read / the lives they lived / mike de stefano

This story originally appeared in the NY Times on 22/01/12.

Yeah! And then it just hit me: I’m like, no, you have to, you’re in this moment, you have to do this motorcycle ride. You know? And it’s dangerous, and what if she falls? And what if one day I’m telling this story: “Yeah, my wife, she almost died of AIDS, but then I killed her on my Harley. She fell off and banged her freakin’ head.” That’s a messed-up story.

And that’s when I realized, you know, screw it. Of course I’ll — yeah. So I’m riding around the hospice parking lot, and then my friend who’s a cripple in a wheelchair comes barreling over in his van, laughing, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m riding Franny around.” Franny’s like, “Can we just go out on the street a little bit?”

She’s holding the pole! Marc, it was a pole with four wheels on the bottom, and we’re riding around this hospice, and you could hear the goddamn wheels jangling and banging; it was insane.

And then I pass the front door, and all these nurses are standing out front, and they’re all crying. They’re watching us, and they’re crying. And I didn’t know why they were crying. I was like, Why are they crying? I didn’t get what they were seeing. I didn’t know. Because I was just in it; I was living it. I knew my wife who had suffered, she was a prostitute, she was a freakin’ heroin addict, she was beaten by pimps — this was her past — and then she ends up with AIDS, and she’s dying, and all she wants is a goddamn ride on my motorcycle.

So the next thing you know we’re on I-95, because women, it’s never enough for them. We’re on I-95, and she unhooks the pole, and she’s holding the morphine bag over her head with her gown that’s flying up in the air so you could see her entire naked, bony body with the morphine bag whipping in the wind, and we’re passing by these guys in their Lamborghinis, and I’m looking at them like, What the hell kind of life are you living? Look at me, I’m on top of the world here.

Read the whole story here, and download the audio interview here.

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