I wrote this piece a few years ago when I turned 40. The inspiration came from the few photographs I have of my father, John Daniel Lugo, Sr. On this World AIDS Day 2018, I remember him and the millions who have died from this illness that does not discriminate
All my life I have been told we look alike. That I am the spitting image of you. That we were one and the same. When I was three I had the same wispy dark blonde hair that you had at that age. I saw it in a photo grandma had of you on the sideboard in her dining room. In the photo, your eyes were wide and exploratory. It looked as if you were seeing beyond the camera, the future perhaps.
When I was eight I saw a photo of you at the same age and it stuck with me. Your eyes were different now. They had a sense of a fate already accepted. Auntie Patty told me that when you were seven, you had a dream you would die before your time. After that, something changed in you. Your eyes were dark pools of knowledge that perfectly complimented your now brown hair. My hair colour changed too. My eyes were different now too. They had been since you looked into them as the ambulance pulled away. It was good bye not see you later.
When I was thirteen I saw a photo of you. Grandpa told me we were the same ages in that one as he ruffled my hair in that way that made me tense up. I could see the similarities in our eyes. You had long eyelashes that probably made your sisters jealous. All the girls at school were jealous of mine so I could relate. Your Romanesque nose seemed smaller than mine but I could see what Grandpa meant. You smiled more than I did.
When I was eighteen just before graduation, Mom walked in and looked at me in a way she hadn't before. She leaned against the door frame and said “It's like seeing a ghost. You look more like him every day." I smiled because I didn't know if that was a good thing or not. I had seen a photo of you at 18 and you wore your hair like you were Carlos Santana. My hair was frosted and combed to the side. I couldn't see past that.
When I was twenty three I looked at your wedding photo as I unpacked them from a box. You were the same age as me then. In the corner I noticed my stroller for the first time. I remember feeling guilty that my parents had waited to give me a name. I saw your choices as my burden. You were smiling from ear to ear as if that moment was the summit of your happiness. I knew then that I was born out of love and that conventions mattered very little to you. I knew then that sometimes it was okay to put the milk in before the cereal.
When I was twenty eight I framed a photo of you and me side by side both the same age, twenty eight. I wanted to see if it was still true what they said. Our eyes were similar. Both of us with dark pools of experience looking back at the camera. Your smile still outshone mine but the way our cheeks lifted was almost identical. My skin colour only slightly darker than yours, easily explained by a sun tan. Your hair was slightly longer than mine and you wore a bandanna on your forehead for some reason. My hair was short and manageable. Our similarities were more important than our differences.
On my thirty third birthday, Auntie Patty was at my surprise birthday party. She took one look at me and put her hands on her face. "You look so much like him!" She smiled. I smiled back. I had learned to smile when people commented on how similar we both looked. You were handsome and loved. This meant I was both those things too, right? But there are no photos of you at thirty three. How could I still look like you?
I'm older than you now, nearly forty. My skin is smooth. My eyes are dark with introspection. When I smile my youth is a trick of the light. The crow’s feet and worn hands always give away my real age. The photo of you at three now hangs on the wall in my office at home. All my friends ask if that was me as a child. I used to wonder what you were looking at in that picture. Perhaps you knew then that one day I would be mistaken for you.
This year, I set up a fund in his name for the Terence Higgins Trust. It is open year round for donations and will go to ensure that we continue to fight for a cure and eradicate the ignorance and stigma attached to this disease.
John Lugo-Trebble considers this more of a space to engage personal reflections and memories with connections to music and film.