14 July 2006

love in a time of

CHOLERA. which is what a man died of on sunday while the nurses were in church.
then another went in the night. what is strange is that people here seldom die alone, always in twos or threes on the same day..im convinced its because the hand of death is heavy. and after wandering the abandoned corridors at night, i can also attest that this place is swarming with ghosts. i also sense them in 
the place i go for escape from the penguin. the roof. where i can look at the moon and the toxic afterburn of the city on the horizon. its not even the normal skyglow associated with cities i know--there are often elements of green and yellow and sometimes even blue that make me vaguely sick. these of course are the sorts of skies that match the rivers that run grey with shit and runoff. as they do here.
lots of dreams now about dark beaches and being swallowed in black churning water. sleep, needless to say, has not been forthcoming. but i do fund solace from my dark thoughts in the mango trees, which i have taken to climbing with the helpful accompaniment of young John, the nine yr old son of a widow who works here. he has these huge melancholy eyes and his english is great. we collect huge bags of looted fruit and refuse to share with anyone. 
 
they deploy cruel attack hounds at night to roam the expansive grounds...but im convinced its more to prevent us from fraternizing with..well.. the fraters across the way.  
we get locked in at the gate, again at the door to the womens quarters, and then she locks our room from the inside and comes at me with bottles of hair oil and reproaches about my lifestyle. i sigh quietly to myself and turn to the wall with all of the books i have. im learning so much its staggering, really. by the end of the summer ill have lost my social skills but ill be a fucking encyclopedia on this disease and this population.
 
lots of bloody things happening in the news. this country is so impossible in so many ways. ill elaborate further sometime when the letters arent blurring in front of me with fatigue.
 
the patients have taken it upon themselves to teach me cricket, which i have certainly eliminated from future career options. i must confess that i was nearly outbatted by a child a third of my age, much to the amusement of the locals. among the participants was a a whole family of new admissions, including a set of 5 year old twins with 30 year old eyes in 3 year old bodies. one is significantly sicker than the other. they are both ashen and delicate, but occasionally they commit acts of chaos and shout and scream and i find it most refreshing.
one patient ive been caring for (breakfast thru the nosetube every day) is in the very final stage of HIV infection, its attacked her brain, resulting in paralysis of half her body, among other unpleasant symptoms. not SO long ago, when she was young and vulnerable she was plied into the sex trade. she collected a number of tattoos (strange hindu symbols all over her body, a faded green dot between her eyebrows), and finally HIV. she succumbed rather quickly, so ive been told, and was barely functioning, homeless and being raped all the time before someone dragged her here. she had a beautiful face once and still has the longest eyelashes ive ever seen. her hair comes out when you touch it, she gasps and gurgles painfully for breath, and there are infected bedsores all over her. extensive thrush of the mouth and throat. she cannot swallow or speak but sometimes regards me deeply. she cant see my face through the surgical mask i must wear (to protect her from my germs). i will feel a small sense of relief when death comes to her. it probably wont be so much longer.    
 

2 comments:

carl otis winslow said...

that's a good book

Dad said...

What an amazing account of sadness, absurdity, humanity and grace. I miss you.