In the summer of 1983 just after high school I worked at a restaurant in San Diego. One of my favorite co-workers was someone about 10 years older than me - his name was Arturo.
Arturo was a fun, warm, sincere, and sensitive guy. There was a tenderness about him you could actually see, if that makes sense. I absolutely looked forward to the shifts we worked together. At the expense of customer service we shared a million laughs with each other. No, more like three million.
He was also the first gay man I ever befriended. Which in a way makes Arturo a central player in my early adult life. I learned much from him as he was an all-too-brief mentor of sorts. I will even admit to a small crush - which I believe may have been mutual - tho it was never spoken of or acted upon.
After a while Arturo began losing weight. Lots of weight. And very quickly. It was clear that something was seriously wrong with his health. One day Arturo came to work and went straight to the manager's office and closed the door. When he came out he looked for me, "I need to talk to you."
We went outside and he began to speak through trembling lips, "I just quit."
My eyes began to well-up as he continued, "I'm very ill. A lot of gay men are, it seems."
A note: this conversation occured in 1983 just on the cusp of the AIDS epidemic.
I was confused, "What is wrong with you?"
He simply said, "I'm just very ill and I'm going to live with my mother in Oakland tomorrow."
I was completely gutted. I was losing the first person who completely understood me. As we said our goodbyes we hugged. I squeezed Arturo very tightly. It was hard to let him go. But I did. And I sobbed as I watched his car drive away.
And just as I feared, I never heard from him again.
About six (or so) months later I began reading a lot of stuff about something they were calling AIDS. They named is such in 1981 but the general public wasn't to get real mainstream information until 1984 or so...
It was the final piece of the Arturo puzzle that finally fit as I deduced that he had succumbed to AIDS. I do not have a single photo of Arturo but I will always remember his toothy smiling face very vividly. Especially today.