I loved so much about him: His sense of humor, good looks, wit, his charm. He had everything going for him – an MA from UCLA; a job with the County of LA; eventually, his own house.
He could walk into a room & all eyes would be upon him. People would hang onto every word he said as if he were a wise oracle. And this was when he was only in his 20s! He could’ve had his pick of a mate & when he was younger, there was boyfriend after boyfriend after boyfriend. After awhile, I couldn’t keep track of their names. I met a handful of the longer-term guys, but that’s all.
In 1991, he told me that he had HIV & I think that that time was the beginning of his gradual turn from the light to the darkness. Bit by bit, his life started to become shadowy, mysterious, secretive, compulsive, self-destructive. He assumed that he was going to die fairly young, but he lived for 13 years after the diagnosis. And, ironically, AIDS wasn’t what killed him.
The last time I saw him was about a year & a half before his death – 2002, I guess. I was visiting Los Angeles & staying with my parents. He came to get me in the little black Toyota pickup he had at the time & drove me out to Washington Beach. It was a typical sunny LA day, but, as we walked along the shoreline, there was, to me, an intangible darkness that seemed to suffocate the light around us.
Two years later, I finally realized that he had brought the shadows with him that day. There were secrets that no one had let me in on.
I had wondered after that 2002 visit, why he wouldn’t talk much that day. It had seemed, ironically, that I was the one doing all the talking & that he was making a polite, painful pretense of listening.
On March 8, 2004 I got the dreaded middle-of-the-night phone call. It was my Mom.
“Phyllis,” she said, “it’s Billy. He’s gone.”
Just like that.
He had gone back into the light, but somehow even now, almost seven years later, the shadows that he cast still hover in my heart.
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