Today marks the twentieth anniversary of World AIDS Day. I remember the first one. I remember it because it was back when World AIDS Day was always paired with Day Without Art, when various museums and art spaces would do something to push us to think about AIDS, especially what we have lost. I remember it because it was my first year in college, and I was a big fan of Public News, the weekly alternative paper that exposed me to all kinds of films and artists I never would have known about otherwise. I remember that they had a special list of events in Houston, which included the fact that The Menil Collection hung a black cloth over the Andy Warhol that hung near the entrance. Granted, Warhol did not die of AIDS, but he was gay. It was a nice--if odd--gesture.
Still, I remember my first and the first World AIDS Day. I was certainly sexually active at the time. Please. I was a 130 pound nineteen-year-old guy attracted to older men. You know, like 27. I was naive in a lot of ways, but there were free condoms everywhere, so I always had some close at hand. I was lucky to be the age I was.
My first World AIDS Day was before I'd met anyone who I knew was HIV+. It was before I met Blane, the first man with whom I had sex after learning he was HIV+. It was before our wedding, of course, and before his death. It was before I worked at the Houston Center for Photography and helped mount an exhibit of work by HIV+ photographers.
I've been thinking of Blane lately. Last week, an old friend from graduate school wrote to me. She had just taught the poem I wrote about Blane that was included in the textbook Critical Inquires. She had some questions, which I happily answered. I hadn't read the poem in years. I still love it and am so happy that I wrote it. And kinda jazzed that college students in Minnesota are reading it today.
When I first started writing online, I always tried to do something to commemorate today. Back when I keep the online journal under a pseudonym, well before blogging tools were around, I posted an entirely black page for the day. It freaked a lot of people out. It was a typical 404-Page Not Found message, so people didn't know what to think. But it was my own non-subtle way to comment on the loss of words and images caused by AIDS.
In the last few years, I haven't said much. I wasn't even really planning to say anything today. But then I found out that it was the twentieth anniversary, and that brought back some memories.
And I couldn't let them disappear.