If I wind up dying alone in a hospital from some terrible complication of AIDS (or gonorrhea), blame it on Zooey Deschanel. Not the real one, but an economically more affordable and arguably just as talented, but considerably less likeable version. I live in Los Angeles where everyone is a “type”: So any White girl who looks pretty in a spotlight has the opportunity to be “the next big thing” in Hollywood. And my best friend has fallen in love with Zooey Deschanel—not the real one, but you get the idea.
So you know how when the friend you have loved dearly for twenty years, falls for someone who they met just ten minutes ago; and in your infinite benevolent wisdom want to save them from this oncoming emotional collision? But before you can formulate a plan to save them, the undeniably brilliant and beautiful (always half-naked) boyfriend/girlfriend (slash person sucking their blood) decides that you are no longer worth having in the picture, so they conspire to have you eliminated! And you plead to the person you have loved all these years that maybe they should make another choice, because you have their best interest at heart—but the sex is too good, and the dream of their future life is too bright, (and lately you’ve been kind of a mess anyway) so they don’t choose you. And you are left out in the cold.
Well that happened.
The 5’6” cute, adorable, unassuming female lead in Elf, Zooey Deschanel, was in a battle royale, no holds barred fight to the death with me: a 5’10” 250-pound bearded Black man with thighs like ham-hocks. And she kicked my ass!
And now I need a new “Emergency Contact.”
(But at least I looked good in my pink spandex leotard.)
As an only child who is not necessarily close with his family, friendship has always been an exceptionally important resource for me. And I am not unique. AIDS patients have had a long legacy of dying alone in hospital rooms because their families rejected them. HIV is a stigmatizing disease that leads many into secrecy and shame, forcing them to navigate hospitals, doctor’s offices, and medicine cabinets alone. It is a very real fear for so many of us that, when something goes wrong, there will be no one to call and no one to hold our hands as we get the bad news. But some of us are blessed enough to find a cluster of self-made “families” to encircle us like a hedge in a garden of wild weeds.
I have always been good at building connections, some would even say I am “well liked” but it’s been almost two years since my mother died, and it turns out I loved and needed her more than I could have ever known, so in my distress I’ve had to actually put those connections to the test…and unfortunately many have unraveled. And I’m in my forties now, and my personality is not as vibrant as it used to be. It’s hard to make new friends.
But every time I go to my doctor’s office they ask me for an “Emergency Contact” and I don’t have one. I’m thinking of investing in a cute quirky efferverscenet fake Zooey Deschanel ponytail.
Hey, if it works for her!
Four years ago my bestest best friend got a cancer diagnosis, and he was really scared. But I had confidence enough for both of us. I took him to all his doctor’s visits, cursed out doctors on his behalf, and even changed the gross pink pus-filled tubes they inserted after cutting the cancer out. And I told him he was beautiful and that I loved him every step of the way. But he moved his ass to Texas so he can’t repay the favor (luckily he gives good Christmas gifts). But I worry that I won’t have someone to do that for me. Because family is great for those who are lucky enough to have it, but for many who are dealing with HIV and AIDS, friendships are all we have.
So when we meet at a queer art social event, and I invite you to lunch, and I’m wearing a fancy pearl necklace, and my new Zooey Deschanel Ponytail, know that I am seeking to connect on a deep and meaningful level: Because I want you to save me from dying alone in a hospital.
Now this is not to say that I don’t think that my dear friend, who I have loved since I was nineteen, would ignore a call on my behalf. On the contrary. There is no doubt that she would drop everything to come to my side, girlfriend or not (because I have only ever been friends with the noblest of souls). But that is no longer her responsibility. And it is now my responsibility to make sure that I have someone else to call.
My dear sexy fellow HIVers, make sure you have someone else to call.
Love and Light.
Corey Saucier is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and Non-Fiction and is currently penning his first novel. His musings and wanderings on Love, Life, and Nonsense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.