matter, “straight.” He was Tim, a friend, a colleague, a neuter. Anita was well connected to the rumor mill at the medical center. She considered keeping me informed of campus gossip, particularly that related to sex and romance, as an important part of her job. Her opinions on AIDS and homosexuality were complex. She had not entirely escaped a cultural aversion to homosexuality. She once came into my office after a meeting with an openly gay faculty member and, after a long stare, arms crossed and extended foot tapping, declared, “I don’t like him. I think he’s trying to get into your pants!” As a person who saw most things in sexual terms, to her gay men were subliminally competitors. Yet she had close friends who were gay. She always lent them a sympathetic ear. She felt deeply and personally the suffering of my AIDS patients. One was the brother of a boy she had dated in high school. She wept for him when he came to my office.
Tim and I had been meeting about establishing a teaching program for medical students in Key West. Tim liked spontaneous, unannounced meetings to present me with his creative ideas. The Key West proposal was just such a burst of creativity: Get the students away from the big city, let them see the kinds of problems they’ll encounter in a small town, and use the community physicians rather than full-time faculty as their teachers. He presented his ideas with his usual ironic wit and relaxed demeanor. After Tim left, Anita came in, looking despondently at the pictures on my wall.
“Is Tim gay?”
“What makes you ask that?” I answered, looking puzzled. “I don’t know. We’ve never talked about it. But I have no reason to believe so, and even if I did, it wouldn’t be any of our business, would it?”
“They say he announced to the whole first-year class in lecture the other day that he had tested positive for the AIDS virus.” She moved from looking at my pictures to studying my diplomas.
“Well, that’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard. You know how the rumor mill works. He was probably just acting out a role in