It is the eleventh hour, and this is something that's difficult to write. I typically veil the subjects of my blogs by using oblique references and pseudonyms. I won't conceal this one because he had the guts to be out when it wasn't fashionable or safe.
Fourteen years ago today, my friend Stacy Wayne Wright died of pneumocystic pneumonia, a complication of full-blown AIDS. He was twenty-seven years old.
Stacy was always good for a laugh, and there was an air of mischievousness about him that broke the surface with wild irregularity. He was irreverent, funny, and extremely talented. He was one of the most daring rifles I've ever met, throwing tosses that would injure the less-gutsy or -skilled. He was also a good musician. Put him in uniform, and the grinning, freckled prankster gave way to one of the most focused performers I've ever known. His intensity concentrated itself in a way that could be almost frightening.
How I've have wished in the years since that it was enough to carry him in his everyday life...
A mutual friend once joked, in the years after high school and before his death, that I was in love with Stacy. No, there's a difference between loving someone and being in love with them. I did love him, very much; still do, in fact...he was one of the handful of people I was willing to let in. There were people who knew me, people who thought that they knew me, and people who really did know me...and he knew who I really was because I let him. He was one of the precious few.
I have joked that Roseanne Barr was right, and that if it weren't for gay men, fat girls would never go anywhere. I would've spent a lot of dances holding up a corner if he hadn't dragged me out on the floor. I would've rotted at home a lot of Saturday nights if he hadn't come to my rescue, especially my junior year after two other close friends with whom I'd done most of my running around graduated ahead of us and went off to college.
A few years ago, several blocks of the AIDS Quilt were brought to Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, about forty-five miles from where I live. It was an open-request exhibition, meaning that if one contacted The Names Project in time, one could request specific pieces of the Quilt for the exhibit. I wrote to the coordinator at Names and explained that the exhibit at Centre would nearly coincide with the tenth anniversary of Stacy's death. Could they send his square? She wrote back that my request had moved them and certainly, they could include his block.
My friend and colleague Shane, who knew the story, went with me. We attended Centre's production of The Yellow Boat. Afterward, there was a ceremony during which the blocks of the quilt were unfurled one by one in the lobby of the Norton Center for the Performing Arts. Each one opened, until finally, one remained. I knew Stacy's quilt because I keep a picture of it in my office- and it was the last to be unfurled.
It was like seeing him in the casket all over again. I am generally very controlled, especially with regard to public displays of grief or affection. To put it bluntly, I lost it.
I am grateful to the staff of The Names Project for honoring my request. I volunteer with AIDS service organizations in his memory. I honor World AIDS Day. I think of him constantly and I remember him on this date...but if I had my choice, I would rather have him here.