Saturday, December 01, 2012

This Day. Every Day.

UntitledI moved to New York during the first big educational push of the AIDS crisis. Since I was a college student studying theatre it was a subject touched on in almost every class I took. There was equal and opposite stress put on never abandoning or shunning people who were HIV+ and protecting oneself. Always hug but wait to clean up accidents until you've got gloves on. The first thing was pretty easy and the second one, honestly, didn't come up a lot.

After I graduated from college I wound up working at a well known off Broadway theatre. That's where I worked for Moody. We were in charge both of the technical aspects of the plays that were put on and of the general facilities that the theatres, rehearsal spaces, and offices occupied.

One day we had a water leak problem and Michael took me and the maintenance guy up on the roof to show us how to trouble shoot it. It was fall, the roof was covered in leaves, and the drains were obscured. Moody sent the maintenance guy down to get some tools then started to check the drains himself by clearing them with his hand. Suddenly he flinched and pulled his hand back. He'd cut himself on something. It wasn't a big cut but there was a small, bright pool of blood oozing out of one finger.

In a heartbeat all that training flooded back to me. We were colleagues, not friends, so there wasn't any expectation that I'd run over and baby him but we locked eyes for a moment. It felt to me like a test. I don't remember exactly what I said to him but it involved "are you ok?" and "band aid." He was and, when we got back down to the office he put one on. The minute I spoke the test was over.

I don't know if he was HIV+ then or ever. I don't think so. Either way it wasn't what killed him. But on World AIDS Day, even though I also know people who have died from the disease, that's the moment I think about. 

1 comment:

  1. In the early '80s I toured with a show, and our assistant stage manager, who was a wonderful, funny, gentle man who I adored, seemed to decline in health and lose weight and dwindle as the months went on. The show took a holiday break, and before we returned, we heard that Tommy had died.

    He was the first person I knew who'd died of AIDs. Whenever I think of AIDs it will have Tommy's face on it for me.

    I never thought of the danger to me, but that was the propaganda of the time. Now, as I work with people whose job is to clean up and service public assembly facilities, we are always concerned with safety if there is an accident, even a bandaid or sick mop-up.

    It's so strange to remember a time when we didn't think about this.