Just as the new plague that will eventually become known as AIDS begins to exact its toll on the gay community, William and Terry slide somewhat unintentionally into a committed relationship, complete with a dog. Terry has issues with the modest size of his penis; being "married" absolves him from performance anxiety.

Almost equally furtive, William has inherited polycystic kidney disease from his mother and is on dialysis, with the severe dietary restrictions and merciless thirst that it entails. William professes to Terry that size doesn't matter, but he indulges in elaborate fantasies about Peter Hunter, a well-endowed star of porn magazines; he becomes an obsessive collector of Hunter's work.

Terry and William are insulated by their singular bond from the havoc of AIDS, but William finds himself compelled to hunt the stigmata of that disease in photos of the exposed and hidden portions of Hunter's anatomy. When he realizes that motorbike riders are prone to becoming organ donors, he cultivates a fascination with their behavior and their machines, following them in his car and tracking statistics. Finally, a matched biker kidney is found for William, but the immunosuppressive drugs, which are given to help him tolerate the transplant, make him very ill. He is admitted with opportunistic pneumonia, ironically, to an AIDS ward.

More than once William says, "I went to sleep next to someone I knew and I woke side by side with a stranger," The book closes with a surreal dream-like sequence, as William takes leave of his lover. It could be continued life, readjusted by this brush with mortality toward a bold new freedom. On the other hand, it could be death itself, and the story suddenly becomes the memoir of a ghost.


A compelling, original monologue that explores the banal intricacies of living with chronic illness, regardless of its cause, and the banal intricacies of living with another human being, regardless of orientation. Fantasy is essential to the success of both. The author writes credibly and lucidly of the experience and the sophisticated science surrounding renal disease and transplantation. Devoid of self-pity and brimming with insight and humor, William's account vividly conveys the compromises, games, and bargains that are struck to accommodate companions (be they human, animal or pathological) who are both loved and resented.


Faber & Faber

Place Published

London and Boston



Page Count