“He removes the greatest ornament of friendship, who takes away from it respect.” by Cicero.
Way back yonder up ’round the Blue Ride Parkway pass the turnpike of twenty-two…back when adults were adults. They were neither old, nor young nor anything in between.
I had the privilege to become acquainted with a vast array of individuals. It had been during the peak of AIDS season and all hands on deck were needed.
Weaverville North Carolina seemed like Mayberry on Crack but still as friendly as can be when your back wasn’t turned.
A fresh-faced but frightened lesbian in a new land, volunteering seemed the only way OUT per say.
After all I had been semi-OUT for quite sometime. Matter of fact the city of Asheville North Carolina and their wives have offered to write me romantic references.
W.N.C.A.P., Western North Carolina AIDS Coalition Program needed persons to be buddies, caretakers, nurses and all around, some one to lean on.
It was there in the Blue Hues of the Pines nestled amongst a cityscape that I met, Ricki.
Ricki had been a drag queen, a latent flamer and a wonderful story-teller.
So severe had his case been that during one ‘ignorant’ dentist appointment, the examination room had been covered wall to wall with tarps. Oh, the fear of those damned homosexuals. The unwarranted hatred smelt like a fishery during a heat wave.
I took Ricki everywhere for at the later stages of AIDS and way before any age of slowing down the horrible and debilitating process; my young friend turned oddly ancient had every infection known to man or woman.
On one particular trip down off the Blue Ridge Parkway, struggling to get the over sized wheelchair out of my beat up Escort, Ricki began to weep quietly as I picked him up and steadied him for transport back to the dungeon called ‘poverty apartment’ living.
“I have just one wish…One wish and I’d be happy to go tomorrow. I want my ashes to lay upon Mount Mitchell. I want to soar with the eagles.”
Hard core, ridden roughly and hung up wet had been my typical demeanor. But at that remark I too could not help the tears from falling.
“It’ll be taken care of! Don’t you worry.”
With that I gave him a kiss on the cheek and shook his hand in promise of a better day.
The next day Ricki had passed away due to every complication there is to be complicated by.
A service had been held. Members from the project, friends, lovers and dreamers gathered to pay heed to this gentle man.
Not a single relative arrived on that day or any other day.
A letter had been sent.
To Whom it May Concern:
Ricki has not been a part of this family for many years. And, in fact, has been considered not a part of this family the day he told us he was a homosexual.
Please do as you see fit with the body.
Blah, Blah, Blah
Ricki soared with the eagles. I see him every spring when a fresh batch of winter birds fly north for the summer.
Perhaps, the loss of his soul to homophobia. The loss of others due to suicide via the shaming of our OUT preference by those who are indeed, also, closeted-ly gay. Perhaps, all of the above stops me on many occasions. Causes a stir of anger and a thrust of distrust amongst our own.
When the Ambiens’, the Annie‘s, the Gracie‘s of this world. The young adults as we call them.
Hide from their own fear and take the whole lot of us ten years back; I cringed and vow redemption.
A daily prayer that I will not forget those who have gone before me and made my closet easier to open.
A mantra to bring into the light those of keep us still well hidden.