A Letter to the Past
I grew up in a ballet studio with one special teacher. He began teaching early, although he swore he loved every minute of it, I knew an injury had ended his promising career. No one gives up their dream of becoming a principal dancer unless forced. Every year I write him a letter, but this time I wanted to share part of it with my lovely readers.
I miss you. I wish that I could write you into life, to hear your voice again, and seek your guidance. You wouldn’t believe how much life has changed in the twenty-three years since you left us. Marriage equality is legal in this country. Do you remember when I was suspended from school for asking why gay couples weren’t allowed to marry? I spent that suspension taking ballet and pilates classes with adults and peeking in on company rehearsals. Thank you for rewarding my endless curiosity. I only wish you and Matthieu had the opportunity to marry.
When you got sick and lost your insurance after reaching the lifetime limit, I never understood how that was legal. It’s not anymore. There are no lifetime maximums for the insured. You can’t be denied insurance coverage for having diseases. I was a little girl then and never knew why the other dancers fled your class when those rumours about your sickness were circulating. HIV and AIDS were interchangeable terms, I didn’t know either. The media filled the airwaves with conservative politicians who said gay people deserved to die. There was always another voice fighting for the sick, shouting for the public to care. I cared before I knew you were sick and afterwards I fought for you in small ways. The medicine that you couldn’t afford is now available to others. Pharmaceutical companies used your disease for profit. I’m still ashamed at how little was done to save your life. The right drugs came too late.
I wish your final moments could have been spent with Matthieu instead of your estranged parents. It haunts me knowing you died alone with parents, who feared touching you. They let in the teenage girl, who adored you since childhood, but they refused to admit the man who shared his life with you. Now there are hospital visitation rights. I wish they had existed then. Matthieu never recovered after he lost you. I don’t know if these rights will survive the next presidency.
Aidan, I’m not hopeful for the future. We’re living in a time where people are burning pride flags, I have vague childhood memories of people yelling: “AIDS was God’s punishment.” It’s impossible to forget the hateful rhetoric that surrounded the AIDS epidemic, I imagine young children will remember the comments they heard demeaning women and people of color, emphasizing “otherness” and now we must live with the consequences. The words remain with you, children forget until they remember again as adults. What they do with those memories will decide who they become, if they embrace those ideals then we will lose our next generation.
I wish you were still here. When I was a little girl auditioning for a role in The Nutcracker, you said some people would look at me and never see a real American. I would always be an outsider in this country. You told me that I’d have to work harder. Sometimes I could hear your voice in my head, leading me somewhere and now I don’t know where to go. You wouldn’t want me to stay in a country that I no longer recognize. I know you’d say go to France or Germany. You never considered the obstacles, just the possibility of living a life without fear…it was what you wanted. Perhaps you only wanted to live. I lost you two days before my birthday and now I celebrate my birth two days after your death. Fate bound us in life and death, I’ll never forget the injustice that you encountered at every turn. You promised to get well but some part of me knew you were dying. I don’t know how to end this letter because our conversation continue in my dreams.