He was never really talked about. Except one time I can remember people talking about him getting arrested at a roadside rest area for solicitation. That was it for role models in the 70's and early 80's. I did have a friend that was not really out, but I think most people in town had the suspicion that he was gay. We had several friends in common, and sang in the choir and in played in the band together. Really nice guy. I couldn't be close friends with him because people would have asked questions. It is just the way it was in a small town.
Michael went off to college in New Orleans, and I never heard from him again. Never even really heard about him much. It was before Facebook and the internet, and I really didn't have a reason to stay close with him. That is the sad part of a small town.
I was reading my local paper the other day as I do every week. I always go to the obituary page, because my family forgets to tell me who dies. I guess it is not important to them. I saw that an old man who went to our church passed away, and a young kid about 21 years old had been in a car wreck and died. Then I saw it. Michael. His name was there. He died. I was shocked for a moment as I read the words on the page.
I called my sister in law later that day and delicately brought up the fact that I saw Michael had died of a long illness. I thought immediately of AIDS, and with my recent scare it was too close to home. It had a quote from him about how he never thought that he would move back home at this time of his life, and enjoy it. She had "heard" that he moved back because he had this illness.
She said that he died from some decease that "Homosexuals get," but didn't know what it was exactly. I said, "Not AIDS?" She said it was not AIDS. What is this decease that "Homosexuals get"? Of course I didn't push. We talked about his parents, and how sad they must be. Michael's only sibling had died some years back, so both of their children were gone.
I was so sad. I had some regrets not staying in touch with him. He was a good guy in High School and although we never talked about him being gay, I new some of his struggle- Get through High School so I can get on with my life. He had more courage than me. He lived a full life.
RIP Michael. Thanks for being a friend all those years ago.