you are 16. you are talking with a gay man in his 50s or 60s, a friend, huge and gentle with a scarf and short fluffy curls of gray hair, who has directed you in two plays staged in your mid-size artsy town. (he has not yet asked you to be in his production of The Laramie Project which will change your life. this conversation will also change your life.)

he is talking about theatre. he is talking about theatre when he was younger. he says, “of course, it was AIDS then.” in the pause, you ask him. clumsy and quiet and 16 and “straight,” you ask him. what was it like.

he takes a moment in which his face is not like a person’s face. “there was a time,” he says, “i’m not sure how long, years. when i went to a funeral every weekend.” he tells you about two funerals in a day, and choosing between friends when you couldn’t make it to both. he does not look at you, he looks at them. his wet grey gaze is so clear that you start to see ghosts. it will be years before you understand why it feels like your grief too. why the ghosts call you family.