Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The 5th thing in an increasingly personal saunter down memory lane.

I met Bobby probably the first or second day in college, once I located the persons of mutual interest. Not sports, not books, not chess, but listening to comedy albums such as Firesign Theatre, watching movies, riding bikes, and camping or hiking. He started in my department, Geography and Environmental Engineering, but I'm not sure he finished with the same degree. He took off hitchhiking one summer through Europe and made his way to India before turning around (getting a tape worm on the way).

Other friends in our group would get into varying degrees of trouble. Tom disappeared a few years later, Bruce dropped out only to return for a computer degree almost 10 years later. Only Chuck had the fortitude to stick through a degree in Geology and then go on to a PhD and work for an oil company. I worked for the government, and lost track of Bobby somehow.

Then I moved back from Chicago to Baltimore and started visiting New York, where I discovered Bobby was living in the East Village in the 12th Street walk-up pictured above. He had wrangled a job working on Wall Street, where he met and hung out with the rich, cool crowd. But he often seemed depressed, or "bummed out" as he said. I didn't know how he could be so well off, and not be happy about it.

One night, and of course I will never forget it, and not because I had come back from seeing This is Spinal Tap for the first time, I stopped at Bobby's apartment. He seemed serene, and said "I have AIDS." I was shocked, not realizing until that night that he was gay, not to mention deathly ill. I got to see him a few more times, and he visited me in Baltimore once, before his totally untimely, and unfair death.

We used to joke about being chronologically close, as Bobby's birthday was one day before mine, same year. Only he will always be 29.

To try to cope with the cruelty I saw, I started working at Baltimore HERO, on the phone lines. I spent the next few years, every Wednesday night, helping to pass on what news and hope I could.

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