A New Old World

As always, I think about Mark today.

No wait, that’s a lie. For the past few years November 8th has snuck up on me. A vague feeling of unease, a feeling that I was forgetting something, maybe someone’s birthday? Maybe a test at school, a project that was due? I spend the day wondering and  then, suddenly, sometimes not until bedtime, I remember. Mark died on November 8th.

Mark died on November 8th so many years ago. Decades ago. In a different century. In a different world. Mark died of AIDS in a time when almost everyone who had AIDS died of AIDS. Mark died of AIDS before Facebook, before Netflix. For a minute I wonder if it was before the Internet? It was not, we had dial up. We had AOL disks and chatrooms.

Mark lived so many years ago that his last job was as a “fashion consultant” for International Male Catalog. A few months ago I tried to explain to my children how we know our friend Jeff, that he once worked with Mark on the phones at International Male. And I tried to explain International Male and I tried to explain catalog phone sales and why grown men would call a catalog to flirt with younger men on the phone and even as I tried to explain it, it didn’t make any sense to me.

When I came back to Chicago after Mark’s funeral, my friend Chris met me at the gate. I walked off the plane and into his arms, something we can’t do any part of anymore.

Mark lived and died in a different world. And although I have a picture of him in my dining room and his mini Winnie the Pooh doll in my bedroom, and a sweater of his tucked away in a box in my attic, although I can watch all his favorite movies and TV shows whenever I want, I sometimes forget that he and his world existed.

This year has been life altering. Even the world that most of us thought we knew, a world Mark would have been surprised enough by, even that world has gone. We don’t know yet what’s in its place.

Four years ago, Trump was elected on this day. Today we wake up on a new day, relieved and hopeful. But Mark is still dead. The 300,000 people who died of Corona in this country this year are still dead. Children and parents have still been separated. The country is still on the brink of chaos and civil war. Everything horrible that has happened, has still happened.

When we move into a new world we do not completely leave the old one behind. Fragments of it, a business card, a stuffed animal, a scar remain.

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