World AIDS Day

Oddly enough, you came into my mind today.  You just popped in there while I was (car co-op car) driving home from Superstore today, rounding the turnabout into Vancouver from North Van.

I think of you often but hadn’t in awhile.

I was 21 years old when we met.  You were a bit older so that would have made you about 55 years old now.  Hard to believe;  hard to fathom.

I was new to Vancouver and brand new to living on my own.  I was emotionally immature in many ways but so so excited to be working in a city that I wanted to live in.  In the later 80s jobs were easier to come by – I somehow ended up in the security ‘cage’ at a trust company doing something with stocks that mail delivery boys gave me.  I have no clear memory of what I was doing  but it was fun, perhaps even challenging, but I don’t recall.

You began working a few months after I did and we soon sat side by side in the cage.  You had an edge to you that freaked me out a bit;  ironic because I certainly have an edge now that can scare people or turn them off.  I remember we had this silly game where we would say, ‘A cow moos in the distance,”  and we’d make the sound as if in the distance.

You had your more immature humour too – “S., come here,” I would say and you would come back quickly with, “I can’t.  I’d be too embarrassed.”  I still think of that when someone tells me to come here.

We took our friendship to the next level by having an evening out together.  We started at your apartment and then went to mine where you helped me make spaghetti.  You knew a guy, you said, who was in the television business in Vancouver.  He’d put you on as an extra on 21 Jump Street.  You talked about him for a long time that evening.

“Does he know anyone on Cagney and Lacey?” I asked.  A strange question in hindsight as that show didn’t even film in Canada.  I liked it  – all that female independence and Sharon Gless played a character that was both tough and vulnerable.  She could cry smile which isn’t that easy to do.  I fantasized that she would rescue me from some situation and be like a tough but vulnerable mother to me.  Years later someone I got to know worked with Gless and I was thisclose to meeting her but never did.  How cool that would have been.

“I’ll call your friend,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.  He seemed excited, nervous.

I don’t remember what his friend and I talked about other than the fact that he didn’t know either Cagney or Lacey.  When I hung up, S. said, “Okay, yes, we sleep together.”

Oh, I said,  gotcha.

Looking back I am a bit gobsmacked at my naivete – the signs were all there.  Turns out that one of the couriers who dropped things off to my work cage was a buddy of S’s – something I didn’t know until I had asked him to my Christmas party, such a big crush had I.  He said no and  he seemed really nervous.  I had no gaydar it seemed. I do now I think although god knows I still get crushes (at midlife are they still called that?) on sensitive gay men.

I think that S. found me interesting – kind of like a little sister who doesn’t know what she doesn’t know.  He was vaguely condescending but also someone I really liked and wanted to please.  But as I said he could be edgy and if he shut you out, he shut you out.

There was another fellow at my workplace – V., who had left his wife in midlife to live with another man.  He was very close to his children as I recall.  One day he came into the staff room sobbing –  I will never forget this – and said that another one of his friends had died.  It was too much, he said.  There had been too many.

Before that incident, after I had found out from a co-worker that V. was in fact, gay, I went into the cage and announced this to S.

“Be quiet,” he said, seething.

He didn’t speak a word to me for two weeks and only started chatting after I returned from a terrible bout with the flu.

He eventually told me that in B.C. (at that time) there was no protection for gay people on the job.  They could be fired just for being gay.

I don’t remember my response but I do remember him telling me this.  I was a blurter then as I am now and in this case it could have resulted in V. being fired.

I left that job after 15 months to go to another job with a gold mining company.  That job began my stint of being fired from administrative jobs so bad was I at admin. work.  I often wonder what would have happened if I’d stayed with the trust company – maybe I’d be a big time banker now.  Probably not.  The firing from the admin. job did set me on the path to finishing university which was good.

I digress.  I had become quite involved in evangelical Christianity – my friend at the time was involved and I was lonely and the people were amazing on the whole.  I had a spiritual experience that felt mountain top-esque and I tried to buy into it hook, line, and sinker.

I do not disparage evangelical Christianity;  that is not what I am getting at here.  I stopped attending such churches in 2001 but have gone back now and then – although I can’t seem to get around what for me is the cognitive dissonance.  So this is a disclaimer – this was my experience and doesn’t represent anyone else’s and is not to be used to put down evangelicals.  That doesn’t work and it only leads people to feel superior; a feeling I admit to liking.

We still talked on the phone, S. and I.  He told me that he had once been an evangelical Christian too but he had learned and I would too.  No, I won’t, I insisted, and began to tell him what I had been told about homosexuality in god’s eyes.

He (rightly) hung up on me and I never spoke to him again.  Years later, I googled him because I wanted to tell him that yes,  I had learned,  I had finally learned what he he had learned.  Maybe we could re-connect, I thought.  He had an unusual last name, one he and his sister disliked so much they thought they might change it.  For awhile I couldn’t find any information on him.  But eventually google let me to his name.

His name is on the AIDS wall in Stanley Park.