Thursday, February 17, 2005

R.I.P, W.L.P.

Red Ribbon: International Symbol of HIV/AIDS

In my first grade class in 1965, we had about 25 kids. One of those kids was a young boy with a rather unique name, but for privacy, I will call him W. L. P. He was effeminate, even at that age. We all knew he was different, but could not conceive of the labels that would come with age and exposure to more adults and their prejudices. In the middle of our second grade term, W. L. P. moved away forever.

I went through another 28 years of life, along with all the changes that my life would bring my way. One night, I happened to be in the local gay bar here in Durham, NC and looked up to find that W. L. P. was standing right in front of me. I was certain of it, even though I had not seen him in almost 30 years. I walked up to him and asked him if his first name might happen to be W. He confirmed. I was incredulous. I said, "Not W. L.?," with disbelief and he answered "Yes". I then said, "No way are you W. L. P.!!!" He said "Yes, I am. WHO are you?" I then explained that we had been in elementary school together. He looked at me as if I had told him something completely inane and he eventually walked away from me, not to be seen again.

About a month or two later, my Mom called me up, and in the middle of her usual list of deaths and funerals (she is obsessed with obituaries), she asked me if I remembered W. L. P. I was shocked that his name would come up. I said to her "Yes, I saw him less than 2 months ago!" She said, "He just died of AIDS." We finished our conversation and I hung up the phone.

I couldn’t believe it. Why had this man come back into my life for 5 minutes of conversation before dying of the same disease that infects me? I am sure that I am supposed to have learned something from this, but can not for the life of me know what it was.

Tonight, I looked up his death certificate online. He died on December 17, 1993 and was cremated. He was 34 years old at the time of his death. I don’t know why he was significant to me, but he must have been in some unknown way. RIP, W. L. P.



Blogger amy said...

still here- i'm really enjoying your stories, and your writing is excellent.
hope you're having a good day :)

2/18/2005 11:59:00 AM  

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