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  [caption id="attachment_142" align="alignright" width="241" caption="My brother John. "][/caption] My brother, John, died of AIDS on June 5, 1991. He got it the old-fashioned way. "I was a bad boy, " he joked with me after the VA doctors had delivered the bad news. "I fucked my way across Europe. " He might have been more careful. The virus that killed him was identified a full decade before he got it. One problem was, publicity about AIDS was sparse during the disease's first decade. This, I think, conspired with John's unnaturally high joie de vivre to kill him. If AIDS were really a danger, he probably rationalized, more people would be sounding the klaxons about it. But not even US President Ronald Reagan, his former Commander in Chief, a man who surely had gay friends in the movie biz, not to mention a gay son, had so much as peeped.   (http://www. sfgate. com/cgi-bin/article. cgi?f=/c/a/2004/06/08/EDG777163F1. DTL) One reason Reagan and others didn't help get the word out about AIDS is that the disease was sexually transmitted. This was thirty years ago, before we got used to watching TV ads for boner pills and vibrating dildos that blow your hair back (http://www. trojanvibrations. com/trojan-tv). It didn't help that the AIDS virus started its career in the gay bath houses. (Is there another kind?) Medical investigators, perhaps hopefully, initially announced that the virus was a threat to gay men only. They even named it GRID -- Gay-Related Immune Deficiency. The gay thing only made the public relations problem worse. A lot of people thought AIDS was God punishing faggots. God wanted them dead for their perversions. People in the 1980s weren't the prudes of the 1950s, but they still felt uncomfortable talking about sexual things, especially if the talk conjured up images of hairy ass man-on-man sex. Middle America would have been horrified to see John in action. A swimmer in high school, he'd shaved his naturally hairy body a number of times in an effort to reduce drag. Each time it had grown back with a vengeance. As a result, he was grizzly-bear hairy, a body type that enjoyed an inexplicable spike in popularity among gay men in the 80s. So I'm guessing John, finding his body type suddenly in vogue among his peers, probably hoped that AIDS was a passing nuisance. Swine flu. Asian flu. Hong Kong flu. Here and gone. And you had to be really unlucky to get it. Then again, knowing John -- knowing the pain he'd suffered not only as a stepson but a gay stepson whose stereotypical clumsiness on the ball field only gave our alcoholic stepfather another reason to despise and belittle him in vicious and subtle ways -- it might just be that he decided to say fuck it and roll the dice. And so he lived the eighties as he lived the rest of his life, guided by his hedonistic urges, as if AIDS simply didn't exist. Newly released from the Navy with a general discharge (they diagnosed him as schizophrenic and showed him the door), he hooked up with a nightclub owner in Athens, Greece. He was in Athens for a few years. It was like paradise after having been stationed on an Indian Ocean atoll named Diego Garcia, an isolated, horseshoe-shaped spec surrounded by so many sharks no one ever dared go swimming. (The only thing good about Diego Garcia was its relative proximity to Bangkok, a city ready and willing to indulge John's  predilections. ) The one thing you know about my brother if you know canada viagra generic anything about him at all is that he lived his life unafraid of what anyone looking on might think. It was a courageous way to go about things, and I envied him for it, but it made his life burn hot and may have killed him in the end. Cliff climbers sometimes fall. A few years after he died -- I'm not really sure when exactly -- I had a nightmare about him. We were slow dancing, embracing one another, barely moving. Canada viagra generic he was taller, my head was against his collarbone. I don't remember any music. It was a short dream, and dark. After a few seconds, I became aware (somehow) that he was very angry. With me. His anger flared and filled me like a thunderbolt canada viagra generic, waking me up with a jolt. John always could scare me. I never doubted he was crazy enough to do most anything. Even, apparently, come back from the dead. At least in my dreams. I woke up shivering, sobbing, distraught, terrified, embarrassed, ashamed. My wife woke up and comforted me, held my head against her breast as if I were a child. "What was it?" she said, petting my hair. "A dream, " I told her, as if she didn't know. Then I choked out the story between sobs that came in waves that slammed my throat shut and left me able only to croak. Was John reaching out to me from beyond the grave? I tend not to believe in such things. I think the dream, his anger toward me in it, was born of my guilt for not having been more of a comfort to him, more of a brother, as he died. I was in my mid-thirties then, plenty old enough to be a man. But I was a late-bloomer and a coward, especially when it came to death. (I had no religion, no philosophy, to make it less horrifying. ) And so when John strolled out to meet me that afternoon as I arrived at our mother's house for a visit, I was struck dumb and impotent and no help at all when he took each of my hands in his, as if preparing to dance a reel, [canada viagra generic] and looked at me with the eye that the AIDS hadn't yet blinded (the left one?) and started singing. "We're off to see the wizard!" he sang. "The wonderful Wizard of Oz!" I wish now that I would have summoned the bravery to do something other than stand there like a dope. I wish I would have sung along with him, maybe, or hugged him and told him "everything's going to be all right, " even though we would both have known it wasn't true. Instead, I let the horror of the situation paralyze me. I stood there stupidly, with nothing to say except perhaps (and I don't remember this clearly) to tell him, "You're a crazy bastard, you know that?"


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