HIV/AIDS storytelling: kearns: sorting it out at lulu’s #2: grousing (023)

richardkearns.awo.vanmoi2_1917athe sun shined
on my breakfast at
lulu’s this morning
firing my table & eggs & o’brians &
french toast with a pearly-red-gold glow
i have only elsewhere seen in
deepest meditation
revealing to me ten thin-curl’d silver-
ring’d fingers of steam who sift the
air above my big-handled cinnamon
brown coffee cup, astonishing me
bright-blessing my day unasked

tight in my left hand in my lap, my
dark-covered journal from
back then back when
i felt safe eating in the dining room in
the meat locker inn
i live in
without opening it i remember
the day, the entry, the occasion


percy is a partially-blind elderly
black gentleman who’s not quite
all there. or at least he’s out there

sometimes he thinks people steal food from
his plate because he can’t see. no one
comes to clean up his water or coffee
when he knocks them over either &
they drip hot or chilly in his lap &
he curses, not wanting help &
sure someone is taunting him

percy claims to be catholic. he
loves crossing himself before
meals, though he doesn’t always
remember to do it. he doesn’t
have much else to say about it—
a great definition of catholicism
now that i think of it. you’d think he
was a bible thumper the way he
goes on about god & sin & hell
you’d think he was the good news
itself screaming loud from the bully pulpit

tuesday morning we entered into a
reluctant friendship over breakfast.

perc (pronounced purse) was harping at me
about the usual. i think it was godless
terrorists attacking the space shuttle
my notes don’t say. i’d had it with him

“perc, i’m having a horrible morning this
morning & i just can’t take this. i’m
going to have to excuse myself from
talking with you this morning, or anything
else because all that will happen is
i’ll get pissed off at you, & i don’t have the
energy to waste this morning. ok? got it?”

he paused & drummed his fingers
on the tabletop once

“well now i appreciate your putting it that
way, richard. most folks would just tell
an old black man to shut up. but you
make me feel like i was somebody. i
appreciate that”

we were quiet

perc has a stunt he pulls at breakfast
every meal is a starchy carbfest, if it
hasn’t already been torched beyond
edibility—a house of horrors for diabetics
(which more than half the
residents are, some
undiagnosed & untreated)
at breakfast, for starters we are given
oatmeal with glasses of warm milk
eaten first (as it is served first & you
get no other food until you eat
what you have been served already—policy)
without protein before (such as eggs)
it sends my blood glulcose soaring
policy—i pass & move on coursewise

the warmed milk is poured into
plastic juice cups & covered with
saran wrap, to be distributed
as individual portions at each table
of course whilst the latex glove-wearing
food distributers (what a homey
neo-marxist term) wheel these glasses
around in their rackety & wobbly-wheeled
thick pink fiberglass carts on close-watched
random missions of distribution, a film
a skin of milk forms in them

percy prefers to
eat his oatmeal raw &
drink his glassfull of warm milk he
takes the milkskin into his mouth
holds it, drinks the liquid part &
with a
spits the
skin out
on the table
not even
aiming for
his plate
let alone
grabbing a

i learn’d to
sit way back
from the table
at breakfast
civilization has
dent’d my tolerance
back then back when
i felt safe eating in the dining room in
the meat locker inn
i live in

my medication takes over &
i scarf everything on my
plate, plied with ketsup &
sugar-free’d maple-flavor’d
syrup & real butter & as i
inhale my final hot coffee, my
friend the mid-morning sun
ignites a napkin-wrapped
stainless fork & knife set at
the next waiting table at

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