I call; she hangs up on me. I write; she doesn't answer me. Friends and family plea on my behalf. In desperation, I sent her my autographed picture of Richard Pryor. At least she will send me a thank you note. Wrong. I got a letter from her lawyer suing me for mental cruelty. Take it from me BP readers, if you ever experience dementia (mild or otherwise) have your letters censored, tape your mouth shut in between meals, and never, ever write to your friends' relatives even if you think you are being wonderfully thoughtful. All I did was ask her daughter how old she was, so I could send her the right amount of roses on her birthday -- one for each year. Never in my wildest dreams did I think she would react this way. She's filed me away under "V" for vanished, and cross-referenced me under "D" for deadbeat. With your permission, BP readers, I am using my column to try -- ONE MO' TIME -- to get back one of my favorite girl friends.
My dearest Gladys:
I've been mentally ill for the past seven months, but I'm better now, thanks to every psychiatrist on the staff of Beth Israel Hospital and Rivington House. I've really been sick... Only 5 weeks ago, I was on the critical list. When it was time for me to make out my will, you and your mother were the first people who came to mind. I left you my rent stabilized Manhattan apartment and all my celebrity pictures. I even included Champ, along with a donation in his name, to the Doris Day Animal League. I miss you terribly. We had such a ball together, didn't we? I can hear you now, "Yea, 'cause we were always stoned and I was the one who supplied the 'ludes." That's right, you did, but I supplied the laughs. One damned letter and you drop me after all these years? All the things we've been through together? You were Kim Bassinger and I was your Alec Baldwin. We were the best looking couple on the Bowery.
I know you'll remember... my 40th birthday on April 11. My mother is giving me a big party. I'd love to come. I'll even pay your airfare from Florida. Ha! Ha! Everybody's going to be there... All my lovers and their new boyfriends... not the one night stands. I'd invite them, but I don't remember their names; and anyway, my mother would have to rent Madison Square Garden to have enough room. I want you to meet my physical therapist, Ruth. She's beautiful. She's got me in great shape, muscles and all, and I'm walking again. Ruth makes me exercise every day. Yes, me, who used to get nauseous walking past a gym... I love my repetitions.... When I get out of Rivington House, I'm going to train for the Atlanta Olympics. My doctor says I look hunky. Don't disappoint me.
Love and kisses,
(Howard) Aaron Shapiro was a New York-based freelance writer who wrote regularly for the Body Positive. He died of AIDS complications on Saturday, May 18, 1996.