Promotional blog for International Day Against Homophobia
At 1:30 p.m. on a Wednesday a few months ago, I arrived at the aids committee in time for my stint as a volunteer.
“What do you want me to do today, Fred?”
“Bunny balls please.”
As I settled myself on one of the uncomfortable metal chairs around the rectangular table, I said “Hello” to Steve.
I squeezed my right hand into a latex glove, my fingers complaining at their imprisonment, and grabbed a box of filters. They look like little cotton balls or bunny balls as we’ve nick-named them. Once dumped out onto a pad, I separated them into piles of ten and placed each pile into a 2×2 plastic bag. Later we would collect all the bags and deliver them to the needle exchange, which is part of the organization, on the floor below. Our job is to organize and pack into kits the harm reduction supplies that they distribute to their clients.
Several other volunteers straggled in. George, tall and Black, followed by even tallerDevon, the youngest member of the group, 15 and still in high school. Morgan ran in right after. He offered his time in the hopes this experience would assist him in his job search.
George found a spot opposite me. I’m always astonished that the flimsy metal doesn’t shatter under his bulk. Devon deposited himself at the other end and turned his head toward Steve who was sliding CDs into the player.
“Steve, what did you bring for our listening pleasure today?”
“Listen.” Steve commanded.
“Lisa you’re here!” Morgan announced. I looked around. Lisa, petite and blonde, placed the lemon cake she had baked on one of the small tables scattered around the room.
Lemon cake. Yum. My mouth watered at the sight.
Lisa shook her finger. “This is for break. Don’t touch it until then!” Everyone groaned.
For a while the only sounds were the murmur of our voices catching up since last time and the crinkling of the paper inserts the others folded to also be placed into plastic bags, and in the background Lady Gaga flowing from the CD player. Towards the end of the day, Fred would dump boxes of condoms and snort kits on the table and we would insert these into the appropriate bags.
At about2:30I noticed Sammy wander in.
“Come here and give me a hug.” I usually ruffled his long curly hair which I envied as mine, though curly, would never grow so long.
Sammy has had his share of mental and physical problems in the past, but he’s doing better. He has his own apartment and is in university. Even though we weren’t blood related, my husband and I had taken him under our wing. Hence he calls me “Mum” and I call him “Sonny”.
He slipped out of his back pack and looked around the table. “It’s kinda crowded. Guess I’ll sit on the couch.”
“Okay. See you at break. Lisa brought lemon cake.”
Sammy’s eyes lit up. He’s always hungry. He scooped up a handful of inserts to fold and settled himself on the sofa across the room. “Hey Steve, did you bring that music? It sucks” … and he laughed.
Steve lashed back, “Yes I did and it doesn’t suck.” The rest of us nodded at each other. Those two young men went through a similar routine every week.
Dina’s office door opened and the volunteer coordinator walked out into the centre of the room. She usually kept herself shut in as she claimed our noise level disturbed her concentration. A nice looking young man, about Sammy’s age, followed her.
“Hey guys. Can I have your attention for a minute? This is Terry and he’ll be volunteering with you today. Fred…” she gestured to the older man with short grey hair, “is our team leader and he’ll get you set up.”
Since there was no room in our area around the table, Sammy invited Terry to sit with him and he’d show him what to do. Oh yeah. He sure will. I averted my face to hide my grin.
“Hi. Terry. I’m Sammy. Welcome to the group.”
“Nice to meet you. So, what goes on here?” We heard Terry as he looked around the room. “That’s some pretty cool art.”
“Yeah,” Fred explained, “One of the clients paints most of it.”
Terry stuck his thumb up in approval.
Fred continued, “Did Dina explain what the needle exchange is?”
“Yeah she did. It’s where injection drug users can get clean needles, give in used needles and pick up other gear that they use. It’s pretty cool. She gave me a few pamphlets on harm reduction too.”
Sammy brought Terry a coffee from the kitchen. “Here you go.”
Terry accepted the drink and I could see more questions in his eyes.
“But what are bunny balls?”
Sammy explained. “They’re actually filters ….”
Lisa spoke up. “When I first started here I thought they looked like little bunny balls. It was close to Easter and I had rabbits on the brain. The name stuck. Filters remove bacteria.”
“Thanks very much.” Then Terry sat next to Sammy.
After break, and filled with cake, we sluggishly finished the remaining kits. “Thanks to all of you. You’re a good group and we’re about caught up.” Fred beamed at everyone then bent down, picked up the over flowing bin and placed it by the door with the rest of the supplies to be transferred downstairs.
“Oh look its four o’clock. I gotta go. See you guys next week.” And I dashed out to catch my bus home.
I waited anxiously that evening for Sammy to call, as I knew he would.
“Hi.” He sounded giddy.
“Hi. Looked like you and Terry had a good time this afternoon.” (I got right to the point)
“Yeah, it was great. He’s at Western too so we compared classes and teachers. Then he started talking about Buddhism which sounds interesting and he plays video games like me. He’s also involved in an environmental group for preservation of wild life. They are working to preserve the Pacific Northwest tree octopus and the jackelope. We have a date for coffee on Friday.” Sammy hadn’t sounded so excited in a very long time.
“That’s Hilaria. You realise those two extinct species you mentioned are internet hoaxes perpetrated by someone named Commander K .
As the weeks went by they talked more, met for coffee. One day Terry visited Sammy to see his stock of video games. I was thankful they were taking it slowly and getting to know each other. Sammy had been hurt in the past and I was proud that he had learned his lesson not to jump into the ocean’s cold water with both feet but to take it gradually.
Valentine’s Day was approaching which meant nothing to Sammy. He’s never had a valentine.
“It’s Terry’s birthday Saturday,” Sammy told me one evening.
“What will you get him to celebrate?”
“Oh, is it okay if I get him something? I’ve never given a boy a gift.”
“Well it might be nice. You two have been seeing each other for a couple of months now. Get something small that you can afford and that he might like. Think about it.”
Sammy, sounding dazed, said good-by and hung up.
This should be interesting. He hadn’t realised that Terry’s birthday was also Valentine’s Day.
The next night Sammy told me Terry asked to borrow one of his old games that no longer interested him.. I told him that shouldn’t be a problem. Though I couldn’t imagine why, since the game was so out dated. Something’s up. And I recalled that Terry not only played video games at the highest level but was a computer geek as well.. Yes something was definitely up.
On the Saturday – February 14— Sammy called in a panic. “We were playing a game together on the computer and something strange popped up on the screen. I was afraid to open it because I thought it might be a virus. But it looked familiar and I wanted to know what it was. It was puzzling cause the graphics looked like the game Terry borrowed. But it turned out to be a valentine card from him disguised as my old video game. Why did he do that? He went off line as soon as I opened it. “
“Oh really?” I turned my mouth away from the phone so he wouldn’t hear my delighted chuckle.
“Well honey he gave you a valentine card. One he designed himself. I think it means he likes you. I knew he caught my amusement that time.
“Really? He incorporated my game into a card? That’s awesome. But I’ve never received a valentine card before and Terry never said anything.”
“Maybe he’s shy and doesn’t want to jump into the cold ocean alone either.”
“Does this mean he likes me?”
“Yes it does and if I were you I’d call him right now.”
We hung up and I burst out laughing. Sammy may be old enough to go to university but, due to his history, in certain ways he still behaves like a young teen.
I exhaled deeply; a breath that felt like I had been holding for months. Even if their relationship wouldn’t last forever, it’s his first healthy one. My grin stuck to my face all day.
Blogophilia week 6.5 – “Hilaria”
(Hard, 2pts): include thePacific Northwesttree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis)
(Easy, 1pt): include a jackelope