To say that my brother David and Tim Pinckney were best friends is an understatement, failing to capture the full measure of their relationship. “Best friend” is a term easily tossed around but, that’s what they called themselves, best friends. Yet theirs was unlike any friendship I recognized or have known. Perhaps soul mates is a better description but even that comes up short. The word platonic comes to mind, without a doubt it was love that transcended sexual attraction. To be within their orbit was an awesome and beautiful thing to experience if, that is, if you could keep up.
I first realized the depth of their friendship around 1991. I had arrived at Lenox Hill Hospital after a red-eye flight from Seattle. I made many such trips during the course of David’s illness (for those who don’t know, he had AIDS), sometimes Lenox Hill was my first stop. I was surprised to discover on arrival that David was due to be discharged at any minute. He was dressed and ready to go. He said Tim was coming shortly to help him get back home to Fort Washington.
While we waited for Tim, David reclined fully dressed on the bed and I sat on the chair next to him just inside the privacy curtain dividing the hospital room. We chit chatted about his stay and the current state of his health. I hated dwelling on his illness but under the circumstances, I needed to be brought up to speed. He was a bit perturbed at having been housed on a regular hospital floor rather than 8 East, the AIDS Center where he usually went. Unfortunately, he was a regular there. David was fast losing his eyesight to Cytomegalovirus. By 1991 he had already suffered a number of serious health crises but as usual, he was taking it all in stride. Oh, going blind, sure I can deal with that, he was amazing!
After a few minutes, Tim slips in the door. We greet each other with a hug. Tim and David greet with a kiss on the lips. The kiss takes me by surprise. Call me naive but I’d never thought about the possibility. Still slightly off-balance, I’m swept up in what is unfolding between the two of them. There it was, on full display in the simple everyday tasks of helping someone pack up and get ready to leave. There was such tenderness and compassion in every movement between them as if they were dancing to the unheard melody in their hearts. Even the tone they spoke to each other in had a loving resonance. It pinned to my seat, I felt impotent by comparison.
That experience opened a door for me, one that helped me become more fully present for my brother. And yes, I began greeting his friends, who would become my friends, with a kiss on the lips. Every time I do it, I think of him.
Their beautiful friendship has even become a source of laughter in our family as we recall the story of “The Suit”. David and Tim shared a suit together. A practical decision for two people who are the same size and only on occasion need to dress up. Unless of course, one of the parties decides to be buried in the suit.
From my solo performance play “My Brother Kissed Mark Zuckerburg”:
A PERFECT FIT
It’s decided, he gets the suit
should have read the fine print:
In the event of impending death, the would-be deceased has the option to assume full ownership of the suit with three days’ notice. Verbal notification shall be considered sufficient notice. Surviving party is eligible for cab fare to Moe Ginsberg’s or other clothier in the Manhattan area code. A wardrobe credit will be noted in the funeral program.
codified in family lore, lovingly retold again and again
share a suit?
why not, they’re a perfect fit
truest of friends
peerless union of wit and spirit
hearts bound in joy
dancing a vernacular all their own
never pausing for the world to catch up
old friends, still beating as one
sharing a suit
a perfect fit