While reading John Irving's In One Person, I remember stopping cold on this line, "By ’95 – in New York, alone – more Americans had died of AIDS than were killed in the Vietnam War." I remembered walking through the city in the summer of '89, seeing this young man stop to look at himself in the long window of a postal truck, his skin wounded by the disease. My sister was in theater, my best friend in fashion -- the loss of life, the generation who were taken.
Today, on World AIDS Day, I remember my cousin, Jack. At our wedding, he likely already knew that he was dying. It was the last time I would see him. He was a father, a sweetheart, a good soul. I think of him each time I hear of a new scientific advance, each time there's hope, as if I can bring him back somehow.
I think of Tom Hanks choking up in his Inside the Actor's Studio while talking about the filming of Philadelphia. Lipton reminds him that 53 gay men with AIDS were in the film. A year later, 43 had died. Hanks tells the story of one of these men who worked in a noodle factory. He says that it's a hard film to watch because he sees the men they lost. "They last forever, you know, these films."
These past few weeks writing has seemed pretty pointless. Art has felt so flimsy. It's not pointless and we need all of it, from any willing to risk making it. All hands on deck. Sometimes it changes people. Sometimes it endures. We don't, none of us.
Here is the audio clip of Hanks' talk, mentioned above. For that story, listen in at 23:30.