Today is World AIDS Day. For me, it’s another reminder that my sweet friend, Steffan is gone. He left this world on June 28th, 1994. He was 31 years old. I held his hand and breathed with him as he died of pneumonia.
I had seen him the previous day, and we’d talked about going to the Japanese Garden later in the week. I kissed him and said I’d talk to him in the morning. He told me goodbye as I walked out, as if he knew that he was dying. He never said goodbye.
The call from Bailey-Boushay came just after I got to work. I jumped in my car and broke all the speed limits to get there, praying that he’d wait for me. The man at the desk waved me past without signing in, and I grabbed the elevator to his floor. There were three of us in the room with Steffan, and we all held him and breathed with him. I told him it was ok to go if he needed to do that. His eyes were unfocused, looking at something far, far away. His breathing through the oxygen mask was laboured, and when he would stop breathing for a moment, we all did.
And then he was gone. This funny, smart, creative sparkle of a man was snuffed out like a candle, leaving only the empty shell behind.
I think of him and miss him every day, but particularly at this time of year. He’d had a lousy childhood, brought up by fundamentalist grandparents that disowned him because he was gay. They told him that AIDS was god’s punishment for being gay. Disgusting. So, we always made the holidays special, to make up for all the bad Christmases. I made him a high heeled fishnet Christmas stocking and always had him help decorate the tree. He said he was my Sugar Plum Fairy.
It wasn’t fair. It still isn’t fair.