sam says his ex boyfriend turned up 40 years later and died in his stairwell

There’s a friend I’ve had since middle school and we were always a little flirty and then finally had a fling in my senior year of college college, and then one more time in the wake of my breakup with Rosie back in 2018. She works in the medical field now. I forget what she does exactly. She posts Instagram stories from hospital break rooms and from her home gym. As the pandemic made its way into Miami she started to post photos of her colleagues and self all done up in extreme protective gear and you could see she was doing some intense work and engaging directly with patients suffering from COVID but the tone of her posts was always light. Same as ever.

            Then, when the governor started playing with re-opening protocols, she got pissed, and started making posts about how one protocol contradicts another, and how arbitrary all of these new rules are. She talked about a rule in the hospital that said a patient could only have one visitor in their room at a time, even if they were dying, and she talked about families wailing in the halls, and about the guilt of the one person who was allowed into the room while the loved one died—and yet now, she points out, it’s suddenly fine for everybody to go to the beach. She was bothered by the protests for this reason, and how few people were wearing masks.

It’s made her increasingly vocal, increasingly political, talking about human trafficking, even, and Jeffrey Epstien. The “suicide.” Speculating about the origins of COVID-19 and questioning the story as we’re hearing it.

            I can’t speak to the veracity of that stuff, but what was once her very lighthearted Instagram has become this fascinating reflection of her headspace, and of how her situation has galvanized her into strong action, strong beliefs. Somebody who was always so playful and fun (and still is playful and fun) is now showing how her work on the frontlines of a pandemic have changed her.

            And it just gives me that same old spooky vibe of seeing that the people I grew up with, the people I used to talk to five days a week while we were growing up, have gone their own ways, geographically and politically and ideologically, and that we’re all so far along now in our unique experiences of adulthood, our “paths,” what we’re finally and irrevocably changed from the person we used to be. Not unrecognizable, of course, and I’m sure we’re all still very similar to the person we were as twelve- and thirteen-year-olds.

            But I just get pensive to think of us back then, and how little we knew of what was coming.

            It reminded me of something else (it’s kinda dark): I was listening to a great interview with the author Samuel R. Delany, and he was sounding kinda somber. He was talking about how he’d been ousted from his teaching job before he wanted to go, how his housing situation wasn’t shaping up the way he wanted, how he’d lost thousands of books from his personal library.

            Definitely somber.

            But so the interviewer gets around to asking Delany his thoughts about the latest Star Wars sequel, The Force Awakens, and after a heavy pause Delany says (I’m paraphrasing), “The man that I originally saw Star Wars with, forty years ago, died in my stairwell the other day. We’d kept in touch over the decades and he was homeless now and again but he’d always come around when he needed help. A couple weeks ago he came to my place, but I wasn’t home, so he sat in the stairwell waiting for me and he died there. And it just made me think: how oblivious I was, forty years ago, to the reality that this man beside me, this man whom I loved, would one day be homeless, and he would die in my stairwell, waiting for me.”

            And obviously the interviewer is taken aback at this, it kinda shuts the conversation down for a moment, but eventually they get their bearings back and the show goes on. It seemed kind of rude to do that to the interviewer, but I also really appreciated the sentiment. The idea. Because, yeah, that’s similar to what I was musing on with respect to my friend’s newly-turbulent Instagram presence.

            How oblivious we all were to where our lives were going.

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