[This year is the 20th anniversary of Cape Cod Light by Michael Hattersley. The other parts of this series are here.]
We’re arrived at the emotional core of the book, the most autobiographical parts, the ones that remind us most of life with Michael and David.
He was Uncle David as long as I can remember, long before we moved to Boston.
David was diagnosed with AIDS around the time we moved to the East Coast and into their Brookline apartment until we got our own place. He had been HIV positive for many years without knowing it, since before he and Michael got together.
They soon relocated to the Cape house in Provincetown, where David worked remotely and Michael spent long weekends around his teaching duties at Harvard (Michael stayed in our spare bedroom during the week.)
The drive to P-town for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or just a long weekend became a regular feature of our lives. David’s illness fell into the background after he recovered from his initial bout with opportunistic infections.
For a few years, life was “normal”; and we began to associate trips to the Cape with endless games, feasts, family and fun.
The sixteenth poem in Cape Cod Light is David’s Day, and it was written during this period.
Once the inevitable happened
And we got through the first life-or-death weeks
We stepped back, and began adjusting
To the evil angel lurking constantly over our shoulders.
For a full year
You were mad at me, mad at the world,
Mad at my sisters, your doctors, your mother,
Mad at the God who retained a shred of your belief.
The recovery began with mania,
When household chores weren’t too much for you,
And you needed a project a day to keep you sane.
Games became crucial, and we turned weekends into festivals:
Bridge and Pictionary,
Trivial Pursuit, Dr. Mario, and Balderdash,
Christmas for twelve and Thanksgiving for twenty-seven,
All recorded on videotape. This is the third year
That you’ve had AIDS, and we’ve never had a better.
To see you plump and strong, wrestling
With the ordinary tasks of daily life
Reminds me of times that will come again:
The endless evenings a breath away from death at the hospital,
The trembling, step-by-step recoveries, leashed to an I.V.,
The fainting into a lug of flesh down the long stairs.
Your immune count is four, down from twelve hundred.
We worry in person and by phone over your rashes and your vision.
We organize our lives around this illness,
And we play. We play. We play.
The next poem is here.