No-Accounts: How the Novel Came to Be (4)

At the beginning of  my novel, No-Accounts, is the following: “This book is dedicated to the men and women who fought so hard to stem the AIDS epidemic. Their courage and determination permanently changed me.”

The book, which opens in August 1985, tells the story of Peter, a thirty-one-year-old gay man dying of AIDS, and Martin, his straight middle-aged AIDS buddy.

Peter is tall and handsome—he reminds Martin of Michelangelo’s David. He has tried to make a career as a dancer but had to settle for working as a waiter. He wants to manage the disease on his own but is finally forced to ask for a volunteer buddy.

Martin is a middle-aged straight man, a music teacher at a local college. His wife has divorced him, and his teen-aged daughter won’t see him or talk to him. He’s now living in a joint house, sharing it with other men who live alone. He volunteers to be a buddy to AIDS patients after his favorite student, Johnny, dies of AIDS. When Peter sends him away after their first meeting, he decides to turn to liquor to soothe his hurt.

But Peter, out of food and so sick he can’t stay on his feet, contemplates dying without at least trying to atone for the death of Johnny, a sweet kid whom he infected. He telephones Martin and begs him to come back.

The rest of the book tells of the developing relationship between these two men who are so different from one another that they have trouble communicating. The first crisis comes when they discover that it was Peter who caused the death Martin’s favorite student, Johnny.

More tomorrow.

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