Vern and Frank – Part 3
(Read the prior parts on the RiverPath Blog)
After leavin him off, I pop in on AJ, glad she’s home. She knows I get nervous about her goin back to the streets. She keeps remindin me we been together over three years now and hasn’t went behind my back yet and I need to relax more. I tell her about Frank. She laughs about him saying he’s a Michigan hillbilly. When I tell her he told me to get my butt to the doctor about this flu, she looks scared and tells me she agrees. So, the next day I go over to the clinic, and they check me all over and draw enough blood to fill the Red Cross. That was on Monday. On Friday, they tell me to come in for my results.
“Why the hell don’t they tell me on the damn phone?” I tell AJ. She gets this scared look on her face and turns away, sounded like she’s snifflin or somethin.
Sunday, I take Frank to the airport. On the way, I tell him I followed his advice about the Doctor and am goin in tomorrow to get the results of the bloodwork they run and how I’m worried cuz they wouldn’t didn’t tell me on the phone.
He nods, like he agrees, but don’t say nothin till he gets out. “Take care, Vern. Let me know what those results are. I’m seeing my Doc this week, too. Think I need to make some plans.”
But, I don’t let him know. I don’t answer his calls. How the hell do you tell someone you ain’t got the flu, you got the big A and it’s full blown? I got the fast kind that sometimes hits older black men quicker. How the hell do you tell somebody you don’t know how to act toward your girlfriend when you find out she’s HIV positive? Or that after shoutin and yellin, we figured it out. Seems in the week between her testin negative and meetin up with me, she’d done a couple of tricks to pay her rent. She must a caught it then.
I believed her when she said she hadn’t been with anyone else since she met me. We both got started on all those pills, hers to delay or stop it from goin into AIDS, mine to slow the progress down. But mine ain’t workin too good.
About 9 months after last seein Frank, AJ and I are doin a slow walk through the park and see Frank’s daughter with her kids.
“You don’t look too good, Vernon. Are you seeing a doctor?” I nod, but don’t answer. Next she says, “I hardly see you driving the shuttle around anymore. Dad’s coming in next week and was hoping you could pick him up.”
I ask her what day and tell her I’ll get him. I’m only workin two days a week now. Damn shuttle company still ain’t approved the zip code, so no other drivers will carry him to her address. Besides, I want to see him anyhow, tell him I’m sorry for avoidin him. His daughter tells us Frank isn’t doing well.
Frank’s skin and bones when I pick him up, using a walker, had to be wheel-chaired down to the shuttle area. But, his smile is still big and his hazel eyes twinkle like always.
“So Vernon, your fingers broke so badly you can’t work a phone?”
I lose it. Start cryin, sayin I’m sorry. Thank God he’s the only passenger so far and no one else is around. He shuffles his walker over and gives me a hug.
“I got the AIDS, full blown and the damn meds ain’t workin good, and I’m only drivin two days a week now, and AJ’s positive and we can barely afford her pills.” I stop cryin, blow my nose, wipe my face. I see tears in Frank’s face.
“Damn,” he says. “Damn.”
Frank nods toward five people walkin up with their tickets, all in a hurry to get downtown. Like always, he starts tellin ‘em where to take their luggage and where to sit. He asks the last guy to take his walker back to me and climbs in the front.
“Is this your last run for the day?”
“Good, take them downtown and drop me last. Then we can talk.”
I don’t tell him it’s my last day of work, that it’s all I can do to finish this run. Or the company’s picking up the van tonight.
Catch Part 4 on Wednesday next week. Better yet, hit the Subscribe button to the right and have it automatically show up in your email!