Hospital Rides

My heart goes out this morning to the owner of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida whose name is Barbara Poma. She opened Pulse in honor of her brother who died of AIDS in 1991. I’m heartbroken thinking of her. My brother died of AIDS in 1993. I can relate to her pain when she lost her brother, and her pain now. She wanted, in her brother’s memory, to open a place where people could gather and have fun and make connections and be happy. It was a beautiful way to pay tribute to her brother. And now…. I can’t say it, no words suffice. I was moved to add this essay that I wrote in 1994 in honor of my brother. I guess to use it as some cosmic transmitter to send love to her and all the victims and survivors of this terrible event.

HOSPITAL RIDES

I remember another night like this, very much like this, years ago. Randy driving and me riding shotgun, wishing I had the wheel in my hands, anything to distract me. Tonight we have brought with us the little television that plugs into the cigarette lighter. The reception is very poor. I wonder if people in other cars can see that telltale blue glow coming from our car window and what they think about it. We have the news on, Channel 4. The newscaster’s face and voice come in strong for a moment and then the snow falls behind the screen.

Then and now rain pours down, making it hard to see out of the windows. A few miles ago we were only about a minute behind an accident. The police weren’t there yet and the people in the two cars hadn’t even gotten out. But we couldn’t stop. We don’t know how much time we’ll have with him. Randy drives, again too fast. I tell him to slow down, it won’t do us any good to have an accident ourselves. He does slow down for a few minutes and then he speeds up again but I don’t think he’s aware of it at all. At night, when we hold hands as well fall asleep, his grip slowly tightens until my hand feels like it’s in a vise grip. When I pull it out of his grip and he awakens, he has no memory of increasing the pressure.

When we made that drive years ago I had towels clutched between my legs. I didn’t know it would be like a river of wet. I had thought it would have been just a little moisture. It was raining outside and I was raining inside the car. I didn’t have any pains yet and it would be many hours before I’d feel any. But in the car I was glad that it would be over soon and at the same time scared of what was to come. How bad could the pain get, would I be a chicken, how really could I stretch enough for a baby to come out? It was all so mysterious.

This time I’m not glad it’s almost over, I can’t comprehend that it could almost be over. How can he be dying already? I talked to him 3 days ago on my birthday and I knew he sounded weak and was a little cranky but dying? And how do they know that someone only had a couple of hours left and to come now if you want to see him one more time. I’m scared of what’s ahead, it’s all unknown. We’re over the bridge now and into the bright lights of the city.

We join our friends and my sister around the bed where he lays breathing through a mask and holding hands with Javier. He is almost gone as the cassette plays Handel’s Messiah and we talk about his life. I remember his childhood nicknames, Cocoa Bill and the Blue Eyed Chicken. We tell our stories about the times we had with him. His eyes are rolled back and I wonder where he is and what he knows in his morphine fog. Does he hurt? Does he hear us? Is his hand gripping tighter on Javier’s as he falls not asleep but adeath?

Again as it was last time, there is a knowing that this is one of the most important moments of my life, that I must remember all that happens so I can carry it with me down through the years. One of my most vivid memories of the last time was of seeing in the mirror Reed’s shoulder and arm coming out of my body, his arm kind of flopping away from his side. I can see it still after all these years. What will I remember so vividly years from now about tonight? Will it be the rain, the mask, the music, the hand united with his lover? The last breath in, out, in, and no more?

This time as we drive home we pass only one car on the Golden Gate bridge and I wonder is it some kind of a record. This time there is no baby strapped into a brand new car seat. This time I wrap my hurting heart up in a blanket with my brother and carry my emptiness home.

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