Thursday, June 15, 2017

Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir by Paul Monette

I bought Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir by Monette because it was recommended by a class on AIDS I was taking as research for a book I'm writing. I thought the book might help me better understand the AIDS patient and even AIDS itself. Monette tells a story that is a heartbreaking mix of love, family, and loss. Not just the loss of his life partner but loss of a way of being in the world. He demonstrates eloquently the devastation fear wreaks when knowledge is minimal while showing the immense power of love to hold people together. At times, Monette's self-deprecation felt a bit too much, but it showed a glimpse into how insecurities can push us to both our best and our worst. He talked with graphic detail about the physical havoc AIDS brought not only to the bodies of those who suffer with it but to the lives and the communities where AIDS became such an accepted part of life that people talked about when instead of if. Monette talks about his and the gay community's resentment of people's ignorance and particularly their determination to remain ignorant. His love for his life partner, Roger Horwitz, is palpable throughout the book. I felt almost like an interloper in their lives in some of the more intimate portions of the book. Monette writes in a way that had me wishing for Roger to be saved even though I knew before I even began the book that was impossible. Near the end, I also found myself longing for Roger's suffering to end even though the end of that suffering meant death. Monette's description of full-blown AIDS and the suffering of not only Roger but their friends broke my heart and made me determined to support death with dignity laws. Monette downplays his own diagnosis of AIDS throughout the book. Roger is his focus because Roger is the one who is in crisis. I felt Monette's grief throughout the pages. I felt the secrecy in place to try to protect those who could offer support. I felt the love these two men shared. I felt the openness of love and compassion coupled with the anger and despair at a system not moving quickly enough to make a difference in lives. Borrowed Time is a reminder that no matter who we are, how we live our lives, or who we love, the time we have is only borrowed and it will be taken away at some point...

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