The AIDS Activist Project

The Making of an AIDS activist in 5 parts – part 1*

Randy in Stuyvesant Park, 1988
When I look at this photograph of Randy now, I can’t believe I was in such denial that something was very, very wrong. In the summer of 1988, AIDS was decimating the Gay Community; there was a lot of ignorance, fear, and hatred of AIDS & the Gay Community. In 1988 Randy began to lose weight, he continued work as a restaurant manager. He began to talk about moving back home to his hometown of Seattle, where he grew up. He said he wanted to be closer to his family. We decided we would go to visit and see what would become of it.

Weeks before we were to leave, he came home early and told me he had been fired. I didn’t know he would go to work at 6 a.m., between breakfast and lunch service he would lay down to rest in the basement stock room. I don’t know how long this went on, but the staff told me he had been doing this for some time.

He continued to lose weight, I became concerned. He had been seeing a doctor, I assumed everything was ok. He complained of back problems, I thought he was depressed. He wanted to leave New York to go home to be closer to his family. Looking back, I didn’t want to know the truth and avoided it at any cost.

Friends would ask me if Randy had AIDS, I’d get angry and think they assumed because we were gay, we would get AIDS. I would say no, he was depressed and wanted to move to Seattle, he had enough of New York, besides he was seeing a doctor, so no, he didn’t have AIDS.

One afternoon, he had a doctors appointment, I wanted to go with him, but he insisted on going alone. Afterward, we met at a restaurant, Hisae’s, a Sushi restaurant by Copper Union. We had become very close with the sushi chef and the manager, we always had a good time there.

When he arrived, I was sitting at the sushi bar, talking with the chef. He sat down next to me and had a frightened look on his face. I knew now something was very, very wrong. I asked him what the doctor said. Randy said, “I’m HIV+”

Our world began to crumble. I lost it, I started to cry, everything I tried to avoid and deny hit me like a ton of bricks.

We got the check and went home.

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