The Moose Comes out of the Closet

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I’ve been going onto message boards less and less lately. It’s too time consuming and aggravating and makes me lose focus. I have, however, been going to Digital Webbing again and hanging out at the writer’s forum. I figure, if I’m, going to waste time posting stuff I might as well help some aspiring writers out. I’ve been mainly focusing on pitches and synopsis but it’s been refreshing. Anyway, one guy was talking about how he can’t seem to whittle the first arc of his story down below 12 issues. I basically told him he has to get it down to three or four and make the ending have closure. I think that’s a good intro for today’s story, where I basically expose myself and sum up my single motivating factor for the past eleven+ years of my life, the one thing that is at the root of most of my stories if you look hard enough, in two pages.

_____________________________

I never really knew Steven. Or his older brother RJ or his younger brother Jonathon. They family lived down the block from my Grandma’s house in Red Hook and we’d occasionally play a game of hide & seek or maybe some basketball but beyond that they were pretty much distant third cousins.

Things changed when we found out that Steven was HIV+.

I always talk about my tragic family but in almost every death there’s a lesson there. At this point the tragedy ball just started rolling. Poppy died some time ago, I don’t even remember him. But in the few years before Steven we lost my Uncle Joe to lung cancer (smoker), my Uncle Mike when his liver failed (alcohol) and my Cousin Frankie, who I hardly knew, of AIDS (drugs when he was younger, cleaned up). Everyone so far could lead to a lecture from my mom, crying as she tells me not to get addicted to cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. My life was basically an after-school special.

There was no lesson to be learned from Steven except for the fact that life isn’t fair sometimes. At least on the surface.

Steven was eleven years old. He was born premature and got a blood transfusion before they screened blood. The blood was bad and he got HIV as a result. And that’s it. Eleven years old and it’s all over for no good reason except for the fact that old white-men in suits were ignoring an emerging health crisis because it was considered a homosexual disease. Where’s the lesson there?

Steven’s illness brought the family together. RJ, Luis and I became crew. We spent every Friday night together as a standard but there were many days and nights when we hung out as well. We never really talked about Steven. We laughed and watched movies and played games but Steven never came up.

I got closer with Steven as well. I’d go visit him in the hospital, bring him comics. The kid always smiled, even when he looked bad. The hair was gone and the body was frail and he looked like a skeleton but despite it all he had this smile stretched across his face whenever somebody came to visit him.

He was supposedly never told what he had but he had to know. But he didn’t let it get him down, at least not in front of people. I look at myself and I think that if I was slowly dying, I would be the most selfish bastard imaginable. I would be whining and bitching and complaining and looking for pity. I bitch for days when I bite a piece of my tongue off.

But this kid just kept with it.

The Make a Wish Foundation set him up to hang out on the set of THE LAST ACTION HERO. Steven was always a huge fan of Schwarzenegger and the pictures of him on the set are something else. The kid looks like he can hardly stand and he’s next to the biggest man in the world, with that same smile.

As he got worse his body started to fall apart. But I’d come to the hospital to see him and the smile would instantly go back on. Towards the last week my mom told me that Steven said he didn’t want me to see him like he was, to no longer go to the hospital. In retrospect, I know that my mom didn’t want me to see Steven like he was. I’m willing to bet if I’d see Steven he would be unable to move but the minute I walked into that room he’d smile.

RJ and Luis were sleeping over my house when my mom came in to get RJ. RJ went to the hospital and Steven died that night. I was awake when my mom came in the room but I didn’t say anything. We didn’t talk about Steven.

His funeral was packed. The whole neighborhood came out. I went up to his coffin once, at the insistence of my father, and had to be carried out because I broke down. I couldn’t take it. It was so heartbreaking and all of the past months just exploded out of me.

Steven, when he was alive, was a rock. RJ was a rock. Steven’s mother was a rock. The whole family was strong, on the outside, at least. Me, the third cousin that hardly spoke to Steven before we got the news of his condition, who only got close with him over the last few months, was the one they had to be pulled out of the funeral parlor.

I don’t think it was guilt. I know I did what I can with the time I had. I think the problem was, I just didn’t have enough time.

A lot of people that read this blog are friends of mine that constantly tell me that I take on too many responsibilities. They ask how I do it, how I squeeze it all in.

I don’t know if you call it a lesson or a complex but if there was one thing I learned from Steven’s death is that we don’t have enough time. None of us do. Your life can change, fall apart and end in an instant. Whereas I should have gotten a celebrate life message out of that, I think I got this illogical urgency to get where I want to be as quick as I possibly can, even if it means sacrificing relationships in the process.

RJ, Luis and I remained close after Steven’s death, through high-school and college. There’s been distance recently, geographical and social, I guess. It seems to be my schtick. I let people drift further away than they should. The only ones I really hold onto are the ones that can put up with me avoiding them. I would call more often, write, whatever.

I just don’t have enough time.

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