Friday, January 23, 2009

HI-V Testing

Got to the Mark Twain branch of the library 10 minutes before it opens at noon today. Surprised me; thought I left home much later. Some guys were standing almost in the intersection when I turned the corner waving signs. I saw the K-Earth booth and heard the radio station music from loudspeakers. Wondered what was going on at the park across the street so walked over to pass time and find out what was going on.

As I read the huge letters on the side of a trailer in the parking lot, a man hustles up to me. Oh. HI-V testing. The young man was full of good cheer: Good, you are getting tested, he said. I thought he was getting in line behind me, suddenly realizing I had stopped to read behind a couple of people who were in line. Nope, the guy said "I am doing the lord's work," when I asked if he "worked here". "Not active," I informed the smiling hustler, "so do not think I need to be tested."

The last time I was tested was in 2005 at a similar trailer set up in the MSC parking lot. I was told to get re-tested in 6 months. "I just came out clean on an AID's test," I would protest to guys trying to get some. One of them got lucky and I got some, unprotected. Could kick myself when I do stuff like that. Told the young guy, "Okay, I might as well get tested," remembering my lapse in 2005. Told the guys at the sign up table I had to go to the library first.

Considered not returning. The laptop still had an hour and some minutes left on the charge. I was not getting antsy like I normally do and could clean up some documents if I stayed. They expected me back in an hour; 92 degrees out again, wondered why I am sitting in an air conditioned library, so left. Did not know I was going to have to sit in an air conditioned trailer for at least 20 minutes. This HI-virus testing was simply to rub a small plastic spatula thing over my top gums, flip it and over my lower gums. The guy thought I was going behind the teeth, "No, no, wait..." he panics. Suddenly self-conscious of my gum disease, yet pulled my lips up to show him I had the tool in the right place.

The test was negative, as I imagined it would be. It takes 20 minutes for the results. "This is a research project," I was told, hence filling out a questioner while waiting upon results. I must have been one of his easiest or most boring subjects! I never heard of 1/2 those drugs he asked if I had used them. A long string of "no's" is what he got from me. The big S question answer had me thinking: I bet he is wondering why I bothered getting tested. I took one of the Mardi Gras type bead necklaces with a pink button: Gay Respect, it says in large letters, smaller were the words "We Deserve It". Oops, I agree Gay people deserve respect, but it seems these necklaces were meant to be worn by homosexuals or lesbians, not heterosexuals.

Realized later the theme of this mobile test center was just that: Gay Respect. If it was parked in the vicinity of Broadway, I would have understood that. A conversation with another young man got cut short when I was called to take my test. He told me he woke up at 8 AM, wanted to go to library which was not open. I asked "Are you homeless?" He is. Said he slept in the park. I did spend some homeless days at Mac Arthur park. Told the guy I did not think people were allowed to sleep there. He said he used to sleep in Lincoln Park. I said the same thing. He said he rolled up under bushes hiding from patrols and woke every morning to rat and ant bites. He looked very clean.

He has been in Long Beach since August; was in Los Angeles before that, arriving in February. Did not get to ask him what state he left to come here. Wondered if he had been homeless there also. The nice thing about the test was I had a choice of a $5.00 gift certificate to Starbucks or McDonalds. Would have been nice of me to take a walk through the park and hand my bonus to another homeless person. I wondered about the first guy who was "doing the lord's work"; if he was homeless too. When he first approached me, I thought I recognized him as being one of my street buddies. (10/15/08)

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