1985

Standard

My “house” is not really a house—two rooms that don’t connect; they open onto a common patio. The “bathroom” at one end of the patio is an outdoor shower—no hot water—and an actual toilet, but it doesn’t flush. It must be “bucket flushed” with water from the pila, the cement sink fed by a hose from my neighbor’s house. It’s 1985, and I am in the Peace Corps, in Guatemala, but I am a fraud. I have not come because of my desire to help my fellow man. I am a refugee—an AIDS refugee—running away from the war being waged on my people back home. The nights are dark here, darker than any I experienced back home. The electricity goes off around 8:00pm, and I am plunged into darkness. There is something living in the roof of the house, in the space between the rooms’ ceiling and the tin roof. It moves at night, crossing the ceiling from room to room. I guess the wall doesn’t go all the way up to the tin roof. Bits of dirt fall from the ceiling like dirty rain when it moves. We get the international edition of Newsweek here. This edition doesn’t have the slick paper of the U.S. edition; its newsprint paper is good to use as toilet paper. I read the latest edition by lantern light. I read that Rock Hudson has died. From AIDS. The thing in the ceiling moves. I turn off the lantern, close my eyes, and try to go to sleep.

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