Should I share with you some of what I feel, some of my doubts and concerns? I do not know how much of this you should bother reading. It is probably better for me to have written it down, got it out. Please realize it is at least a little therapy for me, perhaps nothing more.
Do I speak too low, or does he in fact hear me but without it registering? Do I imagine him to be distracted or distant? Would I not be distracted were I in the same position? Do I wait for the inevitable; do I see behaviors that are not there; where is he when he seems so distant? Fear, wonder, anxiety, anger and loathing of this circumstance – these are but a few of the lenses which often distort my thoughts and observations.
He is almost constantly scratching at himself – his skin is so dry and irritated, allergies and fungal infections compounded by who knows what else. Ready to bleed, his skin is so reddened.
His cough is so deep and so much at the surface at the same time. He would cough the life out of him, or the very demons he is afflicted with.
I would have him cut back on his work but he wishes to finish the school year with all his students. He seems angry at my suggestion. I stifle the way I end his sentence, his desire to “teach full-time” (even if it kills him). For the last couple of weeks now, he has absolutely no energy left at the end of his work day. Is this quality life? Who the hell am I to say except for myself.
I am sure we both wonder if he will travel to the mid-east this summer. I sometimes expect he may not make it to the end of the month, when he hopes to go to Chicago to visit with a dear friend. It will be Peter’s spring holiday. I stayed at home this entire week – my spring holiday – thinking that he could not manage without me, taking him to and from work, making dinners, doing most of the other household chores. At first, I felt a little resentful. I think it would be so much easier if he would open up to me – he holds everything in, except for a little, or maybe lots, that comes out in his writing. I am scared, frightened that, like Greg, any concern he has for himself will slowly and completely disappear as the virus makes its way with his mind. But how terrifying it must first be, to comprehend as I fear he must.
To slowly waste away or to die quickly? I know what I would want for myself and for those around me. But will I want it then? I know he has considered suicide as well as its effects on others close to him – how not, given the suicide of his sister and mother. I wish we could talk about it. I wish he could trust me with these thoughts as he seems to have with his very life.
Thoughts such as these I constantly live with this last year. And add in deep concerns for the welfare of Katie and Sarah as well as the realization of how much I miss my mother, close friends and extended family… And I also feel sometimes too full of self-pity.
As I say, I have second thoughts about appending this to the other pages – but, what the hell. I hope you will respond in any way or not at all as you see fit. I would so much prefer a day of conversation with you.
You have my love,
Notes: From a letter, dated April 9, 1994, sent to my dear friend Norman. Some years before this I had served as a Shanti emotional support volunteer with Greg, another young man with AIDS. My mother passed March 6, 1993.