By Lowell Bellfield
Originally performed by Zora Bishop
I think HIV makes me question a lot of things I held onto as certainties as a child. It makes me doubt and it makes me confused about things. I wanted to write that so I gave it a go.
She had already had her coffin made, which was strange. What was stranger is that she kept all her old vinyls in there. And then she covered it in a multi-coloured, sort of, South American alpaca blankety thing and she used it as a bench. So friends would come over and sit on it. And presumably she’d say things like ‘That’s my coffin.’ ‘You’re sitting on my coffin.’
And I thought ‘It must be weird, knowing you’re going to die.’ But that’s stupid because I do know I’m going to die. And so are you. And so are you. You won’t, which is weird, but… We’re all going to die.
Also, hate to say it, but her coffin, it was… well it was a bit crap. Like the wood was really crap wood and it wasn’t fancy at all. It was just a box. It was just a long box.
And she was talking about how all of her friends had sort of distanced themselves from her when they found out.
Yet she’d bought this coffin, in advance, and from a, let’s face it, crap wood, you know, she’d saved money, and then, and then, she’d utilised the coffin in her lifetime both as a vinyl storage and as a bench. It was all so conscientious. It was very caring.
And yet some of her friends distanced themselves from her. I mean, if it was me I’d have blown the lot: a week in the Bahamas, a week in Vegas, I’d have eaten all the food.
But that wasn’t her. That wasn’t who she was. Some people would have blown it all. Some people would spend time with loved ones. Some people would hate the world. Some people would carry on as normal. Some people would take up clarinet or heroin. Some people’s friends would come closer to them and their friendships would deepen. You know.
Just as some people would think ‘it’s weird knowing you’re going to die’. But some people would think ‘that’s terribly sad’ or ‘I wonder what vinyls she had’ or ‘why are you telling me this?’ or ‘I wonder how much coffins cost’ or ‘I hope I don’t get HIV’ or ‘is there a connection between necklaces and spirituality?’ or ‘Am I really a Roman Catholic?’ or ‘when’s pudding?’ or ‘where’s my batteries?’ or ‘miaow miaow!’ That last one I think is the thoughts of a cat.
And you read about a lot of people with HIV and they gave up and they ended it. But you also read about others who become more alive than they’ve ever been, that it gives them even more of an exploding reason to live than ever before. And you read about some people who pretend they don’t have it.
She knew she had it and she had her coffin made and she was the sort of person who would introduce her coffin with the words ‘and here’s my coffin’. That’s who she was.
It’s all just so random. And I know that’s sort of a cop-out, but I think it’s also sort of amazing.
It doesn’t make sense to me. But maybe to someone else it does.