Ren’s Revelation

Some days you never forget.
Some days you hope to never remember.
April 4, 1992.
One to remember.
I was a very young man, but if you had asked me then I would have said I’m fully grown.
I wasn’t.
But it’s ok.
I went to Knoxville that weekend.
A friend was dating a guy up there, and I decided to go with him and another great friend.
Since graduating from Architecture school in 1991, I had begun to experience the realities of adult life.
The harsh realities.
Working 9-5. Short weekends.
And my future.
A wise realtor pointed me, a young, gay closeted man, into an area of Birmingham, Alabama where “a lot of people are renovating.”
She knew what she was doing.
I did not.
I found a cute house with a mortgage of $271.32 a month.
My realtor agreed it was perfect.
My neighbors were nice.
And all men.
In their 30s and 40s.
And guess what? They were all gay.
I slowly and somewhat messily assembled into my community.
Messily as I saw it, anyway.
Who knows.
What else did I learn?
Almost everyone was HIV+.
I was very upset.
I had heard about HIV for years.
Then I came face to face with the word.
I saw people with KS.
I saw and heard everything.
I became furious.
What has happened?
What would happen?
Could this be prevented?
My fury ignited something.
I came out.
And kinda loudly.
I volunteered.
I remember helping with the Names Project.
The anger did not subside.
And then that weekend in April of 1992 I decided to get out of my head and just take a break.
2 days.
I had no idea what was ahead.
We arrived in Knoxville late Friday night and stayed in.
Saturday night was dinner in Old Town.
Or Towne.
I don’t remember.
We decided to go out after.
The bar was called (don’t laugh)…
Pretty uneventful.
Boring actually.
Everyone was “working someone” and I was just hanging out.
I went upstairs by myself and some guy said, “Hi.”
The bar was closing and we were all leaving to the next late, late, late bar.
I looked at this handsome man.
Curly black hair. 5 o’clock shadow. Hairy chest. Sideburns.
My Achilles heel.
Yes, sideburns.
They were supa cool.
1992 sideburns.
Look it up.
Just trust me.
I said, “Hi.”
I have no idea what we talked about.
But we stood by a fireplace.
And I said, “Can I kiss you?”
Cheesy and super forward.
We talked.
We exchanged numbers.
I have thought many times since that on this tiny piece of paper in my blue jeans I had a number.
There was no internet.
No cell phones.
If I had lost that paper we likely would never have talked again.
But I kept it.
I called him.
He lived in Lexington, Kentucky.
And like me, he was an architect.
Well, almost.
He had one more year to go.
Today. 2017.
A lot has changed.
We have been each other’s boyfriend, brother, mother, father and best friend.
We have had good years.
We have had bad years.
We kept going.
And now we are doing our best to raise a child in a world that I often wish was still pre-9/11.
Like you, I have no clue what the future holds.
I will do my best to make it better for those whom I can.
And I will always fight for my personal mantra. “Everyone equal- all the time.”

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