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Not in Heaven, Not in Hell

Not in Heaven, Not in Hell


I'd better make this quick before I fade out again. This morning I blacked out. It was as if someone just unplugged my cord. I awoke to my doorbell ringing. The person rang twice. So I jumped out of bed assuming that it was my daily food delivery service, a social service that I'm eligible for as a person living with a chronic illness. I wrapped a blanket around me, oblivious to the time. If I had unpacked my alarm clock from the tower of boxes near my bed, I would have seen that it was 8:13 a.m.; delivery doesn't begin until 9. It was the building superintendent. I recognized him from the apartment leasing office. I cracked open the door. He began rattling on about carbon monoxide detectors that he had to install. Today. Right now. I think I asked him to come back later. But he wanted to come in to at least see if I needed them. And that's all I remember. Curtains. The next thing I recall is being on the floor of the kitchen with him over me asking if I was OK. I told him that I was, waving him away as if it were a ridiculous question. He began checking the apartment for outdated detectors as I lay there. I drifted off again. It is assumable that I fell asleep. But in all honesty, I don't know where I was. I saw stars and swirling clouds and angels. But I wasn't in heaven. Or hell, to be sure. Everything in my mind was stretched into a perfect abstraction, bent one way and then another. Every object that I imagined had breath and texture. It was all alive but not human. He woke me up a second time. Again, I told him I was OK, but I clearly wasn't. When I awoke to his Caribbean voice that last time, I was still groggy, but this time I noted that my front door was wide open from the superintendent walking in and not shutting it behind him. I lay there in my kitchen naked and exposed, my blanket up around my shoulders. Now, with him standing over me, I was embarrassed'trying to assure him that I was OK, trying to cover myself, and trying to understand what was happening. He began again to have a conversation about carbon monoxide detectors. I couldn't stand up and started crawling to my makeshift bed. He was desperately trying to finish what he had to say, but I had to lie down. I told him to close the door behind him. I lay there bewildered and bruised. When I collapsed I fell into the microwave on the floor and an unassembled bed frame. I'm still trying to make sense of it all. Maybe I haven't been drinking enough water or getting enough calories in my diet. Maybe AIDS is getting the best of me. Maybe I was really very sleepy. I truly don't know what happened. Truth is, I can't tell you. I can't keep making excuses for the strange things that keep happening to me. Last week a temporary speech impediment kept me from forming full sentences. It lasted for hours. I can't explain it all myself, and neither can my doctor. And I don't want to assume that all can simply be attributed to an AIDS-related complex. Maybe I really shouldn't be living alone. Or maybe this is a sign that I should stop being stubborn and finally take my AIDS meds. Each day the journey gets stranger. Stranger than fiction. Whitfield is one of the nation's leading journalists reporting on AIDS among African-Americans. A frequent Vibe contributor, he is based in New York City.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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LeRoy Whitfield