Tag Archives: HIV

Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days Free for World AIDS Day

Shortly after my book Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days was published, I started a little tradition of making the Kindle/ebook version of it free for a few days starting on December 1st, in commemoration of World AIDS Day.

So have at it with my compliments, and feel free to share this post with people you know.

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-AIDS-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402448615&sr=1-1&keywords=Bevilaqua

Holding Breath/Kindle Countdown Deal

The “Kindle Countdown” promotion for my book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, just started today (I swear I didn’t remember until this morning when the alarm I’d set for it on my phone a few weeks ago went off!). I’ve never done one of these before, so it should be interesting.

In any case, the ebook is usually $3.99. At the moment (2/15/2014) it’s 99 cents; the price goes up in increments over the next few days. If anyone is interested, here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

A Holiday Excerpt From Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days

I have a shadow of a memory of going out with David to buy a Christmas tree one cold, overcast afternoon in December.  We’d been sitting in the apartment, spending a weekend day in the usual way, when I decided that we had to get a tree for the apartment, and that we had to get it right away.  David, always game for anything that would give him a chance to regain his bearings in a world in which simple little pleasures like holiday traditions were permitted and possible, followed me out the door and over to Essex, where we picked out the tree, and then helped me carry it back home.  It would have had to have been a fairly small one, but I would have insisted that it be real so that the apartment would smell like Christmas.  I seem to remember that David was too tired by the time we got home to help me decorate it with the cheap ornaments and lights that I’d bought in the discount stores on Delancey Street, and instead sat on the bed watching me do it with that happy, bemused little expression on his face as I hung ornaments and no doubt chattered on about Christmas.  It was important to me that he at least have a tree for Christmas.

I was obligated to spend Christmas Day with my family in Connecticut, as I did every year, but David and I did spend Christmas Eve together.  We’d spent the day on Suffolk Street, doing whatever it was that kept us happy and occupied back then.  In the evening we went to my mother’s apartment in Peter Cooper Village for dinner.  David was nervous; we all were.  He wanted to make a good impression.  It had been, I think, a long time since he’d made a good impression on anyone other than me.

When we arrived, my mother was watching a show about tuberculosis on T.V.  For a few minutes, we all just watched.  No one knew what to say, or had the sense to turn it off.  Other than that, the evening went fairly well.  My mother gave David a green button-down shirt as a Christmas gift.  (Years later, my mother told me that she’d worried about eating from the plates and using the utensils that David had used afterwards.  I was shocked to hear it, even thought that kind of thinking wasn’t at all unusual at that time.  Still, I was, and will always be grateful that she invited him to dinner that night.)

On New Year’s Eve I know that I was with him.  I remember the apartment being dim and vaguely festive, still scented with the pine-smell of the tree, lit either with candles or Christmas lights, or both.  Late that night I sat on the bed and tried to call one of my favorite clients, a very young gay man named Jon, who was blessed with the most loving, supportive family I’d encountered in my time working with people with AIDS.  His father answered, and told me that Jon was either sleeping or in the hospital–I don’t remember which.  Weeks later, I learned that Jon had actually died several weeks earlier.  His father didn’t want to upset me on New Year’s Eve.  The family had come to think of me as a friend, as Jon had.

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

The Annual Holding Breath World AIDS Day Free Book Promotion

I’ve decided to make a tradition that I actually care about, now that Thanksgiving is over (as far as holidays are concerned, Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day are the only ones I really love; don’t even get me started on how I feel about Columbus Day).  Last year, shortly after I published Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, I realized that it would be appropriate to give free Kindle versions of the book away for World AIDS Day (December 1st).

This year, the book will be free starting tomorrow (11/29/13), and the offer will be good through Sunday, which will be World AIDS Day.  After that, I won’t be giving it away again until next year.

So far, the book has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating from 21 reviews on Amazon.com (and another 5-star review on Amazon U.K.).  As usual, if you download the book (or buy the print version) and read it and feel like leaving a review, I’d really appreciate it.  Every one helps, and they’re fun to read (except for that one 2-star one…).

Here ya go (and then I’m done with the book giveaways!):

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

An Excerpt From Holding Breath

Some recent comments about life on the street, and about homeless shelters, on what I consider perhaps the best and most important blog on WordPress, Dennis Cardiff’s “Gotta Find a Home” (http://gottafindahome.wordpress.com/ ), reminded me of a part of my own book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days.  Since I haven’t posted any excerpts here in a long time, I thought I’d like to post that section here.

The section recounts a description–probably partially fictionalized where my memory of what David actually told me failed me, but, I think, accurate nevertheless–of a night David (the book’s hero) spent after leaving the hospital “against medical advice.” Here it is:

Swaying, he looked up toward First Avenue and then back down toward Tompkins Square Park.  He had to get inside somewhere and get some sleep so that he’d have the strength to get himself set up in the morning.  There was a shelter on 3rd Street, but even if he had a chance in hell of talking someone into letting him in this late he’d be up all night with cockroaches crawling on his face and crackheads and thieves roaming among the cots, looking for something they could sell or keep.  The hospital, he told me, had spoiled him for all of the things he could have put up with as a junkie.

There was a bandshell in the park, but by then Sam knew that he had to be inside somewhere, safe and unmolested so that he could really sleep.  It occurred to him that the subway station on Fourteenth and First was his best bet.  It would be warm and if anyone bothered him it would probably be a cop, giving him a wake-up call by beating a nightstick on the wall next to his head.  He could stretch out on one of the benches at the back of the station.  And if there was a problem he could just jump on the L train and ride all night.

First Avenue looked warmer and brighter, somehow, than Avenue A, so he went that way, stopping often, his arms crossed around him so that the chills wouldn’t split his chest open.  Passing NYU kids dressed up as bikers or junkies or punks, or young bankers downtown to drink and see the sights, all traveling in confused packs in and out of the little Polish-run bars and restaurants, he noticed that most ignored him or gave him a quick up-and-down look.

“Like I just crawled out of a manhole looking for money or drugs,” he put it.  It made him feel safer to know that they were more afraid of him than he was of them—that they couldn’t see his weakness.

By the time he made it to the subway entrance he thought that he might die before he got downstairs.  He was exhausted and sick to his stomach from shivering and not eating, and his chest felt like there was a fire inside.  His legs were numb, and as he hung on to the banister and put one foot after the other down the stairs it was as if he was walking on crooked stilts.

The air inside the station was so thick and hot that it seemed he could grab a handful of it.  There was no one down there except for a token-booth clerk, counting money.

This was the last obstacle.  Sam went to the window of the booth, trying to look as earnest and respectable as he could, and waited until the clerk had finished counting the wad of ones in her hand.  Eventually she looked up at him, expressionless.

“Hi,” he said.  She lifted her chin a little.  He smiled in his gentlest way (the eyes in the photograph, only a little more desperate, more calculating).  “I was wondering if you could help me.  I’m sick and I lost my wallet and I have to get across town or my wife is really going to worry.  Can you just let me through the gate and I promise…”

“You got to pay your fare,” said the clerk, clearly, with a rhythm she obviously used to say the same thing a hundred times a day.

“I just told you, I don’t have my…”

“I just told YOU, you got to pay your fare.”

“Look, please just give me a break.  I’m really sick.  I can’t walk any more.”

“Pay your fare.”  She went back to counting her money.

Sam felt that he might cry.  He’d been arrested once for jumping a turnstile, and he’d spent the night in a bullpen so crowded that he couldn’t sit down, and stinking so much of piss that he didn’t want to.  At the time, having been locked up once or twice before, he’d taken it pretty much in stride; that night he thought it might kill him. He started to walk back over to the stairs, just to sit, but someone was coming down.  It was a teenage girl.  He considered asking her for a token but he was afraid that the only thing that would come out would be a whine or a sob.  The girl went to the token booth.

“Fuck it,” Sam whispered to himself, and he turned and quickly ducked under one of the turnstiles to the other side.

Behind him he heard, “Pay your fare, sir,” but he ignored it and walked to a bench at the end of the platform.  The station smelled almost as bad as the bullpen but he didn’t care because he was going to sleep.  He cleared some pages of the Post off of the bench, took his shirt off and made a pillow out of it, and lay down.  He slept, as he put it, like a dead man.

There the memory ends, not with the image of Sam sitting across the table from me, reciting his story with the attention to detail of a man to whom nothing has happened in a long time, but with that last one, the picture that my mind supplied as illustration:  Sam, viewed from a point far up the subway platform, curled, oblivious and half-naked, mouth slightly open and hair clinging to his damp, smooth forehead, on the bench nearest to where the track goes dark and curves away. 

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-AIDS-Wildfire/dp/1480164518/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1

“Maadi Gedida”

The first relationship I got myself into after David passed away from AIDS in April of 1990 (in case you’re new to this blog, I wrote about my relationship with David in my book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days) was with an Egyptian man I worked with at an AIDS agency in New York.  He was a very good man at heart, but unfortunately developed a serious addiction to something similar to crack.

Before things went too bad, however, I went with him to visit his family in a suburb of Cairo called New Maadi (we were both actually hoping that a good long stay with his Moslem family would help him with the drug problem).  We stayed two months, and I wrote this poem (as well as a long article which, if you’re interested, you can find by Googling something like, “Nancy Bevilaqua Malik Enti“–the latter basically meaning, “What’s the Matter With You?”).

MAADI GEDIDA

1.

At dusk from edges of cornerless desert came voices

of the farthest stars starting to recite, and dust

that held inbred wild dogs at bay, along with heavy heat,

all day, brushed back down through thick petals

and tentacles of oleander leaves to the ground.  The dogs

rose from patches of grass where they mated and slept

to follow us, yelping confused threats, through numberless streets.

 

Headlights jolted over rocks we tossed to distance

the dogs and passed into hills that butted up in vague

perfect pairs in the night-blind eye of the mind.

From downtown Cairo, Helwan, Old Maadi, muezzin

competed to call day’s last prayer through amplifiers

mounted on mosques, a music that sounded like mourning

but was not.  Trees bent over balconies and shook

with black birds, hundreds, returning, and flowers fell.

 

Women, talking, talking, took laundry, instrument

of love, off lines, eating peanuts, dropping shells that fell

like ashes to the floors of the balconies, and crickets told

their angry stories to the stars.  Inside, light brightened

in proportion to the darkening outside, fluorescent

in most rooms, incandescent in the white room where the old man

prayed, moribund, mummied up in muslin, speaking

to his beads.  Inside we were quiet, and fed him

honey and halewah on bread and tea, and smoked

away from where his paper lungs would feel it.

 

Heads were pulled off pink shrimp picked from the market

in old Cairo, pomegranates split and bled into glasses

of water and sugar, and leaves that smelled like skunk were plucked

and soaked in broth and everything was eaten, nothing

wasted.  After would be milk and sweet green oranges bought

from fellaheen next to their fires in Maadi,

where European streets still rolled with fruit and smelled

of flapping fish and henna, tobacco, sorrel, saffron.

If there was water we would heat it with propane and bathe,

dreaming in steam and leaking gas, and save the rest for day.

 

2.

Nowhere to be alone except in sleep, and sleep

sometimes came slowly, a litter of languages

in rooms behind the door, the window whisked with light

 

from distant desert cities, foreign moon, planets

crushed together in an unfamiliar field of black.

Mosquitoes that could find me in the dark by scent

 

of blood disturbed the drape of air around the bed,

methodical, tasting hidden wine I’d had.

Dreams were islands, slim as rafts and color

 

of smoke, slipping up the Nile like ghosts.

Homesick, strange, I dreamt my dreams

in English, luxuriating, understood.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-AIDS-Wildfire/dp/1480164518/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1

A Poem From Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days

This is one of the five poems included in my book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days:

 How You Looked (VA Hospital, Spring, 1990)

David, let me wash and cool

your swollen feet while you’re awake

so nothing can get worse, at least

for now, at least not here where we

are so alone, the nurses masked,

reluctant to come in the room.

 

I’d almost tell you how you looked

asleep, all afternoon,

your body on a boat

losing course, slipping over fish, the sun

a yellow wine that whispered

in my head to let you drift.

I watched your face fall fully

open, saw your sheets come loose

and drop apart, your body a mirage,

your belly hollowed-out and vaporous,

your penis arched and cool

dozing there, flawless in the glare.

 

The sound is just the rush

of water and a washcloth

in a bowl. Tell me if it feels too hot

or cold. You’ll feel my fingers

run across your toes so thick

I’ll never pass a towel through. Your skin

is breaking up like desert floor,

no longer big enough to hold you in.

 

The ebook is available on Amazon.com for $3.99; with Amazon’s new “MatchBook” program, if you buy the print version you can also get the ebook for .99.  Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

The book’s Facebook page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/HoldingBreathAMemoirOfAIDS

A Birthday, an Anniversary, and a Book Sale

Today would be David’s (the man about whom I wrote Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days) 66th birthday.  Although his life was very often something close to hell–perhaps something that he sometimes wished he’d never been born into (I don’t know that for certain, of course; he always struck me as remarkably optimistic, in spite of things)–I feel that his birth is also something that I should always celebrate in some way.  David changed the course of my life for the better, and permanently.  I sometimes wonder what I would have been like if I’d never met him; it’s not a pretty thought.

The following is an excerpt from the book about his birthday in 1989, six months before he passed on, and my realization a year later that it was approaching again, and that he was gone:

“I found an entry from 16 October 1989 that mentions his birthday.  Part of it got wet at some point and the ink ran, so some of it is illegible, but what I can put together of it says:

In six days it’ll be David’s birthday…short year ago that (I took him out) for lunch and he told me…about his life.  (We were supposed to) go see (the building’s owner) about his apartment, but it was pouring rain and (we didn’t think he should) stay out in it so I bought him an umbrella and he walked me to the PATH station.  I kissed him on the cheek and wished him happy birthday and he looked surprised, as I guess he should have been.  Then I went home and he went back up to the Marion Hotel.

Autumn’s got me thinking about him, too.  And the fact that I actually did get TB from him.  It’s stupid, but I almost like the idea that I caught something from him.  Any bond…

Today is also the first anniversary of Holding Breath‘s publication (no coincidence there), so this seems like a good time to put the Kindle version of the book on sale for a few days.  So, from today (21 October 2013) through Wednesday the 23rd, the price will be reduced from $3.99 to .99.  Once again, here’s the link to the book’s Amazon page (where you can also read the reviews):

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

Here’s a description of the book:

In 1988, recently out of a graduate Creative Writing program in New York City, Nancy Bevilaqua was an aspiring poet in need of a job. She answered a newspaper ad seeking caseworkers for people with AIDS, and, much to her surprise, got the job. She shouldn’t have been surprised; in 1988 AIDS was an epidemic completely out of anyone’s control beyond some toxic and ineffective treatments, and fear and misunderstanding of the disease were rampant. Very few people wanted to be in contact with people who’d been infected with HIV.

A year later, a 41-year-old heroin addict named David was assigned to her as a client. Something about him drew her to him, and in very little time the boundary between “client” and “caseworker” dissolved, and she fell in love with him. For the next eight months she lived with him in his Lower East Side apartment, caring for him and waiting with him for the inevitable end.

Before succumbing to the disease, David asked Nancy to write a book about him. Twenty-two years later, after going through an unexpected and very painful period of something she learned was called “disenfranchised grief”, she finally published Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, which is a loving account of her eight months with David, and the grief she’d had to hide for so long.

And Back To the Book

Perhaps it’s time to post another excerpt from Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, here, if only to get myself and the blog back on track.  And no–of course it’s not a coincidence that this particular excerpt is to some extent about birds (there are, actually, quite a few references to birds in the book).

It’s actually a complete, albeit short, chapter, entitled “Permission.”  Those of you who have cared for terminally ill people (or who have read Kubler-Ross’ On Death and Dying) will probably recognize this stage of things, and the painful dilemma it entails:

PERMISSION

One of my blog posts, written many years later, was this:

Every so often I find a sick or dying bird on a sidewalk somewhere.  When they’re in that state, too weak or tired to be afraid of me, it’s easy to pick them up and take them home.  Very often they’ll look up into my eyes for a moment as if they’re trying to gauge what my intentions might be, and as if they’re saying, Do whatever you’re going to do; I’ve given up.

Every so often I can save one.  More often, it’s too late, and all I can do is hold the bird in my hands to keep it warm until it dies.  It will doze in my hands for hours, occasionally waking with a start, trying, it seems, to look as if there’s nothing wrong with it, trying to convince both of us that it’s fine.  Gradually, though, its eyes will close again.

There have been times when I thought that I prolonged a bird’s life beyond the point where it should have ended.  Thinking that I was giving comfort, I may have, in fact, made it suffer more.

I couldn’t imagine letting go, but I know that at one point I forced myself to tell David that it was O.K.—that he could stop fighting, that I’d understand.  I remember saying it as we sat together on the futon one night.  David didn’t answer; it was nearly impossible for him to speak at all by then.  But something did change after that.  He seemed relieved, somehow, and he started to let go of life.  Telling him that was one of the things that I did right back then. 

Free Ebook Version of Holding Breath–A Reminder

As promised in yesterday’s post, I’m posting this reminder that the Kindle version of Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is FREE on Amazon.com from today (9/13–I love Friday the 13th’s!) through midnight Sunday.  Please spread the word if you know anyone else who might be interested in reading it.  Here’s the link again:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377225007&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+breath+bevilaqua

Agape Editions

Don't go back to sleep.

Andrea Blythe

Speculative Poetry and Fiction

Zevstar

All Content Copyrighted. All Rights Reserved.

VossNetBlog

Where Soul Meets Body

Veronica Golos, Poet

Exploring Content & Form

Serenity's Ashrama

"Our inner hankering is for satisfaction, happiness, sweetness, love, beauty and mercy." Swami B.R.Sridhar maharaja.

Mortimer George Creations

a gentleman's thoughts, style and life