Reginald had a hard time going through this world – this world he didn’t survive, to echo a line from one of his poems.
I’m not just referring to the more apparent biographic facts of his hard knocks life (a song, by the way, that he much enjoyed both in Annie and in the Jay Z rendition), though I am in part referring to those:
Growing up as the child of a single mother in the 1960s (he told me once that he identified fiercely with the Supremes’ song “Love Child” when he was a child).
Growing up living in public housing tenements in the Bronx.
Losing his mother when he was fifteen.
Dealing with the same tribulations that most every gay man in this culture deals with in coming to terms with that gayness.
Living with HIV for well over a decade.
Living with and dying from cancer and the horrible pains it brought.
Dealing with a host of “lesser” medical issues, like the osteoporosis (possibly a side effect from HIV meds) that led to fractures in his hip and at least one rib.
None of these made it easy to walk through life.
I’m also referring, though, to the combination of innocence and a strong sense of justice with which he continually encountered this unjust world.
One thing the two of us shared was a sense of how we thought the world should be, fair and equitable, with thought and beauty in all its forms valued.
But he combined this with a sort of innocence. He kept expecting the world to be fair and just, for people to be thoughtful and to value reflection rather than ignorance, and as a result he was often disappointed about the state of the world, but one of his most charming traits, that I miss so, was that he kept on presuming the best of people.
Some who knew us, but not in depth, thought I was the optimist and he the pessimist of the couple. They were wrong. In reality, I’m much more likely to view the world through a deeply cynical and pessimistic lens, with one consequence being that I can almost always envision things being even worse than they are. I may become angry, upset, or feel loathing towards aspects of the state of the world, but rarely are my expectations disappointed when people or things are stupid, hateful, vile, or otherwise bad. It’s more that I’m pleasantly surprised when things are good and beautiful.
Though it meant he often bumped up against disjuncture between his expectations and the state of the world, his sense of justice combined with optimistic innocence was a part of his charm that I sorely miss, and that I feel unbalanced without.