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Late 1980s: “When I Think I Have A Problem, I Think Back To That Time For Randy.”

Late 1980s: “When I Think I Have A Problem, I Think Back To That Time For Randy.”


It was the mid-to-late 80s and my best friend
Randy had been sick for quite a while. It was clear he was dying. We’d lived together in Louisville, we’d
live together in Chicago, we’d lived together in San Francisco. We were always best friends, never lovers. But he stayed in San Francisco, I moved to
Boston. So we had a coast-to-coast friendship at that
point. He was living out there with his boyfriend
at the time, but his boyfriend was not capable of taking care of Randy in his advanced stages
of AIDS. So I flew out to the West Coast to help him
wrap things up and essentially take him back home to Louisville to die. This was what so many gay people faced at
the time. We set Warren up in a new apartment, got him
all situated, moved all of Randy’s things in there, and then Randy and I set off for
Louisville. As we waited to board, I made a tactical error. We should have boarded first but because he
was moving so slowly at that point, we waited till the end. As we boarded the flight, the first thing
that registered to me was the horrified look on the flight attendants’ faces. This was San Francisco in the late 80s. Clearly, Randy didn’t have one of the acceptable
diseases like cancer, leukemia, he had AIDS. There was no question about it. It was a time when people didn’t really
understand the disease or how it was spread. So we turned to go down the aisle and it seemed
like every face on that plane was watching us. When we got to our aisle, our row, the gentleman
in the aisle seat got up and made way for us to sit down. I quickly grabbed his barfbag and put it in
my pocket because I wanted to make sure I was prepared. I needn’t have worried, he didn’t return. He found some place else to sit on the plane. I remember looking at Randy sitting in his
window seat, all hunched over. This was a man who was four years my junior
who at this point looked 40 years my senior. This shriveled, little, old man sitting next
to me, I could hardly believe was my friend Randy. Got him to Louisville and he went right into
the hospital with pneumocystis. Usually, when that happens, when you were
that far advanced with pneumocystis, it’s the end. He had a wonderfully supportive family, terrific
people, and we were all in the hospital room constantly with him. And I remember sitting at his side and looking
into his eyes and wondering when – how many minutes were left. He was looking at me and a tear escaped out
of his eye and I wiped it off with my finger, and then I looked down at my finger and remembered
that I had a papercut on that same finger. And the thought that – oh my God – could I
contract HIV from a tear from my best friend’s eye? It was like this horrible treasonous thought,
and yet I did remember wiping it off on my pants leg and feeling much smaller for the
action of doing that. He was days from dying and then all of a sudden,
as happened with this disease, he suddenly started getting better. He was responding to whatever treatment they
were giving him. The pneumocystis went away. He started getting better. He started getting stronger. I went back to Boston. He stayed with his parents. He was getting better and better and better. At the same point, Warren, out in San Francisco,
his boyfriend that we had set up in the apartment, was diagnosed with AIDS. So Randy picks up and moves back to San Francisco
to take care of Warren this time. And Warren wasn’t the fighter that Randy
was, so Warren went downhill really fast. So Randy moved into the apartment that we
had rented for Warren, and all of Randy’s things were in there. During their relationship, Randy had asked
many times about his family. And he said, “I have nothing to do my family.” He said, “They’re bible-thumping Christians
from Southern California.” And that’s all Randy knew about them. Well, unfortunately, when Warren took a turn
for the worse in the hospital, the hospital had next-of-kin information and phoned the
parents in Southern California, who didn’t even know their son was gay, that he was dying
of AIDS. So the mother and sister came up from Southern
California. Didn’t want to even know that Randy existed,
but they moved into the apartment with Randy. And one day, when he was out, they locked
him out. They had the locks changed and locked him
out of his own apartment that he had rented for Warren, full of all his own things. To make matters worse, one day when Randy
was there – like I said, you never knew whether death was imminent or whether someone was
going to bounce back – and he left Warren one evening when he was still alive and as
well as could be expected. And Warren died that night. They notified the parents, the parents came
– or the mother and sister came for the body. Loaded up a U-Haul with all of Randy’s belongings
and disappeared into Southern California, and left Randy, with AIDS, with a dead and
vanished lover, and homeless. I think sometimes, when I think I have a problem,
I think back to that time for Randy and the strength and fortitude that it took for him. I remember being in Boston when all of this
happened. There was nothing I could do for him. A friend took him in. He stayed out in California and continued
to do okay. We’d talk on the phone every day. I remember talking to him and he said, “I
don’t know what to do with my life. I’m feeling better. I don’t know if I am going to live. I don’t know if I’m going to die.” I said, “This is Sunday night. What do you usually do with your Sunday nights?” I knew the answer to this. He said, “Well, Warren and I would always
go to the beer bust at the Eagle.” I said, “Go to the beer bust at the Eagle. Do something normal.” “Okay,” he said, “I’m going to go
to the Eagle and I’m going to wear my white oxford cloth shirt and jeans and penny loafers.” Because that was his favorite outfit and Warren
would never let him wear that to the Eagle. He went to the Eagle and he’s standing out
there among all that leather and jeans. And across that crowded space, he sees a man
in a white oxford cloth shirt, jeans and penny loafers. And there’s this instant attraction. His name is Art. He went home with Art and spent of his life
with Art, until he died. And then Art died two years later. It was an incredibly cruel story that, apart
from dying, had a very happy ending because he was loved and cared for for the last two
years of his life by a man who absolutely adored him who he absolutely adored.

27 comments on “Late 1980s: “When I Think I Have A Problem, I Think Back To That Time For Randy.”

  1. What a bittersweet story. I'm also of the age that I lost many friends. Your friend Randy who's family took his things and locked him out of the apartment, this happened to a friend of mine. He died a year after his partner. Truely sad. I hope we've come further.

  2. Randy’s family who did that to his friend probably paid a huge karmic debt later because what they did was evil and wrong….

  3. I am the mother of a gay son this is so sad and beautiful at the same time.That mother was so cruel and heartless to do this to the man her son loved. I am so happy God sent Art to Randy we are all Gods children.

  4. What's good is that Randy passed away in love with his partner. You were an amazing friend to Randy. You're also very handsome 😏☺.

  5. Thanks for telling this account of your friend's life living with AIDS. I'm 64 and I lived in San Francisco at that time and I still do. I identified with the shame you felt about your friend's tears. There was so much fear at that time, we did not know what was safe or not safe the way we do now and at that time hiv was a death sentence. So much is different now but I think a lot of gay people can relate to that. Thanks for all you did, we all had to do the next right thing if possible since there was no blueprint. I lost my BFF to AIDS in 1994 and helped him. It was like living in a war! I still grieve at times for so many I knew gone but we are the survivors of a very tragic time in history and maybe our stories will help others. Blessings.

  6. I lived in Houston from 1985 to 1994. The Montrose district was the “gayborhood” and AIDS decimated our community. I lost 49 close friends and acquaintances in that time period. It was a terrifying time that I will never forget.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing<3. I hope that younger generations look upon this and help stop the stigma that many people with HIV face today. Much love to you for sharing, much love to the LGBTQ community, and much love to any one living with disease hope life gives you all the love you deserve. <3

  8. Am I the only one that was completely following the story until the very end?… He was instantly attracted to him, went home with him that night, and passed it to someone else before he died. That was basically how the end of that story just read out.

  9. Heartbreaking. Almost every romantic partner I have ever had has died from AIDS. Except of course my partner of 35 years and husband.

  10. I totally relate to not knowing what to do w my life cuz I didn't know if I'd live or die. I've had hiv 16 years n now am fighting cancer. I wish I had a close friend as compassionate as u.

  11. It is infuriating to hear stories like this one about Warren's evil mother and sister. We will all answer for our actions one day, and mercy will be given to those who have shown mercy themselves.

  12. Thank you for sharing your beautiful stories. There are some of us who have gone through the difficult time of the AIDS crisis who need to be reminded that that we are not alone with that experience. I don't believe future generations will ever be able to understand. I hope they don't have to. ❤

  13. To all of the gay community out there I have a story to tell about a friend of mine who had AIDS. My friend who shall remain nameless out of respect. My friend was a very funny, hilarious man. Everyone that knew him loved him. He was the best. He and I would spend many a long nights crying in our booze over guys we liked and how they would do us wrong, etc. His cousin was my boyfriend at the time but he was a serial cheater. I worshipped this man…why when I think back on things between he and I things were never going to work between either of us. To make a long story short…my friend who later contracted HIV…the 2 of us and a couple of other gay men/ friends decided that we were going to start going out to the gay clubs (this was in the early 90s) and pick up some guys and just have a little fun with them…well we did just that except for when the parties were over my friend who ended up with AIDS was going out and finding more gay men to hook up with unbeknownst to me. I found out about his secret behavior from another friend the 2 of us had in common. I confronted him about it and he of course denied everything. Let's skip forwards about a year later. I noticed my friend was looking awfully puny but I just brushed it away as maybe he was on ANOTHER diet. If only that were the real case. As time went by I noticed that he was really beginning to look worse. I knew then in the back of my mind that there was something wrong with him but again I was in denial. One day I came over to his apartment without announcing I was coming over and found him passed out on the living room floor. I immediately called 911 and he was rushed to the emergency room. The hospital ran multiple blood tests on him and that's when everything changed for him and I forever. He was diagnosed with HIV. I was livid. We were friends and he never admitted to having multiple sexual rendezvous with different men. One of those sons-of-a- bitches had the AIDS virus. I was so angry that I distance myself from everything and everybody including my infected friend. I was a bad friend. To this very day, I still have not ever forgiven myself for being selfish when my friend needed me most. Ultimately , he died. I did not and could not bring myself to attend his funeral. I was mad at him for leaving me. I have since tried to ask God to forgive me. It's one of the greatest mistake that I ever made in my life. So I guess the moral of this story is…if you have a friend who's really needs you BE THERE FOR THEM it will mean the world to them, hopefully and you too. Real friends are very few and far and in between. I miss my friend. This whole experience has changed me as a person. I make myself do things that I'm afraid of because I want no regrets. For years after all of this happened I stayed single because I didn't want to feel the pain that it causes when things don't go as you plan. I'm now 54 years old and I have found the perfect man. He lives out of state but in the next couple of months I'm going to move where he lives. He has his own business so he can't move here where I live but that's ok. You're never too old for change. I'm so looking forwards to spending our lives together. My friend would be so shocked and happy to see that I finally found real love. I know he's looking down from heaven at me. This In itself gives me such comfort. I've never told or admitted this out loud to anyone except my new man. Rest in peace my friend! I love you for always.

  14. I'm sure Randy and Art are together, happy and healthy in a way better place now.
    May they bless us all from Heaven above.

  15. Oh my God. That's deep thank you for sharing. I'm sorry that your friend had to go through so much. And was so cruelly treated by his husband's family. However I feel hope because there are people out there with that fire. And I am honored to hear his story really thank you for sharing, again. I hope you have lots of happiness in your life. Be well.

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