If you have read my most recent novel Ambiguous, you know that story was based on the experiences of a friend of mine who was struggling with gender identification during a time when it was dangerous to come out as being gay. The novel which follows his real life experience very closely during his three years as an air traffic controller in the Air Force is told from his, Rick’s, point of view in Book I. The other two “books” included in the novel are told from the point of view of two of his air force buddies.
Rick (not his real name) was a young man then, full of life, and unafraid of adventure. He’s retired now, and has shared with me many of his experiences and relationships since his disastrous obsession with his pal Andy who narrates Book II.
After he left the Air Force, Rick married a beautician whom he loved dearly, but he was shattered when their child died soon after birth. Rick’s attraction to men couldn’t be stifled, and as much as his wife tried to understand and be supportive, they finally divorced.
Rick had many relationships through the years, but it was from the last long-term relationship that he contracted HIV. His partner had betrayed him, and did not tell him that he had gotten HIV from one of his occasional partners. Rick didn’t find out until he suddenly became deathly ill with flu-like symptoms. He says, “I knew right away what was happening. We had lost too many friends. I knew what it was.” He confronted his partner, and the two of them went their separate ways. Yet later, when his former partner was dying, Rick helped to care for him.
Rick is an AIDS survivor, and it hasn’t been easy. The AIDS cocktails have had to be changed numerous times and it may need to be done again. He has developed a terrible scabbing skin condition all over his body that, at first, was diagnosed as psoriasis, but nothing has helped to treat it. He is in constant pain and can’t sleep. Tomorrow he will see a new dermatologist who believes that it might be a reaction from two of his medications that are incompatible with each other. A biopsy was sent to a lab, and hopefully they will find out what is really happening and will be able to treat it.
During the many years that I have known Rick, I’ve found that he is intensely compassionate and loyal to the people that he cares about. He is gruff, has very rough edges, does not hold his liquor very well, and former roommates, both gay and straight, are likely to tell you that he is impossible to live with. But you couldn’t ask for a better friend. I sincerely hope he is able to overcome this latest challenge.