I never thought I'd write again anytime soon but after Borrowed Time, how could I not? As far as I am concern it is one of the most beautiful love story I've ever read, heartbreaking as it is. There isn't that many book that leaves a lasting imprint in my heart and mind to the point that it alters forever the way I perceive things. And I am writing here to say that Monette's account of the last 19, AIDS-wrecked months of his gay lover has burned out of me a deep respect for the gay community, not just any gay community but those who are faithful and committed to their partner. "Is the love between gay couples of any less value than those of their straight counterpart? Are they any less real?" my lesbian friend asked.
The tenderness and consistency in which Monette cared for his sick lover, even in the midst of his own fear, denial and fatigue will put many of us to shame. The fevers, the IV drips, the mountains of medication, the endless trips to the hospital, the gradual loss of basic function, the roller-coaster ride of hope and despair and the hatred and ignorance they had to endure and finally the moaning....oh the moaning - "the saddest, hollowest sound I've ever heard, loud like the trumpet note of a wounded animal" as Monette puts it. Even in the midst of these, there was the poetry, plato, the gardenias, the evening walks and the simple cuddling of each other, binding them together in a place where no sorrow could touch. It is impossible not to be affected; to read and not weep. Towards the end of the book, when Al, Roger's father, walked into the hospital room grievously aware that the end is near for his son, gripped Monette by his shoulders and declared, voice breaking, "This boy took care of him like a mother", as if to thank him for the 12 long years with which he had loved his son. The father who could not look Monette in the eye for a whole year when his son first broke the news that he was gay, was at the end overwhelmed with gratitude for the love and self-sacrificial way this young man had cared for his son. I do not doubt for a moment that Roger's parents finally realize that their son was so blessed to have Paul as his best friend and lover.
If anything, this experience - I call it an experience because you can never read it without entering and partaking in the tragedy and beauty of it - has humbled me. Now I look back with regret at some of the ways I used to think of gay relationships. We who are one the other side of the fence are often quick to draw our own conclusions on things we have little personal experience or knowledge about. Worst still, sometimes we talk as if we know it all or we dismiss the other's feelings as though it didn't matter, all because we fail to put ourselves in their shoes and for once try to understand things from their side. You can see this disease manifesting it's symptoms everywhere. Ever heard from friends who seems to know how to handle your children better than you do and made you feel so incompetent? Or your happily single friend who can't for the life of her understand what's the big deal about going to the movies alone?
If we had laid aside our "opinions" and instead, know them for who they are and not what we want them to be, we'd find that a lot of these people are not very different from us. They long for the same sense of belonging and security that committed love brings the same way we do. There are still many things I don't understand, but one thing I can't deny is that the love between same sex partners is as equally valid and beautiful as any other monogamous relationship and they certainly deserve our respect. We don't have to figure it all out before we accept someone. Love them first and the understanding will follow. Isn't this the way in which we first know God? We came to Him by faith even as we were trying to figure out the Bible and discovered that understanding flows easier after that. Knowing a person's heart opens the doort for us to know their ways. Speaking of God, some of you may ask, "So what would Jesus think of Roger and Paul?" Well, He did say, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for his friends." And I've just finished reading an excellent example of it.
Monette's jarring narrative of living on borrowed time transcends one man, one gay couple or the gay community. As one reviewer said, we enter the universal arena of human loss.
It is at it's core the purest poetry.
"...we held each other as the machine answered the phone. After the beep, a voice said: "This is UCLA Medical Center calling. Mr. Roger Horwitz died at 5:42am this morning, October twenty-second." Bernice and I hugged each other briefly, without a word, and I swam back to bed for the end of the night............putting off as long as I could the desolate waking to life alone - this calamity that is all mine, that will not end till I do." - Borrowed Time
Paul Monette is a part of the first generation to suffer from AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. His friend, Roger Horwitz, died after a long battle with the virus. Monette gave his courage, strength, and love as he helped his friend fight this battle. Borrowed Time is the story of the AIDS roller coaster. It was nominated for National Book Critic's Circle Award 1988 for best biography and Winner of the 1989 Pen West USA Literary Award For Best Nonfiction.