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The Picture

| 19 Comments

The picture is faded now, much like my memories of the day it was taken. I was in Amsterdam on vacation from my job as a bond trader at JP Morgan.

I was free... free from the closet I carefully built and lived in back in New York. No one from the bank, or members of my family, would see me there. I could just be me, at least for a week.

So I smoked some semi-legal weed, laughed at the mime that blocked the tram in Dam Square, walked for miles along the straten en grachten, and fell in love with a Dutchman. His name was Peter, like mine. His hair was dark, not Dutch blond, from his Spanish ancestry.

We asked someone to take a picture of us on one of the canal bridges. It's my B.H.I.V. picture - before HIV - that last picture of me before I got the news.

Fast forward a couple of months to a Monday night in November, 1985. Peter surprised me by making good on his promise to visit me in New York, and we're watching An Early Frost on NBC. It was the first major made-for-TV film about AIDS, and a young and beautiful Aidan Quinn was playing the son who has to tell his family he's gay and has AIDS (within weeks, I would have to do the same, and called it the "Early Frost Double Whammy").

Quinn's character finds out he has AIDS after a persistent cough, which turns out to be PCP pneumonia. As we watched, Peter kind of laughed nervously, and said "he's coughing like you." For me, it was only a persistent cold, but the comment prompted me to visit my doctor two days later.

My doctor was the late Dan William, one of the best gay docs in New York. Having a large, mostly gay male practice, many of whom were now dying from AIDS, Dan got in the practice of running a complete blood count (CBC) on his undiagnosed patients that showed up with absolutely any health concern, including a common cold.

On Friday, November 15th, 1985, his office called me at my trading desk, and told me I had a low white blood count - could I come back to the office that day for further tests. I pressed them to tell me what their suspicions were, and they eventually told me "it could be indicative of an HIV infection."

That was the moment. Every moment after that was A.H.I.V. I grew up fast. I made a lot of hard decisions. I had to fight like hell if I was going to make it to 25 or 26 years old.

Innocence was lost. No, I don't mean I was now "guilty," or even felt that way. I mean that my carefree youth - the innocence of youth - had come to an abrupt end.

I look back on that picture in Amsterdam, and I see the innocence of youth in my face. Even though the best years of my life were still to come, I still mourn the loss of that innocence.

Peter and Peter in Amsterdam



Peter on:

19 Comments

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Comments on Peter Staley's blog entry "The Picture"

Wow Peter, what a post...my eyes are wet... :(

Amazing.... so glad of being able to know you more. Hugs!

PD: So cute in both pics ;) LOL

Very nice post. Pictures are so much better than words,sometimes. I dont care what anyone says, its sad. I get sad when I look at my old pics and yours. Oh well, life goes on,and everytime I look back and savor the old days someone passes me on the highway to my goals. I wish you had posted this years ago.

Peter,

First, congratulations on your decision to add your voice to the blogs, yours is a needed perspective.

Your first post btw is powerful in it's simplicity and meaning. I hope future entries continue to show your path from diagnosis to founder of this site and beyond, while including your thoughts on certain current issues.

All my best wishes.

Hi Peter,

Seems obvious for everybody, but are you are on the left right ?

What happen between you ?

Cheers,
John

Great post, Peter. (And you're still just as cute as ever!)

Thanks Juan Carlos, Jack, Mark, John, and Sean! Nice to get such a warm welcome on my first post.

John -- I'm on the left. After I was diagnosed, I asked my boss at JP Morgan if I could work at the bank's Amsterdam office instead, trading European bonds. I told them I had a "girlfriend" there I was determined to live with.

He almost made it happen. I spent a month in London training for the new job, but then top management announced a bank-wide reorganization involving staff cut-backs at their smaller offices around the world. So they couldn't bring in a Yank while they were firing Dutch staff in Amsterdam. I was returned to my old job in New York.

With so much distance between us, the relationship eventually ended about a year after it started. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

But, as we all do, I bounced back.

Want to keep reading, definately.

The picture is poignant.

Touché Peter...

what a picture can tell....

Oh, and isn't Miss JP Morgan doing a classic "little teacup" pose with his
swarthy trick?

Yes! Yes! Careful on that tour of Ann Frank's house!

That's an awesome post and what a great picture. You look like such a child - amazing you were already set in a career path and living an adult life. It's all about perspective isn't it. You've become such a lovely butterfly out of the experiences from whence you blossomed. - Brenda

Beautiful.

Peter:

Such a beautiful post. My eyes are misting! And I have to say I'm so grateful that you have done all you have done for all of us.

Henry

Your posting was beautiful and a very smooth read. It reminded me of my great love back when I was 30, with a French boy - I say boy because he was only 21. We met in NYC and only realized we were in love when we had to part. It's quite a love story that went on for six months at a time while he was training at the Four Seasons here in New York and then returning to school in Switzerland. He graduated and moved to New York to be with me only to be drafted by the French army several months later. My career was just taking off and his just beginning after his stay in the army. He never returned, but we remain friends to this day. My innocence was lost back then. We were two beautiful boys who were in love and too practical to follow our hearts and followed our jobs. How foolish. Today I realize that love is just so much more important than a career.
I just wanted to share that with you. My heart was unnecessarily broken back then. Ten years later I was diagnosed with "ARC" and today I'm the healthiest I've ever been since that diagnosis. Probably because of fighters like you and Larry Cramer who pushed for better drugs and faster approvals.
So I thank you for your blog and for the incredible work you've accomplished as well.

What a poignant introduction this is to your blogging, Peter. Just recently I was thinking how of course we took everything pretty much for granted in the world as it was B. H.I.V. And of those alive now who are too young and have never known such a time. I also can't help acknowledg how much you have accomplished and contributed in the years since you stood on that bridge, Peter.

Love,

Andy

Thanks for all you have done for our community.

My sweet and still beautiful Peter,

I cried as I was reading your blog entry because I remember everything so vividly. Us meeting in Amsterdam and falling in love, and me coming to New York to see if we could start a life together. AIDS was still a mysterious desease in the US and articles in the newspapers were done somewhere on page 8.

You introduced me to the wonderful city of New York (i had never been there before) and I truly felt like a JAP (Jewish Amsterdam Prince) with you. Taking me out for dinner almost every night, taking me to musicals and plays, taking me to Florida and sailing in Tahiti and introducing me to your friends and family. It was also the first time in my life I saw people with AIDS and people dying of AIDS.

I still remember us sitting on the sofa and watching the movie 'An early frost'. I did not know what AIDS was exactly,(ignorant european) but got nerveous when i heard the main character cough exactly like you did. I told you to see a doctor because your 'cold' just did not go away.

I promised to never leave you because of AIDS... We made plans for you to move to Amsterdam, and when that failed, to enroll me into NYU or CUNY and study in NYC. But, I got more and more scared of all the people and friends dying around us and so I fled back to Europe hoping that AIDS and all the horror that came with it would stay behind in the US. Breaking up with you (while still in love), was the hardest thing I had ever done.

The picture is very pretty as are all the memories I have of you and our friendship. I admire your power and determination and am proud of you. Almost 23 years later we are still friends, we both have great partners and we are both in excellent health. (easier for me as I am HIV-)

I love you..

Now you made ME cry! Beautiful comment -- thank you for posting it. I'm sure many of our POZ blog readers will appreciate knowing your perspective, and that you are happy and in love again.

I think this is the first time I've heard you explain our break-up. Your honesty means a lot to me -- thank you. I've never, never blamed you for it. It was an incredibly hard time for both of us, but also a wonderful time, and I have absolutely no regrets.

Love,

Peter

Thanks Peter. So many memories that come back to us all with your post. It is important to look back and remember those feelings that were so unimaginable at the time.
I had left SF,CA in 1987 to live a more suburban life outside of the city. To escape maybe? Two dear friends had just moved to Hawaii, and upon discovering KS lesions on one of the guy's leg, they needed a place to stay upon their immediate return to the SF Bay area. A few days later, after some deep converstion with the affected guy, I decided to face reality, and do "The Test". Fully expecting to be negative, I remember fully the date, time of day, weather, and disbelief at the pos results. That was 20 years ago! I prayed to live at least until 40. We are living an unimaginable future. You have always been an inspiration to my form of activism, which I believe has helped me greatly. Thank You!

Peter...

Your story is inspiring! I am HIV-, but had a major scare about two years ago (haven't really bounced back). I was dating this amazing guy. He was the picture of beauty and health -- probably one of the most attractive guys I've ever seen. But our connection was more than that -- he understood me and I him -- or so I thought.

It was truly a meeting of chance... I was partying with some friends... our night took us through three cities before we ended up at a club in Baton Rouge. I remember walking in the door, the dance floor was crowded with wall to wall people... And there he was, this guy who was just amazing looking! I never thought he was thinking the same thing about me... until later that night, when I lost my friends, and there he was right in front of me... introducing himself. He said I never do this but I had to meet you. I felt special... and just danced with him the entire night.

Soon the bar was closing... and my friends proceed to tell me we are going to New Orleans to continue the party... my mystery date... says we'll follow you guys -- he's riding with me. That night was a full moon... and we talked all the way there. We had so much in common. Needless to say it was a beautiful night... we had the best time.


After about four weeks into the relationship we became intimate and had unprotected sex. I told him he needed a condom and he just blurted out "I can't do this -- I'm positive!" Of course in denial... I said positive about what? Needless to say I was in a state of shock... He was upset.

I don't know why, but for whatever reason I wasn't angry... but instead I was sad for him because he was crying. Basically said he was sorry that he didn't tell me and that he never meant to hurt me. So I held him all night as he cried and told me his story... apparently someone didn't tell him. I'll never forget that night.

Anyway to make a long story short... this was all around flu season... and I of course got a bad case of the flu that I couldn't shake off. I started doing all kinds of research about HIV/AIDs and could not believe I was so naive. I was a wreck for a long time... thought I had all the symptoms and had convinced myself that I was sick. It wasn't until I got tested that I was somewhat relieved after three months... but then went back twice after that. It's now been two years... I've yet to be able to be with anyone and haven't really talked about. However, I continue to educate myself.
I just wanted you to know that I enjoyed reading your blog.
B

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Staley published on June 9, 2008 9:30 AM.

Peter Staley, AIDS Victim is the next entry in this blog.

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