Spending Pink Dollars

In the time between 4th of July 1983 and New Year’s Eve 1984, there was a string of events that were not played out by actual scenes, but were decided by the players. Katherine decided to not only print one article in the Times, but to go out with a bang: she paid off some of the staff at NYT to help her publish an entire Sunday edition dedicated to educating people about the ongoing AIDS crisis. The front page headline splashed, “NYT Editor Katherine Stockton Comes Out As Lesbian”. Sinclair Everett also came out publicly, and the infamous interview with him was included in this issue. (He consequently was divorced by his wife Mary, who was awarded custody of their two young children.) There were obituaries and memorials for Simon, Leon, Trevor, Kimberly, and Abner – though oddly, Katherine never was able to find a copy of Abner’s poem that she’d promised to publish. Before Kimberly died, she headed out to San Francisco along with Eli and Dawn for a project photographing people in poverty and those who were sick and dying from AIDS. Sadly, she died before the project was finished – she got sick while on the road and passed away shortly after flying back to New York. Katherine included many of those pictures in the paper as well, along with a long memorial dedicated to her friendship with Kimberly. Included in the memorial was a picture of Katherine holding Cassandra Kimberly, Charlotte’s infant daughter, whose middle name was in honor of her late “Auntie.” Katherine was of course fired from her post at the Times, but she had been expecting it and was prepared. She freelanced a few articles for Out magazine with Nick’s help, as well for an LGBT magazine called The Advocate. When she wasn’t freelancing, she was writing grant proposals for the new Saratoga Center, and was spending most weekends on-site helping out with whatever needed doing. She had far less less money, but far more passion for her work, and she felt more alive than she had in years.

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No Escape From Death

I honestly don’t remember a lot about the morning after of 1983. It’s pretty hazy. I remember the ominous music, and I remember the Agents of Death demanding thirteen names instead of ten this time. I remember giving them three tickets again, especially since I’d been unprotected not only with women, but with men. I remember holding my breath as I listened to Pepper calling out people’s names. More than half of them were people that I knew and had recently interacted with in some way: Evelyn, Pen, Enrique, Mr T, Steven, Ruben, Abner, Trevor, Nick, Walter, Claire, Max… and Kimberly.

I remember my shock when I hear Kimberly’s name called, and my denial. There’s no way she’s going to die, I thought. She’s part of my group, one of my girls. I’m going to go down to the funeral field and she’s going to be fine. I think I really believed that, too… right up until I saw her laying in her coffin.

I remember waiting as the music continued playing, the only sounds in the room sobs and people shuffling about as they hugged and consoled each other. I remember the feeling of suspense as I wait for the Agents to come back and escort us down to the field where we would learn who passed. I remember the feeling of dread as I pause to peek into each coffin. The first one I stop at is Abner’s. I barely knew him, but he was a friend of Santiago’s, and I’d recently chatted with him about the possibility of including one of his poems in the Times alongside Sinclair’s interview.

I fling a flower onto his chest angrily. “Fuck you, Abner. And I’m still going to print your–” my voice cracks, “–stupid poem.”

I know before I even get there. Kimberly is nowhere to be found… she’s in one of these other caskets. I find her just behind Abner’s and look down for a moment, sobbing. I place a flower gently on her unmoving chest. “You fucking moron!” I gasp out between sobs. “I told you to be careful!” I am crying so hard that I can barely get the words out. But… it doesn’t matter.

The Agents call us back to begin the funeral. The Angel of Death stands before us once again. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Trevor.” It’s the same as last year: people hugging and sobbing. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Abner.” Grief, fear, determination, anger, sadness… all are present. “And we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Kimberly.” As tears stream down my face, all of my emotions war for dominance.

I wonder which one is going to win.

Empty Bed, Empty Heart

We are still enjoying the afterglow, lying wrapped in each other’s arms, when Abner walks in. He freezes mid-stride when he sees us. I grin widely and make a peace sign with my fingers, “‘Sup, Abner?” while Santiago bursts into laughter at the shocked look on his face.

He stammers, “I’m sorry… I can come back later, when you’ve finished… commencing.” He turns and is halfway to the door in the amount of time it takes me to open my mouth to speak.

“No, it’s okay,” I assure him, “we’re done.”

“But you’re lesbians. Can’t you… commence… several times?”

“Who says we haven’t?” Santiago challenges him, and then it’s my turn to dissolve into laughter. Abner sits on his cot, seemingly unsure what else to do.

“So, uhhh. You two, huh?” he says awkwardly.

“Yup!” I smile brightly. “So, what’s going on out there?”

We make small talk for a few minutes, Santiago and I snuggled up against each other under a blanket.

Just then, Kimberly bursts in. “What are you guys doing?! Charlotte is crying.”

What?” I exclaim. Both Santiago and I sit up and make a mad scramble for our clothing.

“What happened?” I demand, fastening my bra.

“She ran off,” Kimberly says evasively.

I sigh, slipping my feet into my shoes. Before we leave the cabin, Santiago grabs me and kisses me again. I relax against her, the entire world melting away.

“You guys! Your friend is crying! This is no time for making out!” We break apart guiltily and rush from the cabin to look for Charlotte.

We split up to look. First I check the main lodge, which is almost completely empty. I walk around just to make sure she isn’t hiding in a corner somewhere. Next, I check the bathrooms. “Kimberly?” I call out. It’s silent. No one there, either.

When I peek into the Darkroom I find Kimberly topless–well, “topless” at least in terms of clothing. She’s laying on the floor with Sam straddling her, pinching one nipple while slapping the other breast. I pause in shock. Her words from just a little while ago echo in my head: Your friend is crying! This is no time for making out! Well, this explains why Charlotte is upset. Kimberly catches my eye and grins at me. I shake my head in exasperation and turn around, walking silently back outside to continue my search for Charlotte.

I’m about to head toward the Pillow Room when I spot her across the path, walking with Dawn and… Max, I think his name was? Santiago spies her from across the field as well, and we arrive at the same time.

“Charlotte!” I call out.

She stops and looks at me. “Hey,” she says glumly.

“Are you okay?” I ask. “I heard you were… upset.” I choose my words carefully, glancing at Dawn and Max.

“I’m fine,” she says calmly. A bit too calmly.

“Are you sure?” I press.

“Yes. These two lovely people were about to show me a good time.”

I am taken aback: casual sex is not usually Charlotte’s style. And what the fuck  happened with Kimberly? I exchange a Look with Santiago. “Oh. Umm… okay. You’re sure you’re okay?” She nods. “Okay, well… have a good time, then.” I watch her skeptically as she disappears into her cabin the with two strangers.

I sigh softly. “I hope she’s okay.”

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Santiago says. “She’s probably just blowing off some steam. Lord knows, she could use it.”

“Yeah. Well… I’m going to bed. Are you coming?”

“I’m going to stay up a little while longer,” Santiago says. Oh. My face falls. I know what that means.

“Okay… have fun,” I say, trying to sound cheerful.

“Thanks. See you later,” she says, heading back across the lawn.

I head back to the cabin, feeling strangely empty. The last thing I see before I fall asleep is Santiago’s empty bed.