Some readers find my focus on the brutal aspects of life disturbing enough that they stop reading my work. I deliberately delineate the grisly aspects of war (Last of the Annamese, The Trion Syndrome) and detail the grim facts of death by AIDS (No-Accounts). These are features of the life I have lived, experiencing combat at the side of American soldiers and Marines and helping AIDS patients die with dignity.
In No-Accounts, I made no effort to disguise or avoid the hideous symptoms that AIDS inflicts on the human body. I show the straight “buddy” of the story, Martin, shocked and sickened as he watches Peter, the gay man afflicted with AIDS, succumb to the disease. I went through it myself as I witnessed the way that AIDS kills. I describe the body rashes, fatigue, diarrhea, ulcers, nausea, and opportunistic diseases like pneumonia as the immune system fails. Then comes Kaposi’s sarcoma, deforming red and purple lesions on the skin and within the body.
Why enumerate the ugly facts of combat and AIDS? Because I want people to know. A tiny fraction of 1 percent of Americans have faced combat; the vast majority of Americans have never seen a person with AIDS. Maybe if we’re aware at the conscious level of the gruesome consequences of war and disease, we’ll do more to move against both.