I always think of him on December 30, the birthday of Paul Bowles. So, here goes: Early 1980s, Seattle, I could not help but notice him: mid-30s, lithe, blue countenance, with a head of dark curly hair and sad almond eyes. We rode the same bus, sometimes coming and going. I was unable to muster the courage to speak to him; his beauty was out of my league, intimidating and off-putting. So, I was more than a little surprised when he broke the ice one day by smiling across the aisle from me and holding up a well-worn paperback copy of The Sheltering Sky. I was reading the same book, in the same edition, at the same moment. He moved over the aisle to sit and talk to me. I was willing to listen.
Over the next month, we slowly became bus-buddies because of Paul Bowles. My new friend’s name was invented: “Jaxith”. He was a costume designer and we knew a lot of the same theatre people in Seattle. He had been kicked out of his home and disowned by his family for being gay when he was 16 years old, and afterwards, he not only took a new name, but he invented a past.
Jaxith would purchase snapshots at thrift shops and put them in a special scrapbook with annotations containing made-up names, invented dates and fictional events. We had a cocktail date once and he brought along the scrapbook. It was truly a work of art. In his counterfeit life, Jaxith was a direct relation of Marilyn Monroe. He made the notes in his handsome, elaborate script, along with sketches and magazine articles to “prove” his stories. Because of Jaxith, for the next 40 years, I have collected snapshots found at junk shops and yard sales. I make up back-stories for the people in the pictures.
Jaxith was a survivor, yet he did not survive HIV/AIDS in 1985. He was one of the first to go. I thought of Jaxith this morning as I contemplated my profile of Paul Bowles for The Wow Report.