Life had always offered subtle surprises in introspection when least expecting it. Travelling to the keys with a friend, I had scouted the finish line to his marathon for a pickup in Higgs Beach @ Key West, Florida. Walking around in the heat, I had encountered a flood of people supporting participants around the Keys 100 Ultramarathon. One of the first things that had caught my eye, signage for an African cemetery at Higgs Beach with mural map of the surrounding nautical area. Moving further up the sidewalk, I had come across the granite Key West AIDS Memorial and a pier going out to the sea. There I had stood for few moments thinking of a span of 20 years of life.
My thoughts had started out with a memory of participating in an AIDS vigil in 1995. From there, I had reflected on the experience of coming out against the backdrop of dark times in the LGBT community. Since then I had known friends to test HIV positive and die of AIDS. Like the etching on this granite memorial, the echoes of this disease and stigmas of being homosexual were like an unresolved musical phrase by the collective consciousness of this minority today. This was a direct contrast to the environment which I had encountered at age 22 searching for my identity. Back then, love and sex were associated with societal ostracization and death. There was a lack of happy glee in that notion; however, I had marched forward in self-realization peeling back the layers of ego. The path forward was framed through looking-glass of affection for my best friend in college. It was a necessary yet, slow evolution in difference to years of assertions to being straight. Perhaps this was why the quotes from Robert Frost and Alfred Tenyson resonate so well with me in this construct.
Walking out to the nearby pier on this Saturday, I had felt a calm reassurance of knowing exactly who I am. Listening to Peter’s Gabriel’s soundtrack to the “Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ,” gone were the days of fretting over the fear of friends, family and God knowing who I am too. These many leaps of faith intellectually and physically had defined my person on a road less traveled.
Key West AIDS Memorial is located at White Street @ Key West, Florida 33040