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Short Stories 365/337 | N.S. Beranek

“Passion, Like a Voice – That Buds” by Steve Berman from Glitterwolf: Halloween (October, 2014). Edited by Matt Cresswell.

You may question the veracity of this statement, but I assure you I am serious: I enjoyed this story. True, it’s not cheerful, but it’s not depressing either. It is that thing I come to books looking to find: a window onto another world, a different situation.

The narrator has been HIV positive for a decade. He’s not well, though it isn’t clear how much of that is due to the virus and the meds needed to stave off its effects, and how much is owed to the fact that he’s made himself a hermit. Living on disability checks, he hasn’t left his sweltering apartment or even cracked open a window in months. He has only one visitor, every Monday: the guy who delivers pre-prepared meals courtesy of the charitable outfit MANNA.

Remember the “manageable fear” and almost unbearable sexual longing we saw in the first and third stories of this issue (which each also dealt with HIV)? Here they are again. There’s an attraction between the main character and the much younger man, in large part (or entirely?) stemming from the danger of contracting or transmitting the virus. It’s fascinating to watch their dance.

As with many of this author’s works subtler elements of the motif are strewn all throughout the story. The name of the magazine the main character edited, but has neglected of late. The name he ascribes to a .gif of cells of the virus as viewed through a microscope, and on and on and on. I equate reading his work to going on the very best type of treasure hunt. [“You Google the strangest things,” my husband once remarked, as I neared the end of one story a few months back.]

Indeed.

In case you still aren’t convinced, here’s a snapshot of a page from an index I used to compile, of things I’d videotaped. (The number of tapes grew exponentially, until indexing them became an impossible task.)

K-6 videotape index

Remember, my mother’s friend Michael Kearns was diagnosed with the virus. He disclosed his status on Entertainment Tonight in 1991. So the latest research on folks who’d been infected for a long period of time? Heck yes, I wanted to hear that. I still do.