Like Candy

by Rob Colgate

                    For Tim Dlugos / After “G-9”



Upon learning that your former home
in New Haven is still standing
within running distance, I decide
to run there on my day off.
I jog calmly, rhythmically, my small legs
extending from the tiny shorts
that I got to try to draw boys’ attention
at the gym. Kieran had left early
that morning, gathering his things
as I brushed my teeth and laid out clothes
for my shift later at the lab. Have fun
looking at brains all day
and a kiss 
before leaving. Last week he had asked me
if I would get on PrEP. Just to be sure,
he murmured into my neck as we fell
asleep. I told him I was worried it would
interfere with my other meds but
would check with my doctor. Would it be 
the worst thing if you went a little crazy again 
just to fuck me good?
He smiled, a joke only he
could pull off, the eyes-closed grin, his groggy
fingers tapping out bassoon melodies
on my bare hip. The doctor told me
there were no serious interactions between
Descovy and Seroquel, so I went straight
to the Walgreens on York and picked up
my prescription. Preexposure prophylaxis.
Tim, they are handing these pills out like candy.
Here, look, see the blue ridges, the smooth
rectangles, how they dissolve like stigmata
and your hands are finally clean. But
they were never dirty, just eager, and joyful,
and young. A clean light flushes across
the side of East Rock in the distance
as I run by the Divinity School. I took
a seminar there with Christian, on poetry
and faith. I wish I could say
I felt your spirit moving through
the old hallways, but I am still looking
for you. I am running up Prospect Street
until I find you. I still have the course packet
rom the class, and there is an entire section
of just poems about joy. Can I read it to you?
I promise I will when I get to you. For now
I keep running, trying to remember the way
through your old neighborhood. When I can
no longer respond with words, I run.
Kieran always tells the story of just before
we met, when we had only been chatting
over Facebook. The afternoon before
our first date (a walk up Science Hill
to sit on the swing outside the observatory)
I was jogging through Cross Campus
and almost crashed into him. You were going
too fast for me to move out of the way
or recognize you, but I was just happy
to have a cute boy knock me over,
he laughs.
It is always stories like this, nostalgia
for a time when love and anxiety didn't weave
so tightly together. And then I remember
that I am still living that life, that last year’s
Rob is inside me somewhere.
With every house I pass, I want to gather in me
a memory of wonder, as if
a sphere of glowing light, that I can place
on your doorstep when I get there.
This house is for when Jeff and I
lost our jackets at Industry and walked
twenty blocks in tank tops, hugging
each other, rubbing our arms up
and down while we laughed
at the slush getting in our sneakers.
This house is for last summer’s Klonopin
incident when Clay pulled my unconscious body
up off the gravel in the alley outside Roscoe’s
and drunkenly tried to wake me up
by holding poppers under my nose
like smelling salts. And this house is for you,
Tim, when Colin introduced us before
we all got on that flight to Minneapolis,
and you had to watch me sob across the aisle
the whole time because I could not believe
Danny would just leave me like that. Or at least
that is how it felt to me, as if you were 
really there. You died in 1990, 22 years before
they approved PrEP. I want to tilt your head
back as you lay in G-9 and help you swallow
one down, even though I know it won’t help,
you are already too sick, my aid means nothing.
But Tim, you can even get a coupon online
for a zero-dollar copay. You don't even need
insurance. We are all on it. Graham always
makes a show of taking his with a tequila soda
while we are at Woads. This is gay culture!
shouted over a tangle of limbs and Madonna.
Gay people will always love each other
like Death is dancing with us. We will
get him kicked out of the bar then go
eat bodega sandwiches in the park. Every
light-up floor flashes with
the special kind of cherishing
that comes with the end of a plague.
And yes, the plague is not really
over. But we even have another
medicine now for those already
positive. It makes the viral load
undetectable, and therefore
untransmittable, the ways we love
each other uncompromising,
the stigma unraveling, our bodies
undulating in the crowd until our love
is understood as a river that glows
every morning, that still flows
with the same strength as before.
Michael and Alan have been together
for eleven years now. I saw them dancing
in Boston with my aunt. Me and Matty
go to Partners on a weeknight, our bodies
warm with whiskey, never weak with thin
blood. On some weekends, they even bring
New York City drag queens into town
for cabaret numbers at 168 York Street
Cafe. I’ll save a seat for you. I still call Sachin
faking a breakdown every time
he has a bad date. Kevin still finds
a reason to take his shirt off at every
formal party. In the mornings, Kieran still
slips pennies into my shoes, so you have 
a lucky run
. And the still light still enters my room
at dawn. It is strange how quickly my legs
wake up, how normal the heat in my muscles
begins to feel. I am making a list of all the boys
I have ever loved and all the ones I know
who have died from the virus. Both lists
are for you. There is no second list.
The list of boys on PrEP is growing
every day. Outside my apartment in Boystown
last summer, the crosswalk was painted
with rainbow stripes that I could almost feel
staying with my body as I passed over them
on my morning run, ribbons of color
wrapping around my legs like bands
of light. That was the summer Kieran
and I tried going open, to manage
the long distance
. That ended quickly, with me
sobbing to him over the phone after I had
drunkenly invited a neighbor over
and had to kick him out as soon as his hand
grazed against my collarbone. Today, Kieran
and I worry less about missing out
on debauchery. You stop wanting to go
to sex parties with your boyfriend once
the two of you have spent three days together
in the hospital, after some laced coke induced
a more-intense-than-usual psychotic episode. Kieran,
don't just sit here with me, go to class, hurry, leave
me, I'm gonna be crazy forever then die.

He ate dining hall mac and cheese
and vending machine duplex cookies for every
meal, just so he didn't have to leave
the hospital between visiting hours.
The quiet devastation of realizing
that to your lover, you were never
a monster, never a burden for being
sick. Every day we further loosen the leather
harness that squeezes gay love and death
together. There are no monsters chasing me
on this run, Tim, just square after square
of sidewalk, elm after elm, and look—
here I am, outside your old house, and suddenly
I want Kieran to be here too, to hold onto,
to take his hand and run it up the banister.
The house is beautiful. The blue paint is worn,
chipping, the same sky blue as the free
pills, as the sunny reality that I ran here
to tell you about. The sides of the house
are streaked with thin vertical stripes
of rain rot, just like the pinstripe curtains
in your hospital room, the drapes
and sheets at the P-town guest house.
I have never been there, but I will get
to go— maybe next summer, with Kieran,
I hope, if we are still together,
not just if he is still alive, because
he will be, Tim, we both will be.
And I will keep running for you.
I will stay by the side of my gay
friends and lovers to anthologize
each colored light, toothy grin,
messy desire. I will put it all in a book
for you, and on the powder blue cover
I will cross out G-9 and etch in
GSI 225, shape it like a small
oblong capsule so that it is like
you are holding the cure itself in your hands
when you are reading this poem,
this poem about joy.
And here is our graceful
exposure, and here is the love persistent,
as I kneel, sobbing, like I always do,
outside your house, where we are
supposed to be, the morning light
wild on my skin as it breaks, over
and over again, each mote of glow
lifting me, cell by cell—
I am glowing. Your whole house
is glowing. It is 6am, Tim,
and I am running to you.



This poem first appeared in Tammy’s 11th issue.

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