rating: +241+x

President Reagan, 1981

Object Class: Safe

Special Containment Procedures: SCP-7918 is to be stored in Site-134's anomalous media library.

Description: SCP-7918 is a videocasette containing an approximately 12-hour long film depicting an individual appearing to be Ronald Reagan in the terminal stages of HIV/AIDS. "Reagan" displays symptoms indicative of Kaposi's sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii-induced pneumonia throughout.1

As in reality the actual Ronald Reagan died from Alzheimer's disease-related complications, the film's production is assumed to have been anomalous in nature.

Addendum 1: Transcript

[The film opens on a shot of Reagan in a hospital bed. His face is dotted with purple lesions, and his body is emaciated. He wheezes with every breath.]

Reagan: I still remember meeting you that first night at the disco just off Castro Street. You had those tight jeans on that really showed off your ass and that pink polo, the ridiculous one, an outfit choice that would've been batshit in the sunshine but under the mood lights of the dance floor seemed to work out alright. More than alright. I was 23 and two months out of the closet, and you had that long cut, those beautiful brown locks, and when we ended up making out out back by the dumpsters it seemed less like a choice I'd made and more like an inevitable act of fate.

Reagan: We didn't have sex that night because I was scared and new and naive, because I'd made an excuse to get away, because being gay didn't exactly cut away my all-consuming fear of intimacy. I woke up the next morning thinking that I'd really fucked it, that for the first time in 23 years I'd found love and thrown it away because I was just that special brand of perennial coward, and I figured this was it, that it was over, that I was going to die alone in my empty one-room studio in the Tenderloin that I could barely cover the rent on, and then I saw you in the booth in the BART and you said hi. And then we did end up having sex that night and things worked out alright, in the moment.

[Reagan coughs, blowing mucus into a tissue. He blinks, and his face flickers, the lesions vanishing.]

REAGAN: The Carter ads were killer. God did we nail him. Beautiful things, Dick Nixon himself would have been proud, warnings to all god-fearing voters of some dark and sinister group of urban homosexuals pulling the Governor's strings. The gays in San Francisco elected a mayor. Now they're going to elect a president, Carter himself, yes sir, Jimmy from humble Plains, a man who's lusted in his heart.

REAGAN: Election night was a work of art, some Renaissance portrait of hate and backlash and Morality. We gave Falwell the knife and god, did he cut. Big chunks of meat. Delicious. I remember skinning rabbits back in Monmouth, it was beautiful, watching the hide slide from the flesh slide from the bone.

REAGAN: Morning in America.

[The lesions return to Reagan's face. He is silent for an hour and 32 minutes, coughing occasionally throughout.]

Reagan: We had different expectations going in. I thought gay dating was just like the other side of the coin, with a little more urgency, maybe — two guys, all testosterone, you can fill in the rest, ha-ha. You date for a few months, hold hands, make doe-eyes, move in, and you're done. Easy enough.

Reagan: After a few weeks he started getting bored.

Reagan: He tried to take me cruising and I hurled. He mentioned a bathhouse in casual conversation when we were eating at a diner and we fought for the whole rest of the night, him throwing hard-edged words like prude and sexual fascist and me just crying, mostly. He said he was sorry in the morning and I believed him, but we both knew that that was it.

Reagan: I spent the next month learning not to love him, and one Friday when he was out I carried everything I owned out of his apartment in two small boxes and just walked, walked deep into the night until I was standing on the Twin Peaks, the two grassy hills overlooking Castro and the city beyond, and I sat there until the sun rose over the Bay and cast pink rays into the overcast sky and the fact that it was over set in, that I was about to live my own life again.

Reagan: Another heart, another hole.

Reagan: In June the next year the phone rang and he told me that I shouldn't be too worried and it was much more likely that he'd caught it in the interim but he was feeling tired all the time, that he had spots on his thighs and back, that it wasn't a sure thing yet and he was terrified of seeing a doctor but that he just felt I should know, that it wouldn't be fair to let me go into the dark like that. And then, for the first time, I heard him cry.

[Several hacking coughs. Reagan scratches at one of the lesions. They slowly fade from his face.]

REAGAN: First caught wind of it in a daily briefing, somewhere in the spring of '82. Chuckled. We-e-ell, isn't that something. Few dozen fairies in the ground. Next item, move it along, we've got a lot more on the agenda.

REAGAN: Handful of appropriations in some small half-measure bills. Million for the NIH here, five-hundred thou for the CDC there. Wasn't worth the effort to single it out specifically, who cares, let them have their pet projects. Then suddenly they're banging the table and hollering and yelling about twelve million, twelve million in funding for GRID or ACIDS or what was it that they called it now, and you know that was the line. Became a Moral issue. Homosexuals have declared war on nature and now nature is exacting its awful retribution, read the columns — beautiful stuff, couldn't have put it any better.

REAGAN: Couldn't shoot it down it outright, would work to their advantage. Could cry and scream about it, talk about it to the press, give it attention. So we stonewalled it, ha-ha. Made some noise about a veto. Let it pass in the end, but they had to claw out every dollar. 644 dead and two months later in the press conference in-between wisecracks from Press Sec. Speakes and the less call it politically correct members of the press pool the claim was made that we'd supported it the whole time, that in that cabinet meeting all those months ago I'd declared it our number one research priority.

REAGAN: Some of the really unlucky ones came down with encephalitis. Head straining at the seams, brain inflamed screaming bloody murder. When a skull cracks the sound is something beautiful. Heard it before in Berkeley. Heard it in my dreams those nights in the summer of '82.

[Reagan closes his eyes, and falls asleep. The lesions return. After two hours and 35 minutes, he jolts awake, coughing.]

[Lesions flicker in and out rapidly from Reagan's face. Some of his features blur.]

Reagan: Remember the first time we met, after all those months apart? How much thinner you looked? The purple spots on your face, the dead ringer for sarcoma, the cream you were using to cover them? How we talked about how you'd get back to your job in a few months, back in the BART, how you'd recover just like that. Remember how you stumbled when I walked you back to your car?

REAGAN: Remember Watts? Pat Brown? Remember Newark, when National Guardsmen and riot police shot innocent people in the streets, and Middle America cheered them on? Remember thinking you could use this? That the governor's office was only the start, that America was waiting for you, someone who would really establish Law and Order and beat the snot out of the yippies and hippies and the students and the radicals and stop busing, stop integration, "slow down" the attempt to wash the country clean of its sins.

Reagan: Remember the hospital? Remember the flowers I brought you, not as many this time because it was your second visit and I figured that the gesture of me being there and just showing up counted more than some day-old peonies that, yes, I also couldn't really afford anyways. Remember how you hurled too? Remember how they said you had crypto-something-or-other, a disease that mostly showed up in sheep? Remember how when I talked about it to the only person I still knew from back home, my buddy Jim, who said he didn't really mind the gay thing much because he knew I was a good guy, deep down, which was really all that mattered in his book, and he said that he'd seen it once, in his neighbor's herd? And how they shot them, how that was the only cure, shooting them? Remember the smile in his voice?

REAGAN: Remember the RNC, in '68? The trailer, the sweltering Miami heat, delegate after delegate going aw-shucks well we'd love to vote for you but Nixon, Dick Nixon, we just think he's the one, really. Remember when you realized that just backlash wasn't enough, that hectoring about riots would only get you so far? That America needed a new kind of hate in its soul, a new kind of poison, before you could swallow it whole.

Reagan: Remember how they said you didn't have much longer? Remember when I took you to the Twin Peaks, my hands on the wheel because you were already so tired? Remember how we sat together on the park bench, and I put my arm over you, and it was just like old times for a while? Remember how if you squinted, it almost looked like the lights in the Castro were going out one by one, the bath-houses and book-houses and regular houses, decades of liberation being wiped out by a Syndrome?

REAGAN: Remember how you were silent? Remember how you said nothing, did nothing, just sat in the Oval Office as the deaths pushed past five, ten, twenty-thousand? Remember how the White House kept pushing for funding cuts, reductions, for the CDC and NIH and all the various labs and hospitals to do more with less?

Reagan: Remember the snowflakes, on that December day? How they danced and twisted in the air? Remember how much the plane ticket to North Dakota cost? Remember how I didn't think twice about it? Remember how it was just your mom and a few other friends, some old like Jim, some new like me? You still had your hair, your brown locks, despite everything. Remember when the grave said 1957, and I thought it was funny, that I never asked how old you were. Only about your birthday, which I had been planning something stupid for, all those months ago when you were still healthy and happy and I was still in stupid doe-eyed love. Remember how I didn't talk to anyone else for a few weeks after that?

REAGAN: Remember Monmouth? Those lonely sun-lit Illinois days? Remember those boyhood stories you told to those adoring crowds, each the same, trauma, sin, then redemption? Remember the flu, when you were seven? Remember how the fluid filled your lungs, and you were sick for weeks, and how you coughed and coughed? Remember Dixon, the five houses by the river? Remember when the other boys tackled you in football, how you were always on the bottom of the pile, because you were weak, little Ronnie was weak? Remember the purple bruises they left all over your body?

Reagan: Remember the spot on my arm, the one I noticed in the shower? And the one I saw two days later on my calf? Remember the cough I developed a week after?

[The lesions stop flickering, and settle on Reagan's face. His features are blurry and indistinct. He wheezes quietly for 3 hours and 2 minutes.]

Reagan: I think about that first night, sometimes, after I saw you in the BART. I thought about you more, not less, in those anxious months — which tracks with the grief, I guess, but when you're dying from a lethal disease you generally expect your thoughts to be more self-centered. Oh god no, don't take me yet, it's not my time.

Reagan: We all have to go eventually, my grandpa said, when I was 15 and old enough to understand the facts of what he was going through but not the real emotional truth behind it. You're invincible when you're young. Death doesn't square with that.

Reagan: I was 24 and I guess not so young now, because life does that to you, because years really aren't the only way you age.

Reagan: They came to my hospital room with flowers. They had tulips, the same kind that you had in your windowsill, that I woke up to the sound of you watering. My grandpa had cancer, something I hadn't really bothered to learn the details of in typical heartless teenage fashion. His was in the liver, mine was in the skin. He took 5 years. My paranoid guess was six months, but how the hell was I to know?

Reagan: I got to leave. You're in and out for most of it, a few weeks in a hospital bed, a few weeks in your own. Tired all the time. No fun, no fun. Just how I lived now.

Reagan: Never felt lonely, because I still had you, all those memories. Powerful things on cold nights. You talked about how great a memory you had. Said you could still remember the first time I looked at you. I called bullshit and meant it because this was after one of our bigger fights and I figured it was just an outright ploy, but now I'm not so sure.

Reagan: Lights in the Castro going on one by one, faster then they winked out, in Manhattan, in L.A. Humanity, community, support from all corners.

[The blurring fades from Reagan's face, although the lesions remain. His appearance is now that of an as-of-yet unidentified male estimated to be around ~25 years of age.]

Reagan: One day I'll wake up in your apartment again, I think. I don't know if you'll be there. But I know I'll wake up there one day, with tulips on the windowsill and your polo on the floor, and it'll be comfortable, and it will be warm, and the world outside won't mean much just yet. I'll wake up there in your too-small twin bed looking at the unfinished stucco ceiling and I'll smile. Some day this will all be over and I will be someplace with you because that's what home really is to me, now, and it will be warm and the world will be smiling. And things will be alright.

["Reagan" coughs once, curtly. He is quiet for an hour and two minutes, before giving several hacking coughs after which all signs of life cease. After three hours and fifty-seven minutes, his face returns to that of Reagan's. He looks lost.]

REAGAN: When the dam finally burst, when the big names and the celebrities and the Foundations and the Institutes all came crashing down talking about AIDS, this awful epidemic AIDS, I got up on stage and gave a pat twenty-five minute speech that started with an anecdote from my days at the General Electric theater that promised nothing, essentially, just some token measures, bare pittances. No funding, no nothing, the same exact course.

REAGAN: The gnawing won. When I looked at myself in the mirror I saw myself as I'd always imagined it. Old weak tired. One day I forgot I had an appointment and then I was out of office, playing golf with Nancy, lying in bed mute staring at the walls dying, dying slowly, dying from the fluid in my lungs. In Monmouth when I was sick they brought me toy soldiers to play with. My own little army. I moved them around and I won battles and won wars. When I started getting better the sunlight shone through the window onto my face and there was a game on, a locker room, the team was waiting for me. I stepped onto the field and the light shone on my face and the crowd cheered, they cheered, and I smiled back at them. Dutch, Dutch, Dutch. The sky went gray and the crowd went quiet and when I opened my eyes they were all around me, worried faces, hoping, crying, Ron, Ron, Ron.


Reagan, 1996

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