For those of you who recall the "Whatever Happened to the Little Girl?" post, the client who saved the little girl -- while prostituting her own daughters -- still comes to YANA once in a while. I'll call her Annie, but I think of her as Typhoid Mary, after the woman who went from town to town nursing the sick and unknowingly infecting them with her disease. Our own Annie is, well, she's a pleasure to be around. I always enjoy her company. She is interested in the little world around her. She has energy. She tells her stories passionately, and she genuinely cares about the people she tries to help. She also has immense system of denial that allows her to move through the world completely ignorant of the harm she inflicts and the many illnesses, physical and psychological, she carries within.
Annie lives in one of these bizarre arrangements that exist in our part of Baltimore. It sounds like sort of rooming house, sort of a charity, mostly just one guy's weird idea of something he'd like to do. Annie's son pays $350 per month for her to share a room in a house full of recovering female addicts. There's the usual set of mind bogglingly elaborate restrictions, swiftly enforced with punishments for the disobedient. A pair of squabbling, fifty year old roommates may each find themselves standing in the corner when the manager on shift gets irritated enough with them. And after listening to Annie recount the actual squabbles, it's sometimes hard to find all that much fault with the manager. Anyway, while most of Annie's energy has gone towards protecting her stuff from her thieving roommate, she is sometimes very moved by the suffering of the other women. She tries to help them. Her latest cause is a woman with AIDS.
The AIDS victim has been thrown out of the house because she has AIDS, but has slipped back in and is hiding in the basement. Annie seems to be leading the small band of women bringing her food and helping to hide her. Recently, they've discovered that the landlord's wife knows the woman is in the basement and is yet another secret sympathizer. All the women know that they will eventually be caught and disciplined.
Meanwhile, the landlord is requiring everyone to submit proof that they are HIV free, and an argument appears to be raging throughout the house as to how the disease is transmitted. Annie seems to be telling the truth when she says that she has been going to the library for information on the subject. She doesn't seem to have her landlord convinced yet that the virus isn't airborne. Annie herself is wondering how to show proof that she is virus-free. She knows she is, but she doesn't want to open up all her medical records to this man. I'm a civil rights lawyer, and I'm making her no offers whatsoever to intervene. I'm not sure whether meeting the requirements of civil litigation would be too much for these women or whether meeting the realities of this house and its occupants would be too much for any court, but I just don't see a good outcome in juxtaposing the two.
What I'm left with is Annie, sympathizing with anyone who has such a disease, trying to help her, comfortable in her own good health, entirely forgetting the day a few years ago when she wept and told me her own HIV test had come back positive. Frankly, I wish some of her psychological shortcomings were as manageable as the virus.