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We had tables waiting

The first time I watched a man die of AIDS

By F Cade SwansonPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 1 min read
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We had tables waiting
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The first time I watched a man die of AIDS

Was when I worked in Colonial Williamsburg.

Tourists joked that my earrings weren’t period appropriate

And I complained a lot about the unnatural fabrics in my costume.

Cold showers couldn’t stop my sweat in the summer heat of Virginia.

I would step out of the shower, unable to dry off, and drape my wet arms

in polyester blends meant to look authentic,

my sweaty body suffocating beneath white knee socks under colonial blue three quarter pants,

a starched neckerchief tucked into a white shirt,

and a blue polyester vest on top of that.

It was so hot. And everything about that outfit—and that summer-- was so contrived.

I saw him collapse.

The funny homosexual with the thinning long hair

That he pulled back away from his sad face

To expose his beautiful and weathered blue eyes.

The eyes I tried to avoid

(I was not ready to see my reflection in those eyes).

He carried his weight in his middle and wore his pants too tight.

I saw him collapse.

I had tried to avoid him in general,

Afraid of guilt by association as I worked my way

Through my heavy layers of self loathing.

My gay bled through them like the sweat under my outfit,

Seeping out and turning the waist of my pants dark,

And the crotch,

And the parts of my vest beneath my armpits.

I assumed it was heatstroke, but moments later he was gone.

His body cleared away

(we had tables waiting).

First published by HIV Here & Now Poem-a-Day Project for National Poetry Month 2020, Indolent Books, April 15, 2020.

heartbreaksad poetrysocial commentary
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About the Creator

F Cade Swanson

Queer dad from Virginia now living and writing in the Pacific Northwest. Dad poems, sad poems, stories about life. Read more at fcadeswanson.com

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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