They Call Me Red

……

 

31 July 2013

Warm, clear and breezy, a perfect summer day at the park. Shark and Spike were standing at the rail. Sitting in a circle, in various states of inebriation were Manisee, Debbie, Little Jake, Jacques and Mariah. I hadn’t seen Shark for a few months so I walked over to him.

“Hi Dennis, haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I’ve been around, but you don’t come down much anymore do you?”

“No, there’s not much here for me. I came down to buy some native cigarettes and a few prescriptions.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’ve got a pain in my shoulder and my right leg. It’s been twelve years since I’ve had this (HIV). There’s a cocktail of pills I take twice a day, then my morphine three times a day. I’ve got blood work to be done. That’s going to hurt. There’s only one type of pain medication that works for me. Sometimes, because I’m a junkie, they don’t want to give it to me. That’s when I get on the phone to my doctor and have them explain to him why they want to change my meds.”

“How’s Irene?” I asked.

“She’s fine. She never wants to come out, at least not when I want to come out. I can understand, we have the air conditioning there. She hates the heat.  If her friend Sue comes over then they both want to go shopping. I hate that. What is it about women and shopping?  For me, I know exactly what I want and where it is, so I get my own cart and I’m in and out. I tell Irene to meet me at the van because I got beer in there. She has to read all the labels, she walks slowly then she can’t decide. I hate it.

“I bought a little dinghy that I use at the bridge near the Don Valley Parkway. I can’t remember the name… the Queen Street Viaduct, that’s the one. I really enjoy it, in fact, I’m thinking of getting a bigger one and towing the other behind.”

Mike said, “You have paddles for that, don’t you? I mean, you don’t have to paddle with your hands or anything, do you?  That would be exhausting.”

“It came with paddles. I started paddling with just one, otherwise, it kept going in circles. I got it worked out now. I was out with a couple of friends a few days ago. They jumped in the water and got their feet cut on some sharp rocks. I gave them some alcohol to clean the cuts with.  There’s stuff like E. coli in that water. You gotta be real careful with stuff like that or you could get a blood infection. That’s painful. A friend of mine had that and was in the hospital for six weeks.”

I said, “I’ve had blood poisoning before, but I went to the doctor as soon as I saw the red line going up my leg. It was the most painful experience I’ve ever had.”

Jake said, “That makes me want to jump off the bridge. I’ll end up doing it sometime this summer.”

Debbie said, “You wouldn’t really do that, would you Jake? Don’t do it when you’re drunk. That’s a no-no.” He was looking at three young women wearing tight pants and tee-shirts in the park below.

Mariah said, “What are you looking at Jake… fresh meat?”

I said, “It’s a good thing they aren’t on the other side of the river.  Jake might just dive in like he did last September.”

Gaston and Yves came by. Shark said, “Here come a couple of queers!”

Mariah said, “Shark, be nice. They’re our friends.”

“I know, but that’s what they are.”

“How are you doing, Yves?” I asked.

“Exhausted! I cleaned three apartments today, then I’ve been running around.”

“Do you run?”

“I meant I’ve had a lot of errands to run. I think I may be coming down with some kind of virus. They mentioned it on the news today. At the apartment building where I’ve been working, a bunch of ladies is down with it. I didn’t catch the whole broadcast, maybe they’ll have it on the news at six. It seems to affect mostly people over forty. The symptoms are flu-like with sore muscles, tiredness. I hope I haven’t caught that.”

I noticed a DVD in Jacques’ backpack. I asked, “What movie are you going to watch. He pulled out a handful, mostly pirated. “This is a funny one, ‘Every Which Way But Loose’ with Clint Eastwood. It’s the one with the monkey or orangutan. Then I got a bunch with John Wayne: ‘Blue Steel’, ‘The Dawn Rider’, ‘True Grit’. This one looks good,  ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’ starring James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan.  I think I got enough to keep me going for days. Of course, I’ll have to put it on pause, every once in awhile, to take a piss.

I asked Mariah, “Have you seen Joy today?”

“No, I rushed down here to pick up some cigarettes and some other stuff (marijuana) then I’m heading back.”

~~~

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