And there it was. A picture of Patrick and me.
I am the the only man in the picture who did not contract AIDS, the only one still alive.
What is wrong with this picture?
I mean, besides my hair.
This picture was used in an article in The Advocate, a national weekly gay newspaper. Florida had a gay lobbyist, in part, as a reaction to Anita Bryant and her quest to repeal gay rights legislation in Miami that had caught national attention.
In retrospect, I think we owe Anita a debt of gratitude. She made a big deal about something a lot of folks didn't even want to think about, much less talk about: Gay people walk among us!
Her activism gave rise to activism on the other side, which lead to the Florida Task Force creating a lobbying office in Tallahassee, which lead to Patrick being hired as the lobbyist. Otherwise, Patrick would have never come to Tallahassee and we would not have become friends.
I searched through my journals—those spiral bound, blue lined angst repositories where I recorded whatever was on my mind, most often with a blue Flair pen—for references to Patrick.
Sometimes I just want to go back in time and throttle myself. "Listen, you big haired, self-absorbed nitwit," I want to scream. "Take better notes! In 30 years, I am going to want details. It is bad enough I can barely read your handwriting, but let me tell you, in the future I am not going to care one bit that you think your Irish Literature professor is boring…"
As if I would listen to myself even if that happened. So my notes are, at best, sketchy.
This is the first mention of Patrick in my journal:
4/15/80 Gay Rap Group: A new person—Pat from San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Miami. Definitely a neat person, and alas I am smitten again.
Let me stop here and explain to the young people in the audience that in the vernacular of the day "Rap Group" had nothing to do with music. "Rap" was slang for "talk". I think it was something the hippies cooked up when they were tripping on LSD. "Hey, let's don't just talk….Let's Rap!"
So, a rap group was like a support group and on this particular night, Patrick was there. We liked each other instantly. I like that in my first entry I describe Pat as being from three places. He was that kind of person, a wanderer. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, but had lived all over—Miami, San Francisco, New York.
Another journal entry:
4/19/80 Pat is in Tallahassee as the lobbyist for the Florida Task Force. Yesterday evening he stopped by and I went to the Mikisooki Land Co-Op where he lives with a married couple, their child, a young woman and her German boyfriend who she doesn't sleep with, in a dome shaped house that is really extraordinary. Pat cooked dinner (omelets and spinach) and then we went to campus to see "Last Tango in Paris."
Here's a good description of Pat from my journal:
4/20/80 I really like Pat. He is so genuine and good and honest. He really has a refreshing outlook, very healthy view of things. He also has a beautiful laugh which causes attractive crinkles around his eyes.
I worked as a volunteer in Pat's office. I remember that periodically he would take a break and meditate.
We handled the details for a march on the capital building in Tallahassee. Troy Perry, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church came for the march. He and Pat spoke on the steps of the phallus shaped capital building. I remember thinking, "I love this guy, but Pat is no public speaker."
Patrick was the only roommate The Boyfriend and I ever had. After we returned from San Francisco in the early 80's, Patrick decided to move to Jacksonville. As I recall, Pat was something of a tight wad, but I always knew he had money. He could afford to live alone, but he didn't like it, so he always had a roommate. I think he lived with us for about a year before moving on. I think he moved to Tampa after that. Wherever it was, I am sure he didn't stay long.
Patrick was someone who always called me on my bullshit. More than any friend I have ever had, before or since. A virtue, I suppose. Still, he often pissed me off, but I still loved him.
It is funny the things you remember. Even though he didn't drink and had never been an alcoholic, Patrick went to gay AA meetings to meet guys.
Finding the journal entries from the first meeting with Patrick was pretty easy. Entries about Patrick after that are more difficult to locate. Patrick was a bit of a vagabond and he moved in and out of my life for several years.
Sometime around 1995, Pat called me out of the blue. He was living in Los Angeles. He wanted to see me. He was sick.
I was shocked that Patrick had AIDS. He was the first person to discuss safe sex with me and that had been right after the AIDS crisis hit the news in a big way. I believed he was practicing safe sex and was, therefore, safe.
But he wasn't.
We discussed me coming to visit, the treatment he was receiving. "I want to see you," he said in a way that sounded more desperate than I wanted to accept. The tenor of his voice said, "There is a deadline, I just don't know what it is."
I called Patrick a week later and was disturbed to find he did not remember our conversation from the week before. He sounded weak and disoriented. I decided to check back later concerning coming to visit him. Now hardly seemed like the time…
But time really was the issue.
When next I called, there was no answer.
Then his phone was disconnected.
Patrick was gone.
Except, no one is ever gone. Patrick was part of my life. I remember him with affection. I have a photograph. I can hear his voice in my head. Pat lingers, and I am grateful.
Patrick was on the staff of the AIDS Project of Los Angeles and is remembered on the Names Project AIDS quilt on a panel dedicated to their staff members who died.
Patrick is not the only friend I lost to AIDS. From San Francisco, there were my co-workers, Micky and Richard; my friend Konstantin, a fiercely radical activist and writer, who I met after writing him a fawning fan letter. From Jacksonville, there was Chuck, Glenn and Ronn and so many others. Too many.
Konstantin's Names Project panel from the AIDS quilt.
Now I have friends who are living with HIV. Not lost, but encumbered by a disease we all hoped would have been defeated by now.
World AIDS Day, December 1, is a reminder to never stop caring about these people.
I miss you, Pat.