When Holding A Photo Was the Closest You Could Get To Touching During the Plague Years

More often than not, I will allow myself to believe that there are no new stories, no new losses that could possibly affect me, when it comes to what I believe were the real horrors of the AIDS epidemic.

The AIDS Memorial Instagram site is a powerful platform for telling so many of these stories, and matter how many, there always seem to be more. The sparse language and paucity of hyperbole drives the grief home even moreso.

 

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“Here. Hold this picture. I tell his younger brother. You can hear him laugh. He wants to know if his brother had AIDS. I know he already knows. He is sixteen. Yes, I say. I am not able to lie about this. I don’t want to. I want to tell everyone here that he died of AIDS. I want to slam the lid of the coffin shut. Not to hide the disease or the death, but to hide the body that is not the man in this picture.

I want to hear people tell stories about him. Like the time he was modeling a pair of platform shoes he designed when he was in the seventh grade and the heels fell apart and he broke both of his ankles. Or the time in college when he and his black lover ran across campus naked with whipped cream and chocolate syrup poured all over their bodies to demonstrate their interracial love. Or the time he came to my college fraternity house dressed like Twiggy.

I can’t stand the quiet. I want them all to hold this picture. I want them all to hear him laugh. I say I will meet them later at the house. I cannot stand the thought of lunch meat and cookies and the quiet murmurs of distant cousins of his who barely knew him. But I will go, so they don’t forget the man I knew.

Look, I say, to the woman who is sitting next to me on the couch as she eats a piece of cake. Hold this picture. You can hear him laugh. You can hear him laugh even if you’ve never heard him laugh before. She is slow to put down her cake and hold the photo. But when she does, she smiles. She can hear him laugh. We both begin to laugh. Me and this stranger with this photograph of him. This is where he lives. Here in this laugh. Here. Go ahead. Hold it.” — by Anthony (Tony) Vito Gramaglia (pictured in both posts) who died of AIDS on May 3, 1995, age 36 #whatisrememberedlives

 

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