QAZ 3-16-2011

A Casual Encounter between Richard Berkowitz and Mz HIV – A Playlet

The two come onto the stage laughing, holding hands, drunk….Ms HIV stands up against a wall flirtatiously

“So this is your place huh?  There is something familiar about it”

“Want a drink?”

“Sure….so what is that you say you did?”

“I used to be a S&M hustler” (takes off shirt)

“Well, I love a man in a uniform”

They make out

“Here’s your drink…why don’t you have a seat”

“So, what is the plan tonight, sailor?”

“close your eyes”

Richard ties Ms HIV up in the chair

“Well, had I known this was the direction the night was going to take I would have worn my leather knee pads”

RB stands by and lights a cigarette.

An awkward minute passes…Ms HIV opens her eyes.

“I’m not going to fuck you”

More awkward silence

“So…”

“You are here to answer some questions”

(creeped out but strong) “Well then hurry up, lets play jeopardy or whatever so I can get back to the bar.”

“So Ms HIV, is that your real name?”

“No, it’s Tallulah Bankhead, darling”

“Don’t be funny”

“I’m not…I was actually the real patient zero, Gaeten just made a better poster child.  After all, I don’t really fit into any of the 4 H’s…homos, heroin users, haitans, hemophilliacs….I guess they could have added Hollywood harlots…”

“So he didn’t spread it coast to coast of the north America’s after having sexual relations with the a member of the simian family in Africa?”

“Christ, no, sugar.  After I became introduced to cocaine I had a bit of a wicked spell.   I prefer the…female kind…but once in a while I’m prone to go the other way.  Anyway, I was broke and cinema was taking the place of broadway, so I let the elite know that I was open to…negotiating favors with gentlemen.  It was the MacCarthy years and I guess as the coquettish temptress I am, the upper echelons thought I might be the one to turn J. Edgar Hoover into a pussy worshipping hound instead of a flamer like you honey.

“Stick to the point”

“It didn’t work.  When I threatened to go to the press, well he had his government cronies shoot me up with a biological weapon that they were saving for global warfare.  Say that’s not what you are planning to do is it?   I really can’t deal with another opportunistic infection this week.”

(no answer)

“Well, of course I didn’t really know what was happening.  And then well..maybe you heard about my scandal with the Eton school boys – my ‘indecent and unnatural practices’ – well school boys will be boys and I guess that was the flame the sparked the epidemic.  Really, they planned it quite well, they knew I had a proclivity for…homosexuals.

“So it was a government plot?”

“Of course, I mean they were finding fudgepackers in every sect of society.  AIDS was a great way to root them all out and be rid of them once and for all.”

“Wait one second.  This is what I want to know….you say that you were the the harbinger of the AIDS crisis, but there is no proof that HIV and AIDS are related.”

“Oh really, then what is it all about then darling?”

“Lifestyle.”

“Lifestyle?”

“Yes, lifestyle.”

“Well I may have had an ‘alternative lifestyle’.  But I’m not sure I follow…”

“The HIV virus has never been proven to be harmful…”

“But you have had opportunistic infections”

“Yes”

“And you are HIV positive”

“Yes.  But, there has to be something more”

“Like?”

“Drugs, and sex.  The 70’s, I mean – I don’t think you were around at that time, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise.  We were taking it too far.  I was fucking three clients a day and then going to bathhouses at night.  I would lay there, the door to my room open…a line of coke on one side, poppers on the other.  Giant horses of men would stride through that door and I would lay my head against their bicep as they fucked me, deep and raw

“Oh do go on…”

“It was too much.  The fucking and the drugs, we weren’t taking care of ourselves.  We had a glorious decade and then every faggot I knew died.”

“Oh Christ, darling….nobody died because of sex, they died because of a virus.  Certainly the drugs and sex passed it around but there is nothing intrinsic about homosexual copulation that produces widespread death.  If poppers caused AIDS, well Christine Maggiori’s children must have had some interesting playground activities.

“How are you so sure it’s HIV?  You’re alive”

“Fuck, no.  Honey, I died in 1965, of pneumonia.  Think of me as your ghost of sexual history past.   And who is sure of anything?  But since anti-retrovirals came out AIDS looks different. I’ve haunted Castro for years.  I saw the decades spin by…beefcakes in cut off shorts to young men walking with eyepatches and canes.  Skinny as can be…(trails off sadly)  you don’t see that any longer.  Now the most visible infection is prada and misogyny.  People didn’t stop having sex or doing drugs, if anti-retrovirals work it stands to reason it’s a retrovirus.”

“But I don’t want it to be…”

“Why?”

“Because it’s too random, too unpredictable.  Too final.  Behavior is changeable.  You can separate yourself from it, go down a different path… it’s too much to think of a virus that once you have it, that’s it…you’ll probably die unless at some point you sign up to take meds for the rest of your life.”

“It’s terrible.”

“And it’s so convenient, drug companies…are making billions and billions of dollars.  Now, they’ll be making even more.  New CDC guidelines – test everyone in the US and put them on ARV’s immediately.  They even are putting negative people on meds to keep them from seroconverting.  It’s so massive and money making, I can’t trust that it’s real.  That the death of my generation is now a multimillion dollar industry.”

“It is perfect.  A way to keep some people of color and faggots poor, and the rest desperately trying to distance themselves from any taint of sexual indiscretion.  HIV was very useful for the United States:  It scared people back into monogamy, it disrupted the power of the gay liberation movement, and now it is an industry of it’s own and a way to control other countries.  But pretending it’s not real isn’t going to make any of that not true.  Gays can’t blame the government for their callousness to their own, for their buying into AIDS consumerism all the while trying to ignore and avoid the poz people around them.  And if you act as if it’s a behavior not a virus, you’re adding more nails to the coffin of queer solidarity. “

RB starts crying and unties Tallulah

They hold hands for a moment in silence

‘I don’t want to be so angry, so terrified that we’ll be rounded up and quarantined, forced onto treatment, sent to jail for fucking.  Exist as a cause but not a people, as a funding source without having a voice.’

‘I know…”

They walk off together.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/21710674″>LEAGUE OF BURNT CHILDREN [DOES] THE BIBLE: Part 2: Cyd Nova, Jose Jiminez</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user4156514″>BJ DINI</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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