The below stories are transcribed verbatim. This means that what looks like

spelling or grammar errors are actually nuances highlighting the

specific ways in which people told these stories.

ANONYMOUS

TWIN FALLS, ID

I dated Jason for three months. Um, Jason and I have like, the most crazy, epic story. And I don’t- I’ve only told a couple people the entire story in its entirety. And um, so, I think I can tell you, (slight “heh heh”) the whole thing. Jason, um, Jason killed himself in 2003. And, ah, he and I went to high school together, in Twin Falls, Idaho. And let’s see. (sigh) He, um, he and I rode the bus to school in junior high. And we had an art class togetherrrour first year of high school in tenth grade. And he, n- we kind of flirted back and forth, ah but I had a boyfriend. And, um, I kinda liked Jason bit, I don’t know I had I kinda had pressure, ah, from my family n from the community to really date my boyfriend who I went to church with. And it was like, we were supposed to get married. We were so young but I felt, like, that’s what it- that’s what we were supposed to do. And that was kind of my plan. And so I hadn’t dated a whole bunch. Um, an I went, ta Jason’s house after school, um, when we were younger. And, uh, he pretty much forced himself- we made out n then he forced himself on me. And um, the first time I had sex, uh, I was raped, by Jason (slight “huh u”). And um (beat) I kind of played it off. I- I ws- I didn’t cry. I was pretty stoic about it. And um, I don’t even think that I had words for it. I din’t think of it as rape at the time. I just thought of it as, ah, really painful n unenjoyable sex. Um, bu like, “Wow that didn’t quite work.” And I felt this incredible guilt because I had this boyfriend, that I was supposed to be, maybe gonna marry one day. Like, ya know, we were the Christian kids that went ta church together every Sunday n youth group n blah, blah, blah. And Jason was kind of like, um, a little bit of an outcast at school. To some extent he was like a stoner and I was probably a bit more on the popular side from the outside looking in. And um, um, like my family had money n stu- n stuff like that. End, eh, so, ah, I kind of just avoided Jason for the rest of high school. And then, I moved back, into my folks house in 2003 when, um after I had gone to school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’d bought a house there with my boyfriend. N we’d owned this house together for five years. N then we broke up. N I had a slipped disk. And I kinda had this come apart. And I was really depressed. I had a, a few suicide attempts, and myself. N I moved back to Twin Falls to kinda put myself back together. And ah, I ran into Jason n I can’t even remember where, I ran into him. I was drinking, ant, um, drinking every night n living with my parents and sort of half ass looking for a job. And Jason was really depressed as well. And had never left Twin Falls except for, I think six months he said he went to LA. And, um, dated again, ah, in 2003. But hes- he got progressively strange around me. He, ah, (beat) had an obsession with guns n he told me that he could see things like monsters ant um, the way he talked about em I could tell that he wasn’t being insincere into the vision that he had. So I, I think maybe he was schizophrenic. I’m not sure. And ah, I started you know- eif I, if I hadn’t been so depressed I think tht, a lot of people he had dated before quickly got out of the relationships but I spent three months with him. N then at some point I jus, ahum, lesee I broke up with him n then ah, he ran over a mosaic table that we had made together for his mom. He ran over it in my driveway. And that really scared me so I called the women’s hotline n ta ask for advice like, ho do you deal with an abusive boyfriend? And um, like or can I call the cops? Or what do I do, casue he hd threatened to kill me n kill himself. And, he and I’d both suicide attempts. And ah, (beat) one night he came knocking on the door after like sending me lots of notes n threats n phone calls. And I told him to go away. And he went around the back yard n knocked on the back, um, sliding glass door and um, I told him to fuck off.

 

(Jason, in shadow, knocks hard on sliding glass door.)

 

(short out breath) “Jason, fuck off!” N then he, ah, musta got into his car n shot himself. And I don’t know what the time frame was cause that was like nn eleven a clock midnight. N then an, that was a Saturday night. N Sunday morning, um, he had ah, shot himself through the head, with a, with a shot gun. In his car. (pause) And, ah, ya know when I, when I met back up with him, we started dating, um in 2003, he, he’s a, he’s a small, a really small slender fey looking guy. He loved heavy metal and ah, he had long hair. Um, like if you think of, I tryin to think of who- he had hair kind of like Van Halen, (starting to smile and laugh) n someways I think he would hate it if I- (laughing uhehhehhehheh) if he hd me say that. And um, he was jus kind of like a fey, fairy, metal guy, uh, n a lotta people wondered if he was gay. N everyone always in Twin Falls was tryin to figure out what his ethnicity was cause he’s, I think he’s Itallian- I don’t even known what all of his background was. But he’s kind of like, really dark, gorgeous hair. Hejust a really handsome, human. High cheek bones. He might’ve had native, like a Native American too. I don’t know. But he ah, was just a very unique looking person. N I think he got a lot of shit for that. I think he had a hard time, in life. Um, for a lot of different reasons. Bet uh, we tal- ya know I talked to him about liking girls n how I’d come to terms with that n he talked about- n I never knew like all through high school nd even as an adult he’d been, given a hard time, like really harassed a lot, for his looks, for his ethnicity, for his femininness. Like perceived, um. And ah, I don’t know. I was really really angry about it for a long time. Like angry at his family, n angry at the community, n angry at him for killing himself. And um, now, I, still feel confused n sad, about it. But I kinda feel like I’ve forgiven him, nd, still feel angry at the community I guess, (laugh huhuhu).

PETER JACOB RUIZ

WINTER PARK, FL

Well I guess we’re gonnaavta start with my first memory if we’re gonna do that. OK ahm. Mostly people talk about their first memories n it’s usually something really cute n kiddish. Aaahm. (beat) My first memory is Halloween when I’m three years old. I’d gotten ketchum on my Barney costume at-at preschool, n go home. Aand, my, ah mother’s boyfriend at the time seeys- sees the ketchup on my costume ngts really really angry. Because ah, we were poor n it- n it hd cost a bit a money- Iwsn’t even like a large stain it ws, really hidden. It was on the arm of the costume n, anyone was that close someone needed to smack them. And ah, took out a lead pipe aend he ripped the costume off of me, and started beating- beating my back with this lead pipe (slight laugh at the end of ‘pipe’). (beat) And, um, thws, n tht’s literally my first memory. N so It’s-it was always odd going ta school when they have those projects, “Tell us your first memory!” I always lied and made up- n made one up. (‘p’ carries on into a very short kind of laugh or ‘phh’ sound) Cause I didn’t wanna- I didn’t wanna be that kid. Ya know whohavta-whohavta share like the horrible story. Ahm, en, it’s only more recently that I started being honest about that being my first memory which’s been met, with a lot of, with a lot of like odd reactions cause I go to a very privileged school.

 

N then, um, same man, would, would molest me, everyday. (softer a bit) Ahm, he, he(p) h(e) raped me everyday until I was seven. Ahe’s also raping my younger sister at the same time. She’s a year young- she’s a year n two days younger than me. N my sister told my mother. That was when he got arrested n everything was put to a stop. The same time ahh, my grandmother, hd been in remission of ovarian cancer. My euh- my white grandmother- Gah-Gram-w-Rose-Gramma-Gramma Rose. An she found this out and her cancer just came back with, euhm, like ten fold-she’s literally in remission. They told her withina couple a months she’d be cleared. And, then, after she found out she died a year later.

 

An, ah that set my mother further over the edge. My mother was already bipolar. Her schizophrenia hadn’t really appeared yet but she’s very very bipolar. And that sent her over the edge especiall- I I remember the exact moment honestly, where I could tell that my mother was going over the edge. N that was it wasn’t at the funeral. It wasn’t when we got my grandmother’s ashes. Itws when the insurance money came in (short ‘hhh’ breath out kind of laugh). Ah, my grandmother had a policy for two hundred n fifty thousand dollars. Something she told me would keep us afloat for a- for a while cause my mother never worked. My mother never worked a day in her life. Maybe - there wasOK- there was a year when she was eighteen where she modeled in Hawaii n that was it. Thaws that was the only work she’dever done. Sh didn’t graduate from college er tht.

 

And she cashes she cashes this insurance check, an she waits three days so she can get it all in cash. An she lays it out ehtih she goes awh downstairs into tha basement ah one day when we r home from school n- Tbasement was where my grandmother was living ah, wstherefr, ah the first six months of her last year. Aend, she laid out all of the money on, on my granmother’s bed n jus left it there. And, I’d say for a day, she jus sat in a chair in stillness and stared at it. She ended up buying a house with the money and didn’t keep any of the frivolous things.

 

So this is the summer before my my freshman year of high school ah, NAME OF MAN molested me and my sister, NAME. He ah, he got- he gets out of prison on parole. N thn he flies down, tseemymother cause they’d started talking I don’t know when they started but they did. Ahnd, he ah, he n my mom got married. While down here. Ah my sister, left the house, ta live, ta live with one of our cousins because she couldn’t handle it, couldn’t handle being his prostitute while my mom was married to him. I felt an obligation ta my little brother ta stay. Which is the only reason why I didn’t leave thewm. Ah the man whomolested me was actually my little brother’s father. Me and my sister have the same father n that was his father. An I wasn’t gonna I wasn’t gonna leave em in that situation so I stayed. (n)he gaaht, he got in trouble for breaking parole for coming down here, to marry my mother eand, so he got sent, back to prison. He wassent taprison near Canada, in New York Ci- in New York State. An so we endedup moving back t’ New York. My mom visited him for about, six months. Fi- I guess something finally, clicked n she came t’her senses (‘to her senses’ with a bit of laughter)

 

And um, t’ be near her father, ah, we flew my sister up, sthatshecould join us now that ahm, na,wwthaum, little brother’s father was out of our lives. An, things got really intense (something inaudible) when we moved t’Pennsylvania. W’lived in this tiny town. Ahm, me n my- menmysisternmybrother. Probly the only Hispanic looking people in that town. Irememr walking intoa a biology class. Nitwas the first day. An it was honors biology class n I was the only I was the only person of color there an teacher just looked at me n said(short burst of a laugh), “Oh look, we have a nigger who thinks he’s smart coming intaour class.” And, (deep breath in) I never experienced that ever I mean, never been in a small town never never experienced that kind of blatent racism. And, it just shocked me. En so, I, I stayedinthe class because it was the only honors biology classthere was and I wasn’t going into regular biology. That would be a waste of my time. But I made sure to get the highest grade in that classa prove him wrong. N so, that happened.

 

N then summer came around again. An (soft ‘an’) I started ahm, self medicating. Tdeal with my mother’s bipolar disorder tdeal with the stress of, raising two kids, tdeal with everything that was going on in my life. I started smoking a lot of weed I started doi-ahIstarted ahm, eah-pretty much, downing opiates of any kind tht-prescription opiates of any kind I could get my hands on. Ah, drinking every night, iwsjus itwasjus a really, really bad spiral. Istared smoking cigarettes. Ah, having a lot of, anonymous meaningless sex with women. And, then ah ahwhen that summer was-right before that summer was over moved back down to Florida. Ah, n I started, I started tenth grade down here. Ahm, I continued with the whole drugs alcohol, women path, tht, that was, those were times that I’m not proud of I I used so many women which is, horrible (‘huh’ kind of laugh at the end of ‘horrible’). Like I, I think about that n the person that I am today n the person who I am today would’ve kicked the ass of the person I was. Aend ahm, ah, iwas probly about, couple weeks inta, my tenth grade year that my mom, had me arrested for the first time, for hitting her which I never did. Ah, thiswsjus thesewere schizophrenic episodes I’d be in school or something she’d imagine that I’ve hit her. N she call the cops n I’d get arrested andIwoudget and I would go to juvie. N so this happened, three times, nthe last time, justwas, the last time was on was on my sixteenth birthday. Got arrested, ah my sister also got arrested. My mom’d never included her in the stories but she included her this time. I don’t know what happened with her schizophrenia that now it was also targeting my sister. But um, we both in juvie, ah fr my sixteenth birthday an her fifteenth birthday two days later.

 

Ahm, this time my mom didn’tdrop the charges. She was very much adamant about having me in jail fr some reason. Ahm (softer ‘ahm’). But, the judge knew abitathehistory n seen tht she’d dropped the charges before n known that she’d had mental problems. So when I requested not to return home, but t’be put inta the system, the judge agreed. An ah, Iws adopted a few- a few days later by family friends.

 

Everything went-was going really well ahm, until senior year in high school. Aend, (slight breathe in through nose) ah the checks she was getting for me stopped coming. Ah, aend, my siblings started being really mean I guess juspicking up the energy that their mom was giving and um, (beat) I’ad chosen I’ad started choosing to do theatre rather rather than physics what was something  everyone thought I was going ta do cause I was really good at physics something that I’ve always done, um in high school. An so the decision to choose theatre over that was kind of shocking ta them. An, two days before, my high school graduation, ahm, my adoptive mom, locked the door while I was- locked the door while I was at rehearsal. And I couldn’t get in. I had nothing but the clothes on my back n, the wallet in my pocket which had, which didn’thave any money in it. En, jushad my i.d. (beat) I justremember knocking over and over again like, and hearing people inside inside the house jus moving around an doing things. Iwslike, “Let me in! SOMETHING INDECIPHERABLE HERE Jus let me in.”

 

Aend um, director of the show at the time, ah let me stay at his place for two days. Jus so tht I could have somewhere to be. N then I went to my school on the second, day, aend, my high school, an there was an administrator who hooked me up with the Zebra Coalition. Which is this local LGBTQ youth homeless shelter. An um (beat) they helped me connect with Rollins which was the school I decided to go to for theatre an, makesureIhad a place to stay until thes- til ahm, the semester started in tha fall n thninthe fall I started living on campus I- Rollinshs really really jus been a godsend. It’s it’s, one of the greatest thingsta ever happen ta me. I (beat then suck through teeth) I found a, i-I found a family at 10:28 in Peter Ruiz 2 not sure exactly what he’s saying I think it’s- inthis whole big system tht is beyond anything I could’ve ever expected. I had this awesome support system in place with the Office of Multicultural Affairs n tha theatre department n things like that n Iws provided a a safety net.

 

N then, summer came around. Aend ahm, Ionceagain didn’t have a place ta stay. N so the Zebra Coalition n the Office of Multicultural Affairsworked tagether, ta ahm, find me a place ta stay n I eventually ended up staying with these two like seventy year old lesbians (laughing as he says lesbians in an endearing way). Ney took me in for the summer n, they were, just amazing. Over that same summer the school sent me to Camp Pride which is an LGBT student leadership conference which, was a life changing experience. It was the first time I was ever actually in queer space. There were like five straight people of a group of eighty people nI’mjuslike, “Oh my god we’re the majority!” And um, it was there that I, thamy identity shifted from being a gay man ta being a queer man. Cause I found queer ta have more of the political connotation that I wanted out of my identity. (turns to side and coughs for a few seconds) Sorry. Aend em, (breathes in through nose to clear it) n then I stared school back up n tso, every summer tht comes up it’s the idea aof, “Oh where am I gonna stay?”Aend, I try not ta think about it during the school year because it’s hard to focus on my academics n my theatre responsibilities n my school responsibilities then Iaftto think about where I’m gonna be stayin over the summer. So it’s more important for me ta get my academics ta a place where I get my degree then it is to worry about where I’m gonna stay over the summer. I have a support system tht tries to start thinking of these things for me. Aend, it’s kind of scary ta think tht once I graduate that support system is gone (pause).

TOBY GRACE

TRENTON, NJ

I think the single most ah important thing s-is all, all change-is often said that all politics is local. All change is local. All change is personal. You don’t change societies. You change individuals who comprise societies. And so, the most important thing I think anyone can do, is, to be out. Um, to, to let the world that they move in, the people that they work with, the families, neighbors, friends, know who they really are. An-And to face the possibility that they’ll be rejected by some. Um an to understand that if they are rejected because of, this revelation of who they are then the people that have rejected them, um were not their friends, to begin with. N if it’s their family, well sometimes that happens. Um, an, that family that they were born with that rejected them is not necessarily the only family they’ll ever have. They can make their own family. N the family that you choose is very often the one that’s most important to you in your life. I know I found that to be the case. Ah, not that my family rejected me. They did not, isjus, uh, they’re mostly all dead. Uh (tmt) (pause) But yeah, um, to fly your flag, to be who you are, um is an extremely powerful instrument of change.

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ANONYMOUS

USA

Yeahweh I find that, maybe, cause usually a person wills talk about their student loans and they’ll ask me do you have student loans, n I’ll say, no n they’ll say wow that’s awesome nuconversation ends. Bcause I think there’s like, maybe a slight awkwardness. Um. Because, imean people wish they didn’t have, student loans. Um. And. Yeah I think that I, I mean it took alota hard work I think. A littlebit of luck n jussome, um, plaha- planning. I had aye, lot of scholarships, going in, to school. I was a National Hispanic Merit Scholar. And that, ws jus, led to, scholarship offers from alloverthe country. And, I was already set on going to the schoolthat I went to. And, when I showed them all those letters, of all these schools offering me like full rides, then at that point they gave me more money cause they at that point itwas they were only paying forbout half my school, n I wanted them to pay fur more. So, that was like an act of, thoughtofmy, oflike, ohwul look, I’ll let them know that if they really want me to go ta this school then they’ll give me more money because I’ve got these other schools offering tons n tons of money as they are.

 

INTERVIEWER

So you were playing, you were negotiating back n forth.

 

ANONYMOUS

Yes. Yes.

 

INTERVIEWER

How did you get the merit scholarship?

 

ANONYMOUS

Ah it’s based off a my, PSAT scores. So.

 

INTERVIEWER

If ya could share with me like, what your scholarships actually covered. N then what was left for you to have to, find in order t survive n make it through college.

 

ANONYMOUS

Right. So, scholarships covered like, tuition. And um, on my own I had to, provide, everything else, whichwsmy my food housing, ahm any likind of bills that I had.

 

INTERVIEWER

So what did you do, to get through college?

 

ANONYMOUS

I worked in an HR office. Maeyy, sophomore year, of college- or starting my freshman year then inta my, well inta my sophomore year n, ah, even maybe up until the summer after that I s- ah, would donate my plasma, which is, basically a process if you’re not familiar they, um, I mean you go through these series of questions ta make sure that ya know your blood may or may not be tainted. And um, then theyy prick your finger, n theyull, um take some blood ta test for iron n if your iron is good, which mine always was, then um, then you go into the back and they would -they draw blood. N then they, ah runithroughmachine. That machine spins out tha plasma, which is basically used ta fight disease n things like that. And, then it’s replaced with a, idonknow some, some kinda substance, back inta the blood and the blood is put back in you and you do that three or four times in a cycle. Nitwould take, ahum, for me a little over an hour, each time n I would go twice a week cause that’s how much you could do. N you would make anywhere between, twenty and fifty dollars every time. There was like, if you went twice in a week you get a ten dollar bonus if you went four times in two weeks you’d get like a thirty dollar bonus n then when you- uriws just like certain, yeah it was different every time but usually an average, of around thirty bucks, a tim- every time, fur yaknow an hour n a half of my time n I would go twice a week. And wheneveryur, yaknow you have jus have that extraexpense of maybe food, cause sixty dollars, a week was more than enough for food for me. Um. I alsooo, was very, I mean now I don’t think I could do it but I was, um, my cell phone plan basi- I had a prepaid phone. Uh it was an A- A T and T go phone n that phone cost twenty dollars, fur the phone it was, your basic, (showing small size of phone with hands) I mean kinda brick phone with, (mimes pulling out antenna on phone) ya know. Ah, what I would do is, I would buy, yaknow maybe ten dollars worth of minutes, n then I would pay fifteen dollars a month, for, um unlimitedtext messaging. So I had this, twenty dollar phone, which I mostly used for text messaging wr jus pay fifteen dollars a month, so I could have, texting to communicate. Um. Yaknow. N so, n- I mean, (slight laugh while saying “ih”) ih became a running joke, people knew they weren’t allowed to call me. Cause I wouldn’t answer. Um. I would just text them and that was like another one of the sacrifices that I have to make in college is, not having a phone to call people. Which kind of makes things hard, but um, I made it. N…

 

INTERVIEWER

What makes it hard?

 

ANONYMOUS

Because, ya can’t call anyone n it’s also, aum (beat) I donthinktht people understand the privilege that comes- n cause I- I don’t have- I didn’t have, aum, a house phone or anything. Imhdthis cell phone n so I jusliterally could not make phone calls, ah by any means. Maybe borrowing someone else’s cell phone but I remember even, aum (thinking) my sophomore year, iwas, uh wull uh right before my sophomore year the summer after my freshman year, um one of my friends died. N my friend John, was the one who had to tell me. N hee, couldn’t call me so he texted me and said I need you to call me right now. N that’s like where I had to scrambletogofindaphone n like. So I was in a public place instead of being in a private place where I could have been for the phone call. I was like, ta hear that my friend had just died n… YeahI- Imn- I mean that’s very specific instance where I think, when yr, I mean when yr applying for say jobs or organizations athingslikethat, then it’s difficult ta, when they ask (slight laugh on “fur”) fur a phone number n you necessarily don’t have one ta provide them. So.

 

INTERVIEWER

How did your friend pass away?

 

ANONYMOUS

Ah ah car accident. Itwas, yeah itws, sheee ah, it was the day after finals ended. And we all- n after finals were overw we all, like a group of eight of us, went and got like lunch together cause some people were going home for the summer. And she was, yeah she was, driving home, ta go spend the, summer at home. N she had a car accident. So.

 

INTERVIEWER

Ahm, going back to the plasma because you’d mentioned this before the interview. Ahm, uw- weh- ahmponeyeah before we get to that I’m curious like, are there health risk involved in donating plasma, n then also, especially doing it like twice a week?

 

ANONYMOUS

Mhm yeah well that’s, that’s how much they let you do it. Ahm, so you can- for instance you can do it, ahm, the first time you give you can give two days after that. But after the second time yahaveta wait five days. Ahnd, ahm so I mean I usually had a schedule f-. Either a Monday do a Monday Wednesday or Tuesday Thursday depending on my class schedule for that semester. When I had time ta do it. Ahm, n this was also while I was working, end, so yeah I was like, scrounging by but um, it was while I was working n selling my plasma n going ta school n tryin ta do like student organizations in case I- ya know fur a resume builder. Nwehiall became very stressful. (louder and more articulate) But yeah so, the thing about the plasma is that like, as a queer man who has had sex with other men before, ahm, I’m technically not allowed to, or- still am not allowed n wasn’t allowedat that point to ahm, donate blood or plasma because of the, FDA blood ban, that’s ridiculous and outdated. Ahm because I mean they would, ah, n they would also test my blood every six weeks, at this place where I went to every six weeks if your blood hadn’t been tested. N then they would do it again. Ahm, n they always- yeah so I mean it’s not like I was any kind of extra risk fur I mean the reason they have this gay blood ban is cuz of HIV. But um, which you know. BuIwsjus, telling for the interview. Um, n so I would have ta- Iramember I h- I would lie on the form it would ask if you ever had sex, ah with a man, since I think nineteen eighty seven, n that was before I was born, so the would be yes. End um, but I would lie, because I knew that that would, ban me for life n I needed this money. So, ah yeahIspecifically remember, I would drive to the place n I wore like a rainbow wristband. NI would take it off n put it in my console, to go inta like the clinic. Ah jus cause Idin’t, want ta raise any questions or issues n then like, be in a position ta get myself in trouble. So, ahm- n that worked while I was like, closeted en, ahm, n maybe not such an outspoken member of like the LGBTQ community at my school. N I went ta school in a very small town so ahm, yeah if you were- causeIws like an outspoken queer person, like, I mean myy story was published in the school newspaper n online, an I was, a real activist on campus n jus I was jus like really well known n so when I came- yeahah like, as I was coming out through all that I eventually had ta give up, selling my plasma because, I would see people I know n ah, in the clinic and things like that an, uh, I eventually realized that, wull if I keep doing this I could likely get caught. N this is like, huge, Imean federal kind of, ahm, charges n, yeah I don even know um, but um, yeahsoIeventually had ta stop going n unfortunately that was a loss of, income for me. I mean-

 

INTERVIEWER

Um, whadid you do to replace that income?

 

ANONYMOUS

Ahm, nothing really I jus, ahm, scrounged around even more. I- I’ve always, been the type of person who like, finds a way ta survive, even if it… Imean I rememer grocerys- grocery store trips where I would, go n spend like twelve dollars tha would feed me for a week. N I mean yeah it was all like really bad food for me, ah, a lota Rama- Ramen, pasta. And um, ah-

 

INTERVIEWER

It’s funny because we talk about those you hear that as like a, stereotype ofs college student eating Ramen Noodles.

 

ANONYMOUS

Yeah.

 

INTERVIEWER

N we laugh about it n I did ramen nono- I m- I remember that.

 

ANONYMOUS

Yeah.

 

INTERVIEWER

N it was when I was at my poorest-

 

ANONYMOUS

Yeah.

 

INTERVIEWER

Point in college.

 

ANONYMOUS

Ahm, I will, before I furget cuz this is something I wanna touch on is, m m most, I wld I mean I don’t know any, percentage wise oranything but I would say tha most scholarships require some kind of minimum GPR. N for mine unfortunatelyitwas-

 

INTERVIEWER

Or GPA? Gh- GPA?

 

ANONYMOUS

Yeah so at my school itws called GPR.

 

INTERVIEWER

Oh funny.

 

ANONYMOUS

Which is. yn weird n-

 

INTERVIEWER

Grade point, what would that be s what would that stand for?

 

ANONYMOUS

Grade point ah ratio.

 

INTERVIEWER

Ratio.

 

ANONYMOUS

Yes.

 

INTERVIEWER

OK. Alright.

 

ANONYMOUS

And um-

 

INTERVIEWER

Hu hu. Intresting.

 

ANONYMOUS

We, so I had ta keep a three point five.

 

INTERVIEWER

Wow.

 

ANONYMOUS

Which is, yeah. Which is ya know, another (beat) it’s, it’s hard. It was hard when I was trying  t- work, an study n go ta class. N sell my plasma andt ya know maybe do an extra curricular activity an, an keep a three point five. It wasjus I jusremember crying so much cause I didn’t know what ta do. Cause I was trying so hard in every way n there was juslegitimately nothing else, I could do n it was stressful not knowing… I mean an the other thing is (small laugh while saying “tht”) tht- OK, thisis kinda complicated but, furinstnce if I’m taking five classes, n they’re three credit hours each, n I need a three point five, ah that means that I need ta make, an A in half a my classes n a B in half a my classes. Buwhen I’m only taking five classes, that means three As. Because if I only got two As that’s less than half n th GPR would be lower than three point five. So, en my school wasn’t necessarily an easy school. N, ya know it’s, Bs are like, what’s given out ya know as like Bs and Cs are like, ya know whatch- what’s passing n, ya know ta demand that I get three of my classes ta be As an that the other two definitely be Bs, was stressful. (beat) Ya I kinda wanna cry now jus thinking about it (sad smile). An I think it made me hate school n like even though I would love ta ya know, pursue further I, Idon think I ever wanna handle that pressure again because I was, that was awful.

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CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL

NEW YORK, NY

I don’t even know how great of a story it is. But um, so I, when I was in the third grade, I had this bike. Um, it was like a really fuckin amazing bike, alright. So I’m riding my bike and then my mom had this friend, her uh, her name was ah, Sandy. Sandy was, ah, this coworker that my mom had. And she, eh, her family was like crazy. Her husband was really crazy. Her children were all like, sons of bitches. Her whole family, her daughter- they were all fuckin nutty as hell. So when her son comes over, he’s like, “Can I ride your bike?” I’m like, “Sure. Ride my bike.” He’s ridin my bike and n then he crashes my gears into like- my entire neighborhood was built on a sl- on a slant. So each yard looked like a, like a step on a, on a stair. So your yard’ll go over like this (using hands to help create visual) n then you like this big like retainer wall keeping your yard from literally spilling into the wall- into the yard next to it. So like a big fuckin, wall that keeps your yard level. And then the next yard’s there n it’s completely level n there’s a big retainer wall keepin your yard from spillin to the next yard. Anyway.

 

He crashes my gear into one of the walls, right. N my uncle Scotty’s like, “Oh I’ll fix it.” My uncle Scotty by the way can’t fix anything. He, he’s, he’s horrible at fixing anything. So he tries to fix my bike. My bike was out of commission for like threeee months I want to say. Probably. Finally wh- when my bike’s back in commission. My bike’s finally back in commission. He goes um, he’s like, “Oh, your bike’s fixed. You can ride your bike now.” My- bear in mind my neighborhood is a very steep hill. Like my whole neighborhood is on a- like a hill. A cir- it’s a circle. In Phenix City, Alabama. Um, it’s a very steep hill, OK.

 

(clap once) So I naturally take my bike to the top of the steepest hill. And like wsgonna ride down, ride down the hill. So I hop on my bike. Remember I hadn’t ridden a bike in like three mo- three months at this point. Ridin down the hill goin “Woooo. Yaaahaaa!” And all of the sudden the bike’s like, “Gggggggg.” Like the bike started shaking really fer-viciously. And I’m like, “Oh no.” So naturally I slam on the brakes and I fly over the handlebars, like over the handlebars like this (arms circling over his head in slow motion). And then I hit the ground, face first. My face hits the ground. But my body still has not yet hit the ground. But I skip off my face. Like, (motioning with hands) “Pshhh.” N then I hit the ground again. N my body is still completely, ah, g- diagonal to the ground. Then I hit the ground one more time. I skipped three times. And I land on my, on my, face. And then my bike, falls on top of me. And then I like try like to get up but I just like faint and pass out.

 

And then, I wake up and there’s this lady who I used to be afraid of cause ahh- when you’re like, I don’t know how it is everywhere other else in the world, but ah, you’re raised to be afraid of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like when they knock on your door everyone like, “Run! Hide! Don’t look out the windows! Don’t breathe! Don’t let them know you’re, d- home!” So we’re like, I’m like afraid of Jehovah’s Witnesses cause d- my mom jus didn’t want to talk to them.

 

There’s this one Jehovah’s Witness lady in r neighborhuud. N she’s like (raising hands above his head) praying over me. Cause she thought I was dead. I was jus laying- it look like someone hit me with a car. There’s blood around me. There’s a bike on top of me. I was passed out. I must’ve been looking dead. She’s praying ta, aye, Jehovah (laughs) over me. And then um I look up and there’s a fire truck, an ambulance, and a police car. Cause it looks like I got hit by a car n someone jus drove away. The whole neighborhood is out. They’re all out standin aroun like, “(gasp twice) Chris got hit by a car! Chris’s been hit by a car!”

 

N then this one guy he goes right- he goes um, “Martha, um, your son-” No this kid goes over first wlike, “Miss Caldwell, Chris got ah, Chris’s in the middle- eget- fell off his bike.” N my mom’s like, “Uh, oh he jus fell off his bike whatever.” Nen this grown man comes by he’s like, “Ahhh, Miss Caldwell, your son is ah lying in the street.” So my momws like, “Laaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!” N she like runs all the way frm, frm our house to, the scene of the crime. Where I’m jus laying there. N shews like rollin over n ws just, “OhohohohohAhhhhhh!Laaaard’vemercy!”

 

N then, the the firemen ahm, carried me back to my house. N he put me on the couch. N she’s crying. I’m like, I haven’t cried. I’m still in like shock the whole time. N then they try to like take my p- they’like “We have to take your pants off. Now, d’ ya want us to cut the pants off you or do you want us to take the pants off you?” N I wslike, “Jus, cut em off.” N my mom stopped crying for a secnd. She was like, “Do not, cut those pants! Take them off!” Then she goes back to crying again. N then ahm, so they, they, they take my pants off. I ws like- (motioning to right leg) this whole side of my leg, the whole right side is compl- like raz- y’ever heard of a raz- we called em raspberries down south. All the skin’s completely gone on the right sidea my leg. A chunk a my face. My ah, on my chest a little bit. N my lip hurts. And um, so they, they bandaged me up. Everyone left.

 

N all my friends were at my house at this point in time too. But they were all in my room playing my Sega Saturn. I don’t even know what a Sega Saturn is. Itwslike the, the most failed, game console that ever did exist. No one ever- I was the only kid who ever owned a Sega Saturn.

 

They were playing my Sega Saturn, and I went to the b- ah, to the bathroom. To look at my- I went to the bathroom to look at myself. And I just like, I looked in the mirror, (pointing to tooth) and my left front tooth, half of it was completely gone. I just saw it. I just started cry- Iwslike, (sobbing sound) “Uhuhu.” Ijustarted crying buckets. N my friends were fuckin playing my video games living in the lap of luxury, while I had a fuckin half a tooth, and raspberries and my mom made me- made them rip pants off my bloody, nine-year-old body.

 

And then I rechipped my tooth in tenth grade. So I had it fixed like a year- like a year later. Buiwslikejuslike an acrylic n it snapped off in tenth grade. No it sss- no not in tenth grade. In like, fifth grade. So my tooth was chipped from fifth grade until tenth grade. (short cough) Cause the doctor’s like, “No we’re not gonna fix your tooth cause you’re gonna keep growing.” And, so I had a chipped tooth- half a tooth in the front of my mouth which is horrible, for your self-esteem. When you’re a kid with a half a tooth. N other kids will always remind you of how shitty your fuckin teeth are. When you have (laugh) half a tooth.

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KARL WOLF WARREN

CROSS CITY, FL

I was working at Logan International Airport. Aah, typical teenager looking ta, have money for the, set a wheels that I had just bought that I thought were so expensive at twelve hundred bucks. N I hd negotiated down to that. 74 Impala. And I was, low guy on so I got the overnight shift for a while. Turned out I loved overnights. Well, the mechanic uh, for the shuttle busses- Logan is one of those airports where the terminals are set back away from uh, your renta cars your hotels. Jye actually have to run a bus service to get the people back to their cars. N pick em up when they’re done. Mechanic was falling behind. N he- I was the only one there. So he grabs me he sys, “I need you to take- help me take buses down, to the maintenance yard about three n a half miles away.” Which was a huge, car bus, ah, their rental division. It took carea lot a their vehicles for the Northeast. I said,  (higher pitched) “I aint never driven anything bigger than my car. You gotta be kidding me.” He says, “Whatever you do, don’t, get out of my tire tracks.” Meaning wherever he went, follow him exactly. And I did. We did that for ah three different- or I did for three different vehicles.

 

Well the next day this five-foot-six, Polish woman about (holds up a pinkie finger) that big around- God bless Kim she was, sh- beautiful, uh, w-woman. Comes up to me. N I’m towering over- she, looks up. “I hear yew drove one of my busses last night. N fact you drove a few of them.” I’m thinkin, (hand to forehead) “Oh God. I’m gonna get fired.” (to Kim) “I know I shouldn’t have.” N she said, “Na na, Jimmy said there’s something aboutcha. Come with me.” She took me out, to the training field, and next thing I know it went from that to semis and, driving paid fr flight school. And I got caught in that mess in the early nineteen-nineties when Eastern collapsed n it took a whole bunch of airlines with it. I was competing fur- wa ah right seat meaning low man on the totem pole jobs. With captains that had hours I was dreaming of getting. N were starving to death for bout three years. Driving on the side n I finally said, “Well, I need to make a l- a decent living. Lot more than I’m making now. Ahonly got the license to pay for school maybe I can take care of me for a while?” Next thing I know, I’ad my own trucking company that Thom n I built n my own house n married to Thom n two dogs. All that we were missing was the white picket fence.

 

Talk about a friendship that turned into, as most people called us, ‘The couple that if there was one there was the other.’ Which I used to laugh at those people. I really did. I thought, (higher pitched) “How can you be that close? It’s gotta be for show.” Well, when I moved down here permanently, I finally decided to nest somewhere. I really didn’t have a, place to call home after flight school I mean I stayed in Boston for a while. Uh, had a place a small place in Florida. But really hadn’t landed yet. Uh, figuratively speaking. And I wound up in Tallahassee. N shortly thereafter I met Thom an we hit it off. We were good friends. UhI was dating a professor from FSU, at the time. Um, who- now who’s in Texas n thank God he’s OK after th-t-uh-tornadoes. Been following the weather n keeping an eye on it. And ah, when that went bad Thom was always the friend that was there. And ih was six four. And I can never describe the color blue his eyes were. I mean glacial blue. They just immediately grabbed your attention. N even from that many years ago his hair would go from white ta this light blonde. It would go back and forth. It was really weird. Sometimes it would happen over a course of, a week or two. Other times days. Never did figure out what the hell caused that. But it was just funny ta watch.

 

And ah, oh Gawd, itws ninety-eight. I ca-eh-Novem-Thanksgiving ninety-eight I came down with PCP. I had no idea I had it. I only had Jake at the time. Uh God Fozz-e wasn’t even a twinkle in his dad puppy’s eyes. And I was out in, Lubbock Texas. N every time I went to lay down I was getting sick. Sit up I’m fine. Had no idea I was drowning. I never had pneumonia before. I wasn’t even thinking it was the virus kicking in. Hell I only’d be diagnosed, diagnosed three and a half years. Couldn’t be this soon. And, went in to eat something. And ah, I called my dispatcher. Uh I one of my r- my one of three rigs I had. And I said, “You gotta get me back ta Tallahassee.” I said, “I don’t care how do it. Get me home.” Sh says, “What’s wrong?” N I sys, “I need to go see the doctor.” N sh freaked. “You wanna go see the doctor?” Sh says, “I can’t get you to take up time off as it is.”

 

Ih Hell it was just me. I the place I was at was at was, ws a rental. Yknow n there were other people ta take care a-I had someone took care of the yard an all this so I really didn’t need to go back. And ah, truckers were at the forefront of technology so I was taking care of a lot of my bills online. Ya know, back during the CompuServe days. Myspace. All that computer ancient history.

 

Ah, she got me a load home. And it was in Memphis, ah, I went to lay back. Jake went insane, until I sat up. N I lieryIoIsOK if he’s upset something’s really wrong. Watching I said talk ta the- I told the dispatcher “Slike look. If that truck is not moved by seven-thirty in the morning,” s-this is central time, “You’re gonna find-” I said, “Send someone out.” Said, “I’m not feeling right. Something’s really wrong.”

 

When I sit up I’m fine. So I prop myself up. I-s-actually slept sitting up, sea- ah, seated. Back ta Tallahassee. Ah, friend of mine whose, long since gone, his mom, brought me to the house. Again slept sitting up. We went to the hospital. The hell of a day to way- what a hell of a way to spae-spend Thanksgiving. It ws the Friday after, it was the next day. I didn’t wanna go in on that day. Sh dropped me Friday morning. An they crash carted me. I ws seventy-two or sixty-eight on the, oxygen meter, sumnlike that. Anum I begged them not to lay me down. Ifthey did, I die. I drown immediately. Theywere able ta bring me back n all that nthn, threst of it was kinda of blur. Tellin me I’d never work again. The whole nine yards tht went with it. The big panic attack.

 

So, now, it’s after Christmas. My family meant well but, a pneumonia patient who lives in Florida, in Boston in New England. (higher pitched) In the wintertime! (teeth clenched on Eh) Eh! Never left the house. But that’s OK. Got back and, I wl really having some, issues with this. Eha cause now here it is end of year n Imean is this how it’s gonna end n? Is it really all over?

 

Got back ta Tallahassee. Well I went tua support group meeting. Which, I hadda wait a week for becausea the way the holiday fell that year. Walk in the door. N it ws jus me n the facilitator n not even two minutes later, Thom walks through the door. Now I had been living in South Carolina, temporarily fr the job. So I hadn’t seen him in a while. N here comes the bean pole for hell with the ice blue eyes, holding his M&- Uhh! The M&Ms. Loved peanut M&Ms. Eneywould always sit there (shaking closed hand at stomach level) n hold em like, n do this with em to loosen up the chocolate. You know what it looked- whne whne kept his hand ya know what it looked like he was doing? So I o- It was one of the things you always remembered about him. “Yeah the onetht plays with his M&Ms all the time.” Ya know. And ah, he walked through the door.

 

We had the meeting. And he was as shocked to see me as I was him cause he was very sick when I left. He’d already been, positive since eighty-eight or eighty-nine, at that point. I know it was early. An we went out for coffee. We closed the place down. We went back to my place. We’re sitting n talking. And very early in the morning, bout one-thirty r two, looked into his eyes and, this is gonna sound so corny. But it was the perfect moment of time. Everything around us stopped. Nothing existed but us right there right then in that moment. N it was just us. N both of us had the same thought. The same emotion. Nsaid “We’ve gotta run with this. This is more than friendship now isn’t it?”

 

And, that started a twelve-year marriage. N it was wonderful. Imean I’ad always- I’ad always thought people told me that, perfect moment, ‘Oh you look into his eyes er I looked into her eyes.’ They were, so full of crap. No they weren’t. I had literally just connected with my soul mate. Fr the rest of my life. Without question. And it was, absolutely amazing. N even knowing if I could go back, ta that day, n I hada relive as a price, relive every thing that happened, teh get back here the same way, knowing what I know, I’d still do it. Because, it was that, worth it. We took care of each other. I wasn’t used to that. N it was wonderful. Yehad a- (beat)

 

Oh my God the wedding. We had thee a the, neighbors didn’t know what ta make of it. I think there were four females at the wedding period. Sorry, six. There were six. His sister n her lover. Ah another couple we knew. Our minister, n a friend of hers. That was our officin- she was gonna be officiating at a gay wedding, of er own. N we wr- ours ws, done in traditional American Indian style of the Southwest. So, iwa- the neighbors were just going, (loud higher-pitched whisper) “You guys got married? No wonder the property value’s are going up.” That was their way of we of being told we were accepted. En the pro-cause we were here the property values were gonna go up. “Cause you guys fix things.” Gawd, did Thom love ta garden. So our house ws always covered with, flowers n bamboo, n Imean, it always looked great.

 

N then ah (beat) we developed a very bizarre sense a humor over the years. Most’wd call it morbid. We just called it reality. Ah, this was towards the end. Thee hospice nurse is over the house. Actually, he actually died the same way he lived. On his terms. (counting on fingers from pinkie inward) At home. Right after a cigarette. Asleep. I couldn’t believe it. He did it exactly that order. “Ya know, what ya have a- ya have a special connection with, whoever controls what time ya go?”

 

He’s laying in the bed, ahnd, he was having all kinds of problems, especially intestinal. N sometimes manually override was required. They’re in one of those positions. The nurse is there ta help me. N he- hews on his side n he’s looking out the window. N I’m going, “Oh God. I can’t believe I’m doing this ta somebody.” N he looks over his shoulder, “So, ya love me?” N I lookedem square in the eye n said, “Ya picked a hell of a time ta ask.” N we both lost it. We both lost it. The nurse thought we were out of our minds. An, she was relatively new. An sh, asked me later, sh said, “Do you guys do that all the time?” I said, “Look, one of us is gonna go first.” I said, (counting on fingers) “I’ve done it to him, he’s done it to me. Done it to him, now he’s doin it to me again.” I said, “We take bets.” I sd, “I’m not gonna lose my humor over this.” I sd, “It’s partath- it’s part of the journey might as well enjoy it.”

 

N then I got the call one night, from my dispatcher he said ah, “Karl just called me.” Our friend Karl was living with us watching Thom at the time. N there was only one reason that he was supposed to call him. Immediately got home. And ah, it was over.

 

(pause) So, I took- there was a trip coming up. I took it. It was nine days to Michigan. I, dispatcher, “Are you sure?” I sd, “Look, everything is on automatic. He only had to finish one more thing n that was to pass. I can’t do anything for ten to twelve days anyway. Until I know what’s goin on. How soon can they get the family together, s-i-it’s gonna take a while cause their scattered.”

 

And, one night, I thinkiws two three days into the trip the security guard at the hotel- it was up in Holland Michigan. Nice place that time a year. Nice n cool. Well ta me cool. And ah (beat) security guard stopped me nsys, “You alright?” I sd, “Yeah I’m fine. I’m jus, exercising.” He sd, “You were on your eighth lap around the hotel.” This place is en- summer resort like you’d find on Hyannis er smthin there- wasn’t small. I went, “How many times?” He says, “Eight.” I sys, “What time is it?” It was three-thirty in the morning. I’d starting walking at eleven. So, obviously I needed the time.

 

Nex- few months af- most of that I don’t even remember. We were that- cause we were that close. In fact, I didn’t sleep much. N then at the memorial, that night a friend of mine brought me a bottle of (with hands shows height of bottle was appx. a foot tall) Jack Daniels about like this. I finished it. In two hours. (shows appx. one inch with thumb and forefinger) Bout that much left. Still have the bottle. (hand down) Slept like a baby that night. Got up the next morning, his brothers n sisters though, God I wish I could- Thom was a ss, civilized redneck is the best way da put it. He actually took the dishes outta the sink before he peed in it. Most of the rest of em would jus pee on the dishes. Or out the back door. And ah, which he did himself every now n then. But ah, they were all blaming each other. N I said, “I finished it.” They all jus stared at me. I said, “That was the first and last time.” I said, “If that’s what’s gotta take ta have ta get me ta sleep every night, I’ll stay awake the rest a my life. I’m not going through that again.” I’ad, had a lotta problems in my early twenties with alcohol. And ah, haven’t touched it since. (shows inch with fingers again) Still there’d remind me, “Don’t do it.”

 

I don’t think it would’ve taken much ta put me over the edge. But, if Thom could keep going n didn’t do it himself as bad as he was, I could do it. And I jus go through another day. Another one after that. N jus try to keep going as best I could. Ah, the lesson from that is, (short “ha” laugh), what was that cheesy ah, movie line, never give up never surrender from that Star Trek parody. Galaxy Quest that was it. It ws never give up, never surrender! Ant, actually that’s the truth. Yknow. Because life is a hard road anyway. It’s supposed to be (slight laugh while saying “I guess.”) I guess. But there are those moments thtcho come across, tht, only happen once. N you know in the moment that’s the only time you’ll ever experience it. N it’s worth it. It really is worth the journey. It’s not about how-where you wind up in life. It’s about how you got there.

 

I’ve cried at sunsets from a b- boat deck in Key West over the coral reef. Right after Thom died. I’ad a tour down there. And it was a champagne toast. I was off fuh the night. We were staying in Key West. And I had a champagne toast, right there in front of God n everybody by myself. As the sun starts (puts hand out, pam down) breaking inda the water, it’s ws a gorgeous thing ta see. (raises same hand above his head as if grasping champagne flute) I raised my glass. Toasted Thom n said, “I wish you were here beside me.” N started crying. I don’t do that in public. Especially when I’m in uniform. N I’m with the group. I don’t do that. That’s- I was supposta be the rock, for everybody.

 

You never know what life’s gonna throw at you. N I look back, an believe it or not, I think the turning point, that changed my focus that way is when I became positive. I don’t think I’d be the person I am if I hadn’t. In fact I’m almost certain of it. Um (beat) course back then it was still considered the death- quote death sentence. I’ve beaten the odds. I’m still here. I’ve gone another twenty years almost twenty years now. And, still here. Still functioning. (smiling) Still wondering how I can contribute. I’m not givin up yet. May not be driving transconanenal anymore. N again, sights I’ve seen.

 

But (beat) jus keep getting up in the morning. I’d like ta’ve been remembered for that if I’d be remembered at all. (beat) Job like mine ya don’t leave many marks. Ya leave little thoughts. Because you only meet these- you’re in n gone. Well that’s how my whole career was. I never had a home life. Thom was an absolute blessing. For all those years on the truck, ya thought we would’ve killed each other. It was us n two dogs. There was n ah- an old seventies song Me You and a Dog Named Boo. That was Thom n I excep we had two dogs. Ew- we loved it. I got, becausa him, I got ta see th country all over again. Cause, he’d never been, outside of Florida. So he got ta go to forty-eight other states, is-n-n-joy every one of em. So, including a few snowstorms in Wyoming when it was his turn ta walk the dogs.

 

I didn’t mean ta ramble like that. It turned into a damn soliloquy.

TOBY GRACE

TRENTON, NJ

You know as a ah, a white man, a product of the middle or upper middle class, uh. I’ve always been aware of the nature of racial prejudice. Intellectually. And deplored it. And hoped I wasn’t contributing to it or was maybe making this a little better. Yknow. (brief pause) But, hhh, when you experience it, when it slaps you in the face that’s when you begin to understand what other people go through. (beat) Um. (ehem cough) You know that my partner before I met Mike ah was named Norman. An Norman, uh died of AIDS in 95. Um, the last two years of his life he had a, a beautiful apartment in Brooklyn but, when he began to get sick we needed to move em to Manhattan. So that he’d be close to Cabrini Hospital and, uh, uh to his doctor and Gay Men’s Health Crisis, n yknow all those resources. (“tmt”) Ah-Of course finding an apartment in Manhattan is never easy. Ah it took us about six months to get situated. We finally found a really good place on east 11th Street. The building belonged to a gay landlord, and ah most of the tenants were gay. An the super was a Stonewall vet whom I know. Ivan Bell who was ah, a fabulous person. Ah, a drag queen. Ah, Ivan ws was great. Ah, but the process of finding that apartment was very difficult. Now Norman was raised in New Hamburg which is a little village on the Hudson, near Poughkeepsie. N he was the only black family in town. An, Norman most of the time talked like a valley boy. N we had the same experience over and over again. He would call up about an advertisement, n they would say,

 

LANDLORD 1

Oh yes, uh the apartment’s available. Do come and see it.

 

TOBY

N when he would show up it would be,

 

 

LANDLORD 1

Oh, oh your Mr. Williams. Oh, I’m so sorry. W-we just rented the apartment an hour ago. I’m, I’m terribly sorry.

 

TOBY

Well, after that happens a couple times you begin to wonder what’s goin on here yknow? Iscome to this one occasion when Norman wasn’t feeling well n the apartment was all the way up in, uh, near Fort Tryon Park. And ah, I don’t mean Fort Tryon-I mean, uh yeah it is Fort Tryon Park up in up in upper Manhattan. Yeah, where The Cloisters is. So I went up to see it by myself. And uh it wasn’t much of an apartment. We really weren’t that interested in it, but uh, you know I discussed it with the landlord. And uh I said, you know the, the rent will be subsidized by division of AIDS services. Uh and your tenant will be Mr. Williams and this is his ID n stuff. And the landlord looks it over n he says, bl-boldly, right to my face,

 

LANDLORD 2

I’m not having no AIDS carryin nigger in my apartment building. The other tenants won’t stand for it.

 

TOBY

N yknow, I was raised a WASP. WASPS don’t make scenes. I completely lost it. I I jus completely lost it. I was screaming at the guy yknow tht I couldn’t believe what he had just said to me. Tht I would sue him, n yknow n all this stuff right. And ah, he said,

 

LANDLORD 2

Yeah go ahead and sue. By the time it gets to court your friend’ll be dead.

 

TOBY

En-I I was just floored by th-the yknow the bigotry. The, the hard heartedness, the meanness. I-i jus absolutely floored me. I really don’t think I’d ever experienced anything quite like, that before. It, at that point I began ta have some inkling, of what it was like to be a black man in America. Yknow, ah, n I’m not gonna say I understood it because I’m not a black man. N you have to live that whole life to understand it. But I began to get an inkling to that point yknow. And ah, I-yknow I went home. I was terribly upset. I went back to the apartment. Ah, n I told Norm about it. An I thought he, yknow would get upset too but he didn’t. Ah, Norman was, was. Norman was a shaman. He was part Wicken. Ah, part Native American shaman. He was part Native American. N he just got very sad an he said,

 

NORMAN

I feel bad for that man because, he doesn’t have a heart he just has a little stone.

 

TOBY

An Norman went off and in spite of the fact he wasn’t feeling well, he did a magical working to send the guy love. Which, I think demonstrates clearly that Norman was a better man than I am. (“tmt”) Cause that’s not what I woulda sent him. I woulda sent him a plate of scorpions. (beat) But, the interesting thing is, an ah-I’ll just tell you this as it happened and you can take it for what’s it worth. Ah, three days later the landlord called up and he said he was sorry he’d said that we could have the apartment if we wanted it. Ah, but at which point we’d found the place on e 11th Street so we said no. But thank you but. (“tmt”) That was a transformational experience. It certainly was. (pause) There were so many-experiences like that. I know in the-in the first ah, the very first ah first, gay rights marches after Stonewall. Ah. Well, going back to Stonewall. I wasn’t at the Stonewall Riots ah, I was as I, think I mentioned I was in Boston that week. N I was making an elderly banker a very happy man. But when I heard on the news what was going I-I came right back, ah on the train. An the train got to Penn Station, very early in the morning, uh the day after it was all over. N yknow I, Christopher Street was where I hung out. I knew the people who were involved in this, n, or some of them anyway, n so I, I went right down there to see if I could find somebody that could tell me what, ah, yknow, what had really happened. (beat) And, and I got down there. Iwas around seven in the morning I think, when I got there. (“tmt”) And there was nobody on the street. Ah, but you could still smell the smoke like from a burning cop car. And ah, there was, yknow debris n so on n so forth. It was, quite evident there’d been a major dust up. (“tmt”) But, about half way down Christopher Street, ah there was a, a young boy tht was sweeping up glass, on the sidewalk. N he was singing to himself that song from West Side Story. Ah, “There is a place for us. Somewhere a place for us.” Ah, “Take my hand and I’ll, lead you there. Someplace, sometime, somewhere.” And that was probably the most important transformational moment of my life. It jus- it just overwhelmed me. Ah, I was absolutely frozen in place. By the realization tht – that um, (“tmt”) there had to be a place for us n a time for us. And it was here, and it was now. That had to be.

DUANE QUINTANA

CHICAGO, IL

Um my last girlfriend dumped me. Um, in January of 99? Um, and, I, shedidhurther feelings I-n then I told her I was gay wull nehI jus, she got angry because we weren’t having sex. N I was jus like, OK. N she was really hurt n I really cared about her. But I jus, dwhave sex with her jus, really, um, I don’t, yeah like not the place I wanted ta go. (short laugh) Um. And so um I, so shews pretty hurt by that so I um, really felt like I need’d ta like, figure out what the hell was going on with mebcause it wasn’t fair, to, bring other people into my, my ah, world um n that kinda way. Um so I got a job at a gay bar ta learn how ta be gay. Um- Iwas, th um end of Feburary I decided I was kind of- after that experience with her n kind of thinking about it on my twentieth birthday around there I thought ta myself, “You’re gay. You need to figure that out. You need ta like explore that.” N so I jus got a job at a gay bar. Um, (slight cough with left’s hand fingers against lips) I- n I g-really I guess ta jus kinda learn what it was ta be gay I never really’d been around, gay people I I can um, I jus didn’t have any context for it I remember there was this Denny’s that they called Jenny’s. Um n I’d s sometimes find myself before I came out there jus kina, ending up (higher pitch on ‘there’) there. N I was scared ta death. I dinknow what ta, like how ta be there buI wreally intrigued n drawn n scared (beat) shitless of [people] but I wanted ta be around em. Um n so I would go ta Denny’s slash Jenny’s (short laugh) and kindof I don know, um peer into this world that I really felt like I was, um, part of. Um an so um, getting a job at a gay bar began a cause me do that I hada lot of, um internalize homophobia stuff n n really um, I think my gender like was really hard fr me cause I reallywanted people ta know like I was (both hands a few inches apart perpendicular to the ground off to the left for emphasis) OK with p people beginning ta know that I was a man (hands move in same fashion to the right) who liked other men. Um (hands in similar fashion, but not so rigid in the middle) I didn’t wanta be confused as aye, like cisgender- now I have the terms, but like a cisgendered male or born male, who like, wants ta be female or in other words transgender in some sort of fashion ortheother n, um I memer being scared ta death of drag queens. Um n I worked at a drag bar, which was really kind of, intresting, um but I would literlly run away from a drag queen. Theywd come like, Idohknow flirt with me like- like ya do with hot male, waiters n stuff n um Iws jus, horrified. Um n I really dintwant people to, confuse me as waning ta be a female. Ah because I was like, (deeper voice) “I’m a dude.” Um and ah (clear throat once) Um, yeah I m my first boyfriend my first love, um he was bisexual. Um and (slight breathy ‘eh’ sound) believe it or not I had been doing, a little bit of drag. Which was really crazy for me again bcause I was like still tryin ta figure out being gay n then I was under age. So Iws young enough- I was old enough ta where I could work in a bar buIcoun’t achaly go to a bar. An ah, for work I had ta dress in drag. Um once for like opposite sex day around their anniversary and, I, came out, looked amazining. Um, like Jennifer Grey before the nose job. Um, and ah, all these club owners wanted me ta wanted ta hire me ta work in their club. N so I was like, “Hm. I guess this’ll get me inta more, gay bars. I can be around more gay people n learn how ta be gay.” Um, so I did that a little bit I did some performances in a coupe of other bars. Ya know it was back when like, Jeanie in a Bottle was really big n Hit Me Baby One More Time Britney Spears n tht kia stuff n (‘eh’ laugh) Itws It ws just fun. (left hand starts moving with the emphasis of the lines) Um I kinda trieda take it as like, a theatre roll. Um buI really struggled with the idea that the (hand over to right) guys that would hit on me as a guy would (hand over to left) hit on me as a, girl n- as a boy in drag. Um n that was (both hands up waving on sides of head) really um, confusing (hands down) to me. Um n my (left hand moving to emphasize ‘boyfriend’) boyfriend, Alex (hand down) Ah, he, cause he was bisexual he ws always tryinget me in drag ta (left hand kind of inserting into right hand) be with him I wasjus (left hand out in stop position) notinathat. N our relationship was like a whole three weeks or somethin like that buIwas like (hands moving freely to emphasize what is being said) so in love. He was tweny seven. I was tweny- there was somethin about a twenyseven tht I wasjuslike goo goo ga ga over. Um nthn (eh) it was a little over three weeks (something indecipherable). In May um, I wen down n hehd told me tht hehd had um, chlamydia. Um an he need to go get um, ah, he need to go get treated or tested r-s I donememr maybe he’d gotten a call. Nonetheless I drove him, um bcause hewsatwenyseven year old who din have a car. (Waving left hand) That’s a whole other story. (Sounds like: ‘Dusetothat’ is what is said next, but I’m not sure.) (laugh) But (laugh) Um he I tookem to the the clinic an bcasue I was there I went ahead an decided ta, get screened as well. We’d been sexually active n so, that was what we were supposeda do. Paid ten bucks they got us back there. They offered an HIV test n I took an HIV test. Um iwas the first time I’d ever got tested. Um, n then back at that time ya hada wait two weeks ta get your result. Um so I took the two weeks an I got my result and um, ah, I remember um, like it took em a while um ta ta get me ta go back there n once I got back there, um I remer before tha, woman even closed the door she said um,

 

TEST RESULT WOMAN

Positive.

 

DUANE

N I was like, “Whad- whaty mean positive?” She said

 

TEST RESULT WOMAN

You’re test results came back an you’re positive.

 

DUANE

Wl-wh-whis- what’s that mean? N she said,

 

TEST RESULT WOMAN

You have HIV.

 

DUANE

And um, I remembr I just, I just kinda stared at her. Ah I couldn tell ya what she looked like. Um, buIjus stared at her it seemed like forever. Um n I remr, after, that staring, ah I was jus like “Wull is there some paperwork I can fill out, um cause I gotta go.” Um n I filled out n I filled out the paperwork um I hd tested anonymously so I had ta retest (left hand makes outwards sweeping motion) confidentially, with my name on it n so I did all that. Um, filled out the paperwork. They took more, blood or whatever n I left. Um, and, um I was driving home that’s when I really got kinating about like, what HIV, was n like Imean Idinknow anything about it. Like like I hadn’t see gay people I hadn’t seen people with HIV deal so Ihd no context for it th only thing Icld thinkof was the movie Philadelphia. N that was fuckin scary. En, I din understand cause I felt good I looked good. Ya know like, how could I have AIDS? Um, I know it was HIV but at that time itjus iwas the same thing. Eh n I dinunderstand cause I’d only had, ya know I’d only had that really that, one time that I could’ve gotten it n, like it din it din make sense n I was now in this relationship um, but. Yeah n thn. Yeah (eh) Um. I member the first thing I did was I went n um I saw my ex girlfriend um she lived in the same apartment complex as I did n a friend of ours Memphis. And ah we all worked at IHOP tagether that’s how we met. Um. And ah, I rmember juswalkedindathapartment en I was like, “Hi guys I have HIV.” An ah they hug me an we sat on the floor an I whined n cried about everything can think of from, ya know I I had AIDS I was gonna die how could this happen ta me I heart Jesus. I haven’t had that much sex like I’m gonna die. Like, everything was jus kind of jus going back and forth in my mind. Um, and ah, and ah, I remember that after like a little while of that like ask- like lookinatthem like, “So how was your guy’s day?” Ya know like, cause there was jus like really intense. Um. And that’s really what kind of, began ta spark this, thing thet, I was gay. And I wasn’t gonna be able to, not share that with people nymore cause I was gonna have ta share with, like my family iparticular my HIV status bcause I grew up in that small town n as much as I resented, like being, like (hands up like claws facing each other) jus like ya know (hands clasp together) like small town p- like it’s jus (hands apart but fingers touching still) small like, all your family’s there n (hands moving more freely) it’s jus Idoknowlike I’ve- because I was so close with my family like I needed them. An I neededa tell them I was HIV positive, one because I was, going to need them physically emotionally all that kinda stuff but also I knew that they would be hurt if I didn’t tell them. Ah if they found out later on down the road um we jus had that sort of relationship. Um my parents knew everything about me. Whether they wanted- to or not. N they encouraged that um. My whole life I rmemr when I smoked as a teenager briefly. My parents were like

 

DUANE’S PARENTS

Just don’t lie to us about it.

 

DUANE

Like

 

 

DUANE’S PARENTS

You’re gonna do it. We’d rather you not.

 

DUANE

My dad was like

 

DUANE’S FATHER

I wanna kick your ass, if you do, but, I’d rather you jus be honest about it thn not-

 

DUANE

Like when I- when they caught mewcigarettes I got in trouble bcause I was hiding them not bcause I ws smoking. Um that’s jus how my parents were. They were about that with drinking. They were about that with everything. N so I dinwanna hurt them so I knew I needed to tell them. Um, so I caught the first plane I could back ta Idaho. Um May thirteenth ih- is, the day ah I think it’s around the day that I found out is the day that I, call my anniversary. Um and um I caught the first plane I could back, home ta Idaho. The closest I could get was Salt Lake City. Um n my friend showed up n picked me up, But it was Mother’s Day. Um (index finger on left hand to mouth for a second) and ah I planned tht um I wasn’t going to tell my family on Mother’s Day. Um, but um, tht I was gonna tell them the next day.  Um I was really emotional. Um it wasn’t Christmas or Thanksgiving um so it was weird for, a (quote marks with both hands) a quote un quote kinacollege age student kindof person ta come home. Itwsa, trip that they knew something was up. They knew I had some sortof announcement (something indecipherable) Um. Ah (cough) n I was really emotionalbout it. Um I don’t think that I ever really felt like my parents would, um, disown me or not love me anymore. I jus really felt like they would be, disappointed an sad, by it. Um, ah, I think (something indecipherable). N I felt like I let them down like I totally fucked up I was like this (waving left hand in front of him for emphasis) smart, Jesus lovin like, awesome, now attractive you know like guy that was supposed ta go out there and do awesome things n now I’m a faggot with AIDS. You know n, like, I felt like I’d let them down (left hand down). N that’s all I could really see it for. Um, so Iwsgontellmy mom my dad my gramma my granpa my mom and my dad’s best friend n my little brother who was seventeen at the time. Um (moves hands from left to right. After that he uses hands for emphasis off and on) tell em the next day, sit em all down at once. And that way I could just say it once an everyone who needed to know knew. An everyone could kinda have their support system, um to deal with it in whatever way they needed. Um it was probly about ten a clock the night of Mother’s Day an my parents, were like

 

DUANE’S PARENTS

Son

 

DUANE

Like

 

DUANE’S PARENTS

We know it’s Mother’s Day. Um, but like, yjus needta tell us what’s goin on. Ih- we wanna know what’s up.

 

DUANE

Um, so I called my grandparents an because wgrew up in Wendell they lived across the street atthe time. Ah n they came over an, I sat down my mom my dad my gramma my grapa n my little brother.

 

(Duane’s mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, and brother sit with him at the table.)

 

N I basically said, “Ya know um, I’ve aconch-accomplished a lot in my life already an I’ve been able t do that bcause you’ve been there ta love an support me an I hope that after what I have ta tell you that you’ll continue ta be there for me. And ah. I have ta tell you that I’m gay.”

 

                        (Duane’s grandmother runs over to him.)

 

An my granmother ran over n she gave me a hug, n she said

 

DUANE’S GRANDMOTHER

It’s OK. Um. We still love you. Everything’s gonna be alright.

 

DUANE

N then I said, “N I also have to tell you, that I’m HIV positive.” Had HIV. N I rememr my dad stood up n said

 

DUANE’S FATHER

Well happy fuckin Mother’s Day.

 

DUANE

N he left n went inta his room. Um, my mom cried, like I’d never seen her cry before. N my grandfather tell me that I’d just broken my father’s heart.

 

(Duane’s Grandfather mimes saying “You just broke your father’s heart” at the same time Duane says it above.)

 

Um, I um, (left hand wiping beard during ‘I don’t think’) I don’t think, it was a good or a bad response. I think it was ta be expected at some pynt.

 

Um, ah I decided ta go out n leave the house for a little while n walk around town. Kinda give everybody some time to, to kinda deal with it. N I think for me to jus, ta kindof excape, a little bit. Ca I was still, kindof still chalen with it all myself. Um n so I came back home after midnight after like like everyone was home in bed and um, wenta bed n got up the next morning n my dad he’s always the first one up, he’s always drinkin his cup of coffee. Um, yknow like, watchin TV gettin readydagotawork n that morning, um I got up n I walked ina living room nasoonasI, I did my dad left. Um. The whole week that I was there, um, that’s jus the way it was. My dad walked inta a room that I was in I left if I walked inta a room thathe’s in he left. We, um didn’t know how to be with one another. Me n my dad had always kind of, had aye, strained relationship. Um. Ah, when I was very much- my dad was kind of a sex drugs rocknroll kinda guy. Um when hes thirty he kinda, changed a lota that. Um but at thirty I was twelve n I was like, yeah that’s cool that you pay dad but, I don’t wanna play it right now. Um, n so I kind of- even though I’ve always wanted my dad’s, attention n acknowledgement um eh- it was jus, yknow, n now I’m, now I’m jus like, gay guy with HIV, who um, is not, I guess, what my dad raised me ta be. Um end ah I think becauseIwas HIV positive too, I think all he could think about was, me dying en, he jus didn’t want ta do this wrong. Um, like with ta deal with each other so we jus kinda stayed away. Um my g-my mom was a lot different.

 

(Duane and his Mom sit across from each other at the table doing the actions he mentions below.)

 

Um I member we were um, sitting at the kitchen table the next day. Um it’s kindajus this is a random thing that jus came up but, the kitchen table that my brother and I bought my mom for Mother’s Day, (‘eh’ laugh) years prior. Um, ah but we sat there eating like a peanut butter sandwich n, potato chips or suinlike that n. I rmember ah my mom, looking at me from across the table, n she asked me um, what song I wanted ta hear at afuneral.

 

(Duane’s Mom mimes saying the above about the song as Duane says it.)

 

And ah, a-I was, ah a bit (brings hands to chest during ‘taken back’) taken back. Um, by that question n awo-Ijustolmymomiws, a- like, let’s, um it’s too soon (‘eh’ laugh) to be talkin abouthat but, iwas proly one of the best things that my, mom coulda said ta me. Because, my mom ssaid ta me in that she told me that shews there for me then. Ah she was gonna be there for me when I got sick. N she was gonna be there for me mafterlike, got sick n, ultimately died. N she was gonna be there to make sure that everythingyknow- that I was gonna be OK n that everything was gonna be the way that I wantedit ta be, for me. N like my mom knew, that I had a song. That I would care about. That I would want. The title was ah Good Riddance by Green Day. Um, (short ‘ha’ breath) Bawt, in my, I guess in mym, in that moment she linked like the time when I actually, realized that, it wasn’t just about me. Like I was upset about the idea that I was gonna get sick n I was gonna die. N all these (using hands for emphasis) dreams n all these plans n all these things that God n I had for me were jus, not gonna happen. But, I realizetoo that my parents were thinking about um (beat) their son being sick n dying. N then having ta put me in the ground. En and very soon n not, n not because of some sort of freak accident or, like some disease that jus happened. Like iwsbcause I, made, a poor decision. An now they were gonna have ta deal with it n, it was a really hard pill for me ta begin ta swallow. N ta begin ta see that- CauseIknewevenhow (left hand to chin for a second pulling beard hair) imporant my family was ta me (using left hand for emphasis), bu I guess I dint realize how, um, what happened ta me, what happens ta me would effect them in such a, ahorrible, ah, way. Um, I stayat home that week n then I went back ta a- back ta Arizona n, that’s when I really began ta deal with the whole thing. Um, I ended up not being ableda go ta church anymore. Ah, whichws really tough because that was really my only, other support system. (right hand to chin and beard) Um, bawt-I, in being gay n, being gay seemdmore than HIV I didn’t think I would be, allowed (beat) or loved, the same. (right hand down) At church um so I jus chose not ta talk a them about it. N thee um, and ah, (scratching left side of neck with left hand) Yeah then I, started my (left hand down) little stint with drugs n alcohol. Um, almost immediately (‘eh’ laugh). My dad gave me a hug when I left (‘eh’ cough) that time. Um after I told my family. So I knew it would take some time. Me n my dad had been through, yknow um, I’m now thirty four, um, err, yeah thirty, four almost thirty five. So it’s been a little bit a time. Um n a lot of a lot of things’ve happened. Um, my dad has always been there for me, um, even when I was, like he’s always been there for me, as much as he can. Um ant, um most the time I felt like that wasn’t enough. Ah but through the years I’ve been able ta see, my dad as, jus another guy like myself, who’s trying ta do the best he can in life, an, do his best in relationships, (swallow) wothers n that sort a thing ya know, my da-I had married a mayn, ah back in two thousand three. Um n my dad, wasn’t there. Um said he wouldn’t be there n support it en endorse it. Din raise his son like that. Um, later on that, year about nine months later I was in the hospital n-s um died. We’d actually did more planning for my death around that time then any other time in my life. Um even know my dad-parents had started (something indecipherable) ya know coffin, ya know services n stuff, years prior ta that.  N now that I had a husband, en somebody else in my life that is significant, that created this (something indecipherable) what Mom n Dad want with, my body. Um n what ta do with me after death n what my husband wants. An because (hands close together for emphasis) I was dealing with this disease. Not HIV it’s called ITP that’ws gonna kill me. Um- (Hands down. Speaks clearly saying ‘ITP’) ITP. Immuno thrombocytal, penya purpura (‘eh’ laugh). (Note: the disease’s written name is: Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura) Which is basically a platelet disorder. Um my platelets were being destroyed ta the point in which I could, bleed, out n die. Um. And ah, we later learned that my spleen, um was the culprit, (left hand on neck, scathing at neck and just placed there at times) was the thing that was, ah dstroying my platelets. So w’hada rmove it. (slight ‘mm’ throat clear) Nwhenwewenttogodothat I came down with, I had ta do a transfusion. It caused me ta have meningitis. Um, and um, I was in the hospital for that n (moves left hand away from neck in sweeping motion just in front of him and then moving both hands for emphasis sometimes interlacing fingers) my family came n my husband was there n he, jus took, such good care of me, hews kind of a bitch ta the nurses n doctors n jus made sure that I, was taken care of. An when my dad saw that, um, he, that made him happy. Um n-he-my dad told me n my ex-now ex husband that. Ah, on a trip, ah they drove to LA ta meet me at the end of the Road a Hope Tour. Um, and ah, they um, my dad told me that he kind of loved-, I mean he fell in love wi Travis, an Travis was considered like a son ta him Um he, cared deeply about him cs- n my dad was able ta express ta me thet, all he ever wanted, for me n life was ta be happy n loved an, to have somebody treat me the way that Travis did. Whc-he dintunderstand it, (using hands for emphasis in pushing away motion) dinunderstand the sex n still doesn’t like wanna think about it. But he was happy ta know that I was happy. N loved n loved someone else um. N when wee, Travis n I’d separated when I left Travis um, iwas a hard, thing for my family my family still, ya know spent some time with my, ah now ex husband. Um it’s been many years now n, um I’malso a recovered drug addict n alcoholic. Um, I’ll have six years in May. Um around Mother’s Day (smiling). Uhm-I got sober on Mother’s Day. Um and ah, that also allowed me to really have some candid conversations with my dad about um, bout what I think about im. An, that I love him n thet, some a the best things about who I (left hand placed on center of chest) am n who I try ta be, are things that my dad instilled in me. Ah regardless of (hand waves from center out in front of him and then down on ‘um’), um (left hand up perpendicular to ground and then moves around a bit for emphasis) regardless ofbeing-feelings or, lack of, meeting my expectations uvI’ve learned someathemost important things about, who I am, um n how I, am in the world from my dad. (emphasizing with pointer finger on left hand) My generosity my kindness (scratching right side of neck with left hand then it just settles there), ah my love, loving-ness my, importance of my family. That sort of thing.

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