Three weeks had passed without Billy coming into the club, which was odd for him, so I was terribly pleased when one evening I spotted his thick frame moving through the dance floor toward me. I was so happy to see him and leaned over the bar to kiss his cheek when I suddenly hesitated, noticing these dark sores on his neck and arm. I reached my hand toward his neck without touching him and asked what had happened. Billy looked drawn and tired and smiled sadly as he told me that the sores were symptomatic of his disease. "What disease?" I asked with concern, quickly drawing back my arm. "AIDS," he said.
At this time in 1984, there were 40 reported cases of HIV/AIDS, whereas today there are 40 million. Although I worked in a gay sex club and considered myself as sophisticated as a 17-year-old could be, I was still ignorant and fearful enough about the disease to have recoiled slightly when he said the word. I remember Billy sighing at my reaction. He looked so exhausted, but then he asked me if I wanted to understand more about what was happening to him. I said yes. He told me how he believed he contracted AIDS and how angry and scared he was when he was first diagnosed. I asked him if I could get it if he kissed me or sweat on me. I asked how it was being treated. I asked if there was a cure. To this, Billy said no. There was no cure then; there is no cure now. So I asked, "What's going to happen to you?" Billy told me he was dying. I felt horribly awkward and inept. I had no experience with sickness or death and didn't quite know what to say. So I asked him if he was scared to die. Billy told me that he was more afraid of the process of dying, being sick, than he was of death itself. "Why?" I asked. He said that because of his belief in God he had great faith, and it was that faith that he relied on each day and would continue to rely on as well in death. "It's all a cycle," he told me. I had no idea what he was talking about. I must have looked at him oddly, because I remember him smiling and then asking me whether I believed in God. I told him I wasn't sure. I told him that God only seemed to show up in my life when I messed up and seemed punishing and judgmental. I was scared of this God because he seemed mean. I told him that at best I was agnostic, but certainly apathetic. Then Billy laughed and said, "Seane, would you like to see God right now?" I glanced curiously around the club. There were men everywhere, many half naked, dancing, kissing, chained to the wall, in all states of "bliss." I remember laughing, and said, "Sure, Billy, show me God here."