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Chris' Things

November 2000

One Tiffany's crystal vase(1) with red roses.(2)

A drawing.(3)

One file cabinet with personal, not so personal items, papers, bills,(4) gas bills, phone bills, love notes, phone numbers,(5) doctor's bills,(6) camera instructions, an old shoelace,(7) tax files and a box of rubbers.

One drafting table - dusty tools.

One tall oak table, two small lamps(8) - halogen.

One oak six drawer dresser.(9)

Two night stands with lamps.

Closet full of clothing, boxes, shoes, boots, leather belts.

Ambient direct and indirect February morning light.

Queen size bed, 100% white cotton sheets and four white goose down feather pillows.(10)

One dead 33-year-old man,(11) matted oily hair.

Two angry friends.(12)

One oak cabinet filled with medical supplies and one IV pole.

Bookshelf with books: Huckleberry Finn, A Confederacy of Dunces, The Unbearable Lightness of Being,(13) several books on healing the body with the mind, a large crystal collection, several candles and spiritual trinkets, a collection of poetry by Virginia Wolf, Rock Hudson's biography, Citizen Cohen, As I Lay Dying, Foucault's Pendulum, The Shining, Roget's Thesaurus, Webster's Dictionary, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Marcel Proust, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and several Bibles including a copy of The Word. At the top of the bookshelf were two trophies,(14) and a photograph of Chris with his parents, Sony AM/FM digital clock radio, 11:18 a.m., cut crystal vase with red and white tulips.(15)

Wooden six-panel door, screen, light breeze and rustling trees.

Technics stereo with music playing(16) and Sony television with remote control.

"Just put the pillow over his face. Just put the pillow over his face. Put the pillow over his face," David said. He was trying to convince Mark that it was time.

Chris had said his goodbyes, had said that he had made peace with god and that he was ready. Chris had taken what he thought was enough sleeping pills to kill himself, but he didn't die. He had battled his battle and here was Mark with the pillow they had both fought over, slept with, held together and separately. Helping him die now was his choice.

Mark told me not to ever tell the story of how he and David had to end Chris' life. But, Mark is dead now and so is David.

  1. The vase came from Chris' first real lover Robert. The two of them went together to Mednales, New Mexico for a winter vacation. Robert had surprised Chris with a vase full of bright yellow daffodils. Chris' Christmas was made by those daffodils.

  2. The roses were delivered on Monday morning by Chris' friend Charles. They were really quite beautiful.

    Charles and Chris met in 1982 in a disco along Santa Monica Boulevard. Chris followed Charles over the hill into the Valley to the apartment Charles lived in. Charles had lived rent free in this apartment for 19 months because the landlord had filed for Chapter 13 protection and had died and the property was held up in probate. Charles eventually went to Europe for six months on the rent money he saved. The coliseum post card from Rome is still in the filing cabinet.

    The two of them had sex that evening and tried over the next few weeks to get a relationship started. It didn't work out and they ended up becoming friends. Their friendship was the Holiday party, Sunday breakfast type of friendship.

  3. The David Hockney drawing was given to Chris by Scott. Scott died in 1989 of "heart disease." Scott was a big deal Hollywood something-or-other, and art collector and part time dealer. He had a million dollar collection and instead of giving his art to a museum or a foundation he gave it to his friends. He spent many hours, those last few days deciding which piece would go to which person. The Johns went to the Salazars, the early Warhol Flowers went to Chikk, the later Warhols went to Robert and Dave, the whole photo collection, including the Steiglitz, the Adams, and the Shermans went to Paul, and so on and so on.

    Chris ended up with the Hockney. He really didn't know what to make of it at first. For a long time it sat on his file cabinet. It just sat there. He had wondered sometimes what it might be like to own an important work of art. And when he got his drawing it seemed nothing happened. Nothing changed. Occasionally a trick or a visitor from out of town would remark about the drawing but mostly it went unnoticed.

  4. One day Chris stopped paying his bills. He told me that he knew that day that it wasn't necessary to pretend any more. It was just after Labor Day. "There really wasn't anything that could be done," he'd explained. He always got a kick out of shocking the bill collectors with flip comments about his illness.

  5. Chris kept a box full of the phone numbers that he had been given over the years. There were 2,167 numbers from the men he had met in bars, discos, clubs, gyms, on the beach, at the baths, in shopping malls, airplanes, airports, hotel lobbies, ski lift lines, movie theaters, restaurants, grocery stores, shoe shops, laundromats, art galleries, post offices, rest areas in most of the western states, several foreign countries, bicycle shops, clothing stores, among others.

    Chris was really popular.

  6. At last count his illness had cost his insurance company $278,964.97.

  7. When Chris' father died his mother had said "Why don't you help yourself to whatever you want from your dad's closet." At first he was overwhelmed with the idea of having as his own the many fine things his father had once worn with pride, the cashmere coats, the blazers, the hats, the white shirts, the expensive leather coats. As he sat on the floor crying and aching from his stomach all he took was an old shoelace.

  8. These lamps had belonged to Kevin. Kevin died in 1986. He was really the first person that Chris had known that had died. Kevin was never very open about his illness, he denied having AIDS right to the very end. Someone had said that Kevin lived in a lot of shame. Kevin came from a very wealthy Chicago family and during the memorial service everyone told his family what a terrific television producer he had been and how tragic they thought it was that someone his age would die of cancer. No one ever told his family that Kevin had been in love.

  9. This dresser was the last piece of the bedroom set that Chris had bought, or rather had made. It was imported from France, made by the hands of a man that Chris had spent the summer of his 22nd year with. Audinet was a tall dark haired Frenchman with lousy English. As Chris and Audinet grew older they maintained contact and even managed to visit each other over the following years. Chris knew the dresser and all the bedroom furniture was made with the same careful hands that had once held his own body. On the inside of each drawer Audinet had scribbled the words to his favorite poems. It was corny but Chris loved the sentiment. Every morning Chris would see the final lines of Hugo's Le Printemps.

    A travers l'ombre immense et sous le ciel beni,
    Quelique chose d'heureux chanter dans l'infini.

    The dresser was neatly filled with the clothing of everyday life. Eighteen pair of Calvin Klein mid-thigh briefs, 29 pairs of white 100% cotton socks, white t-shirts and tank tops, neatly folded striped and solid polo shirts, dungarees, khakis, cotton sweaters and sweatshirts. A forgotten note from Davis.

  10. Chris had ordered these pillows from the home shopping network.

  11. Chris.

  12. Mark and David.

    David was Chris' oldest friend. They had met twenty years before in Euclid Junior High School in Littleton, Colorado. From the moment they became friends they were inseparable. They watched the same television shows, they went to the same movies, they skied together, rode bicycles, all the things best friends learn how to do together. David and Chris both moved to Los Angeles together to attend college. Although they went to rival schools they managed to remain friends. As young adults they began pursuing different interests and as they got older their friendship was often strained. But there was always an underlying sense of safety.

    Mark and Chris were lovers, long time companions, sigs, boyfriends, husbands. Mark and Chris met at the California Pizza Kitchen four and one half years ago. They were both waiting for their dates to show up and struck up a conversation. As it turned out the four of them ended up dining together that night and exchanged numbers. They never got together again as couples. About 6 months later Chris called Mark and asked him out. They were both single at the time and slowly the two of them began to trust each other and managed to forge a relationship unlike one either of them had ever had.

    Chris used to say "it was a simple case of being in the right place at the right time with our hearts open."

  13. This was Chris's favorite book and favorite movie of the same title. He read parts of The Unbearable Lightness of Being book over and over from the day it was given to him by Jane his actress friend that he lost touch with before he met Mark.

  14. These trophies came from Chris' high school football days. He had recently found them on a trip home to visit his mom. The "last supper" he called it when Mark and Chris had discussed what it was going to be like in his mom and stepfather's house for three days. He had decided to go alone. Although the two of them had visited Chris' parents before, it was decided that the air would be clearer and eventually maybe cleared if the "GAY LOVER" wasn't there.

  15. Mark had kept this vase filled with tulips from the moment Chris had become bed ridden in late October. Mark would stop at the flower mart and buy a bunch of tulips from Jorge. Jorge asked Mark several times who the lucky girl was and one day Mark told him the story of how sick Chris was and how much it meant to him to be able to buy these flowers for Chris every week. On Christmas Eve Jorge gave Mark a huge bouquet of red roses and said "God bless you both, Merry Christmas." They both started crying and Jorge sent him away with a pat on the back.

  16. The Peggy Lee CD was on its third trip through. Chris' favorite song had always been "Is That All There Is To A Fire?" Through disco, punk, new wave, pop, techno, rap, through it all he loved to listen to and laugh when Peggy Lee would ask, "Is that all there is?"

      This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

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This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.
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