I used to live in happy times. When the rain fell cold, when the grass grew green, when the birds used to preen and the kids were mean. I used to live in days when innocence was given, not taken, and when friendships came to life with a simple touch of the hand.
I used to live in happier, happier times.
There’s a boy that stands on the corner of First Street and waves his arms whenever someone passes by. Be it a car, a plane or a train, he lifts his hands in the air and waves. It doesn’t matter if the person’s young or old, black or white, gay or straight—he waves.
Simple to matters, happy for presence, he smiles whenever he lifts his hand and someone acknowledges him.
When the people pass, he stops waving.
The smile fades to frown.
A simple notion given to a person who just wants to be recognized, happiness comes and goes like it is day or night.
One moment you are welcomed, the next you are shunned.
Who knows where you’ll be the next.
In the following weeks, I come to know the boy’s name. Timothy Anderson, aged sixteen and decrepit from the lies that follow him—his parents disowned him after they found out he had AIDS.
Screwing around with boys, they’d said, then kicked him out the door ass-first.
It took little to recognize what Timothy Anderson actually went through. Shirt torn and chest hollow, his eyes tell a story when they’re not smiling. Beige, slightly blue and full of truth, they speak of a disease that wreaks havoc on his body and kills him from the inside out.
Sometimes, if you’re watching close enough, you’ll see his long-sleeved shirt shift to reveal the sores underneath.
Black, blue, and full of you, they take pride in the fact that they’re acknowledged once revealed.
Anyone who sees starts to whisper.
Then they know.
Then they know.
Timothy Anderson sits in the rain on a cold, August night. Temperatures preceding the forecasted-estimate of below freezing, he shivers in forty-degree weather as all that God has known is spilled forth. It’s torture, what the boy goes through, and no one stops to help when they pass.
Umbrellas throw their heads to the sky and bask in the ignorance of those who carry them.
Timothy is spared but momentarily as someone walks past him.
Sorry, one would say, but only when they’d stumble over him.
Do you want a dollar? another would ask, as a dollar can grant you salvation in Burger King if for an hour, maybe two.
Do you need help, honey? those fortunate and goodhearted would ask, once five feet past and full of shame and guilt. I can give you a ride.
In the darkness, they wouldn’t be able to see what he is marked by.
Timothy lifts his head.
No, he replies, to any and every that offer help.
There is no thank you, no sigh, no quiet, honest cry.
Timothy suffers a world that he isn’t supposed to know.
Suffer he does, for the things he loves.
Sunday mornings are meant for God, grace and place. They are meant for people who pray and those that may. They are meant for families, trust, forbidden, begotten lust—they are for everything, save for those that must.
On Sunday morning, a missionary passes by, then stops.
Indecision in his eyes, he sighs, takes a deep breath, and steps forward.
Are you all right? the nameless, God-given man asks.
I’m fine, Timothy replies.
Why are you here? You should be at home, with your family.
Family—especially when spoken with such clarity—is a word he cannot trust.
What? he asks. Tears are in his eyes—unshed, but there, waiting to spill forth and reveal themselves for what they really are. What did you say, sir?
What’s wrong? the God-giver asks. Why are you crying?
I have no home, sir.
At this, the God-man pauses.
Though he is meant to give hope to those who have none, it is unlikely that there is any amount of hope for Timothy Anderson.
Come with me, the God-man says, and like a savior, extends his hand to the boy. We can do something for you.
No one can do anything for me.
That’s not true.
Yes it is.
It is at this moment that Timothy slides his sleeve down his arm.
His curse revealed, the God-man sighs, then closes his eyes.
You can’t stay here.
The God-man says nothing.
Rising, he takes a deep breath, brushes his hand as though he has been touched, then begins to walk away.
Under his breath, he begins to whisper.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for though art with me, thy rod and staff.
Timothy Anderson cries.
His body is a machine of pain.
The gears are turning, the bridges are burning, the bolts are cracking and the nails are whacking. It is without cause and without care that Timothy is in pain. He does not suffer, if only in the minds of others, and he does not cry, if only in the eyes of some.
To those who can truly see, Timothy Anderson cries.
He cries for love, he cries for fate—but most importantly, he cries for pain.
Arms to his chest, he curls into a ball and lays down to die.
To his knowledge, the pale horse has not come.
To some, it has already passed.
Timothy Anderson is a child. Wrought with disease, abuse and filth, he lives a life that is, and never was, fit for him. It is in time of illness that those plentiful and full of heart should gather round and offer condolence, if only in moments of passing grace.
When men won’t try, and when boys begin to die, the world turns upside down.
Twist, turn, reload, shoot—his bullet is in your gun. It is you that has the chance to shoot.
An explosion of a thousand bombs can go off inside a sick boy’s body and no one will stop to help.
In a desperate fit of anger, rage and hurt, Timothy Anderson throws himself across the street, through traffic and all it has to offer.
This is the day I realize who the boy is.
My hands in my pockets, I relinquish my hold on material things and extend my arms for him.
A horn sounds.
A cacophony ensues.
Bones, metal, cars and rust—one is right, three are wrong, two are earth and one is lust.
In but a fraction of a moment, a domino effect occurs.
One boy down, three cars next, two trucks before and one big-rig after.
Suffering ends with the sound of a head against a horn.
Lying prone, Timothy Anderson breathes one last time before he ceases to exist.
His glossy eyes stare at the one person he thought could help.
Graced by God, a single, bloody sheet of paper falls from the sky.
Encrusted on its surface are three words—three words that could never be granted to a boy who wanted one thing and one thing only.
Styled in blood, written in hurt, his message was clear.
Please, the paper said. AID Me.