As we note the 30-year mark in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS, it seemed an appropriate time to publish this short story. I dedicate this to all of my friends, gone, but not forgotten, as well as those still fighting.
Jeffrey gazed up at the ceiling and, again, he began to count. It didn’t matter that he’d counted them before, or that he knew the number of holes by heart — 3,016. It also didn’t matter that he always counted the same square, never changing. The number of holes was constant; as constant as his mother sitting numbly in her chair, stumbling through her crossword. What mattered most to Jeffrey was that he knew it. And since he knew it, it could never be taken away.
He sighed, though no one heard it, and thought of Kevin. Blond, handsome, studly Kevin. How had everything gone so wrong? Jeffrey’s mind raced over the details of their relationship, sifting through the rubble for clues. The beginning, middle, end.
No one thing stood out as wrong or imminent or foreboding. When Jeffrey’s suspicions were confirmed and it did end, there were the expected rows, and tearful apologies, and scenes in restaurants. But no one could have foreseen the agonizing pain that would come to Jeffrey. He’d gotten through it, eventually, and now Jeffrey was alone. Sadly alone.
He filled his time well, though. Going through his Rolodex and renewing friendships. Making dinner plans, and festive theatre outings, and endless gym workouts–anything to stay away from that apartment. The reminders. The memories. (more…)