My Friend Jerry
by Richard Marino

My friend Jerry Lazier lived at 484 Hayes Street in the Hayes Valley. The apartment was on the second floor. There is some controversy about when the building was constructed, but for sure it survived the 1906 quake. The building was very close to the old freeway that was torn down after Loma Prieta in 1989. It followed most of Octavia Street.

A gay bar called David’s was on the ground floor which also had a dance area. The guys got wild and loud every night. Between the bar and the old freeway, it was hard to sleep without the sound of those elements.

Jerry had lived with me from when I got my first apartment in San Francisco, in the Mission District on 26th Street. I needed an extra roommate since mine, Simon, was young, immature, and unreliable. In time I was sorry I let Simon stay with me but I fancied myself in love. Jerry understood, he was in a similar situation.

Jerry had a lovely cocker spaniel named Taffy, and when he wasn’t well enough to take him for a walk, I did the dog-walking. I was happy to help Jerry and let him stay with me for minimal payment. As time went by, Jerry had trouble paying the rent. He also had a breakdown that involved his lover but also his frustration with having HIV. This was a lot for me to handle, and this even involved Taffy. He showed lot of affection for his dog and that shamefully made me jealous.

Jerry was tall, slender, and red-haired. He had porcelain-white skin and powder-blue eyes. I wanted him, but he did not feel attracted to me. I admit I was scared of his HIV and because of that I would not have done anything anyway.

This frustrating dilemma led me to devise a plan with the landlord to get Jerry to leave. My neighbors helped complain about him being noisy and staying up late. The landlord wanted no pets in the building, so that was a strike against Jerry and helped evict him. He was able to find a place on Hayes Street, through a contact in an HIV support group he had joined.

Sometime later, around Labor Day weekend, my other roommate and his friends destroyed the apartment. The landlord held me responsible. I was evicted.

I had no place to go. I had kept in touch with Jerry. He did not know that I had a lot to do with his eviction. Jerry had a kind and forgiving heart. He told me he knew and was not at all angry and was willing to take me in, since he and his roommate needed a third one in the apartment. Jerry helped me pack and drove me to 484 Hayes Street, my new home.

In November 1986, I took Jerry to Hawaii. He had been in the hospital for a week and miraculously made it through. He almost died. I wanted to give him a good time, since I did not know how much time he had left. I was working at the Hyatt and got free lodging. We flew to Honolulu and then took a small plane to Maui.

It was fun sitting out in the sand or swimming far out in the water, which was shallow in that part of Lahaina. The nightlife was fun as well and there were gay people around. Our room was big, with two king-sized beds overlooking the ocean. A small paradise.

However, when we headed for Honolulu for two more free nights, Jerry and I had to share one big bed. That was all that was available. It was OK if we were just using it for sleep, but Jerry met someone and brought him back to the room. I was already in bed, but obliged them by laying down on the couch that faced the other wall. I did not have a birds-eye view, but I sure could hear all the excitement. I guess I could have left and gone out, but I was feeling tired and thought it would be all right.

But Jerry was sick all that day with diarrhea. He had HIV and no precaution was used. I was appalled that he would be sexual with someone in that way. In the morning they acted like it was all super fun and I think it was. I was a little jealous. I left the room and waited for his trick to come down to the lobby. I stopped him and told him that Jerry was HIV-positive and that it was very wrong that Jerry had exposed him to infection.

The trick promptly told me that he had had a great time and that I needed to mind my own goddamn business. He even told me that I should go out and have fun myself.

I was startled. I agreed.

Jerry died on May 18th, 1988. I cried at his memorial service. I still miss his friendship.

Richard Marino has lived in San Francisco for thirty-six years He is a member of the Gay Gray Writers group as well as The Queer Elders Writer Workshop. He has been published in different venues and his work includes writing about his early gay experience (he came out after Stonewall).