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read_me.gif Southern Voice Washington Blade

World AIDS Day: The Last Sucker

Five people worldwide die of AIDS every minute

by j. brotherlove

When you are a black man who has sex with black men there is no way to ignore AIDS.

Yet, despite how often messages flash across TV screens, bleeds from newspapers, and pops out from the back of matchbook covers, the most amazing thing about my relationship with AIDS is how, on some days, I can push it to the farthest corners of my mind. Some days, I can obsess over my finances, indulge in my favorite ice cream, and complain about what a shitty job Bush is doing so vehemently that I actually forget HIV and AIDS exist.


Cliff and I dated for about a month. I was in my early twenties so by “dated” I mean we went to a couple of movies and had sex a few times. I liked him but not in an especially serious way. In that short amount of time he grew deeply fond of me. I had a birthday party about five weeks after we met. Cliff arrived and gave me a silver and gold-plated key chain monogrammed with a “J”. It was a nice gift; nicer than I expected from someone I didn’t know so well. After that night, I pulled away so that he wouldn’t get the “wrong idea” about my intentions.


I was visiting an associate when I first saw Verde. Short and beefy with a wide smile. His appearance was much like a bulldog and I was immediately attracted. We had two dates which revealed he was a nice guy but we had too many incompatibilities. Most notably, sex. We only attempted to have sex once because he began to cry and that pretty much killed any residual sexual interest I had in him. I tried to be an understanding ear but Verde wasn’t at a stage where he wanted to share his pain. Instead, whenever we would see each other out he’d look longingly from a distance.


Wild Boy picked me up at a club with his thuggish swagger. In truth, he was a pussycat. But I romanticized his thug composure and simple logic. In time, although we were very different, we grew to dig each other. However like his tattoo suggested, Wild Boy wasn’t wired for a conventional relationship. We’d go through periods of togetherness and then do our own thing. Our sex was mostly oral in the beginning because neither one of us wanted to surrender the pink. Several years later, he showed me how deeply he cared for me by dropping that sexual barrier. Our arrangement worked until he fell in love with his true mate.


I’ve always been fond of slightly older men and K-Rosé fit the bill perfectly. He encouraged me to write, practice photography, and didn’t seem to mind my extra-relational affairs as long as I was repsectful. It wasn’t until we moved in together that I put his pieces together: the early retirement, the “vitamins”, his overly-attentive mother. It suddenly became quite clear. Just as I’d “solved” the puzzle, K-Rosé became seriously ill and moved in with his mother. I came home from work one day and all of his belongings - including food from the refrigerator - was gone from our apartment. He released me from our relationship saying I was “too young to be worrying about an old man” but I still worried. He bounced back and relapsed a few times after that and one day called me on my cell to ask me a trivial question. I snapped at him and his dementia and said I would call him back.


It was over fifteen years ago that three men � Sucker #1, Sucker #2 and Sucker #3 � formed a strong friendship and became joined at the hip. The three of us would eat together, go to the movies, hang out at the club, and laugh. A lot. One night with a third participant, Sucker #2 and I crossed a sexual boundary. Our friendship was never completely the same after that. And after Sucker #1 died, my relationship with Sucker #2 changed even more. At least a year would pass before we would re-connect. I think we both wanted to talk about what happened to our friendship but we never did.


“Five people worldwide die of AIDS every minute”. These are five men who I cared for emotionally and sexually. Five men out of many who are no longer living due to a four-letter word. Five men who died shrouded in secrecy because of fear? shame? hatred? Cliff died a surprising few months after we stopped seeing each other. Through an associate, I heard Verde passed several years later. Wild Boy died in a hospital room where I thought he was being treated for an injury. At 2:00 in the morning after the day I snapped at K-Ros�, my phone rang and I knew it was his mother calling to say he was gone. And just a few months ago, a friend told me that Sucker #2 “doesn’t look so good these days”. A week later, EJ told me he had died.

Which brings me to today, trying to live in the present while keeping mindful of the past; trying not to let the deaths of others stop me from living. Nevertheless, today is not one of those days that I can push HIV and AIDS to the farthest corners of my mind. Today is a day of remembrance for me. I am The Last Sucker and I ain’t licked yet.

pub: 12/01/2003 | previous entry | next entry | feedback x 18 | subscribe

Thank you for sharing. This is a very powerful message J. Wow! I don’t know what more to say.

this morning anitra asked me what was i gonna write about today. and she wondered what i was brooding about. well i am, like you are, thinking about the past and people.
thanks for sharing your personal stories.


3. Bernard

… I’m in line with Prime here… powerful message….

the ritual, the reflection, the vibrations…

thank you.

very powerful message and no none should ignore HIV/AIDS (whether we have it or not)

Thank you for the reality. Sometimes I forget life outside of my little box and forget the things that are important to remember.

Your message was powerful and poignant.

Your post is more personal than most. For so long I thought it was just me - I didn’t personally know anyone else with HIV or AIDS. You know, denial …

I wish these stories and conversations would happen more than once a year, but on the other hand I get tired of reading through people’s weepy third-person experiences, too. Last year I had to read someone; he referred to me first as someone who should have been grateful of his recognition of my crisis (and not his) then as someone who might as well already be dead.

Anyway, thanks honey - you make reading fun! *LOL!*

Thanks so much for such a personal story. And some powerful thoughts!

beautiful, j.

Wow - I didn’t know whether to comment because I felt this was so personal, but thank you for sharing this heartfelt story. First to trackback, last to comment!


12. Steve

thank you for sharing such a personal and touching story. HIV and Aids is hidden in the world yesterday and today.

You just don’t know!!!!

Thank you for sharing this powerful message.

14. Nix

i remember it all. and yes on WAD, i did think about all those people that you and i have lost from our circles.
and i am still thankful that you are still/here.

15. blk bro

I meant to comment on this one and your other previous posts but what was said was so powerful followed up by equally as strong compliments or comments really knocked what I would’ve said out of the box. I really appreciate your writings and your site and it does give me more than mere words can describe. Thanks for being you and writing what you do.

This is the first time in my life that someone has been able to bring HIV and AIDS home to me. I won’t say that I’m so naive that I don’t think that I can get it … but I am so ignorant that I don’t even think about anyone suffering with the disease.

I always tell the story of my little neighbor that grew up in my apartment. The kids would always tease him about being gay and when he grew up, he indeed was. He died at around 17 from AIDS. I hadn’t seen him since he was about 14, so I did what most folks did: Said DAMN and kept it moving.

Thank you for sharing … this helps me get out of my little bubble and MAKES me realize that there are things bigger than that fact that I want a new job and to get my hair done.

17. Michelle

That was a powerful and personal story. Thank you for sharing…

Very moving. Thank you.