I needed some high-fashion design work done for a special marketing project. I asked some associates for suggestions, and one of them suggested Brian. He was brilliant, as I later learned. For years he had been the fashion designer for a huge international chain of women’s fashions. I was surprised that he agreed to accept my small assignment from my small company.
“What’s it matter anyway,” he said. I didn’t know what he meant until later. He brought in a brilliantly original design for my project, and had even created a prototype for presentation. The amount of money he wanted for this gorgeous piece of work was next to nothing compared to his worth. Talking with him about the project, he steered the conversation around to life and what we put into it and get out of it.
I realized he was dying. He had AIDS. I spoke to him about his glamorous life, his trips to Paris, Rome, New York and Los Angeles. He shrugged them off. He lamented that all his friends and associates shunned him since word of his infection got out. I then developed an idea – I would befriend him and help him to get experiences that had not been a part of his life.
He had me to his apartment for dinner. I might have had hidden concerns about dining with him, but they were well hidden. Of course, the meal was fabulous. The entire apartment was fabulous, in impeccable good taste. Art was everywhere, and the central object was a statue carved in wood of a life sized boy’s body from thighs to throat. The shape and glossy finish were fabulous, and naturally the statue’s behind was perfect.
I took Brian out to my hobby farm for a weekend. I got him to groom a horse, saddle it and put on all the tack, get onto it and take a slow ride through the forest. New sights, sounds and fragrances were pouring into his senses like an avalanche.
A good old country breakfast the next morning consisted of thickly cut Canadian back bacon and fresh laid eggs with home baked whole grain bread. After a rest on the back deck to absorb the sumptuous meal, I took Brian into the garden. I got him to dig around in the dirt and to plant a few things. One butternut sapling was specially placed where I asked him to plant it. The tree is still there. It’s the Brian tree.
A few months later Brian was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital. He phoned me from there one day and requested some local specialty items for lunch. I went to The Main restaurant on St. Laurent Avenue and bought smoked meat sandwiches, fresh cut French fries and coleslaw.
In his hospital room, I saw Brian do things I never thought he would do. I should mention that he was the kind of gay guy that is impeccable at all times, with gentle, effeminate behaviour. However, he ate his lunch by picking up fingers full of coleslaw and stuffing them into his mouth. He plunged his long, slender fingers into the meat within the sandwich and pulled it out and put it in his mouth, mustard all over his fingers, and didn’t care. Why care? Death is in the corridor, so to speak.
At one point, sitting on the edge of his bed, he took that plastic thing that one is supposed to pee into. He put the container beside his penis and didn’t realize that he peed on the floor. A moment later, a young woman entered the room. I had known for some time that Brian had been adopted.
“This is my sister,” he said with a gesture toward the woman. I told her to watch out for the pee on the floor and I left after my lunch with Brian. I thought that his sister probably assumed I was a gay ex-lover and I didn’t care. It doesn’t matter.
He died later that afternoon. His funeral was populated by the many fashion retailers for whom he’d executed designs. None of his personal friends attended.