Let's do a bunch of coke, Avery finally says, let's do a bunch of coke and then get on the T and ride every line. We’ll announce every stop, over and over again the whole way just like Sean used to do, over and over again until everyone on the train wants to punch us. I know they already want to punch us but then they'll really want to punch us. Let's make sure we get to every stop. I want to announce every stop. I want to announce every stop for Sean.
And that's when we start crying, finally, both of us, I can’t tell if I start crying because I see tears in Avery’s eyes or if he starts crying because I’m already there, but it feels like such a relief because I wasn’t sure if I could cry anymore. And maybe this sounds awful but crying feels like a celebration, like a celebration of life, maybe Sean's, maybe ours, and when we’re done crying Avery and I do another line, and then another, and another, and then we get ready to ride the T.
The next day, I finally start reading The Gifts of the Body, Rebecca Brown's latest book, about a home-care worker taking care of people dying of AIDS. I read a few sentences and I’m kind of startled by the writing, so simple and straightforward in comparison to her other books and I’m thinking about whether these deaths have changed Rebecca Brown’s writing.
I’m thinking about when I first heard about AIDS, maybe I was 12 and it was Rock Hudson in The Inquirer and I didn't even know who that was, a famous actor my mother said and the headline said he died of AIDS. Maybe he came out first, and then he died. No, I don’t think he ever came out.
Liberace too —pictures of him really scared me, I didn't know what to do with those pictures. I just knew that I was going to die, if anyone knew, knew about me, and they did know, that much I knew.
Even though Sean was a tired bitch, she was maybe my best friend without JoAnne or Abby or Melissa who doesn't call me back anymore. Maybe I'm becoming a tired bitch, sitting here in Ned's dining area, staring up at the chandelier instead of starting The Gifts of the Body. I never noticed before that this is the exact same chandelier as the one in the entryway, only smaller. And the one crystal that's a different color, ruby, I guess that's how you know the chandelier is real, that’s what Ned told me, real what I didn’t ask but on this chandelier the odd crystal is right at the bottom instead of on the side a little bit like the one in the front.
Each chapter in The Gifts of the Body is called the gift of something, like "The Gift of Sweat," or "The Gift of Wholeness." It looks a bit religious with all those gifts arranged in a column down the table of contents and then I wonder, wait, I hope it isn't 12 chapters, 12 steps, that would be awful.
Okay, 11, 11's okay, I counted twice just to make sure. Three times: 11 for sure. I guess I can start now.
I start crying on page 2, which is numbered page 4. I start crying because the narrator is talking about leaving little surprises under the pillow of the person she's taking care of. Or, rearranging his toys so the toys are kissing. "Rick love surprises," Rebecca Brown writes.
And then, on the next page, Rick is on the floor, or no I guess it's not the floor but it feels like the floor. It feels like the floor to me. He's on the futon in the living room, curled up in a fetal position, writhing in pain. The narrator has just arrived.