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I met John Felker when I was 23, he was 33. At that point, I had more life skills than he did. Both of his parents were dead by the time he was 18, and he'd led an aimless, floundering life. We both needed someone to help pay rent, so we moved in together, at which point I discovered what "poor life skills" could mean: he rang up $1000 of phone sex bills in a month and then lied to me about having used the money I gave him to pay our utilities.

Never has a person been more eager to turn his life around as when I confronted him. We worked out a system for him to repay me and his other debts, and he stuck to it like a rock. When we moved in, he came with his "matched set of Hefty bags"; when we departed, he had money saved up and a plan for starting afresh. I moved to Massachusetts, he to Louisiana, and we kept in touch for the next 15 years. He became a travel agent because he wanted to help people see the world. He stopped frequenting bathhouses and met a life partner, Scott, with whom he adopted rescue dogs and made a wide circle of friends.

When we met, he was incredibly fatalistic: he had dreamed that he would die at 35 and didn't see the point in taking care of himself. I was curious what would happen at 35, which came shortly after we moved apart. At 35, he discovered he had AIDS. It galvanized him. He discovered that he cared very much about living. He did die - to the person he had been. The rest of his life, increasingly, was spent managing his many medical complications. But he loved it. He was genuinely happy for every day he had.

Yesterday he passed on: the last remnant of people I cared about from my time in Florida, a joyous mystery while alive, celebratory up to the moment of his death. He had Scott send a final group email which made me cry with happiness. I am proud to have known him.

Rest in Fun, John.


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September 2017



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