|Richard as figure in painting "Cafe America" displayed in Paris|
I came back from my solo painting exhibition in Paris early. Something had seemed wrong, out of sorts. Just before I left for Paris, I had seen Richard silently crossing the street in front of the taxi that I was in. He seemed so lost, so thin. He had ended our relationship about a year before, but we were still close, often saw each other from time to time. Then I got the phone call: Richard was in Pennsylvania hospital and probably had what we had all been whispering about, dreading, HIV as it was known initially. I hate hospitals. I hate the smell of them. I always say that it’s the shiny floors that get to me. But I went quickly to the hospital and found the floor that he was on.It was a private room with an anteroom where you washed with disinfectant. There were robes that you could put on too, but I didn’t bother. I had heard that some of the nurses refused to enter his room, but I went in anyway. Richard was asleep on the bed. So thin, so vulnerable, but peaceful. I stood and stared at him for quite a while. But what do creative people do when faced with unfathomable pain, unbelievable sorrow? I picked up the pencil and hospital menu from the bedside tray and drew his picture on it. I visited him every other day. Richard, just 25 years, died from Aids, four months later. Most of what I have done in my life since has been to make a mockery of his death.
I still have that sketch on a menu somewhere. Even now, 30 years on, I dream of him often.