The other Queen Elizabeth

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“There was a quality to her AIDS activism that was not only warrior-like but also maternal, and I confessed to her myself that afternoon, that it was as if she were turning to all of us who were HIV positive and saying, as she did to (Montgomery) Clift, in A Place in the Sun, in the cinema’s most famous closeup, ‘Tell Mama…’  She touched my hand and stopped me. She leaned forward. ‘Tell Mama all. ‘ she finished the line for me with the most fervent of whispers.” – Kevin Sessums

 

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It’s Thursday afternoon and The Org is quiet. Too quiet. Charlie and I are sitting at the reception desk for lack of anything more engaging to do. A shelving unit, five layers deep, crouches along the wall across from us. In the momentary lull of the day, Charlie is scowling with the literature collecting dust on the shelves.

Charlie: Does anyone actually take those pamphlets?

Jules: The top two rows do a lot of business, but we haven’t had to refill the bottom three in the nine months I’ve been here.

Charlie: So “Vaginitis and You” isn’t a hot mover?

Jules: Nobody gives a shit about vaginitis.

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The Death of Tulips; Prologue

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Something in me jumped when I saw the ad. Of course, something in me jumped whenever I saw job posting that looked promising, but the thing hopping and bee-bopping around in my stomach this time was a different thing altogether. It wasn’t a job thing, a nine to five, pay the bills thing, it was a hopeful remembrance of wanting to help change the world kind of thing. A little naïve, yes, but belly-jumping things are often naïve and overly optimistic.

You see, nearly four years ago, when I set out to find a non-profit organization to enslave myself to for a nine-month internship, The AIDS Project was one of my top two choices. I’m not really sure, in retrospect, why that was the case. I didn’t know anyone living with AIDS, had never lost anyone to AIDS, and while I knew more than the general public about the virus, thanks to a pair of kick-ass professors, I was still pretty much personally untouched by it. In the end, I opted to do my internship at the women’s center downtown, focusing on survivors of domestic violence and a disease I knew all too well.

But that was then and this was now, two years out of school, two years of working for nothing more than money and for a man I couldn’t respect. Two weeks after being laid off from the job I never wanted. And here, in small type, in a newspaper ad, no less, was the kind of job I meant to find two years ago, at the very place I’d wanted to work four years ago.

And so, that little bit of hope began hopping up and down in my belly…leading me within the space of three weeks, to this place, this cubicle, this desk, this whole terrifying little world I’d never dared to discover until now.