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Hunger/AIDS Medication Striker to Trinity Church: “Forgive Us Our Trespasses“

Jack Boyle. (Photo: J.A. Myerson)

Jack Boyle’s hands are nothing but trouble. Not only is his right thumb bent completely out of shape, injured during his forcible eviction from Zuccotti Park in November, but his fingertips are increasingly numb, as his peripheral neuropathy kicks in more, and more. It’s been twelve days since he took his medication and eight days since he’s eaten, and he is starting to feel it. He used to take Truvada once daily and Lexiva and Norvir twice daily. He says the “a” at the end of Truvada and Lexiva like “er,” the way many of his fellow fifty-something native New Yorkers would. But he won’t take any of those pills ever again, unless Trinity Church forgives him and his friends their trespasses.

Boyle was arrested on December 17, along with religious leaders and fellow Wall Street occupiers, for climbing over a fence onto an empty lot owned by Trinity Church’s real estate corporation wing. Trinity Church has so far turned a blind eye to pleas to drop charges against the protesters, so Boyle is going on a hunger strike – and a medication strike. “Jesus,” he says, “would not judge his sisters and brothers for simply stepping on a piece of land.”

In January of 2004, Boyle, then 49, was living and working in Washington, DC, where he was sick “on and off.” He did not regard his condition with severity until the day he collapsed unconscious at home. “When I came to,” he says, “I got my ass over to the emergency room, and twelve hours later, I was told ‘You have AIDS.’ Hello!” He returned to New York and started medical treatment, which has kept him reasonably healthy these last eight years.

I ask him how he’s feeling. “Very weak,” he says. “I’m feeling it now.” His eyes are very blue and look very tired. “I’m good, but I feel… what I’m doing is coming along… meaning it’s… I’m feeling it… I’m weak… and hungry.” He speaks in short bursts interrupted by big pauses, his sentences weaving back and forth before coming to their conclusion or, more frequently, being interrupted – “I’m long winded,” he warns straight away. But when I ask if he would refuse medication in the event of hospitalization, there is no pause or stammering. “Yes,” he says. “I’m adamant about these charges.”

Boyle and his family “have not been in touch for several years,” and he hasn’t told his physicians about his strike, but he will at his next appointment, which is coming up. He plans on getting around his long-windedness by showing them the letter he wrote to rector of Trinity, Rev. Dr. James Cooper and his associates (“sanctimonious hypocrites”), which explains his intentions and includes the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Boyle hasn’t heard back from Trinity, “and I don’t expect to.” Like many other Irish-Catholic New Yorkers born in the 1950’s, he went to parochial school and until public high school altered his course in life, felt as though he was headed for the priesthood. “I was a little holy roller,” he says. Now, though, his catechism goes thus, “Mankind, grow up and get your fucking shit together, you stupid species,” and is accompanied by a mischievous smirk.

We step out onto the balcony of Boyle’s Chelsea apartment building, maintained in conjunction with New York’s support services agency for people living with HIV/AIDS. There are bars shooting up into the sky, preventing anyone from getting anywhere close to the edge. “I’m in jail,” he jokes. “Look at the world. Soon, even the sky will have bars.”

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