then. I guess you could call them sugar daddies; not that any of them had a lot of money, but they let me live with them and fed me in exchange for sex.”

“But it was always the same thing. Things would start off fine. I could make them happy. But then they would get tired of me after a while. They didn’t like being tied down to a single boy; or they wanted me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with. It never lasted for one reason or another.”

“And then I turned eighteen and was able to get a job at the restaurant. I wanted to take charge of my future, not be dependent on some older dude. But the job didn’t pay that much so I ended up having sex with a few older guys occasionally trying to make ends meet. I’m embarrassed to tell you that, but that’s why I worry I might end up infecting Leo.”

“A lot of guys have had sex with more than one or two people, Mark,” I said, trying to reassure him, “but that doesn’t mean you’re infected. You told me once some of the guys you knew at the Café Palermo considered AIDS a New York City disease. That isn’t true, but we also know it’s been a much bigger problem in New York and San Francisco than in Washington up until now.”

“As for being embarrassed, you shouldn’t be,” I continued. “Your experience isn’t unique, Mark, but that’s going to change. It can’t just be about sex going forward. There has to be something more and I think there is something more between you and Leo.”

“Do you?” he asked.

“Definitely,” I replied. “You guys are so good for one another. You’re so responsible, Mark, and that’s one of the things I love because I know Leo is in good hands with you. But you’re too serious at times and Leo has a way of bringing out the little kid in you.”

“Look, I know you’ve lived a hard life, Mark, and I understand why planning for the future is so important to you. But you just turned nineteen. Everything doesn’t have to be about the future. The truth is, the future never arrives. No matter how fast you run toward it, it’s always moving away. You need to enjoy the present as well and Leo is good for you that way.”

“I know,” Mark said, “but what about AIDS, Jeff? I look at what Jimmy is going through and it makes me cry. I would never want to put Leo through something like that. Sometimes I’m awake half the night worrying about it.”

“How do I know for sure I won’t infect Leo if I give in and have sex with him? It’s not like they have a test so I could know definitively whether I’m infected or not.”

“It’s a tough call, Mark,” I said, nodding my head. “You’re right. There’s no test at the moment although I hear they’re working on that. But you can’t keep pushing Leo away either. If you do, he’s going to decide you’re not really in love with him and will start looking for love somewhere else. Is that what you want? Do you think he would be better off that way?”

“Look, Mark, you haven’t had sex in six months and there’s no indication you have AIDS,” I continued. “You can wait longer, but how long is enough? Nine months? A year? Two years? You need to talk to Leo about this; to share your fears and concerns. He’s not oblivious, Mark. He sees every day what AIDS is doing to Jimmy and I don’t think that’s what he wants for himself or you.”

“But you have to stop treating him like a little boy you have to protect. If that’s what you think, your relationship will never work. It’ll only work if you treat him as an equal and work through the challenges you face together. Maybe that means agreeing on how long you’re going to avoid sex. Or it could mean using condoms or limiting the kind of sex you have."

“Whatever it is, it’s something you and Leo need to work out together taking into account what we know about AIDS today and what we learn in the future.”

Mark laughed.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“You’re telling me exactly what Leo told me after talking to Jimmy; that it’s a partnership, not my way or the highway. That’s why Leo suggested the commitment ceremony. He’s willing to wait however long I think we should. But he wants to know it’s partnership we’re working toward.”

“Are you fine with that?” I asked.

“I am,” Mark replied.

That was the end of our conversation, but a couple weeks later Mark and Leo exchanged the vows they had written together and a pair of rings they had purchased. Their commitment ceremony was blessed by Father Damien and then those of us Mark and Leo had invited to the ceremony partied with them for hours at Mr. Henry’s.

Even Tommy was there and seemed to have a good time.

As Jimmy and I were preparing to leave, Leo came over and thanked us for all the help we had provided over the months.

“Today was just a practice run,” he said. “Mark and I are going to get married for real one day.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him getting married, legally married, wasn’t an option and never would be. By contrast, Jimmy was far more supportive.

“I won’t be there in person,” Jimmy responded, “but I’ll be there in spirt, Leo. Count on it. I’ll be there when the two of you tie the knot.”

Then the two of them embraced one another.

Later that evening Jimmy suggested we follow their example.

“I don’t want a big ceremony or party like Mark and Leo. But we could exchange some vows privately don’t you think, Jeff?”

“I would like that, Jimmy,” I replied. “I would like that very much.”

And so that’s what we did. Around the middle of November the two of us exchanged vows with Mark and Leo serving as witnesses. Tommy was there as well and was clearly moved by what he had seen.

“This is what people need to know,” he said. “That you and Jimmy do love one another and that the four of you are a family. That’s what I need to convey in my story. I just hope I can.”

****

I assumed we would be seeing less of Tommy once he finished his interviews with us toward the end of October. To my surprise, however, he continued to come by and see us regularly in the weeks that followed. I was happy about that because Jimmy enjoyed spending time talking with the first and most important best friend he ever had.

Mark and Leo often had dinner with the three of us or would tag along when we took in a movie or sporting event. By November, however, we weren’t going out very often. Jimmy was fighting as hard as he could, but by now all of us realized it was a losing battle.

The five of us had a wonderful Thanksgiving together although Jimmy didn’t eat very much because by now he was having trouble keeping anything down. He was getting progressively thinner as each new wave of infections took their toll. But it was nice having Tommy and the boys around to buck up my spirits and help cheer Jimmy up as best they could.

Then Jimmy surprised me still again. I had driven Tommy back to his place in Friendship Heights late one Saturday evening in early December as I always insisted on doing. Arriving back at our place on Capitol Hill, I expected to find Jimmy in bed. Instead, he was sitting in the living room staring into the flames being cast by the fireplace.

I joined him and that’s what the two of us did for the next thirty minutes or so. We just sat there in silence holding hands while staring into the flames. It was Jimmy who finally spoke up.

“He likes you.”

“Who likes me?” I asked, confused.

“Tommy,” Jimmy replied.

“What do you mean Tommy likes me?” I said, even more confused.

“If you haven’t guessed by now, Tommy’s gay,” he replied. “And he’s attracted to you, Jeff. I can tell.”

“You’re crazy, Jimmy” I said, dismissing the idea out of hand. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

“No, I’m not crazy,” he insisted. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you when you stand up to get something in the kitchen or whatever. It’s the same way he used to look at me when we were fourteen.”

“I didn’t know it back then, but he was as attracted to me as I was to him when we were boys. But we didn’t really understand what we were experiencing and we were fighting it in any event. He didn’t want me to know because he thought I would hate him.”

“That’s why he was always going on about homos back then,” Jimmy continued. “He knew his older brother was one and he was trying hard not to be one himself. But he is; and he knows it now. He just doesn’t know what to do about it.”

Even though the idea seemed ridiculous to me, Jimmy had succeeded in arousing my curiosity.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Unlike you, Jeff, Tommy’s still struggling with being gay,” Jimmy said. “But the two of you are alike in so many ways. Both of you were religious growing up and then fell away from the Church. You were taught being a homo was wrong and that caused both of you to struggle with self-hatred.”

“Like you, Tommy tries to sublimate his sexual desires by working. He’s trying to make the world a better place like you. He’s just chosen a different way to do it.”

“How could you possibly know that?” I asked, astonished by what he was saying.

“I don’t know how exactly,” he said. “I just do; and I think the two of you would make a terrific couple as well. But whether that will ever happen is harder to say. You’d have to admit you’re human, Jeff, and that you like Tommy too.”

“I do like Tommy,” I said, “but you’re the one I love Jimmy. You’re the only person in the world I’ve ever loved and I still love you as much as ever. I thought that was the point of our commitment ceremony; to remind each other we’re a committed couple.”

“I know,” Jimmy sighed. “These last six months you’ve taught me what love really is and I love you for that alone. I just figured it out too late. I’m sorry about that, Jeff.”

“You don’t have to be sorry,” I said, trying to fight back the tears I could feel welling up in my eyes. “Knowing you love me is the greatest gift I could ever receive.”

“That’s not true,” Jimmy replied. “Telling you to let go would be a greater gift; and I do want you to let go. Not immediately; I know you won’t be able to do that. But I’ll never die happy if I know you’re going to cling to me after I’m gone, Jeff. I need to know you’ll let go at some point.”

“I’ll never let go, Jimmy,” I said, standing up and pacing back and forth across the room. “And I don’t want to talk about this either. I’m not giving up and I don’t want you to give up either. They could still find a cure for this disease. It could happen any day. That’s why so many people are working so hard to try to help; that’s why I’m working so hard.”

“And I appreciate that, Jeff,” he said. “I really do. I just think it’s going to be a very long time before they can do very much about this disease, let alone find a cure.”

“You’re wrong, Jimmy,” I responded. “You need to keep hope alive. Martin Luther King said that and you need to do it; if not for yourself, at least do it for me.”

“I’ll try, Jeff,” he said. “But I guess we should go to bed. I had a good time tonight, but I’m feeling tired.”

****

The November elections proved disappointing. After a hard fought contest the voters rendered a split verdict. While the Democrats picked up 26 seats in the House of Representatives and retained control with a much strengthened majority, they only gained one in the Senate. That left the Republicans still in charge over there.

As much as I had hoped for a better outcome, the message was clear. Getting anything done during the next two years would be difficult, especially on an issue like AIDS where the Administration was actively hostile to what some of us were trying to accomplish. That didn’t change my determination, however. If anything, my commitment was only strengthened.

Congress finally reconvened in a lame-duck session at the end of November. It had little choice as only three of the thirteen appropriation bills necessary to fund the government had been enacted before the October recess. Although both parties pledged to act promptly on the remaining bills, tensions were high and it was apparent much of the government would have to be funded through a continuing resolution.

Knowing what that entailed, I prepared talking points on the issues I knew the Congressman cared about the most so he’d be prepared when he met with the key players. The most important of these for the House was the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Jaime Wheeler, so I wasn’t surprised when Congressman Bresnahan called me in before meeting with him.

Not surprisingly, Reagan was insisting on deep cuts in non-military spending. The cuts he was calling for in Federal health programs were especially staggering. I knew the Congressman would oppose those with the Chairman, but whether he would try to get new money set aside for AIDS was another question.

Trying to do that in a continuing resolution was asking a lot. But if anyone could get new money, it was Jamie Wheeler; and if anyone could persuade the Chairman, it was my boss.

“These talking points are excellent, Jeff,” the Congressman said after I joined him. “It’s hard to believe just how little the health agencies are doing about AIDS given the dimensions of the problem. You’ve done an excellent job making the case for why we need to do more as a nation. It’s just that . . .”

Then his voice drifted off and he looked past me, out the window.

“It’s just what?” I replied.

“Look, Jeff, I know you have a lot on your plate at the moment,” he continued. “You’re doing your regular job and then spending so much time on this AIDS business; plus I understand just how stressful your personal life must be at the moment. But these projections you attached to the talking points, the ones about how many people may end being infected with this disease in the next couple of years. These can’t be right, can they?”

“Not only are they right, they’re conservative,” I replied.

“Are you sure?” he said. “Where did these numbers come from? If I give Jaime bad numbers and he finds out they’re wrong, we won’t have any credibility on this issue with him. We have to be absolutely sure of the numbers, Jeff.”

“If you’re asking for one hundred percent certainty, I can’t give you that,” I replied. “I got those numbers from a whistle-blower within the Administration. I don’t really know who he is, but he seems to be pretty high-up in the Health and Human Services Department. He calls me from time to time and talks to me off-the-record.”

“More importantly, everything he’s ever given me has turned out to be right,” I continued. “I gave those figures to Congressman Wellman’s staff director. The Subcommittee has been trying to tie them down, but I doubt the CDC will confirm their accuracy, at least on the record.”

“Off-the-record, the CDC staffers we’re talking to have been pretty candid,” I added. “But they have to stick to the party line on the record; and on the record the CDC says they haven’t made any official projections because that would require them to make more assumptions than they’re comfortable doing at the moment.”

“Those are the marching orders they have from Reagan’s political operatives in HHS and at the White House.”

“I see,” the Congressman replied. “But you think these numbers are accurate?”

“I do,” I replied.

“And conservative as well?”

“Absolutely,” I replied. “I don’t know anyone who’s spent any time studying the disease who would disagree with those numbers; and the truth is almost everyone thinks confirmed cases of the disease breaking out to the larger population are just a matter of time. We’re talking weeks here, Congressman, a month or two at the latest. We’re definitely not talking years.”

“Unbelievable,” he said. “And they’re all going to die?”

“Yes,” I responded, biting my tongue. “This is a very insidious disease, Congressman Bresnahan. It disguises itself behind other diseases. Doctors treat whatever condition the patients are suffering from as best they can, but we haven’t really identified the underlying cause of the disease at this time. More importantly, we don’t have a test to confirm its presence.”

“The experts have a lot of ideas about what we might be dealing with,” I continued. “Some of them think it’s probably a retrovirus. Don’t ask me to explain what that is. I won’t even try. All I know is those kinds of viruses can be exceedingly hard to isolate and detect. That’s why we need a crash research effort; and we need it now, Congressman, not a year or two from now.”

“Okay,” the Congressman said. “I’m not going to try to pretend to the Chairman I understand all the science involved. But these numbers you provided about what the Administration is doing – or not doing I should probably say – and how quickly this thing is spreading are pretty damn scary. I’ll do my best to make the case.”

“I guess I should be going,” he added, standing up and tucking my talking points into his jacket.

“Do you want me to come along?” I asked, although I was pretty certain what the answer would be.

“No,” he replied. “I wish you could, Jeff, but you know the Chairman. He wants to hear it from a colleague, not a staffer; and if a colleague can’t explain it to him, the answer is almost sure to be no. We’re not talking about a lot of money here, but the chairman is from Mississippi. He doesn’t like spending money. And whatever money we do spend he thinks should be going to Mississippi; to his own district actually.”

“I understand,” I said.

****

After the Congressman left, I remember pacing up and down the corridor outside our office. I was nervous about how things would go at the meeting. While I had a lot of confidence in my boss to make an effective case, he was right.

The Chairman was a dye-in-the-wool conservative. Spending money on anything that didn’t benefit Mississippi directly was not something he was anxious to do. I wasn’t sure how he would react to the pitch my boss planned to make, but I wasn’t optimistic.

He’ll tell Jack they don’t have any homosexuals in Mississippi and damn few drug abusers as well. He’ll tell him he doesn’t understand why he has to save people from themselves; that all that’s needed is for people to stop abusing drugs and engaging in perverted sex acts the Bible condemns.

As hard as I tried to keep up my spirits, it was difficult.

You got to stop pacing like this, Jeff, stop worrying. It won’t make a whit of difference and Jack’s right. There’s not enough time in the day for everything you need to do.

Get your ass back to the office. There’s that CIA briefing tomorrow about just how dangerous the Sandinistas are; how they’re about to invade Texas if we don’t give them more flexibility to deal with the problem. You need to get Jack up to speed for that briefing.

So that’s what I did. I went back to the office, sat down at my desk and started to write the questions the Congressman would be looking for before he left for home that evening. By the time I finished writing and typing them up, I realized his meeting with the Chairman was over.

Then Annie buzzed me.

“The Congressman wants to see you, Jeff,” she said. “I don’t think it’s good news. He was frowning.”

Gathering up the talking points and questions I had just finished writing, I walked out to the lobby and knocked on the Congressman’s door.

“Come in,” he said.

I walked in and he motioned for me to sit down on the couch.

“Next spring,” the Congressman said, looking directly at me. “The Chairman doesn’t think we can fund it this year, but he promised to put something in the first supplemental next spring if the problem still exists by then.”

“Next spring?” I echoed, devastated. “A lot of people are going to die between now and next spring, Congressman Bresnahan. One of them could be . . .”

Biting my tongue, I decided to ask a question instead.

“Why not?” I asked. “Wasn’t the case you made compelling enough?”

“The Chairman was actually quite impressed with the case I made, Jeff,” he replied. “He had a couple of staffers from the Labor-HHS Subcommittee there with him and he kept asking them whether I was right as I was making my different points. Mostly they said they weren’t sure; that I might be, but they couldn’t say for sure because they hadn’t really focused on the issue to date.”

“That was actually funny in a perverse kind of way,” he continued. “Around the third time one of them told him that, the Chairman looked at the poor guy and asked why the hell they hadn’t focused on the issue to date.”

“If what Jack here is telling me is the truth, this sounds like a hell of a mess,” the Chairman said to the guy. “Thousands of people dying, possibly tens of thousands, of some unknown disease and you haven’t had time to focus on it? What the hell do I pay you people for?”

“Then the Chairman looked at me and made his case.”

“Look, Jack, you know how the system works,” he said. “There’s no funding in our bill or the Senate bill either. That means there’s no issue to conference between us. We can’t just decide out of the blue to put some money into the bill at the last minute like that. If we do that for you, everyone will want the same thing. It would be chaos. You understand, don’t you, Jack?”

“At that point I decided to push back,” Congressman Bresnahan continued. “I told him I realized it wasn’t something that happened very often, but I had seen it done a few times since I had been on the Committee.”

“That’s true enough, Jack,” Jamie replied, nodding his head at me. “But it’s rare, very rare, and it usually only happens when everyone from both sides of the conference committee are in agreement and know they won’t have any trouble selling it when they get back to their chamber.”

“You’re talking about something different here, Jack,” the Chairman continued. “Only a handful of members have even heard of this disease, let alone know anything about it. Hell, even my own staff here doesn’t seem to know anything about it.”

“But they will soon enough,” he added, glaring at them. “At least they will if they want to remain in my employ.”

“But that’s neither here nor there, Jack,” he continued. “The point is that it’s too soon for something like this. But I promise I’ll do something on the first supplemental next year assuming the problem still exists. You have my word on that.

“This is a problem that isn’t going away, Mr. Chairman,” I responded. “To be honest, it’ll be an even bigger problem next spring. More people will be dead for one thing and a lot more will be infected as well. We need to act now, Mr. Chairman, not four or five months from now.”

“I wish we could, Jack, but my hands are tied by the rules,” Jaime replied. “But you know I’m a man of my word and I’ve told you we’ll do something about it on the next supplemental if you can make a case to me next spring. Is that good enough, Jack?”

“I had to make a decision at that point, Jeff,” the Congressman added. “It was apparent the Chairman had already made his. But he’s a man of his word, Jeff, so that’s what I told him.”

“Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Chairman,” I said. “You’ve always dealt fairly with me and kept your word so all I can ask is a chance to make my case next spring.”

I remember sighing audibly, then looking down at my feet. There was a part of me that wanted to scream, but I understood the Congressman had done everything he could.

“Okay,” I said, standing up. “I appreciate the effort you made and understand exactly why everyone took the position they did. It all makes sense; it’s perfectly logical. The thing is, a lot of good people are going to die between now and next spring; and the longer we put off acting, the more people are going to get infected and die.”

Walking over to his desk, I handed the Congressman the talking points and questions I had bought along.

“Here are some questions you should think about asking the CIA at their briefing tomorrow on the contras,” I said. “If you didn’t already know, they’ll be lying to you throughout the whole thing. They always do and Congress always lets them get away with it.”

“Yeah, I know, Jeff,” he said, averting his eyes as he took the paper from me.

I turned around and started to walk out of the office.

“Jeff,” I heard him say softly.

“What?” I said, turning around.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Thanks,” I replied. “Me too.”

I walked out to the corridor and down the hall. Certain no one was around, I started to cry.

I’m sorry, Jimmy. I’m so sorry for failing you.

The continuing resolution funding most of the U.S. government passed a week later on December 21, 1982. It included no funding for AIDS. Once it passed, Congress quickly adjourned for the holidays.

8 thoughts on “Chapter 31

  1. Another powerful chapter. As you said, there would be no miracle for Jimmy at Christmas, back then there were no miracles for AIDS patients. Thank you for writing this story, it brings back so many memories. I am preparing myself for the next few chapters because I am right in between the ages Jimmy and Jeff’s would be now and I think I would have liked them both back then.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Adam. It means a lot to know you would have liked both of them. It suggests I was at least partially successful in sketching their portraits.

      Although different, they would have been perfect for each other if the social pressures had been different and they had been allowed to grow up in a society that nurtured love in all of its many varieties.

  2. Great chapter. Nice to see the commitment by the 4 of them especially for Leo that has yet to experience a full relationship. Jimmy although knowing his days are numbered is trying to set Jeff up so that he can move forward.

    I never liked Reagan. I always used him as an example that any idiot could be elected President of the U.S. Unfortunately my opinion on that issue just keeps getting confirmed as time rolls along.

    I would tell you to run in 2020 but from the correspondence I have had with you over the last few years I know that your integrity would never let you sink to that level of depravity 🙂

    Will be sorry to see this story end, but keep up your good work.

    Here is to the best in 2017 off tomorrow to celebrate with friends.

    1. Thanks, James. I hope you have a safe and good time ringing the new year in.

      As for Reagan, he seems to have somehow reincarnated himself as D. Trump’s good friend in Russia, V. Putin. Take a look at this recent article from the New York Times about the spread of HIV in Russia and governmental indifference and hostility.

      You read something like that and you have to wonder if anything has changed in the world. And also why someone who likes to claim he loves gay people so much like D. Trump would call V. Putin “a great leader.” Even Putin’s poodle should know better.

      As for the story, I feel like it had the potential to be one of my best but ended up being very uneven so I may spend some time rewriting it. But more about that later.

      In any event, I liked this chapter and the ones to come. For now, however, happy new year!

  3. As I have told you many times you write one hell of a good story. And even if you do not think this one is up to par I can assure you your readers are very moved by it. And what more can an author do than ” move ” his readers?

    1. Get them to open their wallets, Captain?

      Just kidding 🙂

      Seriously, I’m not trying to put myself or the story down. Like any author, however, I now realize there are things I could have done better; much better in some cases. And, indeed, this is a story I may try to rewrite in whatever spare time I have in the future.

      If I do, I would probably try to shorten it and to take out much (and perhaps all) of the actual sex if I was thinking of trying to publish it at some point as an e-book. I think the story has the potential for crossover appeal to a larger audience, but publishers like Amazon and many readers as well might have problems with the story as currently written.

      The bottom line is that if you or others have suggestions for how I could improve it they would be welcome.

      In any event, thanks for your consistent encouragement and support, Captain. It kept me going and I hope the final two chapters will reward your faith in my efforts.

  4. The only reason why I am reading this story is that ALL of your stories have been excellent and dealt with socially important topics. I DO NOT like though, to be reminded of the horrendous time I went through in the 80’s; when I was torn by the lack of EVEN Christian charity, and the brotherhood of man being REJECTED by especially even those in power in churches and governments by their stand on the “gay disease”. You have definitely addressed this in your story! I say all this and still am reminded by this story of the sorrow and anguish i went through seeing, visiting and helping provide meals and physical help for many of my friend and relatives and acquaintances who were suffering from carposis sarcoma, forms of Pneumonia and many other opportunistic infections and maladies as a result of their having what we now call HIV – Aids. Visiting some of these individuals in hospitals and having to dress up like space men (which in many cases I did NOT as I was sure that transmission was NOT air born), was degrading to the patients and pin pointed to others in the hospital as to who had the “dreaded aliment” and also the many “health professionals” who would NOT even attend and minister too these patients — so much for the Hippocratic oath.. The story also has at times caused me painful memories and sorrow at the MANY good friends who I LOST to this disease — MUCH OF WHICH was due to government INACTION and prejudice!! I, many weeks, attended more than one or two funerals — NOT HAPPY MOMENTS. The one redeeming value of this story is to hopefully renew many of our resolves to keep this disease in front of the public and hope it elicits more time and money being devoted to finding drugs and eventually a cure for this tragic disease which has taken so many talented and loving friends and relatives. I still have some friends who are LONG TERM survivors, but whose quality of life has been severely curtailed. Let us all hope and pray for an END to this mostly terminal disease.

    1. Thanks for this passionate and heart-felt response to the story, Cowpuncher. All of what you say is true and much of it will resonate as you read the next chapter, which I’ve now completed and I’m getting ready to post later this evening.

      Fear is a terrible thing and for much too long led people to act in ways that were totally irrational. Emergency technicians, medical personnel, and others donning special garb before coming in contact with AIDS patients is something that tends to get lost with the passage of time, but it will make it appearance, however briefly, in this evening’s chapter.

      It’s one of the reasons I wrote the story actually. With time people forget what it was like back then. They erase the harsh memories and all the small details of a tragedy get lost in the process. Fortunately, I had many good people who had kept those small details alive and were willing to share them with me.

      Without them this story would have had no chance of working.

      Like I said, fear ruled the day and that makes me wonder whether I’ve made it too easy for people to forget just how bad things were. Jimmy wasn’t abandoned as so many were. He was loved and the final months of his life had a basic decency to them that many others similarly afflicted never experienced.

      The point is, it’s good for people to remember because only then can they share those memories with a younger generation for whom the disease has been a much different experience.

      Thanks for so passionately helping to keep the memory alive, Cowpuncher. I appreciate it very much and I second your hope for a cure that will bring an end to this disease once and for all.

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