December 01, 2003

Today is World AIDS Day. Peter quotes from a rousing screed on the subject, plus a link to help you lobby your political leaders for more funding.

Since I grew up around San Francisco, I knew people who got AIDS early in its American run. Two teachers in my high school died of it. One died after I graduated, but he had quite a remarkable exit. He grew sicker and sicker but kept going to work, not telling the students what was happening. Finally, one day he sensed the end was near, and he announced to his class that he was gay (no one knew this!) and had AIDS. The kids were shocked, but supportive; much weeping and hugging followed. That evening, as if his body sensed his business was settled, he went home and died. The next day his students made banners and hung them from the schoolhouse windows in remembrance.

There was one other teacher who came down with AIDS, that I remember more painfully. He was my music teacher. He was actually a professional violinist; I took private lessons in his rowhouse in San Francisco, where he lived with two other men in one of the most richly decorated interiors I've ever seen.

When he fell ill, I was 16 years old, and totally unable to cope with it. Part of the trouble was that he never directly told me he had AIDS; he sort of dropped hints, and I guess figured I'd pick it up. I worried terribly about him, but at the time I did not know how to talk about that. And it didn't help that our relations were getting strained. He had ambitions for me to go to Curtis and become a professional musician; I'd vaguely wanted to do that too, but I was starting to realize that this wouldn't be my life. By the end of high school, we ambivalently parted ways.

I still wonder if he's alive or dead now. I wish I'd done things differently. But that was one of the terrible things about AIDS: the way it brought death long before we'd learned to expect it, when we thought we'd have all the time in the world.

Posted by Camassia at December 01, 2003 07:14 PM | TrackBack
Post a comment
Hi! I'd love to know your thoughts, but please read the rules of commenting:
- You must enter a valid email address
- No sock puppets
- No name-calling or obscene language


Email Address:



Remember info?