Sunday, August 19, 2007

Will & Grace: The Lost Episode

JB had suspected something was wrong for a long while. More and more of the time, he was tired, achy and weak. Always wafer thin, he began losing weight. When he could no longer ignore his symptoms, he gathered up the courage to visit his family’s physician in the wealthy, conservative suburb of Brentwood. A phone call from the doctor a week later confirmed the worst. He said, "I think you know what the test results are. You'd better go see someone about it." And that was all.

For two years JB sat on that advice. By the time he burst into my apartment, whipped off his Wayfarers, threw himself on my couch, and announced that he was dying, he had only 2 T-cells left.

After breaking the news to me, and to a few of his other close friends, JB drove to Portland, where his parents had moved to avoid (some might say, evade), "a tax problem." Upon arriving, JB discovered his mother Livia had recently begun displaying signs of dementia, by regularly calling the police to report a burglar whenever she spotted her husband Jim gardening in the backyard.

As soon as he got there, JB sat both his parents down and delivered the stunning revelation that he was a homosexual. During this same chat, he also told them that he had full blown AIDS. Livia didn't really get the gist of what he was saying. Jim, on the other hand, responded pro-actively by providing JB with his very own personal sets of linens and dishes to use throughout his stay. Claiming bankruptcy, he offered JB no further financial assistance.

Back in Los Angeles, JB’s doctors were at a loss. They supplied him with a prescription for AZT, but didn’t spare him the news that it wouldn’t help much, and he probably didn’t have long to live. All his friends had to offer was some money, and emotional support. And JB fought us every step of the way. Remember the brave and stoic attorney Tom Hanks played in that movie, “Philadelphia?” Yeah, JB wasn’t like that. He was terrified. And very, very, very, very angry. At everyone. He was mad at healthy gay men. He was mad at sick gay men. (He was mad at lesbians too, but to be honest, he never cared much for them. “So dowdy.”) He was mad at all of West Hollywood, and in particular a bar he had spent a lot of time in called, appropriately enough, "Rage." He was mad at his doctors for offering no solutions. He was mad at his friends and had a recurring dream in which we would all be seated at a long table, and he’d pull out a gun and kill himself, splattering his infected blood all over us.

He was angry with me and eyed me suspiciously if I was too gentle with him. We made morbid jokes to hide our fear, and to make other people uncomfortable. And, he liked to push me to see how far I’d go. For instance, we’d be at a party and he’d turn to me stone-faced and make some unreasonable demand, like, “I’m going to have my sperm washed and then I want you to carry my baby because I want something to live on after me and I think it would be a very good looking child… if it inherited my patrician nose.” Or, “I want you to buy me front row tickets to see the Barbara Streisand concert. They are only $1,000 a piece.” If I replied in the negative to his demands, he’d continue, whining in a baby voice, “But I’m sick. I have AIDS and I want to see Barbara Streisand!” Then I’d answer, “Well, maybe you should call the Make-a-Wish Foundation.” Thus, horrifying everyone in earshot, except a very pleased JB, who would pee himself with laughter.

But, of course, what JB was really angry about was that there was nothing any of us could do to make him healthy again. Only Trudy offered the one thing of any real use to JB: Hope.

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