Writer and food editor Tucker Shaw was inspired by a conversation he overheard on the train to share his experience losing loved ones to AIDs and HIV.
The series of tweets is heartbreaking, moving, and inspiring.
In a gorgeous piece of writing, Shaw posted nearly two dozen tweets describing losing friends and lovers to HIV. The thread was triggered by the conversation Shaw overheard on a train. Two young men were discussing HIV, with one saying it "galvanized the gay community" and "paved the way to make things better, in the long run."
Too many remember that the "long run" wasn't that long ago.
I overheard a young man on the train on the way home today, talking to another young man. Holding hands. In college… https://t.co/JmYPx8aH5a— Tucker Shaw (@Tucker Shaw)1537228867.0
In its entirety the thread reads:
I overheard a young man on the train on the way home today, talking to another young man. Holding hands.
In college, I guessed. About that age anyway. Much younger than I am.He was talking about AIDS, in a scholarly way. About how it had galvanized the gay community. How it had spurred change. Paved the way to make things better, in the long run.
The long run.
Maybe he's right. I don't know. It's not the first time I've heard the theory. He spoke with clarity and with confidence. Youthful, full of conviction. But.Remember how terrible it was, not that long ago, during the worst times. How many beautiful friends died. One after the other. Brutally. Restlessly. Brittle and damp. In cold rooms with hot lights. Remember?
Some nights, you'd sneak in to that hospital downtown after visiting hours, just to see who was around. It wasn't hard.You'd bring a boom box. Fresh gossip. Trashy magazines and cheap paperbacks. Hash brownies. Anything. Nothing.You'd get kicked out, but you'd sneak back in. Kicked out again. Back in again. Sometimes you'd recognize a friend. Sometimes you wouldn't.
Other nights, you'd go out to dance and drink. A different distraction. You'd see a face in the dark, in the back of the bar. Is it you? Old friend! No. Not him. Just a ghost.At work, you'd find an umbrella, one you'd borrowed a few rainstorms ago from a coworker. I should return it, you'd think. No. No need. He's gone. It's yours now.Season after season. Year after year.
One day you'd get lucky and meet someone lovely. You'd feel happy, optimistic. You'd make plans.Together, you'd keep a list of names in a notebook you bought for thirty cents in Chinatown so you could remember who was still here and who wasn't, because it was so easy to forget. But there were so many names to write down. Too many names. Names you didn't want to write down. When he finally had to go too, you got rid of the notebook. No more names.
Your friends would come over with takeout and wine and you'd see how hard they tried not to ask when he was coming home because they knew he wasn't coming home. No one came home. You'd turn 24. When he'd been gone long enough and it was time to get rid of his stuff, they'd say so. It's time. And you'd do it, you'd give away the shirts, sweaters, jackets. Everything. Except those shoes. You remember the ones. He loved those shoes, you'd say. We loved those shoes. I'll keep those shoes under the bed.
You'd move to a new neighborhood. You'd unpack the first night, take a shower, make the bed because it'd be bedtime. You'd think of the shoes. For the first time, you'd put them on. Look at those shoes. What great shoes.
Air. You'd need air. You'd walk outside in the shoes, just to the stoop. You'd sit. A breeze. A neighbor steps past. "Great shoes," she'd say. But the shoes are too big for you.You'd sit for a while, maybe an hour, maybe more. Then you'd unlace the shoes, set them by the trash on the curb. You'd go back upstairs in your socks. The phone is ringing. More news.
The long run. Wasn't that long ago.
His words hit readers like a punch to the gut.
@tucker_shaw I miss my brother. He died 25 years ago along with all of his sweet friends. The long run.— rachel (@rachel)1537331719.0
@smyth_rach @tucker_shaw I miss my brother too. 23 years ago— alexandria ross (@alexandria ross)1537332110.0
@alexandriaross @smyth_rach @tucker_shaw i lost my brother George in 1986. he was the best.— Robert Bihlmayer (@Robert Bihlmayer)1537332569.0
@bbihlmayer @alexandriaross @smyth_rach @tucker_shaw my brother Alfred in 1989.— Reed Sturtevant (@Reed Sturtevant)1537334731.0
@reedsturtevant @bbihlmayer @alexandriaross @smyth_rach @tucker_shaw my uncle in 1988—it came through a tainted pla… https://t.co/8RTVvKBVRk— Kevin Keelty Gartland (@Kevin Keelty Gartland)1537335478.0
@tucker_shaw When I was I guess 14, Mom told me my uncle John had HIV. My big, strong uncle John - we have pictures… https://t.co/fsyv3wrI22— Scott Wrightson (@Scott Wrightson)1537336073.0
Everyone pretty much agreed with this.
@tucker_shaw They should create a Pulitzer for tweeting and give it straight to you. Amazing.— Phil Quin (@Phil Quin)1537328474.0
And the names kept coming.
@cairdin @philquin @tucker_shaw Definitely Worth Of A Pulitzer. I Lost My Cousin Toby. He Used To Raid My Wardrobe… https://t.co/pMNPnX14u8— Pamela Millsaps (@Pamela Millsaps)1537336526.0
@pms221969 @cairdin @philquin @tucker_shaw I lost my dear friend Michael. Years later I saw the Aids quilt & began… https://t.co/Cr0RfEa0i2— LAMusing (@LAMusing)1537346228.0
@tucker_shaw I grew up in San Francisco and hung out every day in the Castro. By the time I turned 18 in 1991, ever… https://t.co/TGEN9vFnqq— Fluffy Puppy Mojo (@Fluffy Puppy Mojo)1537333706.0
@tucker_shaw I stopped counting at thirty. Many friends had longer lists but thirty was where I drew the line. Mo… https://t.co/AavXYCaNAu— Regan Haines (@Regan Haines)1537334746.0
@tucker_shaw When I was 10 we went to San Francisco. At the museum was a withered man, covered in sores, attached t… https://t.co/vB7nNks6TG— Marie Bouvier (@Marie Bouvier)1537329945.0
@tucker_shaw I remember when young men first began dying. Families would say “he had cancer” but there was always… https://t.co/afxAVcfV0l— Sandra Kelly (@Sandra Kelly)1537332339.0
@tucker_shaw It seems like yesterday when my cousin was dying in a San Francisco hospital. They told us not to touc… https://t.co/TCGm7a7kVn— Tamiwynot 🖕💩🤡🦖🤪👖 (@Tamiwynot 🖕💩🤡🦖🤪👖)1537334498.0
And some saw hope for the future.
@tucker_shaw I’ve been a scientist studying HIV for 24 years. Every HIV scientist I know- we all think one thing -… https://t.co/T6kk32MW7K— breaking_babs (@breaking_babs)1537354151.0
@tucker_shaw @OkaraCat As a young LGBT kid I'm both glad & kinda sad to be living in a time where for the most part… https://t.co/m0SdD9knsa— -Anthony- (@-Anthony-)1537335743.0
We will never forget.