We woke up early.

Well, they woke me up early asking me if today was the party.

I heard my 4 year old walk into the dining room and squeal. Dianna and I had decorated the place the night before and there were red and black streamers and balloons all over the place. My sister chose red and black to match with the little Incredibles theme. It was cute.

We get dressed and go to the store. I’m hoping to use my last lil bit of money to get some party favors and build party bags for the kids. As we’re walking down the sidewalk in the shopping plaza my boys see a blue motorcycle parked on the sidewalk. They scream and run towards it, yelling, “MAMA! MAMA! It’s real! It’s a motorcycle!” I laugh and tell them, “You betta get your behind down.” People all around us are smiling at them. The sun is shining so brightly, it feels like it is going to be a beautiful day.

When I pull them off of the motorcycle we start walking toward the dollar store. There is a homeless man lying on the ground. My sons see him first.

“Mama?” My 4 year old asks me. “Is that man dead?”

“No, he’s not dead. He’s just doesn’t have anywhere to sleep.”

The man is lying on his side, his head resting on his outstretched arm. His clothes are filthy and he is only wearing one shoe. He’s a black man, very slim and very dirty.

As we pass him, he shifts and I can see his face. I notice big bumps all over his face. And more dirt. And…And…

I blink my eyes twice.

“Uncle Vick?” I whisper. He’s my Mama’s brother.
“Uncle Vick?”

He squints and gives me a look. He doesn’t seem to recognize me.

“Do you need some help?”

He doesn’t respond. He turns over and closes his eyes. My sons and I walk on.

When we reach the dollar store I call my Mama.

“Mama. I just saw Uncle Vick lieing down outside the store in the Plaza.”
“Lieing down?”
“Yeah. Like a homeless person.”
“Girl, he’s really sick. Really sick. He’s in his last stages of AIDS and he doesn’t want to accept help from anyone. He needs to be in the hospital. He needs to be taken care of but he won’t do it. Our only fear is that he will die out there in them streets and no one will know to contact us. Let me go call my sister so we can go look for him.”
“Alright Mama.”

By the time we leave the store, my Uncle Vick is gone. I have known he was HIV positive for years. Once I saw him in the streets and I gave him a ride and he told me that he had the disease since the early 80’s and he was still alive and kicking.

This disease is NOT something we only hear about on TV. It is real and it is deadly and it is scary. I hope no one is so ignorant where they would believe that it couldn’t happen to them. It happens all the time and you can’t even recognize it.

Of all the mistakes I’ve made. Of all the times I’ve done stupid stuff. Of all the people I have hurt, I would never want to add the word ‘killer’ to the list. Get tested.

I’ve been tested about 4 times and that mess is scary, but necessary.

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