By Maggie Felisberto
For Cindy & Chris
Someday when we’re both feeling poignant and alone and drinking wine, will you tell me about your friends who have died? Mine have all died the same way, the same lines in the paper describing their fate. Auto accident. Crash. The body is filled, either lost control or drunk driver. They died the same death, crushed the same ribs, bled the same blood. Except for one who fell down a mountain, red cells mixing with red earth in the heart of Mexico. I can count on my fingers the friends who have died and still hold a pair of chopsticks needed to eat, to sustain my life so jealously coveted. The suicides have all been relatives of friends, but I could still point a lone finger at the sky to demand excuses or reasons or logic. How many fingers, how many hands would you have to sacrifice to number your friends who have died their same death. How many toes and feet cut off at the ankles to dedicate to their lives. Life lived in a flash, loving loved. Their beloveds died, too, infected with AIDS, inflicted with hate. When the night comes that you’ve had too much wine, tell me about the late eighties.
Author’s Note: I wrote this prose-poem on the night of the Women’s March on Washington (we were representing in Providence) after having a conversation with a friend/professor who lost his first love to AIDS during the 1980s. My mother was close friends with many gay men in the 1970s and 80s, most of whom passed away long before the time my sisters and I could read. The whole reason my parents even met was because of these friends of my mom, who chose to celebrate the ends of their lives together by going on an elaborate Caribbean cruise. They invited my mother along, and my father was her waiter on the ship. We’ve talked about this in a factual kind of way before, but underneath the romantic waves of my parents meeting is an undercurrent of pain and loss and sorrow that we don’t often touch upon. So this was written for Chris, who loved a man and lost him far too soon, and for Cindy, who never got to share her children’s achievements with her closest friends.
To learn more about the history of HIV/AIDS and its devastating impact in the United States, click here. For more information about HIV/AIDS in general, check out AVERT. To learn more about the history of awareness ribbons, which in a variety of colors have come to represent a variety of illnesses but began with a red ribbon for AIDS, click here.