I’m on my way home from the supermarket, by foot, and I am just about to cross Ventura Boulevard when I see a short bald man holding a large white envelope running toward me.
‘OH MY GOD,’ shouts the man as he reaches me, ‘YOU’VE GOT GREAT ENERGY!’
‘Really?,’ I say, ‘do I?’
‘YES,’ shouts the man again, raising his arms as if I have just performed a hold-up on him, ‘you sure DO!,
Then, suddenly, he puts his right hand on my left shoulder, inhales, holds his breath for a moment or two,tilts his head forward, exhales and quietly says-‘I have AIDS’,
Then he purses his lips and nods his head up and down.
‘Shit,’ I say, frowning, ‘That’s very, very bad luck,’
Then the man opens his eyes.
‘Yes, yes it is,’ he says, looking into my eyes, ‘But don’t worry, you can’t catch it like this,’
‘No,’ I say, ‘I didn’t think I could,’
Then the man, who is wearing blue slacks and missing the front teeth on both his upper and lower jaw,takes his hand from my shoulder and pulls up the sleeve of his dark blue polo shirt.
I look down to see a bony shoulder on which grey hair grows in tufts, like seaside grasses.
‘I need some medication,’ the man says, holding the white envelope up to my face, ‘I need 36 dollars,’
‘Um,’ I say, ‘okay,’
Then, like a magician performing a cup and balls trick, the man makes the envelope disappear, and pulls up his shirt.
‘You see?’ he says, pointing to his abdomen, ‘I need suppositories,’
‘Oh,’ I say, bending to look at his distended abdomen.
‘You see?’ the man says again.
Then the man closes his eyes and is quiet.
I stare at his face, at his mouth that is closing and opening like a fish gasping on a river bank.
And there is a long quiet between us until I put my shopping bags down and tell him a lie – ‘I’m afraid I only have 5 dollars’,
The man opens his eyes and pokes his head forward like an emu.
‘Is that all?’ he cries as I hold 5 dollar note out toward him.
‘Yes,’ I tell the man who is now tsking me and fanning his face with the white envelope, ‘I’m afraid that really is all I have.’


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