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Holiday Hospital Cheer

Transcribed: “I’ve got an hour to kill, having discovered too late that the little neighborhood store that sells stuff like sugar skulls and tin angels for the Christmas tree is closed on Mondays. So I’m sitting outside SF General Hospital as the sun sets, waiting for my doctor appointment. Twin Peaks and the Sutro Tower standing silhouette, the hills are dark paper and pinpricks through them gleam. Long strings of headlights flow down the hills in thin rivers. The trees along the hospital roads are lit. My breath rises. People trickle out of the buildings, for a moment some of them look where I’m looking, and then turn and smile at me.

“I’m feeling a little mute, maybe I blew a fuse after the last entry. Maybe it’s that when I called home yesterday, Lee told me that Mom’s not doing well. Very weak and tired, the brightness in her eyes dimmed. I’m glad I’m going home.”

Later. T-cells 909. Viral Load 170.

On the bell curve of his patients, I’m much better off than most. I could go for years without meds, he says, cautiously optimistic. I’m so healthy, in fact, that we just sort of smile at each other, not much to say.

Most uncomfortable moment: When he asks if I’m having sex. I say no. He says how long has it been and I have to think. Hard. A couple of months, I say.

I get the third Hepatitis B vaccine shot, all caught up there. I catch the 33 going back to the gym. On the bus there’s a girl in her twenties with bleached blonde hair. She’s wearing a surgical mask and hopital clothes, like pajamas. She’s wearing platform shoes. A tube snakes out of her bandaged arm and wraps around her wrist. She pulls out a compact and powders her nose and the cheekbones above the mask.

Ski leaves for New Jersey the same morning I leave for Minneapolis, early. We make plans to take a cab out to the airport together. I haven’t flown since August.

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