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Author Topic: The Alphabet City Saga: We've Got AIDS  (Read 1347 times)

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Offline Firefly23

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The Alphabet City Saga: We've Got AIDS
« on: August 05, 2010, 07:24:32 AM »
~~~RENT based~~~

    Most places around the world, it was still at three in the  morning.  But in New York City, East  Village, life never stopped.  In fact, a  whole new society of people stirred as the sun vanished.  Once the well-to-do and moral people closed  their doors for the night, the streets filled with bohemians, junkies, and  starving artists looking for some semblance of pleasure.  Vices could be enjoyed anywhere by anyone,  and Roger Davis was no exception.
 
 
It was just moments before three when the young, struggling  rock star managed to stumble up to April’s door.  Her apartment was near the loft apartment  shared by Mark, Maureen, Collins, and Benny.   A raging headache and crawling skin were the physical evidences of his  fading high, brought on by his vice of choice; heroine.  Cold, tingling fingers dug deep into his  tight pocket for a key.  Finally locating  the sharp metal with a soft grunt, Roger managed to jam the key into the lock  after the third dizzy attempt.  His  vision blurred briefly, his head pounding violently.  Letting his head drop against the door, Roger  raised his arm and looked at the track marks all over his arms.  What  the hell am I doing, he asked himself for the tenth time in the last two  hours.
 
 
Roger had been a junkie for almost five years, and it was  killing him.  He knew it, April knew it,  his friends knew it; that didn’t stop him.   Mark and Maureen kept begging him to quit, and the instant Collins had  figured it out, the man had almost pulverized him, verbally and  physically.  “What the hell do you think  you are doing, Roger?!  You’re fucking killing yourself!”  That had been an unpleasant conversation, and  every time he shot up, those words rang in his mind until the heroine silenced  them.
 
 
Shaking his head in a feeble attempt to clear it, the regretfully  young junkie pushed open the door and fell into the living room with a loud  clatter.  Sprawled on the floor in a  graceless heap, Roger kicked the door shut with his foot and lay still.  Something about staying prone on the floor  spoke of being the intelligent choice, so he simply let himself drift off to  sleep, shutting out the world and the pain of reality.
 
 
It was nearly noon when a sudden, unexpected slap across the  face, accompanied by a loud shriek of protest, brought Roger back to consciousness  with a painful jolt.  Deep blue eyes  cracked open only to quickly shut again against the bright light.  Slowly this time, those eyes opened again to  see Mark and Collins standing over him.   “That wasn’t necessary, Collins.   Is he ok?” someone asked.  A  woman, presumably Maureen.  Groaning  softly, the blond stirred and blinked a few times to try and truly clear his  vision.  Someone had moved him to the  couch and covered him in a blanket while he slept.  He tried to sit up, but found himself pinned  to the couch by two strong, resolute hands; one white, one black.
 
 
“Oh no you don’t, dumbass,” reprimanded a deep  baritone.  Collins came into view as  Roger turned his head in what felt like slow motion.  “Feel fortunate that Mark is the one who  found you a five this morning sprawled on April’s living room floor.
 
 
“Why?” he croaked.   His throat felt like it was on fire.   He was surprised he actually made any noise at all.
 
 
“Because I would have kicked your sorry ass until the Second  Coming,” the man growled, fingers tightening on his shoulder.  “If these drugs don’t kill you, I will.”
 
 
“Collins!” Maureen hissed.   She rose from her position across the room.  “You could be a little nicer.”
 
 
“Why?  You know as  well as I do that Roger is killing himself with these drugs.  You and Mark babying him isn’t helping.”  At this point, Mark had been wise enough to  step back to avoid becoming collateral damage.
 
 
“Neither is your shouting and threatening!  The poor boy is suffering and needs our  help!  Not your anger!”  Maureen now stood in Mark’s place, hands  clenched tightly into fists at her sides.
 
 
“What he needs is a lobotomy!”  Collins was digging his fingers into Roger’s  shoulder with bruising force.
 
 
“You two argue like a married couple, and you’re making my  headache worse.  Not to mention the fact  that you’re bruising my shoulder,” the man in question managed to say.  He grabbed hold of Collins’ wrist and pushed  it away.  Despite the soft, whiny  protests of the brunette, Roger sat up, pressing the heel of his hand into his  forehead.  “Shit…I need some water.”
 
 
Mark, wishing to leave the vicinity and quickly, lifted his  hand in acknowledgement and vanished into the kitchen.  Maureen knelt at Roger’s feet, resting her  chin on his knees and gazing up at him with sad green eyes.  “Roger, honey--“
 
 
“Don’t start with me, Maureen,” he snarled, eyes closed  again, brows slightly furrowed.  “I’ve  heard it all, and don’t want to hear it again.”
 
 
“You’re gonna keep hearing it until you kick the  habit.”  Collins leaned on the edge of  the couch, hovering over Roger.  “You’re  the dumbass who’s got heroine for a vice.”
 
 
“Well, we all have our vices, don’t we?”  Roger said with a soft, almost invisible not  of bitterness.  The black man stiffened  with a quiet, sharp intake of breath.   “Don’t we?” he asked again.   Somewhere in the back of his drug-hazed mind, he knew his words were  hurtful, but he really didn’t care at that point.  Roger had had enough of Collins’ lectures and  physical abuse; it was time to fight back.
 
 
“I suppose we all do,” Collins agreed.  Strong fingers began to scratch at the couch.
 
 
Something had passed between those two with just those few  sentences.  Maureen felt slightly out of  the loop and was about to seek clarification when Mark returned with a glass of  water and a couple pieces of toast.   “Here, Roger.  I brought you some  water and some--“ Mark paused when he saw the look on Collins’ face.  “I missed something.”
 
 
“Nothing you need to worry about,” Roger said softly as he  turned his head to look up at Mark and off an obviously forced smile.  “You have water and what?”
 
 
Not entirely certain he believed Roger, Mark shrugged and  sat down beside the exhausted man.  At  the pained grimace on Roger’s face, he said, “Once you eat this, you can take  some Advil or something.”
 
 
“As long as you promise not to get addicted to that, too,”  the black man muttered.
 
 
“Go fuck yourself, Collins,” Roger snapped, taking the water  and toast.  He bit into the warm bread  harshly, reveling in the sharp prick of the toast.
 
 
“Will you two please knock it off?” Maureen said  wearily.  “Or at least wait until we  leave?”  The young performer rose from  the floor and returned to her chair across the room.  “Where’s April?” she asked after a few  minutes of silence.  “We were going to go  shopping today.”
 
 
“I don’t know,” Roger responded around a mouthful of toast  with a small shrug.  “I was expecting her  to be here, but I guess she’s not.”
 
 
“Hm.  That’s  weird.  April never forgets our monthly  shopping day.”  Raking her fingers through  her curly dark brown hair, Maureen shrugged.   “Pookie, we should go.”
 
 
Roger snorted softly even as Mark hit him in the  shoulder.  “Pookie?  Since when have you taken to calling me  that?”  But he rose anyway, eyeing  Collins’ hard expression.  “Just…don’t  leave any blood anywhere, you two.   Roger…you know how we feel about this.   You’re killing yourself.”
 
 
Not wishing to dignify that comment with an answer, the  young rocker stubbornly stared at his plate, noting with some regret the way  his hands shook.  But he refused to  respond.  Maureen placed a gentle kiss on  his forehead.  “You know we all love you,  Roger.  Call me if you hear from  April.”  Tipping her head to the side,  she indicated for Mark to follow.  The  two left, leaving Collins and Roger alone.
 
 
Another five minutes passed in silence; all that could be  heard was the sound of Roger eating his toast.   Once he was finished, he rose on unsteady legs and went to the kitchen  in search of a painkiller.  “If you’re  going to rip into me, hurry up and do it; I need to go home.”
 
 
With a soft sigh, Collins pushed off the couch and watched  Roger move stiffly around.  “Look at  yourself, Roger.  You look like shit,  you’re in pain…how is this a good thing?   Do you have any idea how much you’re hurting us?  Hurting yourself?  Hurting April?  How many times a day does she beg you to stop?   The only reason she hasn’t left you yet is because she loves you.  More than anything, April loves you.”
 
 
“You don’t have to tell me that, Collins.  I know that she loves me.”  Having taking his painkiller, Roger now  leaned most of his weight on the counter top, shaking fingers spread to balance  out the weight on the cool marble.
 
 
“Then why won’t you quit?   Dammit, Roger, I hate watching you suffer like this!”  He sighed and shifted the woven hat on his  head.  “I know it’s not about me, but…why  can’t you quit?  I don’t understand why  it’s so hard to just…go to a rehab center.”
 
 
“It’s not as simple as you make it out to be, Collins.  I’ve tried  to quit.  But I can’t.”  For the first time, Roger let himself sound  defeated, weak in front of Collins.  “I  can’t…”
 
 
Touched, the man let out a quiet, resigned sigh and stepped  into the kitchen alongside his blond friend.   “Roger…you know that I’m here to help you.  I may not have a lot of money, but…”
 
 
“Yeah, I know…”   Exhausted, irritated, and pained, Roger let his head hang limply, dark  eyes closed.  The two men stood in  Roger’s girlfriend’s kitchen in an apologetic silence before Collins spoke  again.
 
 
“Have you had any success with those songs?”
 
 
“No.  I tried  yesterday, but nothing would come to me.   I ended up just plucking out random Dave Matthews songs.”  The corners of his lips curled up just  slightly.
 
 
A dry chuckle was the response he heard before Collins  offered, “Class starts soon.  Do you want  a ride back to your place?”
 
 
“I could probably use the walk, so no thanks.”  Slowly, Roger straightened up, stacking one  vertebrae on top of the other.  His world  spun suddenly and Collins reached out to catch him, one arm wrapping around his  waist, the other grabbing onto the edge of the counter to prevent a complete  collapse.  “Then again…maybe I need that  ride home.”  Collins’ chest was warm and  comfortable; Roger could hear and feel his friend’s heart beating deep inside  of him.  It was soothing.
 
 
“I think you do too.   Come on.”  Setting his tired  friend upright and on his own two feet, Collins kept one hand between Roger’s  shoulder blades.  Concerned chocolate  brown eyes watched the blond sway on his feet.   “Can you walk?”
 
 
“I think I need a little help.”  One hand flailed a little, searching for  something to hold.  Upon finding Collins’  hand, he leaned heavily on it, taking a cautious step forward.  “Ok.   Here we go.”
 
 
“Is there anything you want to take with you?”  Collins followed closely behind his stumbling  friend.
 
 
Pausing for a moment, Roger considered that question.  He had a small stash tucked away, and almost  turned towards the guestroom but stopped himself.  Collins would murder him in his sleep if he  even tried it, and Roger was already in enough pain.  “No,” he said sharply, sharper than he  intended.
 
 
The pause was so long, and the answer to abrupt that Collins  considered questioning it.  However, he  decided against that course of action; he probably didn’t want to know  anyway.  Together, the two of them made  slow, staggering progress down to Collins’ car, almost falling down the stairs  at least twice.  “You know that just  because I’m helping you, that doesn’t mean I’m done thrashing you for being a  dumbass,” Collins said as he helped Roger into the car.
 
 
“I would be disappointed if you were,” he said wearily.  Eyes of midnight blue fluttered closed as  sleep overtook his abused body.
 
 
Despite the fact that Roger only lived a few blocks away, it  took nearly 20 minutes to finally arrive outside his apartment.  Overhead, the sky was a foreboding grey that  promised rain soon.  People crowded the  sidewalk and street, moving at a constant, quick pace.  A soft hand on his shoulder stirred  Roger.  He blinked a few times and  smiled.  “Thanks, Collins.”
 
 
“Yeah, sure.  Do you  need some help upstairs?”
 
 
“No, I should be good.”   Carefully opening the door, Roger stepped out and turned back to look at  Collins.  “I’ll…see you, I guess.”
 
 
“Yeah.  I still think  you’re a dumbass.”  Reaching over,  Collins grabbed the door and pulled it shut as the blond man laughed and waved.
 
 
“You aren’t alone,” he said with a sad sigh.  As Collins vanished into the traffic, Roger  looked back around at his apartment building.   Several stories high, it had a way of disappeared among the surrounding  housing complexes.  Paint often described  as the color of baby poop brown chipped off, revealing the flat white base, and  even the bare wood itself.  Graffiti  covered the majority of the walls in the area, and many windows were boarded  up.  “Home sweet home.”
 
 
Testing his legs, Roger found himself amazingly stable.  His head still pounded and his muscles were  sore, but at least the itching had faded to only a minor distraction that  nagged at the back of his mind.  Dodging  pedestrians, Roger stepped into the dark lobby and made the trick up the  rickety stairs to his apartment on the fourth floor.  The creaking beneath his feet always made the  young man doubt the wisdom of turning down Mark and Benny’s offer of staying  with them in the loft instead of his own decrepit little studio apartment.  Mice and cockroaches infested the entire  building, but the artist on the fourth floor had a suspicion that they had  established a headquarters in his room.
 
 
Opening the door to his room, Roger was surprised to find a  light on in the kitchen.  He closed the  door slowly as he called out “Hello?  Is  someone here?  April?”  Maybe she had come by last night when he was  out.
 
 
There was a note on his counter.  It was short and scrawled.  Down in the bottom corner was what appeared  to be a dried tear drop.  Roger, we’ve got AIDS.  I’m sorry and I love you.  April.
 
 
It didn’t make sense.   When had April gone to get tested?   Why had she gone?  Why didn’t she  say anything?  Roger lowered the note to  the counter and tried to makes sense of it.   The fact that he had AIDS was bad enough.  Terrifying, in fact.  Formerly steady legs began to tremble and  Roger had to lean his full weight on the counter as a particularly painful  truth descended on him.
 
 
It was his fault.  It  was because of his dumb fucking habit that the two of them were infected.
 
 
Maybe it was wrong.
 
 
But the paperwork was right beside his elbow, opened with  the results circled in red ink.
 
 
There was no way it could have been just April, that they  didn’t share the disease; she was clean and didn’t cheat on Roger.  He was the one who had infected them.  Only he could take the blame.
 
 
Fighting back tears, the desolate rocker straightened.  He had to find April.  The two of them would work through this  together.  Together they could fight the  disease, support each other, and love each other.  But first he had to find her.
 
 
Something in his hallway caught his attention.  Turning, Roger saw what looked to be a hand  lying out of the bathroom door.  Panic  seized his heart and Roger dashed down the hall, falling to his knees with an  anguished cry.
 
 
Lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood was  April.  Beautiful wavy chestnut brown  hair was matted with dried blood, soft brow eyes that used to glitter with  passion and love were cold and blank.   Both of her golden wrists were slit, the wounds crusted in a deep  reddish brown that matched the dry puddle on the floor.  A razor blade rested in her left hand.
 
 
His breath came in short, painful gasps as he tried to  understand the scene spread before him.   The one woman he had ever dared to love was not only dead in his  bathroom at her own hand, but it was because of him.  It was because of the disease that he had  given her.  As the emotions and disbelief  washed over Roger and threatened to drown what little spirit was left in him,  he pulled the stiff, cold body into his lap.   Rigor mortis had set in hours before, but he still desperately tried to  hold her against his chest.  Maybe if he  could just warm her up…maybe she’d wake up…but to no avail.
 
 
Weeping, Roger rocked back and forth, begging incoherently  for her to wake up, for it to be a dream, for her forgiveness, for the disease  to go away.  All these things came in  turn, in one big cycle that continued for hours.
 
 
Around four, Roger passed out from exhaustion and pain, both  emotional and physical.  He was sprawled  on the floor, his head and arms protruding into the living room.  That was how Collins found him when he  entered the small apartment after knocking repeatedly.
 
 
“Aw, shit,” Tom muttered as he hurried to Roger’s side.  “You fucking dumbass, I can’t believe you--“  but his tirade was cut short at the sight of April’s very cold corpse lying in  Roger’s lap.  He pulled the body away,  closing his mind to the image to keep from weeping until after the body had  been dealt with.  In his strong arms, he  carried Roger to his bed, stripped him of his soiled clothing, and tucked him  into bed.  After closing the door, he  phoned the police, then the loft apartment.
 
 
“Hello?” he heard Benny say on the other end.
 
 
“Benny?  It’s  Collins.”  His voice was thick and heavy.
 
 
“Yeah?  Collins,  what’s wrong?”  Benny waved his hand at  Mark and Maureen who were bombarding him with questions.
 
 
“I…there’s…April…” Collins took a shuddering breath and  tried again.  “I’m at Roger’s.  We…he found April…she’s…April’s dead.”
 
 
The other end of the line was silent for a very long  time.  So long that Collins almost feared  he had lost the connection until he finally heard, “Oh God” whispered on the  other end.  “We’ll be right there.  Where’s Roger?  Is there anything you need?”
 
 
“Roger is asleep for now, and I think we need some--“  The note on the counter suddenly registered  in his mind.  The phone fell from his  fingers and landed on the counter with a loud clatter.  From the ear piece he heard  “…shit!…what…going…Collins!”  The black  man picked up the phone again and said softly “Bring some cleaning supplies and  some strong alcohol.  Roger…Roger’s got  AIDS.”
 
 
“We’ll be right ove--he what?!”  Benny nearly shouted into the phone.
 
 
“I’ll see you when you get here.  I have to go talk to Roger.”  Without waiting for a response, Collins hung  up the phone and looked up to see Roger standing in the living room, leaning on  the wall and staring at him with blank eyes.   “Roger!  You’re…you’re up.”
 
 
“Yeah.”  His voice was  thick, almost hard to understand.   “Collins, I…April…I gave her…”  He  couldn’t form the words to explain just what had happened.
 
 
“I know.  I read the  note…Roger…”  Collins was struck by such  emotion that he couldn’t bring himself to speak either.  The two men stood in silence, trying to find  words to comfort or explain.  “The police  will be here in a few minutes…do you…”
 
 
“Please…can you…I can’t…I couldn’t…there aren’t any…”  Arms crossed over his chest, Roger stared  down at the floor surrounding his feet.   “We have AIDS.  Her and I.  It’s my fault.”  He sighed a little, as if giving up.
 
 
“Roger, don’t--“ Collins started.
 
 
“No.  Let me.  If I don’t…I’ll never get it out.  I may not find the words again.  Please.   Just…let me talk.”  When Collins  nodded a little, Roger sighed again and continued.  “It’s…it’s because of me that she’s  dead.  If I hadn’t been such a fucking  asshole…if I hadn’t…she wouldn’t be dead right now.  We wouldn’t be having this conversation.  I wouldn’t…I wouldn’t be alone…and…”  Roger lost his ability to speak and his knees  gave way beneath him.  Sinking to the  floor, he began to sob, his entire body shaking.
 
 
It was only a matter of seconds before Collins was kneeling  beside him, arms wrapped around his shoulders.   “Roger…hush…it’s going to be all right.”
 
 
But Roger was inconsolable.   He continued to sob into Collins’ chest, clinging desperately to  him.  He rocked back and forth, weeping  and begging for the black man to make it better, to heal his pain.
 
 
Back in the loft, Benny still sat and stared at the  phone.  Mark finally shook him roughly  enough to break him from his reverie.   “Benny!  What’s wrong?  What’s wrong with Roger?”
 
 
“Roger…Roger’s got AIDS…and…April’s…April’s dead.”
 
 
***
 
 
Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and Roger locked  himself in April’s apartment.  He  couldn’t stand being in his own, it felt look much like she was watching  him.  Several times, the guilt of causing  her death almost drove him to his own suicide.   Roger refused to answer the phone or the door, no matter how often they  called or how loudly they knocked.
 
 
On that particular morning, Roger was sprawled on the floor  of the kitchen, a needle in one hand and his stash in the other.  Blank, dark eyes stared up at the ceiling as  he slowly turned his head to focus his eyes on the needle.  His other hand lifted to bring the powder  over when his sleeve drifted down his arm, drawing his attention to it.  Roger looked at his bared arm and stared at  his track marks; he actually stared at them and saw them for what they  were.  A thought brushed past his mind  and the man dropped the needle with a soft clatter.
 
 
Rising from the floor, the heroine hanging loosely from his  fingers, Roger walked to the bathroom, his feet scuffing the floor, and stared  at himself in the mirror.  Collins was  right; he looked like shit.  His skin was  pale and waxy, his hair was lifeless, and there were dark circles beneath blank  eyes.  Lifting the fine white powder,  Roger stared at it for a long moment before hurling it against the mirror with  a loud, anguished scream and slamming his hands down onto the counter.  “Fuck,” he said; the first word he had spoken  in weeks.  “I can’t do this anymore…and I  can’t do it alone.”
 
 
Stumbling from the bathroom, Roger collected what small  amount of clothing he had and threw them into a bag.  With one last scan over, avoiding the guitar  in the corner that April bought him under the command that he write a song for  her (which he never did), Roger turned off the light and closed the door for  the last time.
 
 
Weaving through people with amazingly nimble feet, Roger  made his way to the loft apartment.   “Mark!  Mark!” he screamed.
 
 
The ash blond leaned out the window, shocked.  “Roger? Roger!  What are you doing here?”  Maureen appeared behind Mark, looking  incredibly disheveled.
 
 
“Throw down the key!”
 
 
“But why--“
 
 
“Just throw down the key!   I need your help!”  A small suede  bag dropped down into his waiting grasp and he dashed inside.
 
 
Arriving at the top of the stairs, Roger burst into the door  to Mark and Maureen waiting expectantly for him.  “What the hell is this all about, Roger?  Why do you have a bag packed?”
 
 
“I…I need your help.  I  need to…to go to a--“
 
 
“Roger?”  Collins  stepped out of his room, looking vaguely confused.  “Well, look at you, up and out.”  He smiled a little and gave him a once  over.  “Did hell run you over with a mack  truck or something?”
 
 
“Or something.”
 
 
“Where do you need to go, Roger?” Maureen asked, still  hovering expectantly behind Mark.
 
 
“A rehab.”  The room  went silent.  Every pair of eyes was  locked on him for several long moments.
 
 
“A rehab?  Are you  serious?”  Collins stepped around the  couch, a surprised smile brightening his eyes.
 
 
“Yes.  I caused  April’s death, I’m the one who infected us.   It was my fucking addiction that did this; it’s time I dealt with  it.”  The duffel bag fell to the floor  with a muffled thump.  “But…I can’t do it  alone.  I need you guys…”
 
 
“We wouldn’t expect you to, honey.”  Maureen smiled brightly and moved to take  Roger in to a warm hug.  The man wept  openly on her shoulder, sharing his grief for the first time since April’s  funeral.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 01:35:56 AM by Lord Palatine »

 

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