True Blue was the sixth track from the True Blue album. Titus and I were still listening to True Blue, even after the release of Like A Prayer. Titus loved Madonna, and we listened to the True Blue tape all of the time. Titus even knew a few “Open Your Heart” dance steps, which always made me laugh. – “I’ve had other guys I’ve looked into their eyes, But I never knew love before ‘Til you walked through my door.”
A few months after moving back in with my parents, I received a letter from Thaddeus telling me that both he and his current lover tested positive for HIV. I was devastated. I sat at the kitchen table with my head in my hands and cried like a baby. The next day I sat down with my mother and told her that I was going to get an HIV test, and explained to her what it meant if it came back positive. I thought to myself, all we need is another sick person in the family. At the time we were told that the incubation period for HIV was up to 4 years, so even if the test came back negative, I just knew it was just a matter of time before I would test positive.
The week it took for the results to come back was the longest week of my life. It was at this point that thoughts of suicide started entering my mind, as it did a lot of gay people back then. Everyone was walking around scared out of their minds. We were much more ignorant about HIV in those days and didn’t know how it spread. I remember watching the news one night and hearing the story about two guys who had discovered they had AIDS in New York City. Instead of dying from AIDS, they held hands and jumped from their 10th-floor apartment window. It was a horrible time and fear ran rampant. Luckily, my first HIV test came back negative.
A few months later Thaddeus decided to visit North Carolina. It was the first week of January 1987. He specifically made the trip to see his friend, Betty, whom he had met shortly after meeting me for the first time. I didn’t see Thaddeus much during this visit. The only time I saw him was when I picked him up at Betty’s house, to take him to the airport. It had snowed that day, and the drive which would have typically taken only 30-minutes turned into a two-hour adventure. We now had time to talk. We didn’t discuss his HIV status or any illnesses that he was experiencing. We completely avoided that conversation. Looking back, I can’t even remember what we talked about to be completely honest. All I remember was listening to George Winston’s CD, “December” on the car stereo while driving through the snow. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion that day. I had this sense that everything had been cleansed, or purified in some way.
Once we arrived at the airport, I walked Thaddeus to his terminal and watched him board his plane. I waited as the plane pulled away from the gate and headed down the runway. The plane gathered speed, lifted off the runway, and disappeared behind the snow clouds. I thought this would be the last time I would see Thaddeus.
The very next week I met someone new. His name was, Titus.
Titus would be my first long-term relationship and the first man that I ever dated that was not white. Initially, one of the things that attracted me to Thaddeus was his olive skin, so finding myself attracted to a man with dark skin wasn’t that surprising. However, gay interracial couples were not very common in the ’80s, especially in North Carolina.
Now you may think that being gay was taboo with my family, well, dating a person outside of my race was a million times worse. I was taught to be racist, as all of my siblings were. My parents grew up during a time when black people didn’t come in the house unless they were “the help” and they most certainly didn’t come through the front door. I remember visiting my grandparent’s house when the black neighbors across the street would come to the back door to ask for something. They were never allowed inside. I’m sure this is where my parents inherited their racism. But I never subscribed to that way of thinking. I could always see that below the surface of the skin was another soul just like mine.
There was something beautiful about Titus. So much so that when I first met him, I didn’t notice his skin color. He had this charm about him that made it very easy to overlook any physical characteristics. Even to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever dated anyone as charming as Titus. He had a brilliant mind and knew something about everything. He read constantly. I didn’t allow the race issue to get in the way of my wanting to get to know him which made me want to explore our connection even further. The white guys in the gay community turned up their noses, which surprised me. I couldn’t understand how any gay person could be prejudiced. As far as I was concerned, life was meant to be explored without bias.
Titus and I played the True Blue cassette all the time. We would look at each other and sing the songs as we were driving down the highway.
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I’ve had other guys
I’ve looked into their eyes
But I never knew love before
‘Til you walked through my door
I’ve had other lips
I’ve sailed a thousand ships
But no matter where I go
You’re the one for me baby this I know, ’cause it’s
You’re the one I’m dreaming of
Your heart fits me like a glove
And I’m gonna be true blue baby I love you
I’ve heard all the lines
I’ve cried oh so many times
Those tear drops they won’t fall again
I’m so excited ’cause you’re my best friend
So if you should ever doubt
Wonder what love is all about
Just think back and remember dear
Those words whispered in your ear, I said