When I first saw him at the dance auditions for our high school musical, I thought, he’s the one! I have to have him as my boyfriend! His name was Brian Maugh He was just 15 years old, two years younger than I, and was the cutest boy I had ever seen. I had only recently realized that I was gay, and I had no idea if Brian was also. It didn’t matter to me. He was the one.
Over the next six months we grew closer and closer, and eventually became lovers, despite the fact that gay sex was illegal in 1971 Missouri. We were so happy that summer, although no one around us knew the real reason. I often slept over at his house, together with him in the basement, two floors below the family’s bedrooms. Then one night Brian’s father came home unexpectedly. Though he didn’t actually see us in the act, the sexual tension must have been obvious, as Brian told me a few days later that his parents said I was no longer welcome in their house.
At the end of summer, the dream was over. I had to go away to college, but Brian still had two more years of high school to finish. I was able to come home for one weekend each month, and Brian was the first person I would call. I would drive by his house and he would be waiting for me beside the road so that his parents wouldn’t see us together. We had no place to go, so would sit for hours at Denny’s Restaurant, surreptitiously holding hands under the table sometimes whenever we could.
As is often the case with first loves, ours didn’t work out. The lying, pretending and hiding eventually wore us both down, and there was nothing and no one supporting us. Brian and I stopped being boyfriends at the end of 1972.
I received a postcard from Brian a few years later. He wrote that he wanted me to know he was at long last a “happily adjusted homosexual” (his quotes).
Then in early October 1991 I found myself living in Europe, and realized that Brian was the one person from my past I wanted to contact. I called home to get his current address, only to be told a few days later that he had just died. The newspaper said it was brain cancer.
It was only this year during a visit to my father that I learned the truth. Brian died from brain lesions caused by an oppportunistic infection brought on by AIDS. He had had a short career as an architect in Seattle, before he became too ill and returned to his family. They informed none of Brian’s friends that he was there dying of AIDS. At his funeral his father and brothers stood with their backs turned, despite the cries of his mother. After hearing the story, I went to his grave the next day, and let myself sob with grief for my so cute boyfriend from so long ago.
I believe truth matters. Lies kept Brian and me apart at a time when our love should have been joyful. Lies contributed to Brian’s death from AIDS. Lies made Brian die horribly, surrounded by people who could not accept the truth about him, even after his death.
The truth is this: Brian Maugh was my first love, and I was his, and Brian died of AIDS. I remember him today and always with love and joy along with pain and regret.