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Spotlight Series: HIV, the Gut and Digestive Issues
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November 2000

KIT USED TO THINK HE WOULD WIN AN ACADEMY AWARD. He thought he would be an important person. He imagined himself at cocktail parties with Neil Simon and Mary Tyler Moore. He dreamed he would meet someone and that they would live together sharing a bed and a washer and dryer. Their underwear and socks would lie side by side in drawers lined with contact paper.

Kit liked to think he would suddenly become very handsome as he approached forty. He cared what other people thought about him. He concealed blemishes with Clinique. He talked a lot, entertained at parties. Once, he sat with a group of guys at a private beach club in Larchmont. Waiters brought Bloody Marys to them on the sand. Kit smoked Marlboro's and gazed across the blue of the Long Island Sound. "Life is good," he thought.

At lunch in the clubhouse, they ate B.L.T.'s and Caesar salads served on china plates set carefully on white linen tablecloths. Kit made a joke about Scarlett O'Hara eating a bad radish in Gone With the Wind and everyone laughed. They laughed a lot that day, returning to Manhattan sunburnt and stoned.

Kit moved to the West Coast after the first article appeared in The New York Times. "Promiscuous gay men... amyl nitrate possible link to mysterious deterioration of the immune system... Kaposi's Sarcoma... Pneumosystis Carinii Pneumonia..." In New York everyone below Fourteenth Street was talking about gay cancer. In Los Angeles, they talked about Olivia Newton-John and her new boyfriend.

Kit found a studio apartment off Melrose Avenue and tried to forget about the first article in The New York Times. He tended bar at catered affairs for the rich and famous. In bow-tie and vest, he moved invisibly through weddings in Pasadena, bar mitzvahs in Encino and Oscar night parties in Bel Air.

Articles started to appear in The Los Angeles Times about Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and Kit cancelled his subscription. He quit the catering job when one of the other waiters -- a stunning young man who bragged to Kit about his sexual conquests as they poured chardonnay at parties above Sunset -- suddenly got Bell's Palsy and started to lose weight. His handsome face, now paralyzed and contorted, terrified Kit. Something terrible was happening. Gay men were passing something around as casually as they once passed joints and phone numbers at Bette Midler concerts.

Kit took a job answering phones at the Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank. On his lunch hour, he wrote letters on Warner Bros. stationary to his friends back in New York. "Saw John Kennedy Jr. having lunch today in the Blue Room with a casting director. Also Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke." One letter came back to Kit unopened: RETURN TO SENDER. ADDRESSEE UNKNOWN. NO FORWARDING. Kit dropped the letter into a trash can beside his desk, pouring coffee onto it until the name and address blurred into a blue brown puddle on the envelope. He stopped writing to his friends and had his phone disconnected.

His friends began to disappear and Kit did nothing. He never called one to inquire about another. He didn't want to know. He stopped sending out Christmas and Birthday cards. He didn't tell anyone when he made trips back to New York. He avoided bars and restaurants where he might run into a familiar face.

He quit Warner Bros. and got a job cataloging old studio stills at Paramount, closer to his apartment off Melrose. He bought a microwave oven. He started smoking again -- lung cancer was no longer the threat it had been. Kit stopped thinking that he would win an Academy Award. He stopped thinking about folding someone else's laundry with his own. He stopped thinking about how he would look at forty.

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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