totally forgot december 1 was AIDS awareness day. i even read a story about AIDS to a room of highschoolers and still it didn’t all click. but better late than never right? (well, sometimes)
so here’s what i read:
I do my best not to make eye contact. If you make eye contact, they talk to you. “They” includes homeless people, beggars, poor folk selling Streetwise magazines on busy Chicago sidewalks. With my head down, I turn the corner.
“Hello sir. I just want to talk to you for a moment.”
Man! He’s talking to me. I stop and listen.
“Oh, hi ma’am. No trouble. Oh, you’re a young lady; excuse me. I’d like to get your signature for the AIDS walk tomorrow. You can sign right here. I have AIDS.” He offers his hand. He’s really anxious and he looks so…so…I don’t know that there’s a word. I’d have to describe every detail. But I can’t remember every detail. It’s just that so much is wrong with him, so much is not 100%.
WOW. And I’m shaking your hand. I say nothing…he continues to make conversation.
“I’m blind in my left eye.”
I’m partially blind in my left eye, I say to myself.
“You are a young lady, right?”
“You can just sign right here.” He’s really eager to get my signature. So many thoughts are racing through my head. I’m confused.
“But I don’t understand. Why do you need me to sign this?”
“It’s in support of the AIDS walk.”
It finally clicks. “Oh. I need to give a donation.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t have any money to give.” I’ve conditioned myself to say it.
“I’ll take a penny. I’ll say thank you for a penny.”
“I’m so sorry. I really don’t have any money to give.”
“That’s all right. Have a good day now.”
And we part ways. He hurries on down the road to collect more signatures, more money. I carry on around the corner, homeward bound with a hand that has just shaken death. And for a moment I think of how much more peaceful it may be to know the cause of your pending death, how much better it may be to know the cause of your weak body, how I’d like answers to my condition. I think, momentarily, that I won’t wash my hand for a while in order to retain the memory of my conclusion.
I know I shouldn’t compare my plight with his but it’s hard not to. He has answers. I don’t. And, for a moment, that’s what makes my blindness so unfair.