By Katie Taylor
“I have AIDS,” she whispered, the tears that had dried on her face now mingling with fresh ones as her eyes focused somewhere in between my face and my feet. My arms felt heavy at my sides, and I was uncomfortably aware of the teenage boy behind the sandwich counter watching us.
I reached my arm forward, and she looked up at me. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Robin,” she said. Before I could say anything else, she grasped my hand tightly in both of hers. “I need money. For my medicine. It’s so hard here. I was in New York, and I thought it would be easier here, but it’s hard here. It’s so hard here. I need the money. I need the money for my medicine, and the shelter’s going to close and – ”
She was talking faster and faster, her voice getting louder with every word, and I didn’t want the restaurant’s manager coming out again. I squeezed her hand, and she stopped talking.
I told her I’d give her what was left from buying our sandwiches. It was all the cash I had in my bag, I told her.
* * *
I’d passed her on my way to a 12-step meeting. That November, in the middle of an imploding marriage and deep in the battle with an eating disorder, I spent several nights a week in community centers and the basements of churches. In simple rooms with a circle of chairs and a rack of pamphlets about how to stop – stop drinking or drugging or eating or sexing or not eating or whatever it was that you couldn’t quit doing. Continue Reading…