I guess it started from that lazy Sunday afternoon, stretched out with all the Sunday papers when my eye’s were drawn an article about a a gay cancer in San Francisco. I sat bolt upright and started to read it in earnest.
As I read this rather small article the more intrigued and alarmed I became, just how was it possible that a cancer could be transmitted from one person to another. It wasn’t long before this news and more became common knowledge yet still in the UK the information was limited. I had heard that the Dutch government had sent a team of medics out to San Francisco to see what this was all about and from that the Dutch got pro-active and soon they started to educate the gay male population. England sat back and did nothing.
From those early days I admit to being scared. It was more than obvious that if a trend started on the West Coast of the USA it wouldn’t be long before Chicago and New York were affected and surely the UK and Europe would follow.
Suddenly it was if someone lit a fuse and people were dying and it was getting closer and closer to me.
I was in a crap relationship having recently found out what a whore he was and our sex life and stopped but I knew he had sex in all the airports he flew into and I developed a hatred of cabin crew. I talked to him but he wasn’t interested, his primary interested was getting sex somehow, somewhere and with God knows who.
I had a few years earlier had a brief affair with a wonderful guy called Jake (I have changed his name to protect his legacy) Being Librans we knew exactly how the other one worked and it was a great, fun and passionate affair. He worked in travel and was often flying off here and there but we’d speak every day and met up every weekend. He had the most beautiful big brown eyes that sparkled day and night and his smile would make my knees wobble. We would spend a lot of time in his apartment and go out on weekends to our favourite haunt, Heaven which was under the arches at Charing Cross rail way station. We always smoked cannabis and on party night Acid and Cocaine were our choice of drugs. Friends would call in and we’d all try and synchronise our watches and take our Acid at the same time.
At that time it was one of the largest gay nightclubs and there were some amazing guests but for us it was a night with friends, the music and the lights and of course bottles of poppers. How we danced, and kept on dancing and it felt as if we were invincible little knowing that within months half of the men on the dance floor would be either dying or dead. It was an awful time and I would gaze at faces for hours and they would be gone the next.
Fear had come in to all of our lives and for some the fear was so much worse.
When I close my eyes I see him, clear as day. Smiling at me and beckoning me to go towards him. His face lit with total delights and I can hear his voice clearly. He was a couple of inches short of my 6 feet height, his hairy chest was just enough hair and he was fit. We would be told time and time again what a great couple we looked and yes we were. I felt safe with him, nothing could hurt me while in his company and he felt the same as I did. Somehow our relationship started to fall. He had met someone else and wanted to be with him. Although my heart was broken I never lost him. He still called me every day and I was happy for him if he was happy.
A few years had rolled by and HLTV3 was THE name for this ‘gay plague’. Karposi Sarcoma was the name of the cancer and now my friends had died and not all from AIDS.
Three were diagnosed and within days committed suicide. Such amazing, talented, educated, beautiful men went. They were my first funerals and the first of hundreds. One by one, day by day and it became continuous and suddenly all of the most beautiful men I knew were slowly dying a miserable and ugly death. What could I do? I needed to so something but I just didn’t know how.
So the worst day of my life was…
February 1985. The phone rang and on answering I heard a voice say, “I don’t know you but my brother died, it is all your fault so stay away”.
That is how I found out how my one time lover had passed away.
Three months prior to that I made an emergency dash to see him in a leading London hospital but what I saw when I got there is emblazoned into my mind and I won’t ever forget. In a small isolation room there he was laying on a paper sheet with a paper sheet on top of him and his pillow case was the same. He had lost so much weight and as soon as he saw me he started to cry. I went to enter his room but was stopped and told I had to put on a paper gown, face mask and gloves. I did it because I was told to even though I knew the virus could not be passed by breath or touch.
We held each other and cried in fact we cried a lot. He kept on saying how scared he was, how frightened that every time anyone came near him they gowned up. He was going for tests but didn’t know or understand what they were for. This was an insane way to treat anyone but I knew I would not be able to take this gown treatment for long. So come the third visit as I got to the door to his room I went in leaving gown et al behind me. I had to feel him, smell him and kiss him. Although we hadn’t been lovers for a while we still had a lot of love for each other and I was his only visitor. Hospital security were there in a flash and then the police, they wanted me out before I infected the whole place. Holding him gave us strength and I remember thinking if this is the last time I ever get to do this I am going to make it last. Eventually though I had to leave but I was leaving when I wanted to and not when they wanted. I left feeling triumphant, I had made a break through but what that would manifest to I didn’t know.
Then it seemed for several visits he wasn’t there. It was this test, that test and something else. I was beginning to think I was getting a run around. As it turned out I wasn’t but getting tests done involved a lot more than I ever knew. Certain people refused to work with HIV infected people or their bodily fluids, others didn’t want to touch him so staff had to be found who would do these things.
I knew time was running out and when I wasn’t with him he was on the phone to me, night after night. I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
Then that day came. After I replaced the receiver I was in shock, pain, denial and hurt. Silence was everywhere and I couldn’t hear a thing and that’s when I started to feel numb. She had said I wasn’t to go to his funeral. What was I to do. I wanted to say goodbye. I didn’t know the date, time or place. I continued to feel numb for days and my life would never be the same again.
How many years have passed? 30. I can’t believe that but it was and there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t thought of him of the crazy wonderful things we did and I know I am blessed to have known that amazing man so wherever you are I just know we’ll meet again.
I have searched so many cemetaries and crematorium and have never found him. Was he buried or cremated? I will never know but he is still with me possibly even guiding me along my path but I so sure that we will meet again and it is that that gives me the most comfort.
by Paul Nicholls-Whiteman
World AIDS Day is 1st December
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