come into the clinic as saucy as ever. I breathed a silent sigh of relief each time I saw that her child continued to grow and stay healthy. One day she asked me straight out, “Am I going to die?”
“So far no one has lived longer than four years. We can only hope that in the near future we’ll find a treatment or a cure.”
“It was that damned dope!” she sobbed quietly. “Everyone was doing it. We just thought of it like candy.”
She cried uncontrollably for 10 minutes or longer, and I just sat there.
“What about my baby?”
“You mean, if you die?” I tried to dodge the issue of whether her child would get AIDS or not.
“He’s just a baby. He’d be all alone in the world without his momma.”
“I suggest you make whatever plans and arrangements you can now, while you’re still fairly healthy.”
“I’m not coming here anymore, Dr. Fournier. I mean I appreciate what you are trying to do for me and all, but why should I pay my husband’s hard-earned money when I’m going to die anyway?” With that statement she got off the examining table and began to change without even waiting for me to leave. I made her make a return appointment in case she changed her mind.
At the same time, Herminio was undergoing a slow physical and mental descent into something less than human. He seemed to age a decade between each monthly visit to the clinic. His hair was now totally white. His gums were receding. Large gaps showed between his teeth, so that when he smiled he looked like a jack-o’-lantern. His clothes looked shabbier, and with each visit his belt buckle grew one notch tighter. Soon stains began to show from the back. He let his beard grow, and his hair became matted and greasy.
He refused to go to a nursing home. He continued to live with his mother, to whom he still refused to tell his diagnosis, and a wizened old uncle, who was rapidly looking younger than he did. Toward the end, Herminio was too weak to walk unassisted. They