Monday 23 May 2022

#TheAIDSMemorial #WhatIsRememberedLives Chris Clark


Chris Clark (1973 - 2009)

The AIDS Memorial

I follow the Instagram page of TheAIDSMemorial where the theme of #WhatIsRememberedLives memorialises the many who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, some many in the late 1980s into the 1990s and even after.

I lost many friends to the plague, and I also made many friends who live as witnesses to the wonders of medicine that now keeps many of us alive. Some were really close friends and their loss shook me to the core, then, one was a lover, for whom the unexpected and sudden realisation of his demise is quite difficult even as I was fighting for my own life on the diagnosis of AIDS and cancer.

Many of us in losing friends or partners of a sexual minority rarely had support or comfort for our losses and grief. Some were ostracised or excluded from the obsequies of people they loved in life out of secrecy, shame, animosity, stigma, or denial. In The AIDS Memorial page, we find an opportunity to remember and ensure those significant relationships are never forgotten.

Of loves lost

That lover was Chris Clark, and this is the only picture I have of Chris Clark (May 30, 1973 - c. October 14, 2009). We met online in late 2003 when he lived in London and I in Amsterdam, there was such an attractive quality about him, his story, his experiences, and his ambitions that drew me to him, I guess I was smitten by that personality.

We tried hard to build a relationship, but I was unsure of what it would entail, I guess I was once afraid and I was lazy about the prospect of a long-distance relationship, I should have been bolder, but I learnt hard lessons in the process. He came to stay with me in Amsterdam when I realised that my cooking was too spicy for him.

Other places we met up for snatches of affection and more were in Berlin and at Playa del Ingles, it didn't bother me footing the expense, I was never able to use my head when it came to Chris, I was all heart and no sense.

In pain and in forgiving

His mum threw him out of their home at the age of 15 when he declared his homosexuality and somehow, it fell to a stranger who took him off the streets of London and then to the United States of America where he finished school and tried a career in film and photography.

Later, he moved to Amsterdam with a partner who sadly committed suicide by drowning in a canal. Much as he had hardships and challenges in his life, the parents who rejected him as he was growing up could not trust any of his apparently responsible older siblings to care for them as they were dying, they called on the humanity of Chris to give them the send-off they desired, and he acquitted himself well in that regard.

He lost his mother in February 2007, she died in his arms and his father in December of the same year, he bore the full cost for the funeral arrangements whilst the siblings quibbled about the estate. His father left everything to him as for everything they did to him, he was the only one that could be trusted to do right. Chris had a large and forgiving heart. I tried to offer emotional support in the absence of family, we last met up greeting in the new year of 2008 in Playa del Ingles.

When he died

He became HIV+ probably a few years before I did, but there were times when he did not have enough to eat in support of his essential medication. I sometimes think he allowed his condition to deteriorate over time. We grew estranged though we maintained sporadic communication into 2009 when my health slowly descended into full-blown AIDS I was hospitalised in late September 2009.

He constantly asked after me sending me text messages I did not promptly respond to, I felt Chris was too deep in my life in some of the things he did that I needed to protect myself, my heart, my emotions, and my mental health even as I was besotted with him. He invited me to Facebook which I did not respond to until after his passing.

I left the hospital on the 9th of October 2009 and as I was settling down just over a week later, I sent a message to his mobile phone and got a shocking response from his flatmate, Chris had died at home of renal failure just around the 14th of October, a few days after my discharge from hospital.

A memorial deserved

I had many fond memories of Chris, and I grieved his passing for many years. One Christmas, I did get the Christmas tree we argued about because I did not want one and he did. It was one way of memorialising him. In fact, I grieved alone sometimes leaving a message on his Facebook on birthdays and the supposed date of his death.

I thought I would never find love again until it took something so extraordinarily special that first reminded me of Chris and then informed me that I could move on from Chris, it took over 9 years for that to happen. He had that cheeky smile, a dry sense of humour, a way of pulling at your heartstrings and a wonderful personality.

I have wanted to write this for a long time, thank you Chris for sharing some time and love with me. Akin Akintayo

I wrote an AIDSMemorial page for Chris Clark in two parts, Part I and Part II, this blog fleshes out parts that I did not include for space constraints.

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