Monday, January 12, 2009

Angels I Don't See PART VI

Parts I - V can be found here

My friend Michael and I went to the waiting room on floor seven of the hospital. I looked out the window at a magnificent view of the Statue of Liberty. For years she had welcomed people from foreign lands – the tired, the poor, those yearning to be free.

My tears began to flow because I now was the tired and poor. I was the one in search of freedom and a new beginning. I was in need of the hope that Lady Liberty had given to the nameless faces and huddled masses.

“Are you mad at him?” Michael asked.

“Mad at him for what?”

“Are you mad at him for not telling you he was positive”

It was the strangest thing because I was not mad at him. I wanted, more than anything, to be mad at him to ease the pain. But at that particular moment I simply felt sorry for Ric.

What deep, abiding fear must someone have in order to live in such denial? Was his fear of HIV so strong that he would not only risk his own health by not getting treatment, but he would risk my health by not telling me? If his fear of HIV led to his denial, from where did such a fear come?

Ric’s life has been a series of tragedies. He lost his mother when he was 12, lost his brother to complications from MS, lost another brother who died an infant. He also lived through the plague years when many of his friends died rapid deaths to AIDS. Perhaps the combination of all these things caused him to slip beyond the reach of reality. Maybe his own mortality was the one thing in life he simply could not face.

“I know this is hard to hear right now but you should really get yourself tested” Michael said as he held me.

“I am. I just need to find a place and I will”

“Use my doctor. Here’s his number”

As Michael took my phone and programmed his doctor’s number in it, I looked out again at the statue. The Statue of Liberty has always played a special role in my life since I moved to New York nearly eight years ago. The night before 9/11/01 I took a cruise around Manhattan chartered by the international trade association I was working for at the time. As we passed the statue I opened my fortune cookie and my fortune read “Cherish your freedom. You never know when you might lose it”.

A few months later, Ric and I took a stroll through Battery Park which was a couple of blocks from where we lived at the time. We sat on a bench with our dog and savored the view of the Hudson and the statue in the distance. It was a cloudy day but the sun shone like a spotlight on Lady Liberty’s crown. It is, to this day, the most exquisitely beautiful image ever etched in my mind.

And just last year, my friend took us out on her boat and we circled the statue. I had never seen her so close and the detail amazed me. She was such an epic symbol of all that was right with our country and at that moment I whispered a prayer that what she stood for would be protected for generations to come.

But as I looked out at the statue the day I learned of Ric’s status, I wondered if Ms. Liberty could inspire me yet again.

Sadly, I knew the answer. This time her guiding light could not lead me out of the dark abyss. Symbolic hope was not a solution anymore and I doubted if it ever was. At that moment she was nothing more than a jingoistic backdrop used to instill a false sense of patriotism and arrogant pride.

In fact, at that moment in such overwhelming pain, I wanted to take her torch and shove it up her patina'ed copper ass. And give it a twist for good measure!

Part VII of Angels I Don't See here

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