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):
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.