Back to Memories That Smell Like Gasoline, where the Gulf War is playing on hundreds of TV screens in St. Vincent’s Hospital; I’m thinking about senior year of high school when I was studying for finals at the American University cafeteria and I looked up at the TV screens and there it was, the bombs were dropping. My mouth fell open and I couldn’t do anything but stare at the TV screens. I couldn’t study anymore: there was no point.
The Gulf War is playing on hundreds of TV screens in St. Vincent’s Hospital, and “my friend is too weak to turn the channels on other people’s deaths.” Then on the next page there’s that drawing of a guy with lesions all over his body, everywhere, there’s nowhere without them and his eyes are closed like maybe he can imagine this away. How something so simple as this drawing can still feel so scary. And I’m thinking about how I hardly ever see anyone with lesions anymore, and where have they all gone?
I remember when I moved to San Francisco, and you would see guys in wheelchairs all the time in the Castro and that was only three-and-a-half years ago. If all those guys are dead, what about the new guys in wheelchairs, are they all hiding behind closed doors?
And then I hear Ned gasp, and when I look up I see his hand over his mouth in reaction to that same image. He doesn’t look at me. We both go back to reading. There’s a drawing of a guy with blood all over his clothes from cruising the waterfront for hustlers: “Maybe I did something wrong,” he says, on one side, and then on the other we learn for the first time about the virus inside David’s body. And I remember what he said in Close to the Knives, that when he contracted the disease, he knew he had contracted a diseased world too, and what does Ned know of this world? How we were so close yesterday or was it the day before, and what does it mean to feel that close, when you’re not really close? Ned doesn’t say anything when he finishes the book; I can’t tell what he’s thinking and somehow I hate him for that. No, I hate him because I don’t hate him.