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In the City of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer
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Jul 22, 08

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Read in July, 2008

I should probably give this book four stars, but I can't.

I started volunteering with people living with HIV/AIDS when I got to college. It seemed like the right thing to do. It was a show a gratitude to those who'd come before to make my gay life easier. It was a promise that my generation would learn our lessons; keep ourselves healthy.

In the five years I volunteered, I watched young men grow horribly old and die. I discovered how strong the will to live can be. I learned to smile in the face of death; to pretend it wasn't waiting on the couch to take someone else away. And I learned how to say goodbye to beautiful people who didn't get a chance to fulfill their potential. The specter was always close.

After college, I volunteered elsewhere, and learned different things. That the drugs were getting better. People were dying at a more reasonable rate. That life didn't have to end, and that healthy was an option. And I got to stop saying so many goodbyes. And there was talk of a vaccine; a hope that maybe this would end.

And then it didn't. People are still healthy, the drugs work, and sometimes they don't. People get sick, and sometimes they get better. Sometimes they die and I have to remember to say goodbye.

But it's worse now. Now, those young men (and women) are my friends. I knew them before, and now I have to know them after. Watch the struggle. Count the pills. Know about the medical appointments; the tests. Know the counts and the stats and the treatments and the services and the struggle.

And I still can smile. And offer support and advice. I still know which support groups meet when, and I make referrals to service providers. And I make a mean chicken soup.

But I'm tired, and I don't want to do it anymore. I want it to be over, and it's not. It keeps going on. And every time I read "AIDS" in this book, a tiny part of me wanted to hide and never come back. And that's why I had to give it three stars.

But it really deserved four.
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