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  • Writer's pictureArthur Bruso

So Far Away No One Will Notice Part 3

Updated: May 10

Part 3



13. Another Life

 

The story of Fellow Travelers jumps ahead another ten years to 1978. Hawk’s son, Jackson has died of a heroin overdose. Hawk suppressing his guilt and pain in alcohol, was given an ultimatum by Lucy to stop his drinking or leave. This is not the kind of demand one should give a person in crises. Hawk took this as an opportunity to abandon his sham marriage and retreat to his safe place, among people who do not judge him, to numb his heartache, and tranquilize his conscience with sex, drugs, and alcohol. He had acquired a beach house on Fire Island unbeknownst to his wife. There he surrounded himself with a coterie of gay friends and hangers on who shared the house and his generosity. Hawk has been drunk dialing Tim in San Francisco to come and visit and be part of his life on Fire Island.

 

Tim has become a social worker for a gay outreach and AIDS clinic. (Although working as a social worker may suit Tim’s character, this is unlikely. There is no state in the United States that will issue a license for social work to a felon. Tim was convicted of burning draft cards which was a federal felony in 1968. He served a year and a half sentence for that crime.) Tim has decided that Hawk is in a dangerous state of mind and might be trying to drink himself to death over Jackson. He calls Lucy to get “permission” to visit Hawk. Lucy tersely informs him that she has no idea where Hawk is. She had issued Hawk her demand to either stop drinking or leave, and he chose to leave. Tim finds this information disturbing and makes the trip.

 

Tim finds Hawk living in a large beach house with several gay friends and a new, younger boyfriend. Earlier in the 1950s period of Fellow Travelers, Hawk strongly admonished Tim for “hanging out with a bunch of queers!” when Tim attended that party at Mary’s apartment. Now the story brings us to 1978. To show how much the times have changed, Hawk is the one enjoying himself hanging out with a bunch of “queers.” Despite Tim’s constant complaint throughout the series that Hawk does not acknowledge his own gayness, Tim does not like seeing Hawk in this environment any more than Hawk liked hearing about Tim doing so years ago. Whether it is the copious drinking, the open consumption of drugs, or simply the fact that he is unused to seeing Hawk living his best gay life, Tim has arrived on his gleaming white charger to rescue his prince from the dragon of his own destruction only to find that Hawk’s situation is not as he imagined. Perhaps he sees Hawk’s friends as complicit in Hawk’s corruption. Perhaps contrary to his demands that Hawk face his gayness, his image of Hawk as the one in control of Tim’s life and their relationship is tarnished by this new Hawk who seems to have relinquished that control.

 

It takes Tim only an instant to dislike Hawk’s new boyfriend, Craig. He blames Craig for encouraging Hawk’s vices and ultimately in keeping Hawk from processing his grief and his ability to move on. The baser truth is that Tim is jealous. He doesn’t like being replaced, especially with an air-headed pretty boy who is taking advantage of Hawk’s wealth. His dislike for Craig is reinforced while everyone is sitting around after dinner, talking, and getting to know Tim, when Hawk has an episode of vomiting. One of Hawk’s friends tells Craig with concern, that Hawk needs to see a doctor. Craig responds with annoyance at being saddled with the responsibility of Hawk’s health, “You can tell him. Enough of this senior citizen jazz shit.” Tim, noticing that no one is getting up to see if Hawk needs help in his distress, goes to the bathroom himself to find out if Hawk is all right. Hawk rebuffs his concern.

 

The formerly conflicted Tim of 1968 is a new liberated Tim. He is out to the world and his parents as a gay man. He embraces the label of “gay” as an identity that the gay community has chosen for themselves, over the archaic “homosexual” that Hawk prefers. Tim regards Hawk’s preference for the clinical term as a way for Hawk to separate himself from other gay men and somehow be seen as not of them, maybe even superior. Even with Tim’s supposed liberation as a self-identifying and self-accepting gay man, he has little tolerance for Hawk’s friends. Tim, as an out gay man living in San Francisco, which was fast becoming the gay capitol of the United States, must have encountered frivolous, gay men who live for fun and freedom, who decide for themselves how a gay life can be led without the examples or constraints of heterosexuality. Even with the differing fashion and cultural expressions between the gay communities of the West Coast and the East Coast, Tim’s self-righteous, superiority toward all these oblivious, partying, fun-loving young men is off putting. He is wearing, a bit too heavy, his social worker armor as a crusader for Important Moral Causes for the Gay Revolution. But he is also here as a man on a holy mission to save Hawk, and these heathens are keeping him from his intended Cause.

 

The next evening, Hawk clears the house of people and makes a special dinner for Tim. It is obvious that Hawk is still smitten and ready to rekindle their old relationship. Tim is reserved and rebuffs Hawk’s advances to kiss, claiming that he is seeing someone. Hawk is disappointed but seems ready to wait for what he believes will be the inevitable. It is during this dinner that Hawk presents his proposal to Tim. He has another plan that he believes will bring Tim back into his life. He wants to put the beach house in Tim’s name. (We can forget that this would be a capital gain that Tim would be unable to afford.) Tim does not see this as the reuniting that Hawk wants. Instead, he decides that it is a scheme for Hawk to hide his ownership of the property from Lucy and camouflage his homosexuality even after he dies. Tim has concluded that Hawk is still hiding himself even while living out among his gay friends. Hawk has become comfortable living as an out gay man only under the circumstance where he doesn’t have to reveal his true nature to his wife or his employment. This is not enough for Tim. For some reason, he believes that Hawk needs to be reunited with his wife. As a supposedly liberated gay man, why is it so important for Tim to send Hawk back to his family? Especially a family Hawk clearly does not want to be with and is toxic to? Hawk’s irresponsibility as a father has already caused the destruction of his son. His neglect and disinterest to his wife has caused her bitterness, self-doubt, and resentment. It would be best for all concerned that Hawk leave his family and let them be free to pursue lives where they can find happiness. Tim’s seeming belief in the superiority of heteronormative responsibilities is at odds with his professed acceptance and liberation. As a social worker, Tim should be acutely aware that Hawk’s continued presence is a destructive force to his wife and daughter. Tim should be advising Hawk on how to come out to his family and separate from them. In the previous episode, it was best for Tim to attend to his own problems first. At that time, it was Hawk’s responsibility to fix his own family dynamic. Now, it is evident that Hawk cannot rise to his familial responsibilities. He wants a different life away from them. With the revolutionary events that have happened in the gay community in the eleven years that have passed, for Tim to encourage Hawk to return to a life he is unhappy with is surprisingly misguided.

 

Additionally, Hawk is offering Tim exactly what Tim had been professing that he had wanted since the 1950s – a chance to be together. That Tim sees this as some back-handed scheme for Hawk to hide real estate from his wife may have something to do with Hawk’s past behavior that has hurt Tim deeply. The reality is that the real estate transaction is simply an ill-conceived strategy for Hawk to bring Tim back. Tim could have come to that obvious conclusion instead of throwing accusatory bombs at Hawk. It is no wonder that Hawk gets angry and calls Tim, “Saint Tim the fucking holy.” and storms off, tossing at Tim, “… what a fucking, self-righteous bore you’ve turned into.” Hawk believed that Tim wanted as much as he does for them to finally be together. Tim confuses and disappoints him. Tim realizes that he has played it all wrong with Hawk and has failed in his mission. He decides that it would be best if he left.

 

The next morning, while Tim is packing, he hears that the partying among the housemates has already begun. As he is leaving the house to say his goodbyes, he sees Craig looking through Hawk’s belongings. He confronts Craig by informing him that he will be telling Hawk that Craig is stealing from him. But Craig isn’t stealing, he is trying to find a photograph of Jackson in an effort to know more about Hawk. Tim confronts Craig about giving Hawk drugs that could kill him. Craig retorts that he controls Hawk’s intake, otherwise Hawk would overdose. Then he challenges Tim’s seniority with Hawk by boasting that he is, “…the best fuck he has ever had. Or so he tells me. I try to take care of him. I do the best I can. What are you doing asshole?” Tim feels the challenge of this gloat.

 

Tim heads down to the pool where the party is. Hawk is still hurt and angry from the night before. They stare at each other. Tim has come to the realization that in order to help Hawk, he has to meet him where he is – no judgements on his drug ingestion or accusations on his obfuscating his true self. Instead, he looks Hawk straight in the eye, walks up to the table with the coke lines laid out on it and sniffs a line before Hawk gets an apology out. Hawk is dumbstruck. As amends, he offers a shot to Tim. Tim accepts and they down it as reconciliation.

 

Using Ashford and Simpson’s Found a Cure as a musical cue, Tim has found the way to reach Hawk. He is no longer the sanctimonious outsider. They dance at the club together, enjoying each other’s company like in the old days. Their renewed camaraderie intensifies Craig’s jealousy. Craig cuts in and commandeers Hawk away from Tim. Later, Tim coming down from his high, finds himself alone on a nearly deserted dance floor.  

 

Back at the beach house, Tim finds Hawk and Craig talking by themselves. “You left me in the club,” Tim asserts disappointed. “Craig said you went home with someone,” explains Hawk. Hardly containing his anger, Tim replies, “That’s a lie.” Craig tries to play the deception off as a joke and starts laughing, “I guess I made a mistake.” The rivalry between Tim and Craig reaches the breaking point for Tim. Tim lashes out at Craig and starts fighting him. Hawk immediately puts himself between these two men he shares an affection with. He tries to force a truce, by pushing the two competing men into a kiss. Tim refuses to be compelled into this compulsory passion. Hawk desperately wants his two lovers to reconcile and bond to ease the tension so that he can keep them both. Craig initiates sex with Hawk to lure him away from Tim and claim the victory. Except that Hawk wants and begs Tim to join in. “Skippy, please. Do this for me.” begs Hawk in desperation. For Hawk, this is an opportunity to finally enjoy the intimacy with Tim that he has longed for since Tim arrived. To share it with Craig may just be the way to bridge the animosity between the two competing men. Tim is reluctant to participate but plays along because his end game is to help Hawk out of his death wish. It also becomes clear, that Hawk can only maintain his erection with Tim’s presence, giving Tim the emotional advantage.

 

But the erotic games are short lived. Hawk spies the photograph of Jackson left abandoned on the side table. This breach of his most treasured privacy incenses Hawk. He attacks Craig for trespassing into his most forbidden of territories and erupts into a murderous fury. Hawk begins to choke Craig, too far into his grief and pain to consider the consequences. Tim intervenes, throwing himself between Hawk and Craig, allowing Craig to escape. This is the last we see of Craig. His disappearance is not explained.

 

This is the breakthrough Tim has been preparing for. All of Hawk’s pent-up grief and guilt comes out in a tsunami of emotion. Tim affectionately and tenderly holds Hawk and guides him through his emotional storm. Later they have the heartfelt talk about Jackson that Tim has come to Fire Island for. Gently, but determinedly, Tim tries to send Hawk back to his wife and children. For Tim, this seems to be right and ethical path for Hawk. From my point of view, this still makes no sense for the sheer evidence surrounding Hawk and the miserable existence he has given his wife and how joyful and free he has been living on Fire Island. Tim the sensitive social worker, who could immediately see how to reach Jackson, is somehow blind to the needs of Hawk. Perversely, even for Tim our gay crusader, the heteronormative supersedes any liberation of queerness.

 

The next morning, Tim comes downstairs packed and ready to leave. He catches Hawk doing lines of cocaine as if last night’s breakthrough never happened. This is the ultimate breaking point for Tim. His final illusion and fantasy of the Hawk he loved from the 1950s is shattered. He lashes out at Hawk, “Why can I not stop believing in anything you say? If this is what you want fine. If you want to die, go on fucking die. Your wife and your daughter have already buried a son and a brother, and they are going to have to bury you, but you don’t care because you’re so fucking selfish. I’ve wasted all this time. My life on you! I’m done with you. I’m free!” Tim’s disillusion with Hawk is final. He turns his back on a growing desperation in Hawk, who keeps softly pleading for Tim to stay and understand. Caught up in his own fantasy shattering reality, Tim ignores Hawk’s pleas. The Hawk he loved is gone. Tim sees that now.

 

As the door slams behind the departing Tim, Hawk has the absolute revelation that he has now lost Tim for good. There will be no more schemes to bring him back. Just the awful understanding that the drugs, partying, and fun with his queer friends have driven him and his beloved Tim apart. He swipes the offending cocaine away. Shouts at his coke partner to leave. He is more distraught over losing Tim than he may have been over his own son. He sits in despair and anguish, helpless in a future without the love of Tim.

 

That evening, Hawk calls his family and reconnects. He is not doing this because he wants to. He is doing this because Tim wanted him to. Maybe there is some magic to this formula that will bring Tim back. The decision is hard for Hawk. He has truly loved the gay friends and community he has built on Fire Island. He can’t understand why Tim couldn’t love it too and become part of the magic of the Island. He had hoped and planned for this to happen, but the years away from each other have separated them with more than time. Their 1950s dream could not be sustained because of the decisions and pain that lay between them. Hawk watches from the house as his friends gather on the beach to memorialize Harvey Milk, whose murder trial had just been concluded with a manslaughter charge for Dan White. This verdict caused rioting in San Francisco and outrage throughout the national gay community. Hawk is already feeling apart from his friends. He is reentering the world of his wife and child, separating himself from this world of gay connection. He is saddened and feeling the loss.


 

There were several meetings and telephone calls between Felix and his wife. They all conveyed the same unspoken demand; she did not want her son around me. Felix did not waver; I was a part of his life, and he would not guarantee that I would not be around. In the end, Felix chose me. He chose our relationship over a relationship with his son. I cannot speak to the ethics of that decision. At the time, I believed that it was a decision that Felix had to make, and I stayed out of it. I never thought of any other outcome, except that I would be staying. Felix never told me about his wife’s ultimatum. He only told me that his son complained about living with his mother and begged to live with him. He shrugged his shoulders and assumed it was only because he treated him to all the things he liked when he visited, while there was discipline and rationing at home with his mother. He also imparted to me that it would be impossible for him to take custody of his son because he did not believe that the lifestyle he was leading would be the proper environment for a child. I listened without offering much input.

 

Felix never challenged his wife on custody or visitation. He didn’t even protest when his wife moved to another state to be with the man she was dating, even though this meant that it would be years before he saw his son again.

 

The many decisions that Felix made throughout his life to maintain his autonomy as a gay man took their toll. His escape to the Air Force to avoid his mother’s plan for him to be a minister. His marriage to a woman because he had convinced himself that he could live both straight and gay lives. Allowing his wife to keep and raise his son without objection because the child was her idea anyway. Living a lifestyle that he was raised to believe was sinful and socially wrong. He drowned these choices in alcohol and drugs, anything to keep the guilt from overwhelming him. Like Hawk, he did not want to think about the negative impact his life had had on his family. Unlike Hawk, he chose to be gay and leave that family behind.

 

As an adult, I now believe that I should have made my own choice to leave this situation. Regardless of Felix’s decision, it seems now, after decades have passed that have provided me with insight and understanding, I should have left Felix to make his life decisions without me to factor in. But I did not leave. I stayed on to become the most important person in Felix’s life. In a way I became his surrogate son. He worked diligently to get me into the graduate school of the University of Pennsylvania, pestering the Admissions and the Department of Fine Arts MFA office on the status of my application nearly daily. He took it as a personal triumph upon hearing that I was accepted. He stood by me holding my diploma as proud as any father when I graduated. He worried about our future when it became clear that somehow during my education I had somehow, ever so subtly, begun to outgrow our relationship. He saw, even through my objections, the day that I would be leaving the nest we had built together. He decided that it was natural and inevitable.

 

The wild existence that Felix led in Albany, that queer-filled life of gay outsiders, transgendered prostitutes, hustlers, Night Train swilling lesbians, and the straight women who hung around them all was not long lasting. The nights when he would invite the entire Central Arms patrons at last call to his apartment for an after party that would last until noon on Sunday, ended when he moved to Philadelphia. When I joined him in Philadelphia, we became very domestic. Felix still longed for the demimonde gays that he found so fascinating. He would frequent a few gay dive bars that he had discovered in Center City, Philadelphia. Once there, he would “forget” to come home. Just as I did in Albany, I would go out into the night and dutifully find him to bring him home. He seemed to like it now. It felt good to have a partner who cared.  

 

Felix and I built a life together. It was a life we chose together. Choosing me over his son was right for him. He loved being gay. He loved the masculine body and its erotic offerings. Like Hawk, however frivolous or superficial his friends may have been he enjoyed their company. He thrived on the language of feminizing masculine names (Felix became “Felicia”), admonishing each other with Miss Thing, talking with his cohorts among themselves to out closeted men by denigrating them with the sobriquet “Mert” (short for Myrtle Mae Jones, a code name for any gay man who was closeted or acted as if they were of better quality), and honing his “reading” style until he became expert. A party, beside alcohol, needed weed, a variety of pills and acid. No cocaine, and definitely no heroine. Just the mind-altering substances that made the party merrier and the harshness of oppression softer. Why he chose me who never participated in any of these things, remains a mystery. I was like Tim, St. Arthur, the self-righteous bore. His friends did not trust me for my sobriety. They didn’t want anyone around who would be able to tell on them in the morning. Yet, we persisted. I grounded him. He freed me from all the constraints of my childhood. It was a decade of growth and my coming of age.

 

14. What is Revealed

 

In the final episode of Fellow Travelers, as expected, all the story threads come together. There is the revealing return to the 1950s. Tim’s tour of duty in the Army has been completed. He has sent a telegram to Hawk asking for Hawk to do something about the Hungarian refugees. The 1956 Hungarian refugee crises resulted after a failed revolt of the Hungarian citizens against the Communism that was taking over the Hungarian government. All the dissidents were in danger of imprisonment or death and the migration of the refugees into Austria caused a huge humanitarian crisis. The Austrian government appealed to the Western World for help in relocating the overwhelming numbers of people that were crossing the border. Hawk’s response to Tim’s plea, was to recommend him for a job in the American refugee relocation office. This was Hawk’s way of ensuring Tim would be returned to his life and bed.

 

Tim’s first meeting with Hawk after his discharge, was for Hawk to introduce Tim to the Relocation Officer. At this meeting it was established even though the application process may take “some time,” he shouldn’t have any problem getting hired because of Hawk’s recommendation. This reunion after two years was a disappointment to Hawk. Tim was professionally grateful and full of thanks. He did not show any vestige of their past emotional connection. Even Tim’s polite “I don’t know how to thank you.” which causes Hawk to quip, “I can think of a few ways.,” fails to arouse the intended interest. Tim is fully trying to leave his past with Hawk behind. But while Hawk may be disappointed, he is not deterred. Despite having a heavily pregnant Lucy at home, Hawk is determined to resume his affair with Tim.

 

While watching the McCarthy funeral proceeding at home, Hawk realizes Tim may be in attendance in the crowd to say a final uneasy farewell to his former hero. Just as Tim is being verbally attacked with an ugly homophobic epithet from Miss Addison, Hawk’s former whistleblowing secretary, Hawk grabs Tim’s shoulder and rescues him from the assault.

 

Hawk brings Tim to the secret hideaway he has created out of an inherited apartment. In the book we know that Hawk has created this place of respite especially for Tim as a private trysting place. In the series, after discovering a mattress and bedding on the floor of one of the rooms, Tim is certain that Hawk uses it to have sex with other men. Hawk does not discourage Tim’s conclusion. Instead, Hawk, who has planned his seduction of Tim, insists Tim drink the milk he has conveniently at hand. It is his effort to induce sex play out of he and Tim’s first meeting when Hawk bought Tim milk at the Eisenhower election party. At first, Tim does not find this allusion to their first meeting appealing. Tim’s experiences with Hawk and the Army have matured him out of his milk drinking and he wants to be seen as an adult. There is a moment when Hawk thinks that all his longing and planning for this reconnection with Tim will come to nothing. But looking into Hawk’s eyes rekindles Tim’s ardor. Tim takes the bottle of milk from Hawk and decides to play the game. Tim allows the milk to dribble down his chin seductively, and the two lovers reignite their long dormant passion.

 

This begins an almost daily rendezvous between Tim and Hawk at this clandestine retreat. Unfortunately, from the first, foreboding outside intrusions begin to encroach upon their happiness. It starts when Lucy notices a large hickey that Tim had inflicted upon Hawk’s shoulder. She says nothing, but Hawk realizes she has seen it. Then, Tim while in a nude, post coital dance with Hawk, Tim ardently verbalizes how when he gets the job, they will be colleagues and will see each other every day. This plants the black seed in Hawk’s mind, that maybe seeing Tim every day might not be a good thing for him. Another day, Hawk rushes home after hearing from his mother-in-law that Lucy has been having some “difficulties” with her pregnancy. Although the prenatal episodes are minor, it hits Hawk that while he has been enjoying his nearly daily assignations with Tim, he has been neglecting his wife and his responsibilities to his unborn child. After his wife sends him back to work, reassuring Hawk that everything is fine, as Hawk leans in to kiss her goodbye, Lucy turns her head away offering only her cheek. This alerts Hawk to Lucy’s knowledge of his afternoon meetings.

 

After some deep soul searching, Hawk comes to the difficult and heart wrenching conclusion that he must prioritize his imminent fatherhood over his desire for Tim. He does the unthinkable – he reports Tim to the M-Unit as a person with problematic sexual interests. This causes Tim not to only be turned down for employment in the Hungarian Refugee Relocation Program, but also bans him for life from government employment. As a final gift and memento of their time together, Hawk leaves Tim the Washington D.C. paperweight that was Hawk’s remembrance of his first love, Kenny.

 

Hawk also takes the cowards way out, leaving the telling of his actions to Mary, his former secretary and still Tim’s good friend. When Mary relays Hawk’s primary role in this betrayal, at first Tim refuses to believe that Hawk would do such a heartless act that would basically shatter his plans and dreams for the future. Hearing from Mary that Lucy had just gone into labor the night before, Tim rushes to the hospital to confront Hawk. At the hospital Tim learns that Hawk has gone home to freshen up and Lucy is resting, as the nurse goes to see if Lucy will take an after-hours visitor, Tim is drawn to the viewing window of the maternity ward. He sees baby Jackson Fuller sleeping in his bassinet. With bitter tears and heartbreaking grief, Tim realizes that he and Hawk must end their relationship. The baby must now be Hawk’s primary responsibility.

 

Nothing in the American heteronormative fantasy trumps a baby. Babies being helpless and innocent, are required to be nurtured by their father and mother. The family unit is the bedrock of life and all that is normal. All parents must put aside any outside interests, whatever they may be for the benefit of the child. The father and mother must devote all their time for at least 18 - 21 years of their lives to rearing this precious life. In 1956 America, when little Jackson was born, parental roles were even more idealistically drawn. The mother had to stay home and nurture the child, while the father went out in the world to provide the proper financial support to raise the child in a comfortable and secure environment.

 

Making Hawk suddenly aware and sympathetic to Lucy’s motherhood and his responsibility as a father hit false to me. Hawk married Lucy for the financial comfort she would bring to his life and only incidentally because she would provide a convenient cover for him in the eyes of the outside world. The viewer also is aware that Hawk has little interest in providing Lucy with the marital relations Lucy expected. Lucy has to beg for a child when it is obvious that Hawk doesn’t want one. It is distressingly clear that he has little interest or skill at fatherhood from the previous episodes. It is also made clear through his interactions with the contractor for the house renovations, and his blatant cruise of the furniture mover, while he feels the baby kicking in Lucy’s womb, that Hawk is more interested in men for their erotic possibilities than he is in his wife or the baby she is carrying. This is not even mentioning the entire purpose of the story of Tim and Hawk’s love, which for Hawk far exceeds any feelings he may have for Lucy. So having Hawk suddenly sacrifice his special love for Tim for the bland future of fatherhood only serves as a means to make the lovers split a redemption for Hawk’s consistent neglectful and adulterous behavior as a husband. Is giving up Tim supposed to absolve Hawk in some perverse way?

 

To pull out the baby trope as the event that causes Hawk’s betrayal of Tim incenses me. It diminishes gay love to erotic play. It tells the public that homosexual relationships can never be as real, or as genuine as heterosexual relationships. It communicates that children are the epitome of what is normal and any partnership that does not produce children has no validity.

 

In Thomas Mallon’s novel Fellow Travelers, the marriage to Lucy and the birth of the baby are not central to the split between Hawk and Tim. Lucy is an incidental character that the reader knows Hawk marries for her money because his parents have squandered all of theirs and therefore Hawk has no inheritance. He communicates to Tim the marriage will not change their relationship in any way. He grouses to his secretary that Lucy wants a baby which he views as a tether his wife wants in order to keep him tied to her. He is happy that it is a girl, because with a girl, he doesn’t have to have anything to do with it. The baby’s birth is also only one week’s interruption in Tim and Hawk’s affair, and then only because it’s premature birth came with complications. As soon as Lucy was well, he was back with Tim.

 

The biggest difference between the novel and the series is the final dissolution of Tim and Hawk’s relationship. In the novel, it is Hawk who decides that Tim’s relentless devotion to him would bring him into a domesticity that he has no interest in. And, as Tim aged, he believes that Tim would certainly lose his youthful appeal. Hawk believed that an aging Tim would quell his desire to ravish him. Sex with an older Tim would become a weekly obligation that Hawk would provide simply because of Tim’s adoration to Hawk. For a homosexual couple trying to navigate a life together these events from the book have the credibility of truth. Many gay men create relationships based on fetishes or superficial attractions that cannot endure time’s relentless changes.

 

It should be told that the homophobic atmosphere that drives the series is less of a threat in Thomas Mallon’s novel. Even in 1950s, Washington D.C., McCarthyism, Hawk’s preference for twink boys was an open secret to the people in his office. Most of the people he interacted with on a daily basis didn’t care. Even the man who administers the lie detector test to Hawk, knows that he likes boys, but since Hawk easily (without any preparation and totally lying) passes, there is nothing he can do about it.

 

It becomes clear to Tim’s coworkers that Tim is also in some sort of interesting relationship with Hawk. But because Tim is so adored and so competent in his duties, no one cares. Perhaps this combination of sexual fetish, daddy adoration, blind devotion, and selfish lust did not make the kind of epic gay love story for the ages that the writers wanted for the series. It certainly does not make Hawk the redemptive, character we see in the 1986.

 

 

How do we define betrayals? How do we forgive them? In the end Felix betrayed me with a final action that left me with heartache, questions about our entire relationship, and an uncertain future.

 

Thanksgiving was approaching, and my mother was insisting that I attend the family dinner. Thanksgiving had become to Felix and me, the holiday we celebrated together as our own family. Felix had grown to dislike my mother. My mother was indifferent to Felix, only inviting him to family functions because she knew that I would not attend without him. When we arrived, she would lavish her attention on me and virtually ignore Felix. Thrust into the chaotic dynamics of my large (five siblings and their spouses) family, he would become overwhelmed and uncomfortable. After a few interactions with my family, he began refusing to go with me when I visited. Our habit was to spend Thanksgiving together and for me to spend Christmas with my family. My mother effectively separating us for that holiday. Having me to herself was what she wanted anyway. Felix and I would have our personal Christmas either before or after the actual holiday.

 

This particular Thanksgiving, my mother insisted I attend the family dinner because I had not done so for quite a few years since moving to Philadelphia. I tired of fending off her persistent asking and eventually conceded, begging Felix to come with me. He reluctantly agreed but was not looking forward to the ordeal. As Felix went to work the day before the holiday, I reminded him to come straight home, since we had to get ready for the trip and get up early the next day to catch the bus.

 

Most nights during our relationship, Felix stopped off at a gay bar he loved and didn’t come home until I went after him, or he came home late and drunk. His love for the bars and gay nightlife had not waned and he was still not that happy with how domestic our life had become. Despite my frequent entreaties, Felix did not come straight home that night either. As I watched the hours accumulate, my anger increased. I was livid that he would do this on the night before we were to travel. I resolved to not go out and find him this time. In my annoyance, I went to bed. When I woke up, Felix had still not come home. I became frightened. I heard the doorbell ring too early for anything good, and when I answered it, there were two policemen standing on our porch. They asked me if a Felix lived there. I answered “yes,” as the dread grew within me. They asked if they could speak to him. I explained that he hadn’t come home last night. They went on to explain that they found a wallet with Felix’s name in it next to a body and were checking if he lived at the address in it. I assured them that he did. I asked what happened? They countered by asking me who I was. I explained that Felix and I were partners and lived together. At this the police became evasive and asked if there was a family member they could speak to. I said I was his family member, but they didn’t accept that. They asked if I would mind looking at some photographs. They showed me some mug shots and asked me if I recognized any of the men. I looked at the photographed faces of the men and as soon as I saw one, I knew he was the one involved. I pointed him out to the police. they became very interested in my pick, asking me how I knew him. I couldn’t give a satisfactory answer, so they didn’t press. They told me that they would probably be asking me for a statement on Monday so to be prepared. Then they left.

 

I began to piece together in my mind what the police would not tell me. With the truncated information offered by the police, plus adding it together with Felix’s absence, I had a fair idea of the situation. Felix had been in some kind of accident and was in actuality the body the police had mentioned. Guilt and grief washed over me.

 

When the police left, I became distraught and nervous, and overcome with worry. I paced the floor. Not knowing what else to do, I called my mother and let her know that I would not be coming for Thanksgiving. She was surprised but tried to convince me to come up anyway. I couldn’t and didn’t want to. She complained that she couldn’t leave everyone and come to me. Somehow, she made me feel that I had ruined the holiday for everyone.

 

I spent that entire weekend anxious and in disbelief. I wanted to see Felix’s body. If I could see the body, I would know that he was dead, and I could calm down and accept the inevitable. The police told me that only the next of kin could identify the body. I was beginning to understand the despair and powerlessness gay couples experienced when it came to legal matters. We had no rights. I called my friend John and explained what was happening. He came over and stayed with me as I poured out my anxiety and grief. I was manic that weekend. I could not calm myself. I worried. I paced. I prayed that Felix would come home. The entire weekend I expected Felix to come walking through the door, sheepish and contrite about staying out late. I cursed myself for deciding not to go out chasing after Felix to bring him home. I convinced myself that if I had gone out to find him, he would still be alive. That weekend was an agony of doubt, panic, and guilt.

 

Monday morning the police station called and asked me to come in that afternoon to give a statement. When I called John to let him know that the police wanted to talk to me, he volunteered to go with me. The waiting room was small, square, and lined on all four walls with benches. Only the two doors broke the line of benches. On the opposite side of the room from where John and I sat was the man I had picked out from the mugshots. He was nervous but smiling. I instantly understood that he was Felix’s murderer. I don’t know how I knew this, but I also knew that he would get away with it.

 

It wasn’t long before a policeman asked me to come into a small, bare interview room. He explained to me that Felix’s sister and brother-in-law had identified the body, so it had been established that it appeared Felix was murdered.  Before I asked, he told me that since I was not next of kin, I could not see the body. It was demoralizing to understand that all the years we were together meant nothing in the eyes of the larger world. The officer asked me questions to establish my connection with Felix. He asked me where I was on Wednesday night. He asked me how I knew the man I picked out in the mugshot. How could I tell this officer that it was a gut instinct, an unsubstantiated insight? I lied. I said that Felix and I had met him in the bar one night sometime before. The officer told me that if I could place this man with Felix on Wednesday, that would be helpful to the case. They were certain that he was the perpetrator of the crime, but he wouldn’t confess. Without his confession they needed some other evidence that connected him to Felix. Without other evidence or a confession, they would have to let the man go. He explained to me the circumstances in which they found Felix: Felix’s body was found in the vestibule of an abandoned house in North Philadelphia. The house was a known place for drug dealing and homosexual trysting. Felix had been hit in the head with a baseball bat and had crawled some distance to the vestibule before he succumbed to his injuries. He asked why Felix would be in that neighborhood, so far from where he lived and if he was into drugs. He told me that some children had seen Felix’s body from the street and thought he was sleeping. They told a police officer on duty about it. That was how he was found.

 

After the police gave me those details, I knew with certainty what had happened. The man I identified was exactly Felix’s type. Felix had cruised the man in the bar. The man had told Felix he had a place to go since Felix did not. Whether it was the neighborhood, or the sketchiness of the house, or perhaps the man asked for money, whatever the reason, Felix tried to back out of the deal. The man became angry and as Felix turned to go, he picked up the bat and slammed it over Felix’s head. I could visualize the entire scenario as if I had been there. I had no way of explaining this to the police. It was just my knowledge and understanding of Felix and the mechanics of being a sexual gay man. I was not at the scene of the crime, so I was not a witness to what had happened. I knew cruising has its risks. That is the adventure of it all. For some, that is its appeal. This was how our community realized their secret fantasies. It did not need to be judged and ridiculed by an imperious law enforcer who would more than likely blame the victim. Instead, I kept silent on my understanding of what had happened and told the police I didn’t know why Felix would be in that neighborhood or that house. We had no connection to it. They let the guilty man go. Felix’s family was ashamed about the circumstances of Felix’s death and would not pursue the matter. The police closed the case as unsolved.

 

This was my betrayal. How would I tell this story when asked about this man I loved?  What lie would I tell myself in order to keep alive a fond memory? This was the sort of scenario that brought no sympathy. The victim would be blamed for taking too much of a risk. Then, what about Felix’s disloyalty to us as a couple; to who we were together, and to me knowing he made this decision?

 

15. Bravery and Hope

 

Throughout the series there is a throughline depicting the “present day.” (The present day for the series is actually 1986.) It is the height of the AIDS epidemic. The government is ignoring AIDS, even as it devastates the gay community. The viewer is introduced to Hawk as an ostensibly, happily married man who is hosting a congratulatory party in his garden. The party is to celebrate Hawk’s long awaited government appointment as foreign diplomat to be stationed in Milan, Italy. An old friend, Marcus, arrives unexpectedly to the party. Marcus is a journalist and author who was close friends with Hawk when they both lived in Washington D.C. in the 1950s. Marcus now lives in San Francisco and is bringing a message from Tim. Tim we soon find out is Hawk’s old lover. The message is a small box that contains a paperweight of the Jefferson Memorial that holds great sentimental meaning for Hawk. Hawk recognizes the paperweight as a symbol of “goodbye.”

 

With barely controlled anger, Marcus informs Hawk that Tim is, “organizing his life, settling things.” Hawk guesses from this statement that Tim has AIDS and is dying. As Marcus gives Hawk a brief update on Tim’s life, his contempt for Hawk rises to the surface. Hawk through his marriage to a woman has isolated himself from the gay community and believes he is safe from the AIDS epidemic. He has built himself a life of privilege and comfort, while his friends and his former lover are in the trenches fighting for their rights and their lives as out gay men. Marcus has no time for the cowardly decisions Hawk has made to keep himself apart from his sexuality. Hawk understands Marcus’ derision and feels the guilt but deflects any responsibility for past decisions. He asks for a telephone number to at least call Tim. Marcus had turned to leave but at this question, he turns and emphatically states. “Hawk! Tim doesn’t want to hear from you. He asked me to make that clear. You have a beautiful family. A beautiful life. I hope it was worth it.”

 

Despite Marcus’ derisive message, the next day, Hawk calls his former secretary who has now become a Congresswoman. She correctly guesses that Hawk has called to find out about Tim. She encourages Hawk to visit Tim despite Tim’s insistence to the contrary. “If you’re thinking of seeing him, you should do it soon.” she explains, trying to convey the dire situation Tim is in. Hawk dejectedly says, “He said he doesn’t want to see me.” Refuting Hawk’s reluctance, Mary retorts, “Of course he said that. He expects that you won’t show up and he doesn’t want to be disappointed.”

 

Encouraged by his telephone call with Mary, Hawk prepares to visit Tim in San Francisco. While he’s packing, Hawk’s wife comes into the bedroom to deliver Hawk an envelope, which she correctly assumes are plane tickets. Hawk tries to be casual and obscure about where he’s going. He plays it off as business trip. Lucy is not accepting of the lie, “I know where you’re going, I heard you talking to Mary,” countering his lie with the truth. She then covers this uncomfortable truth with a practicality, “The rental agent is coming on Friday, I’d like you to be home for that.” Without mentioning his name, she then asks a few awkward questions about Tim, his health, and his prognosis. Hawk, sensing her discomfort and disquiet over Tim tries to be reassuring, “Lucy. You’re everything to me.” Lucy faces Hawk with this falsehood and his fake care, and blatantly retaliates with, “If I was everything, you wouldn’t be going where you’re going.” Ever the tolerant wife, Lucy trots off to get Hawk’s raincoat.

 

This sets up Hawk’s dynamic with Lucy, his wife. She knows that Hawk has a special man he cares for. The depth of his care and the nature of their relationship, she would rather not know. It is hurtful enough that Hawk has this other person that intrudes into their life. Limiting her awareness of her husband’s secret life, keeps her from having to face a reality that would potentially upend their lives. The pretense of normality is easier.

 

In San Francisco, Hawk calls Tim from a diner in Tim’s neighborhood. When Tim answers, Hawk asks if this is a good time to visit. Because of Marcus’ emphatic directive that Tim didn’t want to see him, Hawk is still unsure if his presence in San Francisco is welcome. Hearing only silence from Tim on the other end of the line, he offers the telephone number of the public telephone he is calling from, saying he will wait for Tim to call to allow his visit. Tim, feeling the pain of long stored heartache, sighs in melancholy and remembrance, and hangs up. Hawk sits in the diner booth near the front window and stares at the street. He watches the gay men outside publicly interacting with each other without shame and realizes how different and far gay liberation has brought acceptance. He wonders if his life and Tim’s would have had a different outcome if he had made different choices. Just as he is about to give up on Tim calling him back, the pay phone rings.

 

The call is from Tim’s sister Maggie, who has become Tim’s caretaker. She makes arrangements to visit Hawk at the diner. She simply wants to see who Hawk is and what has made Tim through the years exclaim that, “… no one else even came close.” She is also angry at Hawk for his choices, but unlike Marcus who tried to keep it simmering, Maggie makes no pretense of liking the man who has ruined her brother. She launches into her accusation, “You stole that from him. His ever being able to have a real partner.” Hawk is undeterred, but Maggie is not going to allow Hawk to see Tim.

 

Hawk is frustrated. He goes to a gay bar to regroup and get a taste of this new openly gay community all around him. He is dismayed by the cavalier attitude the young men have about AIDS. He leaves the bar and goes back to Tim’s apartment building, deciding on the direct approach, he looks over the doorbells to see which may be Tim’s. While searching, the front door opens as someone leaves. The tenant offers to let Hawk in. Reaching Tim’s apartment, Hawk knocks on the door with trepidation. Tim calls from inside, thinking its his sister, “The door’s open Maggie. Did you forget your keys?” Hawk slips in, smiling at Tim laying on the sofa, but facing away from the door. Not hearing anything further, Tim turns to see Hawk. Hawk is still fearful that he may not be welcome, but Tim seems resolved that Hawk was going to come. He dryly quips, “Well, we both know that my eyesight is terrible, and it may be the dementia setting in, but it looks like Hawkins Fuller is standing in my apartment.” Hawk smiles with joy at seeing his true love and is grateful that he is not asked to leave. Tim senses his trepidation, and with a hint of sarcasm chides, “Don’t be afraid. It’s not airborne.” Hawk, a little confused because Tim’s illness was not even a consideration in his absolute happiness at finally gaining access to Tim, says “That’s not what I’m afraid of.” Tim realizing his misjudgment, puts on his glasses and states with finality, “Yeah, it’s you.” At this point Maggie arrives and interrupts their long-awaited reunion.

 

From the standpoint of a sentimental love story, Hawk’s persistence in his efforts to see Tim make sense. It does much to communicate to the viewer how much he has invested in reuniting with his former love. Everyone he has encountered (with the exception of Mary) since hearing of Tim’s illness and decline has been protecting Tim from Hawk. He is perceived as the evil person from Tim’s past who has ruined Tim’s life, while he has benefitted and prospering from the very decisions that have caused Tim’s downfall. Hawk’s life decisions are perceived by Tim’s friends and sister as the cowardly way out – he has denied his true nature and has chosen the safety of heteronormativity rather than a life with Tim, where his true feelings lay. All the people around Tim seem to be aware that Hawk loved Tim, and that his love, and his choices have had a lifelong negative affect on Tim.

 

Hawk understands how they feel. He too regrets the decisions he has made. He is only too aware how they have not only affected Tim, but all the people in his orbit. He also knows (and as the viewer will find out through the course of the series), that he has followed Tim’s career and provided assistance both directly and with a silent hand to Tim throughout Tim’s life. He has also tried at least twice that the viewer is aware of, to pull Tim back as a partner. Each time, Tim, rightly or wrongly, has rejected Hawk’s offers. At this final stage of their lives, Hawk realizes that this may be the last chance he may have to be with Tim. He risks everything he has worked for, his marriage, his family, even his foreign diplomatic position to share this last bit of time with the man he has truly loved his entire life.

 

In reality, Hawk’s persistence in seeing Tim regardless of the barriers that have been communicated to him is a romantic ideal. In fiction, the public always wants and expects that the lovers will always go to any extreme to be together. In reality such doggedness may well land the determined suitor in trouble. Hawk could have easily been barred from entering Tim’s apartment by Marcus who lives in the unit next door. He could have been verbally accosted by Tim who demanded he leave. His sister could have escorted him out, when she returned and saw him standing in the apartment despite her clearly and firmly stating that she did not want him anywhere near her brother. Instead, Maggie accepts the inevitable and asks if Hawk is staying for dinner. To which Tim replies, inwardly pleased, with his eyes still transfixed on the numinous figure of Hawk standing above him, ‘If he wants to.” Hawk snorts in relief at Tim’s invitation. He now knows that he is welcome and is happy to be accepted and wanted. As dinner is served, Tim shepherds Hawk to the table. He is showing a huge smile, obviously overjoyed to have Hawk back. Hawk has sheepishly retired in the background and waiting for his cues to join at table, knowing that his is still an uneasy guest to Tim’s sister.

 

After dinner, Tim shoos his sister out of the apartment and to a movie so that he and Hawk can be alone together. He finally has the space to speak to Hawk openly. His first question is what has been on his mind since Hawk arrived; why are you here? Typical for Hawk, he evades the question with, “Your sister thinks I want to ease my conscience.” In earnest, Tim quips balefully, “You’ll need a few centuries in Purgatory for that.” Never one to turn down the opportunity to charm and diffuse, Hawk shoots back, “That won’t work. I’m Presbyterian. We skip Purgatory and go straight to Hell.” This has exactly the desired effect of humor Hawk hoped for. Tim laughs because just like the Hawk of the past, he knows that he will not get a straight answer. Tim asks Hawk how long he is staying and disappointingly finds out that Hawk is planning on leaving in the morning. Hawk explains that there is a lot going on at home. Then further elaborates on his good news, that he finally got the foreign post he wanted. Tim looks at Hawk with disbelief and mumbles an insincere, “Congratulations.” Hawk quickly senses his mistake and tries to swallow his pride about his good fortune. It was inconsiderate for Hawk to boast about his work promotion to a person who is terminally ill. Hawk’s future still lies before him and still shows the promise of reward. Tim’s life is ending, there can be no rewards like a position in Milan. Hawk feels embarrassed and for once struggles to find the right words. Tim helps him by explaining his obvious skin lesions. Tim informs Hawk that he has Kaposi’s, a skin cancer that is usually found in older Mediterranean men. He has also had PCP (pneumonia), which combined with Kaposi’s only gives a prognosis of a few months.

 

This information alarms Hawk. He excuses himself to the bathroom and has a panic attack. The real knowledge that Tim is not only dying but has only months to live hits him hard. Any hope that Tim would survive his disease is crushed. As he sits on the toilet to compose himself, he notices all the medications that Tim needs to take just to keep going. In this moment Hawk is devastated and overwhelmed with emotion.

 

Later in the evening, while Tim is in the bathroom taking a shower, Hawk calls Lucy. He has to cut his call short when he hears Tim fall and shout in the bathroom. He rushes to help, as Tim cries in pain from behind the door, “Do not come in!” Hawk ignores Tim’s illogical directive and pushes open the door. He finds Tim on the floor, bleeding from a scrape on his arm. “Get out!” Tim cries from the floor. Seeing Tim needs help getting up, Hawk explains sternly, “I’m gonna help you up, OK?” and gets Tim up off the floor and onto the toilet. Then Hawk grabs a towel and covers Tim’s nakedness. Hawk is truly concerned and upset about Tim’s wellbeing. Hawk’s fear is that Tim may have been hurt worse than it looks. He has turned all of attention to cleaning Tim up and making sure that Tim has only suffered a scraped elbow. This show of care and concern has Tim asking again, more determined about an answer, “What do you want Hawk? Did you come here looking for forgiveness? Because I don’t have any left to give. I’m too angry to forgive anybody.” Hawk deeply frightened and worried about this man he loves, states simply, without guile, “I needed to see you Skippy. That’s all I know.” This seems to satisfy Tim. As Hawk is washing up and the crisis is winding down, Skippy suggests, “You need an AIDS test.” At Hawks illogical refusal, Tim states resolutely, “I’m not talking about my blood. I’m talking about your life.” Hawk understands what Tim is getting at. Tim is always the one who tries to pull Hawk out of his fantasy that he is somehow distant from his homosexual behavior and that his casual encounters have no weight or bearing on his life. Tim is telling Hawk that AIDS does not care about how casual or insignificant Hawk believes his sex with men is. AIDS is a real threat and any man who has sex with men is at risk.

 

The next morning as they sit in the waiting room of the AIDS clinic waiting for Hawk to be called for his test, Hawk proposes that Tim give his sister a week’s break from caregiving. At first Tim refuses, believing it would not be a good idea. But Hawk is sincere and wants to be of service to Tim in his time of need. Hawk truly is looking for a way to somehow make up to Tim for all the times he hurt Tim with his selfish choices which only kept them apart. Hawk wants these few precious days to spend with Tim while he is alive. He wants to somehow show Tim how much he loves him. Tim understands and warms to the idea. This is a touching scene, showing the strong connection that still exists between Tim and Hawk despite all their time apart. Hawk is seeking redemption and reconnection with Tim. He has tried this before in larger ways, but those attempts to reconnect have always been refused by Tim who somehow believed they were insincere. In this small way of care, Tim finds an honest, acceptable, and believable offer from Hawk. This is the Hawk Tim fell in love with 33 years prior. This is the Hawk Tim will accept back.

 

While caring for Tim, Hawk discovers that Tim has become an AIDS activist. He is deeply involved in getting California Proposition 64 signed into law by the governor. Proposition 64 was an initiative in the State of California that proposed to restore AIDS to the list of communicable diseases which would then make AIDS subject to all public health laws in the state of California, including requiring all hospitals to treat AIDS patients. Proposition 64 was  put to public vote. It would never have needed the governor’s signature. It was defeated 71% – 29%. However, the fictionalized account in Fellow Travelers has Tim asking Hawk to use his connection with the Republican fund raiser for the governor, Dave Holm, to get an appointment with either the governor or his chief of staff with the hope of convincing them to sign the bill into law. Tim and his activist group’s efforts to get this meeting have been ineffectual. Tim is certain that with Hawk’s influence they will achieve this goal.

 

Unfortunately, when Tim presents his plan to Hawk, Hawk becomes reticent and agitated. This results in an argument between them. Hawk’s hesitance comes from two factors, first, he is aware that the government is reluctant to pass any legislation that has any connection to AIDS because of the great public antipathy towards AIDS and its connection to homosexuality. The majority of Americans believed at this time that AIDS was a punishment for living a gay lifestyle and that homosexuals had brought this deadly disease into the lives of the general public. Secondly, he is acutely aware that it could mean political death for him, which could negatively affect his career and his family. Hawk wants to help Tim and prove his devotion, but he has already put his marriage and his Milan appointment in jeopardy just by visiting. Tim’s request is not one he is prepared to take on just now.

 

Tim’s obduracy to get this bill passed stems from his personal situation. “I have a right not to die!” he bellows at Hawk. There is also another issue at play here for Tim. Through the years, from marrying Lucy onward, Tim believes that Hawk has always put himself first and his relationship with him second. For this incredibly important life or death issue, Tim wants to come first. An agitated Hawk stops fussing over Tim and takes out a cigarette to smoke and calm down. Tim belligerently reminds Hawk that he can’t smoke in the apartment. Hawk now visibly distressed, scrambles for his jacket. The stress to help Tim but preserve the safety of his family has him in a position where he must choose loyalties. “Where are you going!”, demands Tim. “Out! I need a drink.” retorts Hawk. Hawk goes to the gay bar he discovered while waiting for access to Tim’s apartment. Trying to drown his fears and the difficult implications of the new decisions he must face; he realizes there is an active backroom in the bar. Curiosity and the temptation of another way to release his tension lures him into it. However, things do not go the way he thinks they will. A man in a leather harness approaches Hawk. Hawk undoes his zipper and tries to coax him down to his crotch. The leather man instead violently grabs Hawk, flips him around, bashing Hawk’s head into the wall and tries to force Hawk into anal sex. Hawk fights back and manages to shove the leather man aside. With a bleeding forehead, Hawk hurriedly pulls his clothes back together and stumbles back to Tim’s apartment.

 

An important aspect of this scene is that upon returning to the apartment, Hawk has decided to put Tim’s advocacy and life first over everything else in his own life. But when Hawk gets back to the apartment, he finds it empty. Calling for Tim, he enters Tim’s bedroom to find the furniture in disarray, but no Tim. Jerome, Marcus’ adopted son from next door, enters the apartment. He informs Hawk that Tim has had a seizure and has been taken to the hospital. The full weight of his responsibility for Tim falls on Hawk at that moment. He cannot afford to leave Tim on his own at any time. Tim’s health is too fragile and unpredictable for self-care.

 

A frantic and frightened Hawk arrives at the hospital. Not getting any cooperation from the confused front desk nurse, he begins to search the Emergency Room cubicles for Tim. He sees Tim in the throes of his seizure and is appalled and panicky at the gravity of Tim’s illness. As the nurse closes the cubical drape from Hawk’s sight, Marcus catches up with Hawk and leads the distraught Hawk out of the treatment area. Later, when Tim is out of danger and recovering, Hawk is let in to visit. A dazed Tim is sitting up on the edge of the bed. A chastened and contrite Hawk goes to Tim and sits next to him. They say nothing. Tim is still angry, more for being abandoned under Hawk’s care. This seems like a repeat of Hawk’s behavior, to abandon Tim when Tim needs him the most. Hawk reaches for Tim’s hand in apology. Tim refuses Hawks penitential gesture. Hawk ignores Tim’s refusal and takes hold of his hand anyway. There is a disquiet truce between them.

 

Hawk has not been able to connect with his wife Lucy since he told her that he would be staying and taking care of Tim. Since Tim has had several seizures since the initial one after he and Hawk’s fight, Hawk has begun to stay overnight at the hospital keeping vigil over Tim. While Hawk is at the apartment to wash and change clothes, Lucy calls and finally managing to connect with her husband, informs him that she has come to San Francisco. Hawk knows this is going to mean a final ultimatum.

 

Hawk and Tim have developed a very domestic partnership while Tim has been hospitalized. When Hawk returns to the hospital with fresh supplies, Tim is deep in a reverie about his experience of waking up and not knowing who he was. Hawk tries to comfort Tim’s fear of losing himself by stating his full name of, “Timothy David Laughlin.” Hawk also proudly announces that he has arranged a meeting with the fundraiser Dave Holm who knows the governor’s Chief-of-Staff. Tim responds with a chastisement for Hawk’s drinking so early in the day. “It’s not true what they say about vodka. I can smell it on you. Really Hawk? At 10 in the morning?” Hawk has begun drinking again as self-medication for the stress of Tim’s illness and the repercussions that his visit is having with his marriage. Tim’s nagging seems a bit peevish here, but it does set up the easy quality of their relationship and gives a tiny glimpse of how they would approach living together. Hawk is annoyed by Tim’s admonishment but is unwilling to argue about it given the situation. He asks if he can get Tim something, “a popsicle for your throat?” Tim is over his snit with Hawk and jocularly adds, “Sure. Grape.” Then Hawk surprisingly quips in a way that shows a playful side of himself, “I had you pegged for cherry.” He stops as he is leaving and drops the bomb, “Lucy’s in town. She asked if she could see you.” Tim stares in astonishment at Hawk at this request. He cannot fathom why Lucy would want to see him of all people. Then the nurse comes and interrupts their interaction. Tim turns his head in disbelief. Hawk leaves without waiting for Tim’s response.

 

That afternoon, Hawk is sitting in the hospital day room with Marcus. Hawk is visibly agitated and sneaks a hit in his coffee cup from his vodka bottle. He offers Marcus a shot, but Marcus refuses. Hawk discloses to Marcus that his wife has arrived in San Francisco. Marcus starts laughing at the predicament this puts Hawk in, as all of Hawk’s separate lives begin to collide. Hawk is irked at Marcus’ mirth when he was expecting empathy. Such is the derision of Hawk’s gay friends toward the life Hawk has created for himself. They all believe that Hawk deserves for it all to implode. Marcus then confides to Hawk that he believes that Jerome, his adopted son has tested positive for HIV. With righteous outrage, Marcus states, “It’s not fair. The kid was just figuring himself out when it was spreading.” He asks Hawk for the status of his HIV test. Hawk answers with discomfort and a slight shrug at the ill-timed question. “Negative.” Marcus at odds with Hawks answer in the face of his son’s status, fairly spits, “Son of a bitch! Still bulletproof.” Hawk skeptically shrugs, while under his breath whispers, “Yeah.” Hawk does not feel bulletproof just now. His lover is physically failing down the hall and his wife is in town formulating a decision about their future. The implosion that his friends have been hoping for is happening as they look on.

 

Lucy arrives at the hospital clad in Chanel and privilege. She stops at the receptionist to ask for Tim Laughlin. After being directed to his room, Lucy surveys the bustling hallway full of patients and caregivers and has a sudden fear of contagion. She turns back to the receptionist and enquires in a polite, but haughty whisper, “I don’t need to wear gloves, do I?” This practical but somehow insensitive question exactly places her remove and social entitlement from the AIDS crisis. She finds Tim sitting up in his bed. She approaches with trepidation and caution, partly from the fear of AIDS and partly from her uneasiness at meeting the man who has been the true object of her husband’s desire since the day they were married. She had hoped that twenty years ago when they first crossed paths at the country house, where she finally had a face to go with the shadowy secret of him, that by going to jail he would have disappeared from her life. Now she is to face him again and try and understand why this man means so much to her husband that he is willing to sacrifice his family and position for him. Lucy asks timorously if she can sit. Tim is a bit arrogant but deferential. He motions for her to go ahead. She asks out of politeness how Tim is doing. Tim, instead of a polite reply, dumps a litany of his various health woes, “I have KS, recurring seizures, and my hair is falling out. What else? Um…Uh, my social worker suggested I sign a ‘do not resuscitate order.’ How are you?” This inventory of the ravages of his disease is designed to make Lucy uncomfortable, to covey just exactly how dire his health situation is, and to let her know that her presence is an unwanted intrusion that is acerbating his fragile hold on normalcy. Lucy counters with, “The government ought to do more about this.” They spar about government intervention in the AIDS crisis versus the wealthy paying more taxes to make it possible. Lucy sort of wins the round when she imperiously informs Tim, “It’s not always wise to judge someone on appearances.” Tim begrudgingly concedes to Lucy, mainly because this exercise in class responsibility is beside the point and because the issue that lies between them is Hawk. Tim ends the pleasantries and useless debate with the pertinent question, “I’m sorry Mrs. Fuller but why are you here?” Lucy seems somewhat unprepared for this most logical of questions. Her reason for seeing Tim is to access his condition and discover how long her husband is going to be waylaid by this interruption into her life. She heaves a sigh and provides a more palatable answer, “I don’t know. You mean something to my husband. I suppose I had to see you so I would know.” Tim recognizes her true mission and looks at Lucy with astonishment at her arrogance and selfish presumption. He goads her, “Would know…?” Grasping for a lifeline as she feels shame for her thoughts, Lucy fishes for an answer, “How much you mean to him.” Tim doesn’t believe this explanation. He fully understands that Lucy is well aware of how much he means to Hawk. She has had thirty years to figure it out. She read and burned the impassioned letter Tim left for Hawk when he left Washington D.C. for seminary. She admitted doing this. The letter plainly stated his love for Hawk. Tim tries to provoke Lucy further, “Shouldn’t you ask him?” Lucy answers with a sarcastic, knowing look. Tim responds with shared understanding, “Right. That wouldn’t get you anywhere.” Tim is tiring of Lucy and her self-serving agenda. He sighs and lays it out plainly, “My time with Hawk was rushed, with years in between. You had him most of his life.” This is rather disingenuous of Tim. It totally leaves out the two years Tim and Hawk spent together establishing their relationship. These two years formed the basis of Hawk and Tim’s emotional connection. In Tim’s mind they may have nothing to do with Lucy. The depth of their passion and intimate connection at that time would explain much of Hawk’s behavior throughout their marriage. It would provide Lucy with insight into her husband’s true nature. But Tim keeps this information private. He is claiming it for himself. Lucy tries to counter Tim, she wants to know when and how it started, “But you were always there. I could never get away from you.” Tim doesn’t budge. His time with Hawk before the marriage forms the core of his most treasured intimate life. It is the basis of his maturity as a gay man, and it shaped his love for Hawk for the rest of his life. He will not share it or give it away to be sullied. Tim parries back, “It’s not a contest.” Tim’s experience with Hawk has proven that he knows and holds the true Hawk. As far as he is concerned, Lucy never could experience the true Hawk, the Hawk who loves men and in particular the Hawk who loves him. Lucy will not relinquish her claim as the wife, she insists on being at least an equal, “Of course it is. It always has been.” she cries nearly pleading. Tim is reaching the limit of his patience. He surrendered his passion for Hawk in deference to this woman. She can never understand the lifelong, sacrifice he made for her. She was never an emotional equal. She had the legal status of marriage that he and Hawk could never have and to that, according to his Catholic beliefs, he owed sanctity. To insist on it being a contest insults Tim. “Then why didn’t you leave him? Tim ejects, barely in control of his anger. Lucy trots out the reasons that she has convinced herself matter above desire and passion, “Because we had a good life. And children. And then when Jackson…” She catches herself here. Jackson is the forbidden topic. As a harsh and ineffectual father, Hawk bears some of the responsibility of Jackson’s death. Tim counseled and comforted Hawk through his guilt and grief. As a form of punishment for her assumptions and arrogance, he allows Lucy to feel the pain of Jackson’s death again. “Please.” Tim says as he motions for her to continue. As if she had been waiting for this permission, it pours out of Lucy, “When Jackson died it was so unbearable. The only comfort I had was knowing that Hawk understood that suffering and felt the same way. If I had had to bear that alone, I wouldn’t have lived through it.” Lucy realizes she has said more than she wanted. Embarrassed at her cathartic release, she makes her polite utterances to leave. Tim almost feels sorry for what Hawk has perpetrated on Lucy. He understands her pain, but also understands that like him she chose to stay in a loveless union; her without passion and he without the physical object of his desire.

 

As Lucy rises to leave, she notices Hawk’s shaving kit and shirt. Then she sees the cot next to Tim’s bed, she deduces that Hawk has been staying with Tim overnight. In a moment of revelation, she understands what she needs to know about Hawk and makes the decision for which she has flown to San Francisco for.

 

On my first viewing of this scene, I believed that it was grossly underwritten. I wanted a final showdown where ugly words were finally aired and each player got to show the hidden, repressed feelings each had about the other, and perhaps in the fray, Lucy’s pristine Chanel suit gets ruined. But while parsing out the dialog for analysis, I realized that this is a far more effective confrontation. A more vicious and physical fight would be fun, but this very civil, controlled, and almost polite sparring perfectly suits the character of Lucy, while Tim has already shown that he can adjust to any situation. Jonathan Bailey, as Tim, is masterful as he simply sits in bed and with the tone of his voice and his facial expressions only, the viewer not only gets to see and hear his controlled anger and resentment toward Lucy, but the astute viewer can read the unspoken thoughts that would be going through Tim’s mind during this uneasy exchange. Tim seems to manipulate the entire conversation to get Lucy to reveal more of her motivation than she intended. Even the pounding on his chest as he thanks her for coming to see him is less an impassioned expression of gratitude and more a sarcastic show of resentment for her intrusion. This was an immense amount of release for Tim. At the end he is done with Lucy. He has no more respect for her and simply ignores her as she discovers that Hawk’s concern for Tim is so deep that he is living in the hospital with him. This, more than anything Tim has said, reveals to Lucy the true extent of her husband’s relationship with not only Tim, but the true extent of his lack of interest in her as a woman. Tim stares ahead and allows all of this to dawn on Lucy, without explaining or offering excuses.

 

Meanwhile, Hawk is trying to get Tim his audience with the governor’s Chief-of-Staff. His meeting with his contact, Dave Holm isn’t going as planned. What Hawk hears from his contact is “Helping kids with cancer gives you votes and donations. Fags with AIDS, who gives a shit! Besides, they made a choice.” This dismissive, homophobic attitude angers Hawk. In one respect, Holm is talking about Tim here, the man he loves. He is also talking about Hawk himself. In his own way, through his interactions with Tim and through his own experiences in life, Hawk has evolved. He is beginning to discover respect in himself as a gay man. To sit and listen to this politician’s derisive language toward homosexuality has raised his ire. He brings out his big gun and reminds this man of a loud and public indiscretion at the Republican Convention that caused security to escort his female companion out of the hotel in the middle of the night. After a few laughs over that very heterosexual memory, Hawk snidely quips, “Did Linda ever find out about that?” It may have been too large a weapon to bring up Dave Holm’s clueless wife, as it ends their meeting. “I’ll see what I can do to help Lucy’s friend, but don’t get your hopes up.” he whispers to Hawk as he leaves the bar.

 

Hawk’s next meeting is with his wife in her hotel room. Hawk is nervous. He seems to anticipate this will be a difficult conversation. Lucy is pleasant, but not particularly happy to see her husband. Hawk kisses her on the cheek. Lucy simply allows him to. Hawk notices the lack of affection and an alarm triggers in his head. He prepares for the worst. He sits, full of anxiety and has to clear his throat before he speaks. “You talked to Tim?” he finally croaks out. “I did.” Lucy replies simply. Hawk waits a beat for her to elaborate, but Lucy does not. Hawk starts filling in the awkward silence with reasons and excuses. He tries to inadequately fix what he has assumed to be Lucy’s issue with his travel to San Francisco. Lucy let’s Hawk rattle on. She made her decision at the hospital, and all of Hawk’s justifications and explanations to make everything right are just noise to her. When he gets to the part about the move to Milan, Lucy with her head down, quietly, but resolutely states, “I’m not moving to Italy.” Hawk expected something bad, but not this. Hawk tries to fix things again; he is even willing to forgo the job in Milan and take early retirement if that will make Lucy happy. Lucy stops Hawk’s stream of relationship patches, “Hawk! When you first came out here I didn’t mind. Tim means something to you. You deserve a chance to say goodbye. And I thought…God forgive me. When he dies it will be over. The two of you. And you and I can have our life together in a way we never had it. Free of him. But now I know it will never be over.” Hawk starts sputtering ways to try and save his marriage, “I’ll fly home tomorrow if that’s what you want. Today. Whatever you need.” Hawk is refusing to accept the finality of Lucy’s decision. Lucy responds more emphatically, “No Hawk, stop! You have unfinished business here. You need to see it through. Come home when you’re ready but when you do, I don’t think I’ll be there.” Hawk’s desperation is in full throttle. He won’t accept that this is Lucy finally at her limit with his deception, “You’re not going to throw away thirty years of marriage just like that. We have a family. Grandbabies.” Lucy is tired of this argument, she let’s out the thing she was holding back, “What about desire? Like the kind you had for Tim? I have lived my whole life not knowing what it’s like to be desired. Do you have any idea how lonely that’s been?” Hawk knows this is true. His secret love for Tim has been thrown back in his face, Lucy knew all along but suffered with the knowledge. He does not refute Lucy’s declaration of loneliness or make excuses or justifications for Tim. His desperation has now turned to anguish, “Look, we are going to work this out. We always do.” Lucy looks at Hawk with pity and resoluteness, she simply replies, “Goodbye Hawk.”

 

 

It was almost two weeks before I was able to see Felix’s body. There had to be the investigation. Then there was an autopsy. Finally, the body was released to the undertaker. During the second week, his brother and brother-in-law came to our house and asked to go through his clothes for a burial suit. He only had one suit. They rummaged through our closet as if they were picking through rags. They did not ask which clothes were mine and which were his. They took a bow tie that was actually mine. I was barely spoken to. They acted as if I were something odious and foreign. I was not consulted about Felix’s burial preferences. All of the arrangements were made by the family. I had no input. I was not asked. His wife was asked. A woman that had not lived with him for over a decade. The wife flew in from Virginia with Felix’s son and stayed with Felix’s sister as soon as she heard of his death. She became the grieving widow and played the part well. I kept looking at the envelope with the divorce papers in it that still sat on the bedside table and wondered where her ridiculous and incongruous behavior came from.

 

The day before the funeral service, Felix’s wife let me know that I could view Felix in private if I wanted. I’ll never understand why she offered this small act of kindness, but I immediately said yes. It would be the first time I would be seeing Felix since his murder. His wife brought me to the room where the coffin was. She said a few silent words at the side of the casket, then told me to take my time, and left me alone. He was laid out in a coffin in the blue suit his brother had taken. He was wearing my bow tie. One of his hands was brought up to his chest, but the other was nearly at his side. Apparently, the one arm had frozen in place and could not be moved. He would not be clasping any book, rosary, or flower to ease his passage on his journey to eternity.

 

I looked at Felix. This was the man I had loved and lived with for nearly a decade. This body did not have the intimacy of the man I knew. This body was a lifeless shell. I touched his face. It was cold and firm. There was no response. I did not know what to say or what to do with this inanimate entity. Felix was not there. This lifeless form occupied the coffin. I had been told it was Felix, but I did not believe it. I had brought a silver heart on a chain that I had originally gotten from my mother. It was not something I had purchased for him; it was an old trinket my mother had purchased with money from her first job. I had admired it. When I brought it home, Felix loved it for some reason. He claimed it as his own and decided it was a love token from me. He wore it even though the chain was too tight. We were going to get a longer chain, but never did. I tucked the heart into the chest pocket of his jacket. Now he had love to ease him on his final journey. My eyes welled with tears. I stroked the cold, firm skin of his cheek and whispered, “goodbye.” I blinked back my tears and steeled myself for the public. That was the last time I saw the man who had been my life since I was a boy. I was no longer that boy. That man was no longer my life.   


16. Better Never Late

 

Hawk is broken. He cannot get Tim the meeting he wants with the California state government and his sterile marriage to Lucy has just imploded. Hawk very much wanted to be Tim’s hero and get him the meeting he desired. Although he already was aware that it would be a difficult sell, he was buoyed by Tim’s faith in his ability to make it happen. Unfortunately, Hawk was not aware how deep seated the government’s dismissal of homosexuality ran. Unlike the Executive Order 10450 of 1953, which prohibited homosexuals from federal employment, and which Hawk and Tim had both lived through, this new assault on homosexuality was more sinister. The government had decided to simply do nothing about AIDS, the disease that was ravaging the gay community. The public was already uncomfortably forced to confront a community of people that had been largely invisible and out of mind. In the United States, AIDS was mainly infecting gay men. The American public attributed this deadly disease to the immoral lifestyle of gay men, and popularly saw it as retribution. Politically, given the public backlash, the government could not get public support to allocate any money to AIDS research, care, or education. Hawk knew and tried to tell Tim that bringing attention to any AIDS legislation was going to be nigh impossible. He decided to try because of Tim’s impassioned advocacy for Proposition 64 and because he wanted to somehow atone for any pain he had caused Tim in the past. His conversation with Dave Holm proved his suspicions. The government was as homophobic as ever. However, instead of accepting the homophobic slurs, and laughing along with them as he had in the 1950s, Hawk became angry. He was beginning to feel like a part of this crisis too. He was seeing how much it was affecting his friends and his first-hand experience of Tim’s suffering.

 

With Lucy, Hawk was aware that traveling to San Francisco had put a strain on his marriage. Despite her putting on the dutiful, unprying wife role that she constantly assumed, she had realized years ago that her husband had a secret life she consciously refused to understand. She was willing to let Hawk travel to San Francisco as she said, to say goodbye, but prolonging his stay and not being in communication when they were planning an international move brought her to her breaking point. Visiting Tim and seeing first-hand how involved Hawk was in Tim’s caregiving gave her the information she needed to now fully understand where Hawk’s true desires lay. How it began she didn’t know, and she could not get Tim to divulge more during their conversation. But without a doubt, she saw that Tim was Hawk’s primary relationship regardless of their own thirty years of marriage.

 

Why Hawk was so desperate to cling to his marriage with Lucy is another matter. He didn’t marry Lucy for love. He married for money and the privileges a wife brought to his career. Marriage kept the M-Unit off his trail. But when he heard Lucy tell him that she would not be moving to Italy, he completely lost his composure and turned into a begging, grasping buffoon. He stopped listening to Lucy and started throwing out remediations in desperation. The Hawk who was always in control and confident in his actions disappeared. Lucy represented to him the stable life he built as a buffer to the instability (as he perceived it) of gay life. With Lucy he did not have to confront his identity. He could have the pleasure of men and the comforts of home. With Lucy gone, he would now have to make new decisions about where his true desires lay. Hawk’s ideal had always been to be married to Lucy and have Tim on the side. He may have been able to engineer that particular living arrangement, if he had not allowed his conscience to get the better of him when Jackson was born. His atypical bout of familial responsibility destroyed his connection with Tim. Turning Tim into the M-Unit was also a destructive action he regretted and tried to rebuild for the rest of his life.

 

Now with Tim dying and Lucy ending their marriage, Hawk was finding himself in the position of being alone. His carefully constructed world is falling down around him. He faces an uncertain and lonely future. Lucy was his last lifeline that would keep the façade of his creation together. Without Lucy, he will have to face his true identity, the identity that Tim had for so long argued for him to face.

 

When Hawk returns to the hospital after his life altering afternoon, he is completely defeated and depressed. He barely talks to Tim as he lay down on his cot in his clothes. His only words are in answer to Tim’s query, “Did we get the meeting.” “Doesn’t look good.” Hawk mumbles dejectedly. Tim is deep in a conversation with his hospital mate. Whether this is the reason or something else, but Hawk does not tell Tim about Lucy ending their marriage. One would think that this bit of news might be of interest to Tim, or that Hawk looking for consolation may have divulged this catastrophic event to Tim, as intimate as they are. Hawk does not say a word about it, even though this could be something that brings them closer together. Instead, Tim scowls at the news of Hawk’s conversation with Dave Holm and returns to his conversation he had interrupted for Hawk.

 

It has been consistent throughout this series for Hawk to withhold information about Lucy from Tim. Back in the 50’s, at the beginning of their relationship, he would never give Tim a coherent, honest answer about Lucy regardless of how bluntly or often Tim asked. Tim may have deduced something was up between Lucy and Hawk from the rumors he was hearing, but Hawk’s evasiveness only increased his alarm. Hawk’s irritation at Tim for asking was a tactic to make Tim feel less likely to keep asking. In truth, Hawk initially had no plans to marry Lucy despite the office rumors or Senator Smith’s inelegant insistence. He was content with Tim and his closeted gay life until he realized that he would be receiving no inheritance. Even then, he seemed to be trying to devise a way to have both Lucy and Tim in his life. It was Tim’s ill-timed life crisis that forced Hawk to convey to Tim the news of his decision to marry Lucy. Then, Tim’s rash decision to join the Army in the face of what he considered a rejection from Hawk of their relationship, ended any plans Hawk could have devised. Even then, Hawk asked with faint hope if he could change Tim’s mind about enlisting.

 

Tim had always hoped throughout the years that Hawk would somehow end it with Lucy. He did not want to be the cause of their estrangement. He actually worked against his best interests to keep Hawk and Lucy together because he believed in the sanctity of marriage, or in Hawk accepting responsibility for his choices. Conversely, he also continuously worked throughout the years for Hawk to fully accept his true self as a man who loved men. He must have realized that Hawk’s coming out would effectually end Hawk’s relationship with Lucy. Anomalously, on Fire Island he again works against his true desire and talks Hawk into going back to Lucy, incongruently seeing this as a healthier alternative than how he was then living. (I argued this decision on Tim’s part earlier.) Whatever Tim’s motivations in keeping Lucy and Hawk together, as long as they were, he rejected all schemes that Hawk devised to keep both Lucy and he in his life. But this attitude only came after Jackson was born. Before Jackson, Tim was content to play at adultery with Hawk without ever considering Lucy at all. “I’ll meet you here whenever you want.,” was Tim’s declaration to Hawk after their tryst in their secret hideaway. Then he was resolved to be Hawk’s paramour. But Hawk becoming a father changed that for Tim. The baby, in Tim’s morality, trumped his play with Hawk. It temporarily put a halt on their relationship for Hawk as well, as Hawk decided he needed to man-up to his responsibilities as a father. This sense of responsibility waned as time passed and Hawk began to long for Tim again.

 

By 1986, Tim has already learned from Lucy that he has been the force that has kept she and Hawk apart in their intimate lives. She always saw Tim as a rival, despite Tim’s best efforts to be as minimal a presence in their marriage as he could. Hawk loved Tim to the extent that he could not hide it from her regardless of his obfuscation and deception. Still, knowing that the dissolution of his marriage would be of interest to Tim, Hawk withholds it. Is it pride not to share the marriage’s failure? Is it Hawk deciding that the news is irrelevant with Tim dying? Does Hawk need time to process this overwhelming loss before he can tell anyone? Or is it simply the screenwriter’s trope of withholding pertinent information to make what comes next in the program more plausible? The motivations at this point are not clear to the action but they will play a part in the resolution.

 

Later in the night, Hawk becomes alarmed at the strange noises Tim is making in his sleep. He wakes Tim and offers to get the nurse. Tim asks Hawk not to, but complains of being cold, Hawk rearranges Tim’s blankets and includes his own blanket from his cot. When he sees Tim still shivering, he climbs in bed and holds him. Tim feeling better confides to Hawk that he feels as if he is fading away a little bit every day. Hawk comforts Tim from this fear and reassures him, “I’ve got you.” he whispers as he kisses Tim’s forehead. This scene, along with the nude dancing scene from the 1950s are the two scenes that truly show how intimate and bonded Hawk and Tim are despite Hawk’s choices that keep them apart.

 

That morning, Hawk is on the telephone with Dave Holm fighting for Tim’s meeting. Holm is obstinate. He cannot get Hawk a meeting with the Chef-of-Staff. AIDS is too controversial a subject. At Hawk’s uncompromising arguments, he finally relents to two tickets to a Republican fundraiser, which Hawk accepts as some kind of consolation prize. Smiling anyway, he goes to Tim and triumphantly asks as a way to impart the invitation, if Tim has a tuxedo. Tim seems happy at this news and beams at Hawk with pride knowing that Hawk has tried his best to fulfill his request.

 

Tim is very content at the gala. He leans into Hawk and says sotto voice, “Feels like we’re on a date.” To which Hawk slyly replies, “I should warn you, I may make a pass.” Tim then delivers the gayest line in the series, “A girl can hope, can’t she?” Which gets a big grin from Hawk. Hawk spies Dave Holm across the room and brings Tim over to meet him. At being introduced, Tim offers his hand. Holm seeing the Kaposi’s lesions on Tim’s hand, refuses to take hold of it. Tim withdraws his hand and stares at Holm with contempt. Hawk is disgusted by Holm’s behavior toward Tim. He looks at Tim in support and to ensure Tim is alright. He turns back to Holm with new conviction and reminds him again about meeting the Chief-of-Staff and maybe the Governor. Holm makes an excuse that the Chief-of-Staff wasn’t at the gala. Tim belligerently points him out in the crowd. Holm now must backtrack and try to cover his lie. “Well, I don’t want to interrupt him right now. Maybe later, but I can’t make any promises.” Hawk begins to become persistent about getting the meeting but Tim interrupts with, “It’s fine. We’ll wait.” Now tired of the farce and being treated rudely, Tim excuses himself with, “I’m going to get some air.” Hawk is livid and appalled at the way Holm has behaved. When Holm offers his hand to Hawk with a glib, “No hard feelings.” Hawk grasps it. Then squeezes it with all his strength, causing confusion in Holm. Still squeezing Holm’s hand, Hawk pulls himself close to Holm’s ear and in a tone as firm as his grip, whispers, “Just to be clear, Tim isn’t Lucy’s friend. He’s, my friend. He just got out of the hospital. I was there with him the whole time. I climbed into his bed and held him.” Releasing Holm and backing away, he chuffs Holm on the arm and with a polite smile and false cordiality states, “Great party Dave.” He leaves to find Tim.

 

For the first time in his life, Hawk has outed himself to a colleague. He is outraged at the way the government is glibly ignoring the AIDS crises and closer to his heart, he is indignant at the way Tim as a person with AIDS has been treated. Holm may not want to touch Tim because of his lesions and his bigotry about AIDS, but Hawk made sure that Holm had full body contact with the person who held that reviled body. Spending time with Tim and losing his wife has made an impact on Hawk. He has more courage and freedom to accept his true nature. He has grown to respect Tim for his bravery in the face of his illness and to admire him for his commitment and devotion to his sexuality and the causes he supports for the recognition and advancement of gay awareness.

 

Hawk finds Tim in the garden. He is full of remorse and regret brought on by his valiant, but ultimately failed attempt to get Tim a meeting with the top California officials so that he could discuss Proposition 64. But spending this intense time with Tim has caused him to grow in so many other ways. He feels guilt over many of the actions that have cased Tim pain throughout their years together. After witnessing the ordeal that Tim has gone through at the hospital, and now the prejudice and intolerance at the gala, Hawk feels a need to address his guilt. With anguish and contrition, he begins, “A long time ago, I did something to hurt you. And I think, even being in your life hurt you in some way.” Tim stops Hawk from finishing his penitential apology. He begins, “I spent most of my life waiting for God to love me. And then I realized the only thing that matters is that I love God. It’s the same with you. I have loved you my whole life. I’ve never loved anyone but you. You were my great, consuming love. And most people don’t get one of those. I did. I have no regrets.” At this intensely intimate, declaration of love, Hawk, overwhelmed with his own passionate emotions tenderly holds Tim’s face and gives him a long, sensuous kiss on the mouth, then on the cheek and finally on the forehead.

 

This is what the viewer has been waiting the entire series to see. The true expression of Tim and Hawk’s deep emotions for one another laid bare. Hawk is now free and able to meet Tim as an equal, as one gay man loving another without personal or social stigmas. They have both made open declarations of their long enduring love for each other. The program should end here on this poignant and satisfying completion of their love story. We have known from the beginning of this series that Tim will die at the end. We do not need to see a dramatic, teary death scene, with the lovers clinging to each other during the last moments of life before being parted by death’s cold hand. In this moment of perfect, balanced love, with each man expressing their feelings for each other in the best way they know how. This should be when the credits roll. But there is a little more to the story.

 

Marcus enters and asks Hawk for his badge. It seems, unknown to Hawk, that Tim and his AIDS advocacy group have planned a protest to be conducted at the gala. Tim realized that because of the difficulty Hawk was having setting up a meeting with the state officials, he needed to have alternative plans and the gala invite provided the convenient venue for their protest. Hawk asks for a private moment with Tim from Marcus before Marcus walks Tim back to the gala.

 

Hawk tells Tim that he will wait for him. Surprisingly Tim says, “No. You have to go home. Where you belong.” Hawk, a little hurt, replies, “No. It’s not…” He stops himself here from telling Tim that Lucy has left, and instead of making his staying about his own problems simply explains, “I want to stay.” Tim is moved by Hawks devotion but adamant, continues, “I have to fight this fight. That means letting go of everything else. And if you’re around I will not be able to let go.” Hawk insists, “But I want to show up for you.” At Hawk’s continued persistence on staying, Tim puts his finger on Hawk’s lips as emphasis to his own request. “Go home, Hawk. Please. Make it easy for me.” Hawk understands the futility of his desire to stay. He knows that this will be the last time he will see Tim. With a heavy heart, tears in his eyes and his voice cracking with emotion, he calls after Tim, “Hey Skippy. Promise you won’t write.” Tim turns with a grin on his face and responds knowingly, “I won’t.”

 

This is what we are left with, another in an endless series of gay love stories that end in separation. This is a tiresome trope. As a gay man I want to see myself represented in positive stories where we get to live happily ever after just like the majority of heterosexual stories. Even my mother had reservations about my life as a gay man. Probably fueled by traditional familial roles, and the same stories that have always portrayed gay life as tragic, she fully believed that I would live a life of desperation and solitude, ultimately dying empty and lonely. It was her understanding that gay men could never find happiness or fulfillment with each other. Without children who would be there to be a comfort in one’s old age? This has not been my experience as a gay man and I want the full story to be depicted as it represents my truth. By Tim sending Hawk home, we are denied the satisfying completion that previous scene of emotional understanding gives us. What we are given is an unnecessary separation by an unnecessary reason. We must take Tim’s reason that he needs to let go of everything, and Hawk would keep him from letting go, since we are given no other. This seems a bit harsh and ungrateful on Tim’s part. Sort of, ‘thanks for everything, you’ve been swell but you go now because you’re in the way.’ There seems to be no understanding on Tim’s part of the sacrifices Hawk has undergone to come to San Francisco and care for him. Nor does he seem to care. In the end, this sending Hawk away just comes off as wrong. But that is what Tim has been doing to Hawk ever since he married Lucy. Is that Tim’s final avengement for Hawk choosing Lucy over him, to keep Hawk saddled with a choice he regretted?

 

There is an epilogue of Hawk visiting the first showing of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Washington D.C. mall in 1987. In one way this epilogue serves as a history lesson on the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which has become somewhat dormant in its public showings in recent years. Its success had become its downfall. It is now far too massive to be exhibited in its entirety. Which only serves to illustrate the enormity of the loss AIDS has brought.

 

It is one year after his visit to Tim in San Francisco. What we can glean is that Tim has died, and that Hawk has somehow been kept informed of Tim and his life after Hawk returned home. The viewer can only assume that it has been Marcus who provided Hawk with the information, but we cannot really know. Hawk is searching through the Quilt panels looking for Tim’s panel, a giveaway that this information has been supplied to him. When he finds Tim’s panel, Hawk breaks down in tears at the finality of his loss. His daughter catches up to her father and mentions how the panel really suits his friend. Hawk, with his tears full flowing, corrects his daughter, “Sweetheart. He wasn’t my friend. He was the man I loved.” This is the first and only instance that Hawk actually expresses in words his feelings for Tim. He has expressed his love in many ways through the years with his actions, but here at the sight of Tim’s final tribute, he expresses in words what Tim truly meant to him. It is a moving scene, but somehow given all the growth Hawk has shown and all of the trials that Tim has endured through these eight episodes, to quote Virginia Ham from Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, “Not. Enough.”


 

 

The church service for Felix was held the day after my private viewing. My friend John, who was fast becoming my emotional support through this nightmare, came with me. The family all sat together in the front row. I was not ushered to them, nor was I invited to join the family party. Felix’s wife was sitting in the place closest to the coffin. She was sobbing heavily, her heaving shoulders bent over her lap. She was holding a large, white handkerchief to her eyes. At one point she actually leapt from her seat and threw herself across the coffin, wailing her overwrought grief. I churlishly thought that she deserved two Oscars for her performance. She took on her role as the grieving widow with aplomb. The entire church was convinced that she was the true sufferer of this calamity.

 

The minister began his eulogy. There were a lot of words about Felix’s life that pertained to his past before he met me. There were many references to the wife losing her husband and now having to find a means of raising a young son about to enter the prime of his life without a father. Felix’s life after separating from his wife disappeared. I was erased as if I never existed. The life we built together. His helping me through college. The house we bought together when his homophobic brother’s intolerance became unbearable, was no longer the home we had created together. What were we in the eyes of his family? What was this life that the minister was describing? It bore no relation to what Felix, and I had shared. Where was I in all these fictitious words? What had happened to the love we expressed to each other? His wife had had nothing to do with Felix’s life for the last decade, and yet she was honored, while I was erased. That was the word I fixed on “erased.” I did not exist. Felix’s and my relationship vanished in the magic mumbo-jumbo falling from the minister’s mouth.

 

I turned to John in astonishment and hurt. “What about me? Where do I fit in all this?” I asked. John simply stated with an attitude as if I were being foolish, “What did you expect?” What I expected was acknowledgement. What I expected was for Felix and my relationship to be mentioned if not celebrated. It may have been foolishness on my part, but I did not expect to be erased. I did not expect our relationship to be reduced to nothing, as if it never happened.

 

I sat through the rest of the service in an uneasy silence. This ritual quickly became nothing to me. I did not belong here. My sorrow was my own. What Felix and I had been to each other was of such shame and so reviled that it could not be mentioned in this public setting. I was not the wife. It did not matter that Felix’s wife and he had separated long ago and held animosity toward each other for years. It did not matter that she had moved on and away to build a new life separate from Felix. There had been no divorce. She was still the wife. I was not. That made all the difference. I was some dark other that had to be hidden from polite society. I was an embarrassment; a secret that must not be divulged. At the end of the ceremony, I left quietly, empty, and without notice, while his wife received all the public sympathy and condolences.

 

The next day was the interment. By some twist of fortune, I was employed to be a pall bearer because one more male shoulder was needed. I carried what remained of Felix to the hearse with a secret pride. I rode with the other pall bearers to the cemetery, not in the car that carried the family and his wife. What was this place that had been chosen as Felix’s final resting place? This dilapidated, bleak, and unkept landscape, surrounded by aging commercial warehouses and abandoned tenements, that looked as if it had not seen a burial in decades. I subsequently found out that someone in Felix’s family had a connection and was able to secure a grave on short notice, and at a discounted price, in the Mt. Peace/Oddfellows cemetery of Philadelphia.

 

I helped to carry the coffin up the short flight of uneven steps, that led to the path toward the gravesite. The cracked, broken, and heaved concrete path was difficult to navigate under the weight of the coffin. Gratefully the open grave was just a short distance down this ruined path. We pall bearers eased our burden onto the waiting stand, while the undertakers manipulated the coffin to hover over the gaping hole in the freshly dug soil. Words were said. Felix’s wife with her ever-present white handkerchief sobbed as if her lungs would burst. I stood apart alone in my grief, consumed with my unspeakable sorrow. Again, I was the ignored outsider; some errant friend of the deceased who decided to attend an event that was largely family. The words were brief, the coffin was lowered, handfuls of soil were dropped onto the coffin. There were no flowers. Then it was over. If there was any sort of event after the burial, I was not invited.

 

Months later, in an effort to ease my despair and loneliness, I made the trek on my own back to this desolate cemetery. I managed the unfamiliar route to that strange part of Philadelphia I never before needed to venture to. I was greeted with the sight of the wrought iron Oddfellow’s arch that decorated the entrance. That arch let me know that I had made it to the correct place. I remembered the displaced steps and the broken path, but there I faltered. There was no trace of Felix’s grave. There was no bare earth that would have marked a recent burial. There didn’t even seem to be a large enough gap between the head stones that would allow for a new burial. I searched up and down the path. I searched other paths. Felix’s grave had seemingly vanished. I returned to the spot where I believed his grave should have been and stood there. My despair deepened. I would find no comfort in this forsaken cemetery. Like the empty body in the coffin, Felix was not here. Somewhere in this grim and forgotten barrenness held the mortal remains of the man I had loved for all those years, but the place held its secret and would not release it even to me. I could convince myself that Felix did not want me to remember him lying in this dreary, hostile place. I did not find the comfort I was seeking. I would not have a place to visit Felix, lay my flowers of tribute to what was ours once, or find comfort for my survivor’s grief in my partner’s eternal rest. I left the site of such melancholy and gloom with as heavy a heart as when I arrived. I would have to recapture what was ours through my own memories. I never went back.

 

The day before Felix’s wife left to return to Virginia, she called and asked if she could bring Felix’s son over. He wanted something to remember his father by and was hoping I would allow that. I said that it was fine. I had no quarrel with the son. I had not seen him since he was a gleeful toddler, happy to be in the presence of his lenient father. I put a small box together for him of some things I thought he would appreciate. When he arrived, he wanted to go through our albums and pick out some music that his dad had liked. I didn’t tell him that I was the music collector, and all the albums were mine. I let him choose freely. While he was looking through the music, Felix’s wife let me know that she didn’t want the house, that I could have it. Apparently, she found out that she was only entitled to Felix’s half of the house, she would have to buy me out if she wanted to own the entire property. She shirked the expense and the trouble of settling Felix’s estate. She had collected Felix’s life insurance, on which Pennsylvania state law forbid Felix from listing any other beneficiary other than his spouse. He still had a legal spouse which I was learning quickly made all the difference. She was satisfied with that windfall.

 

The wife’s “giving” me the house amounted to an empty gesture. My name was not on the deed (she might not have known that). Unless she legally turned the property over to me, even if she believed it was only half, I would never have clear title and the house would always be in ownership limbo. What she was doing by walking away was dooming me to living in a house I could never own. As it was, without Felix’s income, I cold not afford upkeep on it. I said nothing. At least I didn’t have to move out right away.

 

When I brought the son to search the record collection, he told me that he had always resented me, because I had gotten to live with his dad, while he had not. He had always wanted to live with his dad. I knew this, but I did not know how deeply this desire had affected the boy throughout his life. It made me sad that he would never know his father as fully as I had. This I knew had been Felix’s decision. I did not know how to feel about this information. I knew and experienced how impossible the situation had been between the wife, the son, and myself. My involvement in this whole ménage à quatre may have been wrong. I couldn’t help thinking that I should have left Felix alone at the beginning. The son’s remark made me feel guilty again for the role I had in keeping them apart.

 

During all of this ordeal of Felix’s murder and funeral, I still had to go to work. I had no bereavement benefits, and even if I had, they would not have applied to Felix since he was not a close relative or spouse. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, I went to work for a half day and told my supervisor what had happened over the holiday to get the afternoon off. This remarkable and frightening news spread through the office with the speed of gossip. I was not happy with this happening, but I tried to understand. A co-worker being involved in a murder is not a usual experience. It did mean that I had to tell the story more times than I wanted to.

 

I fell into a deep depression as the days went on after the business of the funeral. I found the fortitude to drag myself out of bed every morning and zombied through my day. In the evenings I went to bed as soon as I got home. I had neither the energy nor inclination to do anything. I would either sleep or stare into the void. I neglected everything, except my appearance for work. I stopped eating. My weight loss became noticeable. People began to remark on it. I was oblivious to the change in my appearance. When my clothes began to slip off me, I realized that maybe something needed to be done. I reached out to a friend who was a social worker and who I believed would be sensitive to my situation. He had also mentioned the thinness of my appearance. I asked him if he would share a meal with me once a week just so that I would have to eat something. His response was a succinct and an awakening, “No. I can’t get involved with that.” I fell into a despondency that made me feel how little my misery meant to people.

 

But my savior came from my dramatic, grandly gay, and expressive friend Kinsey Baker who I worked with. He had known Felix and I as partners, so he understood how great a loss this was for me. Kinsey and I often had lunch together at work. Without his usual brass band of commentary, when he realized that I wasn’t eating, and getting dangerously thin, he quietly began to bring me a sandwich every day. It was a simple gesture of bologna on white bread. He would see that I had not brought any food or bought anything from the cafeteria, and he would take out the extra sandwich and hand it to me without fanfare or scolding. This was lifesaving. Kinsey Baker became an angel on earth to me then and even now all these years later, I praise him for his generosity and kindness. Kinsey’s daily sandwich was the only food I ate for weeks. It sustained me until I found the will to feed myself again.

 

My other angel was John. John was the friend who accompanied me to the police station to give my statement, and who attended the funeral with me. We had met through a mutual friend several years prior to Felix’s death. In the aftermath, during my depression and beyond, John became my therapist, my mentor, and my confidant. We began talking daily, often several times a day.  Without John to pour out my feelings of grief and loneliness, I may have not survived. It would have been easy to lay in bed and follow Felix into the great darkness. John gave me the greatest gift of listening. He provided guidance. He offered solace. As a gay man, he understood my pain and let me express it. He was always there when I called and always made time for me.

 

With Kinsey and John, I made it through the darkest days of my loss. Each in their own way helped me to heal. Each in their way gave me faith in humanity and let me know that I did not have to bear my sorrow alone. Through their simple kindnesses, I found a light, small as it was, to keep going. I learned there could be a life beyond Felix. There could be a life where I could live independently for myself.    

 

Felix’s murder happened the night before Thanksgiving. The funeral and burial happened about two weeks later in the beginning of December. In a few more weeks it was Christmas. Again, my mother began begging me to come to Albany for the holiday. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I was still in a deep depression and none of my family had come to me to support me through these terrible black days. Yet here my mother was offering me transportation fare and weak apologies to entice me “home.” I gave in. Some part of me wanted a family that would embrace me with the comfort of love and understanding in my bleakness and grief.

 

I was not in the best of holiday spirit during my visit. I was withdrawn and moody. I found no joy in my mother’s selfish need for me to make her life more livable. I didn’t have the energy to bring the magic to things that she always expected from me. She finally asked what was wrong with me. I said to her quizzically, “Mom. Felix just died. I’m sorry if that inconveniences your holiday.” She looked at me with a strangeness, as if I had spoken some intelligible syllables, “Felix was only a friend. I don’t understand why you are carrying on so much.” The bolt of awareness struck me. I actually took a step back from the blow. Is this how my mother had lied to herself in order to find acceptance of my relationship with Felix? My face glowed with indignation as I unleashed an emotional speech of honesty, “Mom, Felix was not just my friend, we were in a relationship. Losing Felix is just as painful and devastating for me as it was when Dad died for you. Felix and I were partners in the same way as Dad and you were. We lived together in a relationship.” My mother’s face went white with rage. She drew herself up savagely and let fly, “How dare you compare what your father and I had with whatever you had with Felix! Your father and I were married! We had children together! You could never experience with your friend what I had with your father!”  Each word my mother hurled at me became a stone that formed a wall between us. I was dumbfounded and beyond hurt that she still maintained this self-deception. She was still convincing herself of something that was easier for her to bear. The thought of Felix and I not only loving each other as a man and a woman could, but the idea that we were engaging in sex to express that love was more than my mother wanted to understand. It was so much easier and tidier to continue to believe the old lie she had told herself, that Felix and I were close friends. The last vestige of respect I felt for my mother was buried under her stony words. She had built a wall of difference between us that I would not even try to penetrate. She did not want to understand that her favorite son liked men more than women. I no longer wanted to waste my life trying to get her to accept me for who I was. She had known I was gay since I was fourteen and this was how she had delt with it in her head, by lying to herself. There would be not consolation and comfort from my family for the pain and desolation of my loss. Again, this proved to be a grief I had to manage by myself.

 

17. The Misery Continues

 

The Universe was not done with me. The year after Felix died became not only a year of catastrophic loss, but also a year of momentous upheaval. The forces that control our lives had determined that this was the year that my life needed to move in a more dramatic direction. I was going to experience a metamorphosis whether I was ready or not.

 

It became clear by spring that I would be losing my job. I had been working in the advertising department of Wanamaker’s Department store. Wanamaker’s had been sold to The Limited Inc. The Limited was transitioning its corporate services to its Washington, D.C. headquarters. My position was not one selected to transition. By the first of August, the move was complete, and I was out of a job. It seemed that I had been lucky because I had found a new job with an advertising agency, which started on August 5. I was joyful for this easy changeover.

 

However, from the first day, my supervisor, Mary, began to doubt her wisdom in hiring me. She questioned everything I did and did not believe I had the skills for the position. She harried me daily about the smallest details of the job, because she was convinced that I did not know how to execute them. One day she had me sit next to her and prove that I could use a proportion wheel correctly. When she came to me and demanded that I open my desk drawer and then proceeded to berate me in front of the other office workers for its disorganization, I knew I was doomed.

 

She allowed me to proceed with one project. I was to reprint an inter-office form. This form was a rarely used, carbonless, three-part form. The company header was separated from the form proper by a rule. The rule bled off the page on the left and right. When I was pricing it, the printer suggested that I pull in both sides of the rule 1/8th of an inch. It would reduce the printing cost by several thousand dollars. I had been trained that saving the company money was a good thing. Believing that shortening this rule would have zero impact on the useability of the form, I gave the printer the go ahead. When I went to Mary with my good news, she acted as if I had slapped her across the face. She castigated me for making decisions without her consent. She denigrated my competence. She demanded I call the printer back and change the rule back to a bleed. She also went to Human Resources and complained about my performance. The next day, I was called into Human Resources and fired. When I returned to my desk, Mary asked what Human Resources said. Confused, because I figured that she had a part in the outcome, I told her they fired me. She was alarmed and upset. She wailed, “I didn’t know they were going to do that!“ I looked at her with incredulity and said, “Really!? You complained about me everyday I worked here, and now you’re surprised I was fired. What did you expect?!” She slumped in her chair and said nothing further. I gathered my coat and bag and left. It was August 12th, my birthday. The job lasted one week.

 

I went to sign up for unemployment that following Monday. A few days later I was called into the unemployment office because the advertising agency was contesting my unemployment payments. They believed that they should not be liable for my unemployment benefits since I had only worked with them for one week. I had to reiterate the whole humiliating scenario again. My caseworker listened to my story intently. When I was finished, she sat back in her chair and with a jubilant conviction, confided to me, “They’re just playing games. They are going to pay!” I could not find another job. Months went by as I fell deeper into my depression. I not only felt worthless and incompetent, but I was also heartsick from grief and loneliness. John was my lifeline. I leaned on him for connection and comfort. My mother was useless. All she would do was tell me to move back home. She claimed that she could not help me unless I was home. She refused to come down and visit – her claim was, she couldn’t get anyone to come with her. I let everything go; the house, and myself. I spent most of my days in bed worrying about the future. On Sundays I would manage to go out and get the paper and pour through the Classifieds for jobs. I sent out hundreds of resumes that went unanswered. I thought that losing Felix was the lowest point of my life. I was at rock bottom. In those black months of unemployment, I found that the bottom wasn’t the lowest place you could wind up, the bottom could be pulled out from under you as well. I wanted to die but was too afraid to complete it. Only my daily talks with John gave me hope, and even he said that hope was the worst thing ever invented by man, because it gave a person a false sense of control.

 

One year after Felix’s murder, my mother chided and cajoled me into coming to Albany for the family dinner on Thanksgiving. Out of loneliness and a need for family I agreed. My mother was alarmed when she saw me and since I was still unemployed, she began again to badger me into moving back to Albany. I was at such a place of despair and desperation that I was ready to accept her offer. Until, while I was lying in bed, I overheard my mother talking to my older sister Millie. My mother was explaining to Millie how wonderful it was going to be when I moved back. “He’ll live in the basement, so he can come and go at night, so I don’t have to know what he's doing. During the days, we will be able to do all the things Frank (my stepfather) won’t do with me. We’ll go to museums, and flea markets. We’ll take day trips together. It will be so much fun. And I’ll be so glad to have him back so that I’ll have someone to talk to!” My sister was agreeing with all these plans.” I listened to this in the darkness of my borrowed bed, aghast and shocked at how my life was being planned. I had a surge of resentment and an awakening of my inner conviction. I thought to myself as I lay there, that I had not gone to college to get my undergraduate and graduate degrees; I had not built a life with Felix in another state as an independent couple; I had not gone though this year of demoralizing and dehumanizing job searches; I had not gone through all of this heartache, depression and grief, and lived through the murder of someone I loved, to become my mother’s girlfriend. I determined then and there to return to Philadelphia and somehow build my own independent, gay life on my own terms.

 

18. Epilogue – Reaching Acceptance

 

Something switched after seven months of medication when my doctor informed me that the status of my prostate cancer was now “undetectable.” I could not grasp the relevance of that designation. After all the pain I suffered for all those months. After losing the will to eat, losing thirty pounds, and nearly dying. After losing my ability to walk because each step was a torture, and then slowly and determinedly gaining that ability back. After living through and being treated for a false diagnosis, only to find out that cancer had been the problem all along. Then there was the treatment of that cancer, which the emasculating side effects deprived me of my masculinity and my identity as a gay man. After all that, I was given a status of “undetectable.“ I didn’t want the cancer to be silent but present, I wanted it gone. What I wanted and irrationally expected, was to be cured.

 

With the idea that I was holding within my body this time bomb; this sneaky, hiding entity that could burst out from its dark place and kill me slowly and in the most painful way imaginable, I became heightened to my mortality. From this place of being uncured and feeling my life as something finite and fragile, I began to reassess my past. I began to question all the choices I had made since I was an adolescent and finding them wanting. My mind began reeling backward every night as I lay in bed, sleepless from these memories that kept haunting me. I drove my husband Raymond to despair by keeping him awake with my inconsolable crying. I was bereft and tormented by my choices.

 

Adjacent to my psychological turmoil we began watching Fellow Travelers, a program both my husband Raymond and I had been anticipating since we had read about its production about a year prior. As I watched Tim and Hawk’s struggle against the odds of their emotional connection, yet somehow despite the odds of the forces against them still managed to find fulfillment as gay men through their attraction and sexuality. I could not help but see a corollary and a connection between me and my first partner Felix. Fellow Travelers brought all those memories back from that place I had sent them, so far away neither I nor anyone would ever notice again. I had moved on in my life. I had rebuilt it from the cinders and rubble of those terrible days of loss and destruction. I had a new husband and a career we had built together. Life was good now. But Fellow Travelers sought out that far hiding place and pushed it under my nose to relive it all again. While Tim and Hawk’s story did not precisely parallel mine there were enough similarities that I relived the love, the struggle, and the pain of Felix’s murder. I broke the long understanding I had with Raymond and began incessantly talking and scrutinizing my relationship with Felix. It became so intense and uncomfortable that he finally suggested that I needed to get counseling, because he was no longer capable of helping me through this manic period of self-doubt and moral reassessment.

 

Therapy helped me to understand this one simple idea, for the metastasized prostate cancer I had, there was no cure. “Undetectable” was the best outcome I could hope for. It was actually remarkable that I had come to this state of health as quickly as I did. My oncologist has told me that given my present state of health and keeping my cancer under control with the treatments available, I could expect to live out a normal life span. This is not what I would have chosen for my life. I did not expect to have a condition that I needed to coddle for my remaining years. But I have come to accept it. In that acceptance I developed a peace with this diabolical presence. I am learning to appease it and it is largely leaving me alone.

 

For the men of Fellow Travelers, your unexpected reawakening of my dormant past I must give you the credit of making me face my fears of mortality and for coming to terms with the choices I’ve made. I have a new understanding that cannot change the past. However I chose, those choices have brought me here to this place of happiness and contentment. My life is full in ways my 16-year-old self could never have imagined. As difficult as it is to come to terms with, Felix for all his love and commitment could only bring me so far. It became up to me to finish what he could only start. To find myself and my strength in the darkness. To find the small spark of light that I could focus on that would be a guide to another place of fulfillment and love.

 

This is dedicated to Kinsey Baker, my friend. Died of AIDS 1995.

He fed me when I needed feeding.


And to F. S. my friend. He gave me hope he didn’t believe in.


Arthur Bruso © 2024


Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect individual privacy.

Fellow Travelers image courtesy of Paramount.




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