Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Well-Known Secret

JB died alone in a public hospital on the border of Tijuana in August of 1994. The only identification he had on him was a birthday check from his sister, which was found in the pocket of his Levis. He had just turned 31 years old.

In the fall of 1984, JB moved to Italy, where he planned to spend a year studying art history. His stay was cut short, however, when he caught hepatitis that winter, was briefly quarantined, and then deported. It didn't sound like a big deal at the time. I didn't know much about hepatitis (something about used tattoo needles and dirty toilet seats, maybe?), but what I did know was, being hurriedly whisked out of Florence under such dramatic conditions is something JB probably enjoyed just a little bit. He loved attention, he loved drama, and he loved the idea of falling ill.

Returning to California, JB recovered quickly. He finished his undergraduate degree at UCLA, and the following fall he began working on his masters. Since he had blown through his trust fund, he took a job decorating the Christmas trees of celebrities and other wealthy people who can’t be bothered, but are nonetheless filled with holiday spirit. (Apparently, Richard Simmons insisted on a pink and lavender themed tree, Nancy Sinatra just adored him, and Victoria Principal made him use the back door. "Like a servant.")

During that same time, I started my senior year of college in New York, broke up with my boyfriend of four years, and suddenly realized I was about to graduate with a useless degree in drama that I didn't even want. I flew home for winter break a confused, pathetic, weepy mess.

One night just before Christmas, JB and I were sitting around his apartment. I lay on the couch crying and bemoaning my aimless future, while JB sat at his dining room table, carefully wrapping the presents he had artfully chosen for me to give, topping them with elaborate bows, and tagging them in graceful cursive. Suddenly, he threw down the scissors and burst into tears himself. I was shocked and a little irritated. "What are you crying about?" He then lit a cigarette, took a deep, spasmodic drag off of it, tossed his head in my direction and wailed: "I'm.......... gay!"

No comments: