John was from South Carolina. He called me about a week after I gave him my card and invited me over. We hit it off pretty well physically and continued to see each other for several years. At first he lived just a few blocks away in the upper Haight but eventually moved to another flat off of the Panhandle park. Our relationship was tumultuous to say the least. He did not want a live-in lover and I thought I was okay with that. I ended up spending most of my time at his house anyway but without any of my stuff. In some ways, I felt like I lost my identity during that period. I would only go home for a change of clothes but rarely spent any time there. My relationship with John was unhealthy and in many ways more like an addiction than a healthy relationship.
John was from a generation of Southern Black men that always carried around a little paranoia from their youth in the South. He had participated in the civil rights struggles and would sometimes see racism where there really wasn’t any. If I were asked for two pieces of identification at the bank, I just assumed the bank was protecting my assets. If John were asked for two pieces of identification, he saw it as racism. He could be very sweet but he also carried around a lot of anger.
The first time I went to Manhatten was with John. He was going to go visit friends of his and had made his arrangements and I saw it as an opportunity and pushed my way into his plans. We stayed with his friends and slept on their living room floor and had to be out of the apartment every morning by eight so that his friend, who was an artist of sorts, could work during the day. That was fine with me, as I was more interested in seeing New York than spending time with his friends anyway!
As time dragged on and I lost myself in John and his life, I became increasingly insecure and clingy. I think that I ultimately did want a live in lover and I was never going to attain that with John. I continued to be pathologically shy with his friends in much the same way that I had been at an earlier time with Jim Archiquette. My social phobias raised their ugly head. I was jealous of his time wtih others and unable to join in comfortably with his social life because of my own issues. I became increasingly desperate and depressed and asked John if he would come to couple’s couseling with me to try and work on our relationship. He was bewildered as to why he needed to come to therapy as he was happy with the relationship the way it was and I was the one that had the problem. He had no desire to change himself or accomodate any of my needs. He did come to therapy a couple of times and told the therapist that he wasn’t interested in changing and ultimately John was a “take me as I am” kind of guy, or it was :”leave me alone.”
John was like an addiction for me, though. It was very hard for me to let him go even though I knew I could never have the kind of relationship I wanted with him.
From my journal 6/7/79: I was watching t.v. when suddently the phone rang. I answered, thinking it was probably Stanley. It was John. We had a long talk during which we exchanged a few verbal blows. He told me I was neurotic, miserable and doomed to insincere lovers who would tell me they loved me would treat me like shit. I told him that he was insensitive,self-centered, negative andthat I demand respect.
From my journal 6/12/79: This evening John stopped by. Conversation was superficial but pleasant. We went out to have a beer. I realize that I do have deep feelings for John but I know better than to trust him. Tonight was one of his “sweet” nights.
From my journal 2/8/80: First of all, I am not writing this to convince you of anything. I am stating my feelings. They are not open for argument. When we first went to Jim Weber, I told you that I was there to learn how to make the relationship less painful for me or else I wanted to learn how to end it. I consider our morments with Jim as being some of th emost intimate moments you and I have ever had. They were some of the ost loving moments when I learned more about you than at any other time. I thoughtwe were making great strides toward equality and justice. I caught a glimpse of how much better we could dealwith each other. I am not asking you to come back to see Jim Weber with me. Don’t feel like you need to explain why wou won’t. I will continue to hope that you do at some pointin time but if you don’t, you don’t and I have no controlover your decisions.
I continued in therapy alone, working on my self esteem issues and my “addiction” to John. At some point, he moved to Oakland and it became easier and easier not to see him as often. I had pretty much recovered from the relationship and was moving on when he was diagnosed with a bad heart valve and he reached out to me for support. I went to see him at Stanford Hospital when he had his open heart surgery and was supportive when he came home but did not allow myself to get emotionally wrapped up in him again. We still had some physical relationship now and then but it was more “recreational” than emotional by this point. It was when John was living in Oakland and sometime after his open heart surgery that he found a lesion on his foot and was diagnosed with Kaposi Sarcoma and AIDS.
John and I would continue to be friends with some occasional “benefits” as they say, but I was finally over him emotionally. I was sorry that he was diagnozed with AIDS and it frightened me to some extent as we had always had unprotected sex early in our relationship, although by the time he was diagnosed, when we did have those few “occasions” of abandon, it was always protected. I don’t think the HIV test that would come later had been developed at that time. People were still being diagnosed by symtoms. There were no cures or effective treatments. John kept a good attitude though and continued to be pretty healthy for quite a while after this. Eventually he moved back to the City, I think partly because of his diagnosis and more resources being available in the City. He moved in with some room mates and I would visit once in a while and there were less and less “benefits.”
I met Milton about this time and John faded into the background of my life although we continued to be in touch. We got together around the time my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer or about the time she passed away and he made an insensitive comment that infuriated me because I was already dealing with her dying and didn’t need his insensitivity on top of that. I quit talking to him and would just hear about him from a mutual friend, Junko, who called me one day to say he had died but it was not the AIDS that had killed him. He had suffered chest pain and had gone to see Dr. Isakson, the same doctor I had been seeing on 18th Street since my twenties and died in the waiting room. His heart had given out.