I was driving home the other night, when the late Rose Laurens’ 1986 hit “American Love” came on my playlist. Instantly, I was back: a rainy night in Paris. After supper, Lenny and I went to a small club in the Marais. We drank beer, peppermint schnapps, got a little crazy, danced for hours. I watched Carlos dancing and sweating, his shirt off, his perfect body gyrating under the lights, not a care in the world. It was a wonderful night.
There is a sadness in the melody of the track that evokes a kind of unexplainable pain.
There was a cohort of American boys there, many I knew, including Lenny’s little brother Jeffrey. All in their early twenties, courageous and hopeful that time in Paris may mean they had their lives ahead of them. Sadly, none did. Each of those boys died of AIDS within three years.
Their courage and willingness to participate in drug trials at the Pasteur Institute was critical in the development of the medications we now take for granted. The toxicity of the drugs was grotesque at times. I can still see Lenny heaving and sweating, his tolerance to new combinations lessened as his immune system just broke down, constantly trying to fight vile opportunistic infections but never once willing to pack in and go home to Miami.
I loved that boy deeply and to spend that time with him as his life ebbed away was a privilege. He is in my heart forever, and it is amazing how the power of a song can rip open your soul again, 30 years after he died.
Lenny, Carlos, Jeffrey, Andrew, Eddie and many others are all heroes. They literally lay down their lives for us. Knowing as we did that there was no cure, they pushed on, being injected, prodded, biopsied, examined, humiliated, ostracised and judged.
It was a bizarre time. For me, it redefined the word loss. God love them and thank them for their selflessness.
I miss Lenny and will love him forever. This is our history. It is as painful as any chapter recording marginalized minority groups who have experienced adversity, exclusion and the mass loss of a generation of young men.