Twenty years ago I lost one of my dearest friends to AIDS. He was funny, loving and incredibly talented.
I met Marcus during our first days at LaSalle freshman year. We were friends throughout college and stayed friends for the rest of his life. His talent on stage was stunning. I remember seeing him in the national touring company of Bubbling Brown Sugar. The show opened with an almost completely dark stage, yet I could pick him out in the darkness by the way he stood. Years later I picked him out from a block away in NYC- I could not see his face but could recognize his beautiful way of moving.
He always called us the "Odd Couple"- the black, gay dancer from Germantown and the Irish Catholic girl from Kensington. I have many memories beyond watching him on stage- lunches in NYC, almost getting arrested in NE Philadelphia, and especially, his way with my children. He encouraged both of them in their interests in performing. One of my most special memories is him teaching my daughter to sew the ribbons on her first pair of toe shoes.
He called me, almost 2 years before he died, at Christmas time- he was in Philadelphia and wanted to get together for lunch. There was something in his voice and I had a knot in my stomach from the moment of his call until I saw him. We met in a familiar tavern in Chestnut Hill. We chatted the usual catch-up stuff: his work, my husband and kids, his sister and her kids, stuff like that. Then he told me; he was sick, it was AIDS. The knot in my stomach tightened. It stayed that way until he died, when it was replaced by the hurting hole in my heart.
Today is World AIDS Day. I remember Marcus with love and a great sense of loss. I think of him often, but the red ribbons all over the Internet today are a harsh reminder of what his death has meant to many people. I still love you, Marcus, and I still miss you.