Joe Miller hated homosexuality. He hated the very idea of it; the thought of two men lying together made him sick. He didn't know where this idea came from. His parents never spoke about it growing up. It was just universal knowledge as far as he was concerned that a man's place was with a woman. He couldn't even begin to consider the appeal of two people of the same gender. He'd gone to law school with several people like that, but he did his best to avoid them. The first man's name was Robert Davidson, and he was very flamboyant. There was no mistaking his sexuality. Joe might not have had a problem with people like that if they would keep it to themselves. After all he didn't flaunt his sexual practices to the rest of the world; why should they?
Robert wanted to join Joe's study group, but he lied and said it was already full. Joe felt bad for a minute, but why should he? There were other groups that he could join. He wasn't discriminating. He did have several people already in his group and he didn't want to complicate things. Besides, Robert was struggling and Joe didn't want to risk dragging down the group. That's what Joe told his wife, and she seemed to understand him. Once in a while he questioned himself but Robert moved on and made other friends, so in the end what did it really matter?
When Andrew Beckett walked through Joe's door, little did he know that it would change his life. He couldn't spot a homosexual by looking at him. He knew Beckett, and thought highly of him. When the words AIDS came out of his mouth Joe was shocked. He wanted to dig a hole in the floor of his office as quickly as possible and disappear. All of the possibilities – the worst case scenarios- ran through his mind. Would he contact the deadly disease now that he had shook Andrew's hand? Worse yet, would he be a carrier somehow, would he bring this virus home to his wife and beautiful baby girl? The thought was too awful to wrap his mind around. Part of him knew that he was being illogical but one could never be too safe. He had to find out. He'd never been so scared, not knowing if he was going to meet an early end. And to something that was not even his fault.
Not like people like Beckett's. Certainly they could do something to help themselves. Certainly Joe felt sorry for him, but did this have to happen to him? Joe wondered. He'd never met anyone with AIDS before; he'd never had a face to put with the dreaded disease. Before he'd always assumed they'd just brought it on themselves, but now he wondered. But it didn't matter. If Joe had it, and his baby got it, that was certainly a different matter than when Beckett contracted it. It wouldn't be fair to say the least. All he could do was say his prayers.
He'd never forget the way his doctor looked at him when he asked if he wanted to be tested. Joe wasn't one of them. He didn't do anything to get this. He couldn't see himself going through all of this when he hadn't done anything wrong. It wasn't worth it.
Joe couldn't explain when or how it happened, but somehow Beckett went from being the homosexual to a person, a friend. He saw the struggles. Joe had seen a lot during his days as an attorney. He'd seen the homeless, drug dealers, rape victims, the abuse of the elderly and the handicapped, but Beckett was different. He had tried so hard, and was so honest. Maybe it was because of the way that Joe had originally saw him but Joe came to like him, he really did. It was hard not to become angry in this case, for Andrew Beckett had obviously been wronged, But he had not become bitter. Joe didn't know how he did it to tell the truth. He loved his job and if he were to be betrayed he would be angry, the kind of anger that would take over his life. But Beckett kept on living his life and fighting his disease the best he could, and for that Joe had to give him a lot of credit.
Finally the day they were dreading came, and Andrew collapsed. Everyone raced to the hospital. Joe continued the case, and at the end of the day he went to the hospital to visit his client.
"Counselor," Andrew smiled weakly.
"Talk about a scene," Joe smiled. "How are you?"
"Hanging in there. It's good to see you. I wasn't sure you'd come."
"I had to. These are billable hours," Joe laughed.
Andrew smiled weakly. "What's the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer?"
"A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge."
They both laugh. Joe looks at him for a minute. "What?" Andrew asks.
"You know, it's not easy for me it say this. I hardly ever do- just ask my wife. I like things a certain way. When you're a lawyer you sometimes see things as black or white. I've been that way my entire life. That's gotten in my way in certain areas. I took my case thinking I knew you and what you were about. I hated what you stood for. I didn't agree with your lifestyle and that caused me to judge you. I can see now I was wrong. I hope that you can forgive me for the things that I've thought and the way I might have acted towards you. You've taught me a lot about helping my fellow man and I hope to take those lessons with me in the future," Joe took a deep breath.
Andrew looked at him. His life had inspired at least one other person- he was thankful for that.
"Counselor, this isn't the way I would have wanted it to happen but I'm glad. I'm glad to have known you. And I hope that you continue to feel this way. It's been a pleasure working with you. I have worked with many fine attorneys and you're at the top of the list."
Joe smiled and he knew what he had to do. He reached over and took Andrew's hand and held it for a minute. In that minute he reflected upon what was important to him- his wife, his daughter, his career, his ethics. In the end, after all of this was said and done, he could hold his head up high, and that was all that mattered.