Like a Brother
“Love hopes all things, endures all things, bears all things, and believes all things, LOVE never fails. Remember those words? Now how can you sit there and explain to your own conscious why you won't go to see Devon? You two use to be like white on rice Kevin!”
I listened, but didn’t really hear what my cousin Teresa was trying to say, all I knew was one thing, the guy I thought was my twin, that I had grown up with, told all my secrets to, jive-talked about girls with from Junior High School on up, and loved like a brother, was a fairy. A homosexual faggot, and it sickened me.
I had found out about Devon by mistake, going up to Virginia State to hang out one weekend, unannounced. Throughout the years we had done everything together, or so I thought, but after high school we had our first separation when for some reason he decided against Temple U in Philly, and had chosen to go to VSU instead. We both had decided on Temple at first, after going on some college tours together, and seeing all the sweet honies that Temple had to offer, Mack Valley Devon had called it. I swear the nigga had to be frontin’ even then. You just don’t get HIV over night, or then again maybe you did, but Devon hadn’t. He was no longer just HIV, in fact he had waited until he had full-blown AIDS before telling any of his family members that he was even gay. It was just the most unbelievable shit I had ever been confronted with, how you can think you know somebody, and yet not really know them at all…
I looked over at Teresa, feeling the same pain, disgust wash over me that I always felt whenever the subject of Devon came up. “Yea you’re right, we USE to be like white on rice, that was before I found out that he was an anal guru, muthafuckin’ Hershey chocolate punk ass!”
“You need to shut up Kevin!” Tears of anger filled Teresa’s eyes. She and Devon had been close too, not as close as he and I had been, but they had known each other for just as long, and even use to date for a short while.
“I don’t care what he has, right now he needs those who love him, and everybody has turned against him. His family, his college friends, he has nobody now, and YOU are suppose to be a friend, it is your rejection that hurts him the most, don’t you realize that?”
My mind flung back two years, to the day I walked into his room, trying to surprise him, and instead got a surprise of my own. I had knocked on his door lightly, then proceeded to open it and go right in. Why he had left it unlocked I still can’t understand to this day. What I had seen when I walked into that room was so shocking, I would of rather someone had slapped me upside the head with a metal pipe. There stood Devon, tall, old Mack daddy, and former linebacker from our high school days Devon, with his arms wrapped around another dude, tonguing like this dude was a fuckin’ Halle Berry or something. I was shocked, sick, non-believing what was before my very eyes. I walked away, not giving him even a moment to explain. What I had witnessed explained it all too well. For a while I kept getting emails and snail mail from him, he trying to tell me I should understand, that his sexual orientation had nothing to do with our friendship, that he had been afraid to tell me the truth for fear that I would cut him off just like I was in fact doing. And begging me to meet up with him, just to talk it out he said. I wanted nothing to do with him, nothing to do with a liar, and the unnatural shit he had been up to at Virginia State.
I didn’t hear from him anymore for over a year, we both graduated from our prospective universities, both started job hunting and found our gigs, and he too moved back to Brooklyn where we were from, but still I had no desire to see him. Until the day he showed up at my office, with even more shocking news.
“Man what did you come here for?” I asked.
“Well that’s a nice hello,” he fanned a laugh. “How have you been Kevin?” he looked at me solemnly. For some reason even his looking at me made me mad. He still didn’t appear gay to me, he didn’t switch when he walked, and he wasn’t effeminate. Wasn’t a pretty boy Ginuwine looking brotha or nothing, nothing that would give away the fact that he swung that way. How in the world?
“I’m cool,” I said in a hurry, busying myself at my desk so as not to look at him. “You still haven’t said what you were here for.”
“I need to talk to you Kevin, do I have to make an appointment just to talk to you? All those years…you were suppose to be my boy you know? This just doesn’t make any sense.”
“Look D, we don’t have anything in common anymore, yeah I was your boy, that is until the big discovery that you had other BOYS, if you get my drift. I don’t swing your way D, and I got a rep to protect, I can’t have people thinking I do. Now if you would excuse me? I got shit to do.” I looked blankly at my computer screen, hoping he would leave after my dismissal speech.
“Kevin, do you realize how long I have been gay?”
I started checking my email.
“For as long as I can remember. No I wasn’t always ACTIVELY so, not until our sophomore year in high school, but there was never a time that I can remember not having these feelings, and I repressed them, and did everything I could to appear quote unquote normal. All because of my fear of reactions just like yours, and my wanting to fit in.” He plopped down in the chair in front of my desk. “The girls, football, all that homeboy talk? It was all part of it Kevin, part of trying to pretend I was somebody that I was not, and I was miserable, you hear me? Miserable!”
As much as I had been trying to block out his words, suddenly I just had to cut in. “You mean to tell me, you gonna sit there and try to explain to ME why you’ve been sexin’ members of you own sex? Why you are sucking dicks? Man ain’t nobody born gay, you damn well chose to do that shit, God didn’t make no mistake with you, your ass just a freak is all, a pervert, so don’t give me that bullshit.”
“Look at you, you more of a freak than I am, pussy hogging every female you see, and you calling ME a freak?”
“At least I’m normal, and at least I’m not fuckin’ MEN. And naw nigga don’t look at me, look at them damn Boy George looking characters you be doing. I still can’t believe you was kissing that faggot muthafucker.”
Devon’s eyes lit up, squaring off with mine. “That faggot muthafucker’s name is Michael, and he’s a decent person, something you wouldn’t know anything about. And don’t worry about me looking at you Kevin. Believe me you are not my type.”
I saw red. “Get the fuck outta my office!”
“Don’t worry I’m going,” Devon said, grabbing his keys quickly. Both of us were glaring at each other. As he headed out the door he turned around suddenly. “There was a real reason for me coming here today Kevin. I’m sick, I have AIDS. I had thought, that as someone who use to be my best friend, you might care to know that.” With those words he walked out, with me not having heard from him since.
I can’t say that he words didn’t have an extreme affect on me, I was scared for him. AIDS…that was bad, really bad, and that Devon was now a statistic in the AIDS pool was unthinkable, almost as unthinking as his being gay. But I still didn’t call him, didn’t try to get in touch, or to fix our broken friendship. I felt betrayed.
“Go see him Kevin, he needs you, and he may not have long, in fact, I KNOW he doesn’t have long, please go see him…” Teresa begged.
A year had past since that office visit when he had told me about his sickness. Now he was REALLY sick. He had obviously gotten the virus in his early teens. The way a lot of people did.
“Ok I’ll go. But just to shut you up, no other reason!” I exclaimed. Teresa sighed in relief as I grabbed my keys and jacket, and headed out the door.
“Give him my love,” she hollered. All I could do as I made my way to the hospital, is try to sort out the overwhelming feelings that were parading my mind.
I walked into his hospital room. He was lying in this tent thing. All hooked up to these machines. When I got closer I could see his face. Devon didn’t look like Devon at all. He had lost tremendous weight, had these dark purple blotches all over his face, and was breathing erratically.
I lost the fight, seeing him like this brought all of the feelings out, the hurt, pain, regrets that I let the breach in our friendship go on for so long. Memories of our youth washed over me, our playing ball together, all the fun times we had had, and now two years had gone by, and my stubbornness and lack of acceptance and understanding had took us to the point where we had lost a connection that only brothers would understand. Fat tears rolled down my cheeks.
“I’m sorry D, so sorry man,” I wiped salty tears away from my mouth. “When you come out of this we’re gonna talk, we're gonna spend time together and fix this. It’s all my fault D, and I really can never express, how sorry I really am. It was pride Devon, you KNOW me, you use to tell me about myself all the time, always that fuckin’ pride!”
Just then the heart monitor he was connected to started going off , bleeping loudly. I jumped up, looking around wildly. The room was suddenly filled with hospital personnel, working hard to bring his heart back to its life beat. I stood outside of his hospital room door, the realization and enormousness of what was happening hitting me square in the face.
Love hopes all things, endures all things, bears all things, believes all things. Love never fails. How true those biblical words were, how humbling. But sometimes, I’m sorries, come far too late…