So many names hanging in the dark…

This evening I read a post over at The Word Shark that reminded me of an amazing moment in my life.

Back in the early ’90s, the AIDS Quilt was touring the country, and it was scheduled to stop in Cleveland. I was going to graduate school in Kent, Ohio at the time. My friend Tony and I decided to drive up to Cleveland to see the quilt.

Tony and I in Ohio in the early '90s...

I got the day off from work. Can’t remember if I skipped class, but we had only this one day in our schedule to go see the quilt, and then the quilt would be moving on.

We got there–an indoor basketball stadium–and it was closed. We’d misread the tour schedule. The quilt was inside the building, but the building was locked.

Or almost locked. That is the brilliant thing about my friend Tony. He wasn’t in those days thwarted by locks and closed signs.

The employee entrance was not locked. We walked right in.

This was a stadium. A huge cavernous building. With just us. We made our way to the basketball court. I don’t know if you’ve been in one of these massive buildings, but the ceilings are impossibly high and the walls are so far away, especially if the only light you have are those tiny white light that edge the steps into the stands.

But the Quilt was there. Sections were hanging from some kind of rigging over head and other sections were carefully lined up on the floor. The silence was cathedral-like, and Tony and I–no romance between us–held hands.

Tears may have come to my eyes even if I’d had to see the Quilt with a crowd, but even now all these years later tears come remembering the moment.

At some point, Tony and I let go of each other and walked quietly around the many (too many) sections, until we were across the court from each other, each wiping our eyes, amazed at the beauty and sadness mixed so inexplicably.

Then we heard footsteps.

We froze. A man appeared above in the stands. An employee in a uniform. I couldn’t tell what kind.

He asked us what we were doing. Tony answered for us. Unlike other times he’s been caught where he isn’t supposed to be, he told the truth.

I worried my tissue between my fingers, wondering what it was like to be arrested.

The man stared down at us. He told us he wouldn’t bother us, but that the automatic locks were set. If we weren’t out in 30 minutes, we’d have to spend the night in the building.

He left us alone.

Tony and I met back up in the middle of the floor. We laughed and dried our tears in that half dark surrounded by those quilts.

I felt so lucky. Sad and lucky at the same time.

7 responses to “So many names hanging in the dark…

    • Thank you for that, Karen. The Quilt and what it represents is so important, I’m glad if anything gets people to consider it again. Sometimes it feels as if people have forgotten.

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