Gay Writer Relives The Heartbreak Of AIDS Epidemic In Twitter Thread

Writer and food editor Tucker Shaw was prompted to recall the terror of the AIDS epidemic after hearing two younger LGBT+ people refer to how AIDS 'paved the way to make things better, in the long run.'

AIDS quilt to remember the epidemic
Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

A man has shared his experiences, coming of age in the US in the 80’s and 90’s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Tucker Shaw, who lives in Boston, was compelled to share his experience after overhearing a gay man and his boyfriend discussing the long-term positive impact of the AIDS epidemic for the gay community “in the long run.”

Shaw said he doesn’t necessarily disagree with the sentiments but was struck by how these people were discussing the AIDS epidemic as such an abstract concept considering the height of the crisis was not that long ago.

“Remember how terrible it was, not that long ago, during the worst times. How many beautiful friends died. One after the other. Brutally. Restlessly. Brittle and damp. In cold rooms with hot lights. Remember?

“I overheard a young man on the train on the way home today, talking to another young man. Holding hands. In college, I guessed. About that age anyway. Much younger than I am,” Tucker kicked off his thread, which has reached 50,000 likes and counting.

“He was talking about AIDS, in a scholarly way. About how it had galvanized the gay community. How it had spurred change. Paved the way to make things better, in the long run,’ he wrote. ‘The long run.”

“Maybe he’s right. I don’t know. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the theory. He spoke with clarity and with confidence. Youthful, full of conviction. But.

“Remember how terrible it was, not that long ago, during the worst times. How many beautiful friends died. One after the other. Brutally. Restlessly. Brittle and damp. In cold rooms with hot lights. Remember?

Hugh Lane

“Some nights, you’d sneak into that hospital downtown after visiting hours, just to see who was around. It wasn’t hard.

“You’d bring a boom box. Fresh gossip. Trashy magazines and cheap paperbacks. Hash brownies. Anything. Nothing.

“You’d get kicked out, but you’d sneak back in. Kicked out again. Back in again. Sometimes you’d recognize a friend. Sometimes you wouldn’t.

“Other nights, you’d go out to dance and drink. A different distraction. You’d see a face in the dark, in the back of the bar. Is it you? Old friend! No. Not him. Just a ghost.

AIDS Epidemic
On Nov. 11, 1989, the Bay Area Reporter published an eight-page section of photographs of individuals who had died of AIDS in the preceding year.

“When he’d been gone long enough and it was time to get rid of his stuff, they’d say so. It’s time. And you’d do it, you’d give away the shirts, sweaters, jackets. Everything.

“At work, you’d find an umbrella, one you’d borrowed a few rainstorms ago from a coworker. I should return it, you’d think. No. No need. He’s gone. It’s yours now.

“One day you’d get lucky and meet someone lovely. You’d feel happy, optimistic. You’d make plans.

“Together, you’d keep a list of names in a notebook you bought for thirty cents in Chinatown so you could remember who was still here and who wasn’t, because it was so easy to forget.

“But there were so many names to write down. Too many names. Names you didn’t want to write down.

“When he finally had to go too, you got rid of the notebook. No more names.

“Your friends would come over with takeout and wine and you’d see how hard they tried not to ask when he was coming home because they knew he wasn’t coming home. No one came home. You’d turn 24.

“When he’d been gone long enough and it was time to get rid of his stuff, they’d say so. It’s time. And you’d do it, you’d give away the shirts, sweaters, jackets. Everything.

Barry Warner, a charming, erudite and dapper presence in 1980's Dublin, died today, aged 29, of AIDS complications….

Posted by Irish AIDS Memorial on Wednesday, September 5, 2018

“The long run. Wasn’t that long ago,”

“Except those shoes. You remember the ones. He loved those shoes, you’d say. We loved those shoes. I’ll keep those shoes under the bed.

“You’d move to a new neighbourhood. You’d unpack the first night, take a shower, make the bed because it’d be bedtime. You’d think of the shoes. For the first time, you’d put them on. Look at those shoes. What great shoes.

“Air. You’d need air. You’d walk outside in the shoes, just to the stoop. You’d sit. A breeze. A neighbour steps past. “Great shoes,” she’d say. But the shoes are too big for you.

“You’d sit for a while, maybe an hour, maybe more. Then you’d unlace the shoes, set them by the trash on the curb. You’d go back upstairs in your socks. The phone is ringing. More news.

“The long run. Wasn’t that long ago,” he concluded.

Shaw’s story of remembrance of the AIDS epidemic proved to be very popular online with the likes of author Dan Savage and journalist Philip Picardi being amongst the 15,600 people to retweet the thread.

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