Friday, December 01, 2006


December 1 is World Aids Day...
I am remembering a day, very long ago, when a dear friend of mine answered the phone at the place where we both worked, and returned, pale, and shaken.
I remember asking him"What is it?" He quickly responded,
"Oh, that was San Francisco."
"Oh--an old friend?",I asked.
"No, um, I gave blood when I lived out there, and um..."
"Well, you know that gay-cancer people are talking about?"
"I think so."
"Well, they said for me to get tested.That I shouldn't give blood, because they ran tests on all the blood donated, and it looks like I am positive for this thing..."
His voice trailed off, like salt through a sieve.
This was in 1984, when very little was known about the virus. I am not even sure we understood it WAS a virus...

Several months later, one of our managers at the same store,died of AIDS.He'd been positive for years, but not told anyone out of fear.I remember noticing little reddish spots on his hands,and one on his nose, and wondering what was wrong. Kaposi's Sarcoma,I later discovered...We went to a "party" for him, a wake-of-sorts with hand-holding, and candles lit, and stories about how creative Chuck was, and how fun he'd been to work for. And with.I wished I'd been able to know him longer.

My co-worker at the store-- my dear friend who'd lived so long in San Francisco-- he'd live several more years....He'd make a life of hard work at Macy's, and cocktails at brunch on Sundays, and catching a tan(it was the 1980's, remember)and seeing me in my first big play in Atlanta, and he'd tease me about the role I'd had--a rather crazy girl named "Ellie".
He'd smile, enthusiastically, at all our "regulars"--we'd served
The Indigo Girls at our little cafe'.We'd place bets, quietly, on who was straight. On who was gay. I surprised myself when I came out to more people at work. My friend knew I was Bi. He'd figured it out pretty quickly, really.
I left Macy's later on, when I got the chance to do more acting.
I stopped in at The Cellar at Macy's, Lenox Square, and he greeted me with that amazing smile, and that ever-present tan(even though it was then the 1990's!)
I had lightened my hair,had extensions at that time, and had a fabulous manicure.
"You look great, Lisa.Fabulous."
He talked about his boyfriend, and I told him we'd get together, soon.

I stopped in several weeks later.
A young lady I had not seen before called someone from the back of the cafe' to speak with me, when I asked for my friend.
"Um, when's the last time you saw him?" asked this stocky man, looking far too straight, and far too serious.
"Well, just a few weeks ago.Why--is...something..what happened to ..."
But even as I asked the question,I knew.

"I am so sorry." He said.

He explained he had not lingered.
He explained that he had passed after his boyfriend had.

I cried that night. Alot.

I tried to find a piece of paper that my friend had given me. He'd told me, last time I was in, that he thought I should have his nephew's name and number because "He's interested in theatre, in writing.I think you two would hit it off, Lisa."
I could not find that piece of paper, though I am notorious for not throwing anything away.

In the fall of 2003, I would hear a poet I'd met only weeks before, read a poem about various things--including a reference to "My uncle saved pills..."
And in the moment I heard Collin Kelley read those words, I flashed on Terry having told me "You know, I've thought of saving up pills, so when the worst happens, I could just take 'em and it would be quick."
The poem stayed with me for two days, when I called Collin to talk about writing, to get to know him better, and I mentioned at one point,"You know, that poem you read at Humpus Bumpus Books--it made me think of my friend, Terry Graves, that I used to work with..."
"What--What did you say his name was?"he asked.
I repeated my friend's name.It was silent on Collin's end of the phone.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Where did you work?" He asked.
"Macy's, at Lenox Mall."
"Oh my God."

In that instant, across many years, and even, his death, I had reached Terry again. And met his talented nephew, too.
Terry--- for you and all the boys, all the men, who left us too young, and too soon--- Thank You for your work, your kind words. And for laughter, too.


Collin said...

That's really beautiful for you to remember Terry that way. He's never too far from my mind. Bless you, Lisa.

Anonymous said...

I've heard you tell this story before, and I thought it was wonderful. However, I've never heard/read it with such detail-- it is beautiful.