If you remember Paul Lind, then you have a good picture of a
fellow I once knew. His name was Jim and that is all I will say about his name.
Jim was an artist that I hired many years ago when I worked in the city. I
needed help because the company was growing quickly, what with Sony, Reader’s
Digest, McCall’s, Red Book and Ladies Home Journal, the agency was running out
of space and people to work on the accounts.
I had a stable filled with mechanical artists and
free-lancers, but it just wasn’t enough. One day I put an add in the NY Times
for a designer and Jim called seeking an interview. Human Resources gave me his
resume and I asked them to set it up for me on such a date and time.
The day came and Jim entered with his portfolio, and we sat
and talked for a while both shop and life in general. I reviewed his portfolio
and liked what I saw. He was a fun wise ass, and an accomplished designer, and
I just took to him. I hired him on the spot and he became part of the free-lance
staff, and soon thereafter I hired him full-time.
Jim worked hard, night and day, and weekends too. He lived
alone, had no one in his life and loved to work. This troubled me and one day I
took him to lunch and found out that he had no one because he was gay. He said
he trusted me to tell me this fact and that would I keep it under my hat?
I told him I suspected that that was the case, and he looked
at me funny like.
“Then how come I’m still working?” he asked point blank.
That question befuddled me, made me wonder what he meant,
almost offending me.
He related how he had worked for other outfits and they
found ways to let him go, and he felt it was always because he was gay, and
they would not want that around them. His fear originally was that at first I
would can him too for some made up reason.
It never occurred to me to fire someone who was doing his
job, and doing it well. I had other assistants that weren’t gay, and couldn’t
do it as well as Jim. This was back in the 1970’s and as things progressed, I
moved on to a national company with a high profile. I decided to take Jim with
Jim joined me and fit right in, making friends and doing
what I knew he could do. But then one day he missed a day, then it became more
frequent, and I started to notice a drastic change in his appearance, as his
eyes were starting to get rings and his weight was way down, and he was getting
sicker, missing more days.
I came to my office one morning and found a message on my
phone, it was his mother, Jim had moved back to Pennsylvania, Jim was dying
with aids. She apologized for him and left her phone number.
I immediately called her, and she told me more, and then
asked if I still wanted to speak with Jim. Jim got on, and he sounded good,
like Jim, and he was nervous. I told him I would arrange for him to get an
extended sick leave, not to worry about his insurance, and that we would work
something out. He was sounding happy when I said that and thanked me. We spoke
a few more times on the phone on occasion and then I lost touch with Jim.
One morning, the mail came and in my in-box was a letter
still sealed and marked in handwriting: “Personal and Confidential” I had been
around long enough to know that that couldn’t be good, and sure enough it
wasn’t. In long hand, I’m sure written in ink mixed with a mother’s tears was a
letter to me from Jim’s mom, informing me of his passing. She said that Jim
wanted me to know, that she felt that I was the only one who cared and that he
thought highly of me.
I closed my door and for the first time in a while I cried.
I tried not to, but it came fast and hard, my body shaking from the pain of
losing this wonderful person. I guess it is nice that people who have conflict
or issues would even think of me like that. Many people have the impression
that I’m a right wing Nazi because of some of my beliefs. I value life, mine
and others. It is not important to differentiate between who is one way or
another, but to differentiate who is disagreeable.
I can still see him making fun of himself, living in the
Village and sensing his loneliness, a blinding sadness and also his sense of
loyalty to anyone who would accept him. I miss him, and no, I’m not gay, but he
equalized in my eyes and heart, all men and women who suffer the pains of
God bless you Jim!