Thursday, December 28, 2006

During the last few months of Mark's life the hospital staff relaxed their rules on visiting hours, allowing us to come and go as we pleased. His body had stopped responding to the drug cocktail a couple of months before that and his skin had started to break down, opening small wounds that wept softly into a crazy quilt of bandages. I'd skip school to spend afternoons in the narrow room, listening to his sandpaper breathing scored by all of the beeping machines. When he was awake I would push aside all the tubes and wires and climb into the bed with him, and we'd whisper stories about the people we knew. I was nearly as thin as he was then, worn transparent with the weight of my own secrets, and unprepared to deal with the heaviness of both mourning and carrying on with life. Often, leaving the room, I'd meet his boyfriend Paul huddled in the hallway, trying to work up the courage to enter.

I have recently realized that I'm now about the same age that Mark was when he was wasting away and fighting to get his T cell count back up. It hadn't ever occurred to me before, both because at the time those seven or eight years that he had on me seemed to be vast expanses of experience and because in my head he has always been older than me. And here I am at the end of this year that has been a struggle each step of the way, but still the easiest yet of all the years he's been absent for, and all of a sudden I miss my friend. He would have loved to have been here for this endeavor.

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