I am a reporter and my beat is hell. But it is neither the eternal hell of the Bible, nor Tartarus, the ancient Greek underworld, where the gods of mythology locked up their enemies.
The hell I write about is more prosaic: It is here and now. It is the hell of those who live with a disease that is incurable, has inadequate therapies, indifferent government attitudes, social stigma and no strong public voice.
We were in Linc's car, an aging yellow Mercedes sedan, big and steady, with slippery blond seats and a deep, strumming idle. Lincoln called it Dr. Diesel. It was a Sunday night, March 22, 1987, nine-thirty. Rural Ohio was a smooth continuity of silence and darkness, except for a faintly golden seam where land met sky ahead, promising light and people and sound just beyond the tree line.
We were on our way back to Kenyon College after spring break. Linc, my best friend, was driving, his arm easy over the wheel. My boyfriend, Borden, sat behind him. I rode shotgun, a rose from Borden on my lap. Slung over my arm was a 1940s taffeta ball gown I had bought for $20 at a thrift shop. I was 19.