Tuesday, August 07, 2007

2 + 2 = ?

In retrospect, it's only amazing that no one picked up on this sooner.

I have a particular uncle. He's a bit of a deadbeat and an alcoholic (not the "in recovery" kind, though). Every day he goes over to my great aunt's house and, unbidden, mows her quarter-acre lawn (every day). Then he troops up to her door and demands $20 in payment. Every day. He eats at her house and drinks her paint-peeling homemade wine and sleeps (for free) in the house of another uncle, across the street from The Aunda, so the most travel he does on an average day is to cross the street like a fat drunken pingpong ball, bed to table to bed to table.

About a year ago, this uncle in question got what we thought was a bee sting on his arm. His arm began to swell and swell and he began to fall over and swoon so The Aunda took him to the emergency room (she paid in cash for his entire bill, since of course he doesn't have insurance) where they discovered he had some kind of hideous septic infection that nearly choked off his heart. They gave him some antibiodics that acted freakishly slowly but eventually brought his swelling down.

A similar incident commenced this spring, when a ladder fell on him during one of his first days at a newfound day job. The cut on his leg, although treated promtly, became infected and his assigned antibiodics took a really really long time to do any good. Eventually he got better and miraculously didn't lose his job.

About two months ago, he noticed purple welts appearing on the skin of his neck, ears, bottom, and legs. They looked vaguely cancerous, or perhaps like something you'd describe as lesions. It took my younger cousin to say, "Uh, duh. Looks like AIDS to me."

All the pieces click and we slap our foreheads. My mother is distraught. We don't tell The Aunda about this diagnosis. Another uncle drops by the neighborhood on a daily basis to take him in for testing but he mysteriously makes himself unavailable. He realizes that it is all over and this is how he deals with the problem.

Now where could he have gotten it, you ask? The Aunda has been known, from her stalkeresque vantage behind her newly-sculpted hedge, to observe the comings and goings of a string of what she describes in English as "girlfriends" and in Italian as "putanas." One possible explanation.

Oh yeah. Did I forget to mention that he shoots heroin? I know, it's almost unbelievable that people still shoot heroin these days. But apparently they do. It's even more unbelievable in his case because we're talking about a guy who hasn't held down a steady job in a year and is constantly being thrown in jail for missing child support payments. Not that I think he's the kind of person who wouldn't spend every lsat penny on drugs--he's totally that kind of person (I think we call them addicts?)--but it's just that he doesn't HAVE any pennies to spend. And I was always under the impression that smack wasn't exactly the cheapest way out. But then again I didn't think anyone was stupid enough to shoot it in group settings anymore, either. Just goes to further demonstrate my naivete.

What an asshole. I think the situation must be harder for people like my mother, who remember him back in the good days when, as The Aunda will tell you, he was the best of them all. I am unhampered by sad memories of a better time, and only remember him in his classic drug addict behavior--malicious, manipulative, cruel, maudlin, utterly willing to humiliate you for a dime or for a good show.

Well, that's not how the story ends. My mother finally drags him to the emergency room for testing. The nurse practitioner takes one look at him and shakes her head. It's a shampoo allergy. She's sure. This doesn't mean, of course, he shouldn't get tested for AIDS. She gives him the number for a free clinic. But for now he should switch shampoos.

My mother dares to hope that at least he'll have learned a lesson. I'm not holding my breath.


angelle said...

lesions from shampoo?? oh god, what shampoo does he use? i'm staying away from that! my fair maiden's sensitive skin can't take it!

Space Alien said...

God, what is wrong with the world? If someone comes in suspecting something, you test them regardless.

ps, Does The Aunda actually pay for his "mowing" services.

moonrat said...

I KNOW!!!! I shouted at Mom about that. I was like, what the hell kind of health care system is this?! We have an admitted needle user coming in for HIV testing and you're turning him away?!

She explained it like this: apparently the CDC required that you track tested patients for 6 months after testing, and the hospital doesn't have the resources to do that, while an AIDS clinic has resources specifically allocated. Hence the referral.

But I'm thinking to myself, say you manage to get up the nerve to go all the way to the hospital (an intuitive destination for medical testing, I would imagine--I for one would make the same mistake) how the HELL are you going to get up the energy to go to a separate clinic? Not to mention the fact that most people (including but not limited to our dear uncle) have to be dragged kicking and screaming.

There is something seriously fucked up about this.

And yes, she actually pays him. Come on. Can you imagine The Aunda doing otherwise?