Issue 34 · November 2021

Art & Lit

AIDS

I have no wings

         he shouted to the august breeze, with the wind in his midnight hair, arms outstretched,

         grass tickling the folds of his white cotton shirt, unbuttoned, me, climbing him as a child,

        as children do to trees, as if for this moment, he could be a tree, to me

and I felt sorry for him

        because if I could climb as children do, then he could still be young enough to hold me,

        for I hadn’t fallen from him yet, thus proving he was still youthful, still letting autumn

        foliage fall and spring leaves take their place,

as life moves,

        so could he. Or so I imagined, because after that he started shriveling up. I was too scared

        to climb him like I used to for fear of breaking those delicate limbs, now laced with

        blossoms, now falling in pools of our own blood, mixed together, wounds of living, the

        ones that healed when we were younger but no more, 

no longer

       did we linger after school to chatter with the birds and wonder what life was like 

        all the way up there, in the trees, for we had yet to become them. How we didn’t know

        that paper was our enemy, how it was cannibalism for us to write on it, yet how else were

        we to tell our story, his story, my story, not as important as the august breeze that felt like

it could go on 

        forever. It’s a silly word, forever, nothing is forever, except maybe for his mind, this was

        before religion tamed it, school would try to break it, this was what he would later call 

        the golden days when forever was a promise, not a misstep, tainted with the blood 

        that is sacrificed in the making of infinity, another word for forever if you don’t want to

        sound redundant,

to the reader

        this may have no implications on life, no further consequences, but everything had

        further consequences, at least for us, especially our skin, his skin, touching my skin,

        becoming one skin that would go on the be woven into the tapestry of life, however

        tainted it may be, at least

we would be remembered 

        by our bodies. The way our teeth clacked, together, then on the concrete, then with death

        and blood and Stonewall, even the smell had consequences, how we did it in the dark, no

        one could see us and if they did they’d be a dead man, no one could stop us, couldn’t stop

        our touching, couldn’t stop our fucking, 

even at the crack of dawn

when we were awakened by moaning in the room above us, not from love, but loss, when the phone smacked the floor and shattered, bits of glass and plastic falling through the

        gaps in the floorboard, how we smelled the gun before we heard it, when you’re like us

        you know what’s coming, and the body fell and that was normal, that was a daily

        occurrence, everyone’s lovers were dying, and if they weren’t, then you were, no one

        bothered to wash the shit from their blouses anymore, there was glitter everywhere but

        the places we had cried and so it was nowhere, 

yet I kept scrubbing

        the stench of virus from the stuffy porcelain air, even though I knew no amount of

        air purifier could find a cure, even when leaves were falling from his branches for what 

        he knew would be the last time, even when the nurse refused to treat him, they couldn’t 

        wipe the smile from his face, even when his hands went cold and his mouth tasted like

        metal and his breath like the food he couldn’t digest,

 

the worst part is that they said he deserved it.

Ripley Bright