Lately I have had the blues. The holidays always do it to me. I don’t know what it is. When Christmas comes I am fine. When the New Year comes I could care less. It’s another year, big deal. However before Christmas it is always blue to the point where Billie Holiday and I could drink some whiskey. She would be singing. I would be bobbing my head along. I don’t know what it is. Actually I do.
I have been thinking a lot about my friend Roger who passed away two months ago. In my heart I knew he was going to leave this Earth and perhaps his passing would have been a blessing. My friend was ill. It was asthma, a heart condition, Hep C and yes the big old HIV. On top of that he had caught syphilis along the way. Roger did every drug there was aside from weed (he said that made people stupid even though he did crystal meth and heroin). Priding himself in once being one of the biggest pushers in NYC, he sold drugs to Angel Melendez, the dealer and eventual murder victim of Michael Alig. When he walked, he walked the runway with the Revlons nabbing every ball title there. Roger was the real deal. I remember he would call me at two o’clock in the morning just to talk because his meds made it impossible for him to sleep. Once I told him I wished he was making the stuff he told me up. Roger would say, “I don’t lie. I am such a jerkoff I would probably screw it up.” And then he would let out that cackle that would make the fact that he pissed me off by waking me up fade.
Roger wasn’t dumb. He knew he was going to die. Yet he insisted on partying harder than ever. Towards the end I had to distance the friendship because he was getting too crazy. His health was deteriorating yet he kept picking up men in restrooms and online. As a friend, it was upsetting to see someone who was already down kick themselves even more. Roger wasn’t crazy though, he knew he didn’t have much time left so he was going to party it up in any way he could and it was something that I didn’t understand then but do now. One doc wanted him to go to cardiac rehab, but Roger elected to go to Puerto Rico. Although he didn’t live to make it out there, yours truly was invited. For some reason with Roger I always was. Whenever he was in the hospital he would always ask that someone let me know where he was. Roger didn’t trust very many people but for some reason he trusted me. He described us as a fag and his hag. Then we would trade raunchy sex jokes as we checked out guys. OF course Roger would also point out who dealt drugs, was into leather, worked as a high price hooker or was a gay porn star on our walks through Chelsea. When Roger got a huge settlement in a lawsuit involving a car accident, he shamelessly took me out for sushi and even spung for a mani/pedi for yours truly. There were people grabbing at Roger for the money the government gave him and the money he gained in the lawsuit, but he wouldn’t budge for them. Roger did things on his own terms and he had to like you. For some reason he always liked me.
I remember finding out that he died I wasn’t surprised. Roger had been sick. He also had been a God awful patient. One time he called me to visit him in the hospital and he complained that he hated the food and he wanted a pizza. I got him a greasy slice and he ate like a starving African child. Then the doctor came in and said to him, “Your cholesterol levels have shot up.” Roger would have an evil grin on his face and I would give that look as if I had just been used as an illegal pizza connection. The doctor would leave and Roger would say, “How else was I supposed to get dream boat to talk to me?” While I would want to strangle him myself, somehow I couldn’t because I was too busy laughing.
However when I found out Roger died it was after they had buried him. The whole thing came as a shock because well, it was kind of fast. I realize his family had their reasons for keeping a lot of his friends away from the funeral because of the circles Roger had once run in. Those circles led Roger to do drugs, sell drugs, commit credit card fraud, and ultimately become a guest of the state for two years. Roger never made the decisions he did because he was dumb. No, if you spoke to him it was in fact the opposite. He rolled the system and got Gucci. That takes brain power. Roger’s problem was that he was born in the world where there was no place for him yet it was too small for his liking anyway. Sure his family never accepted the gay brother or gay son, but no runway in the world could be big enough for the sparkles this diva threw and if you threw shade at my boy he would put you in a black hole, end of story. Plus there was probably lots Roger was never busted for because unlike many a criminal he knew never to brag. Once his twelve sponsor told him to start sharing. Roger replied, “Hell no. I don’t want to incriminate myself.”
The crazy thing is, I didn’t feel the sense of loss with Roger until recently. The week of his death I was busy filming an indie that I had the lead in and also doing work for a project I pitched not to mention just working a lot period. It seemed a mute point to cry. Somehow Julissa, John,Joey, Jorge, Adira, Amy, Bobby and some of the others were easier to let go of. However I wasn’t nearly as close with them as I was with Roger. Plus many died rather quickly, while Roger wasted away over time. He went from the Queen of the Runway who even went to Paris on his illegal funds to someone reduced to being in hospitals, living with family, and sleeping with a diaper. All because he wouldn’t and couldn’t stop rebelling and running.
They say people are put in our lives for a reason, a season, and a lifetime. I know part of being Roger’s friend sometimes was not choking him sometimes. I know part of being Roger’s friend was seeing him sick. Also, part of being Roger’s friend being able to let go when he died because it was inevitable. I now know the reason for our friendship. Roger was placed in my life as a wakeup call to educate me about a series of yets I had to encounter. We both were attracted to men who were bad for us, particularly the ones that were married, and liked every second of a chaotic romance that could . We were kindred spirits. That’s why it was never a problem for me to elude security at St. Luke’s Roosevelt in order to stay passed visiting hours. We were kindred spirits. And that’s why he always got pissed when I took chances with men who were below me because he knew it would cost me dear. Let me tell you Roger had some choice words for me on several occasions. Too bad he never lived to follow his own advice.
For as painful as it is I think it is time I stop being a bad girl. I had my fun. It is no longer a contest once your friends start dying. In a way it will be weird because it is what I know so well, bad boys and the wrong kind of people. Sometimes part of me still wants to up a girl when she talks about the bad guys in her past, but I know I one up them all by having a prison escapee as well as an assorted collection of other less than desirables. Still in the end what is the prize? My friend got about a billion trips to the hospital and a billion more doctor’s appointments all expenses paid by Medacaid. And for the people who think I am becoming vanilla by not wanting the same degenerates guess what? The April who is vanilla is doing well with her life and has real friends. If that makes me a softie because I want to go somewhere and change to make something out of myself then so be it. Who needs the approval of the hardcore people who’s lives are spent rebelling without a cause and acting like entitled children? Who needs street cred when in the end it just leads to the Land of Bad Decisions, a place that is nothing but hell, a hell that I escaped and have no intention of returning to.
Right now I am sort of parallel parked in the Land of Feelings and fucking hate the scenery. It’s what an old blog reader of mine used to call it. She told me to stay there for a while even though it hurt. Though we don’t speak, partially because things ended badly with her son who I was dating at the time, it was good advice because this too shall pass. While it will pass for me, my friend never got to this destination because for someone who was the life of the party what was ultimately inside was too scary to look at and facing the sadness over a world that rejected him was too much. These days I have compassion for people who have HIV and have been involved in some activism as well as outreach and education for people both gay and straight to remove the stigma. I also am somewhat active in LGBTQ politics, in particular rights for homeless LGBTQ youth, because that had been a cause Roger had championed. Most of all, I detest prejudice or homophobia in any form. God knew what he was doing when he made Roger as well as any gay person out there, and if God doesn’t make mistakes. If He wanted them straight they would have been born straight. End of story.
Still, why did I have to come to these understandings as a friend of mine wasted away in front of me? Why couldn’t Roger have lived? Even sick why didn’t he slow down for a few minutes? Why did he have to dance into the wind as fast as he did? I remember the scene in Philadelphia where Denzel Washington tells the kid who tries to pick him up in the drug store, “It is behavior like this that ages people fifty years.” While the quote was ugly it was true because I saw it happen right in front of my eyes with my boy, who the last time we spoke mentioned he had picked up a bug chaser in a doorway. I remember Roger was disgusted because this kid was seeking HIV whereas Roger knew it was a bunch of crock. Being positive didn’t make Roger a member of a community like all bug chasers allege, but rather it made him feel more isolated because of the stigma, and that is why he lived faster and faster even though he continued to fade away.
On my door hangs pictures of old movie stars as well as many of the people in the documentary Paris is Burning. In addition are other drag queens who are successful, some that I have worked with. Among them I have placed Roger’s photo because that is where he would have wanted to be. There is a nasty text from a wannabe boyfriend who is less than desirable wanting free service, a facebook message from an eighteen year old kid with some nasty wording, and an incoming call from a married suitor I once had wanting to rekindle the spark even though he won’t leave his wife.
Yet out of the corner of my ear I hear the words Roger once said to me when I was talking shit and bragging about being stupid. He said, “Sweetie, you see how sick I am. You don’t want this.”
In honoring Roger’s memory I am going to continue to do well with my life and shy away from making stupid decisions. Sure, it might be hard to say goodbye to the bad boys and the shady friends who were such characters. However my friend didn’t give that up and that’s why he is no longer with us. When the world lost Roger they lost one of the smartest, funniest, and most genuine people that ever walked this Earth. I buried one of the greatest friends I have ever had. Although he will always very much be alive in my heart, it is time I bury that part of my life too.