claims not to believe in credit cards, and if we don’t pay him in advance, he’s too poor to go.” I later learned that the reason why he didn’t have credit cards was that he had overcharged and refused to pay his bills. “Let them go after my estate,” he was quoted as saying. Yet with me he always seemed in control of himself. He somehow managed to be, if not optimistic, somehow unaffected by the fact that he had AIDS. I had seen this attitude in others, most notably Previlus. In Previlus’s case, I attributed it to poor understanding of his disease. Yet here was Tim, for whom the burden of his disease was compounded by the burden of knowledge of his own fate, and he could still think about ideas and things that had nothing to do with dying of AIDS. I could not understand this. If I found out I had AIDS, I would quietly consider suicide. The knowledge of what was ahead would have been too frightening. Didn’t Tim have similar thoughts? Being a physician would have made it easy for him. Before his pronouncement, I had heard him once express vaguely Buddhist ideas. Perhaps that was his secret. The cause of all suffering is desire. Freedom from suffering is freedom from desire, even if that includes a desire to keep on living or to die.
We traveled to Key West so he could introduce me to the doctors he had recruited there to teach our students and plan for the health fair that was scheduled in the next few weeks. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Tim was openly nostalgic about the city, telling me about the best restaurants and the best places to stay. The thought crossed my mind that this might have been where Tim acquired his infection. Living with AIDS was worth it, he seemed to be saying, as long as it included one more visit to Key West. With places like this, life couldn’t be so bad, could it? The gulf glistened under the December sun, forcing me to squint as I looked into the shadow of Tim’s face. Although I could not make out the details, I could see he was smiling, perhaps dwelling on a fond memory. Between the sun, the water, the perfect temperature, and the clapboard storybook houses, it was hard to believe there was any evil or suffering in the world.