Nothing is wrong with my camera.
This is a photo of a copy of a photo.
This is a photo of a copy of a photo of two of the best people I have ever known:
The photo is blurry because, like the memory of the two men in it, it has been reconstructed many times. But neither the photo nor their memory will ever be so distorted that I won't recognize them.
This is my favorite picture of these two guys. I don't mind that it's a little fuzzy around the edges. So were they.
The best people always are.
Their names are Simon Jennings and David Collins.
They are dead.
They have been dead for over a decade. They are not the only people I knew who died from AIDS, but they are the two whose absence hurts the most.
I could go on for days about Simon and David. I could tell you that David was a brilliant wit and a stunning architectural interiors designer. I could tell you that Simon was an amazing graphic artist, a computer programmer, and that he built a harpsichord from scratch.
I could carry on about their shared (and skilled) passion for cooking and costume design, our long-ago scheme to start a costume company, and all sorts of things about renovating houses.
I could regale you with tales of barbecues, lucky socks, Elrod the alley cat, college restaurant jobs, The Great Indoor Beach Party, Halloween, movable feasts, the Doctor Who scarf, book deadlines, Himalayan cats, candlemaking, Mardi Gras parades, honeybees, scuba diving, green tennis shoes, banana trees, doilies, the Star Trek pledge, geckoes, The Incredible Disappearing Wine, ghost stories, tomato-basil soup, Mesa Verde, the never-ending sweater, Christmas caroling, rum punch, Mrs. Werdna Zwerdling, and a magical Golden Retriever named Jake.
I could also tell you about gathering with friends and family to make Simon and David's panel for the AIDS Quilt.
But all of these tales would be out of context, and, while variously touching, serious and amusing, they could not fully convey the incredile human warmth emanating from both of these guys.
After they passed on, their friends received the ongoing gift of friendship from Simon's parents, David's sister Sharon, and Simon's brother Rob. Simon's dad, Louis, still wears a scarf I made for Simon, featuring a cable motif of Barbabra Walker's interwtwined trees.
Simon and David were cremated, and their remains waited around for a few years until they were joined by Jake, their deliriously loving four-legged kid. Simon and David got Jake as a puppy when they first moved in together.
Jake outlived their relationship by three years. He was almost seventeen when he died. Everyone agreed that Jake should be cremated, too.
The ashes of Simon, David and Jake were taken to their favorite diving spot, and scattered to the currents of the ocean.
Today is World AIDS Day.
I started to make a post this morning, but I had a problem.
You see, a funny thing happened on the way to the condoms.
My friend Naomi Dagen Bloom of Cityworm (yes, Naomi of the knitted compost worms) and A Little Red Hen was kind enough to personally make an amulet bag for me to wear today on World AIDS Day, to remember those who have died and to educate those who are still here. It is a wonderful, sequined and buttoned bag in the spirit of Mardi Gras -- a defiantly cheerful and eye-catching pouch.
I promised Naomi that I would both wear it today, and take a picture of it, and blog about it.
So when it arrived in the mail, I admired it, and put it in a safe place near my picture of Simon and David, so they would know about it, and so it would be handy today for blogging.
And there it sat until this morning.
When I awoke, it was gone. And it wasn't in a place where the cats could have gotten to it.
I searched high and low. Far and wide. Port and starboard.
I blamed cats. I looked in places I was certain it was not -- the sock drawer, the refrigerator, in the sack of books going back to the library, in my WIP bag, in my toolbox where I went for a screwdriver this morning. I blamed the stripper who ran into my car (everything bad in the past few weeks has become her fault -- it's very convenient).
The condom-bag amulet was missing all day. I couldn't put off the day forever because of my blog post, so gave up the search and I did work-hours things. I went to the bank and ran a few errands and wrote a proposal for a client. I decided I would have to post tonight without a picture of the bag, and that I would apologize to Naomi.
So after dinner and laundry and dishes were done, and the garbage and recycling and litterbox contents were put out at the curb, I sat down at the computer to write this post, and tell you about Simon and David, and I looked up.
And there it was:
On top of the printer, right where I most definitely, not under any circumstances, did not put it.
I know Simon and David had something to do with this.
Naomi, I think the guys liked your amulet. In fact, I think they borrowed it for awhile. They do things like that sometimes.
It is their way of saying hello.
Back at ya, guys. We still miss you.
Let's pause a moment tonight, before we tuck into bed or before we check into work if we have a night shift, to remember those who have died.
Let's also pause a moment to do this for those with HIV/AIDS who still live: Please go to this site and light a virtual candle. Bristol-Myers will donate one dollar for AIDS research for each person who clicks on this site and lights a candle.
And finally, let's remember that no one is immune. We all want to believe that if we've been lucky so far, if we are in a stable realtionship, that it won't happen to us.
But life brings change. Relationships come and go. As we get older, people divorce and become sexually active with new partners. People of all ages can have partners who are unfaithful -- and who sometimes are unfaithful both secretly and in dangerous ways.
It can happen to anyone.
Y'all be careful out there. And think about those who are gone.