At Amsterdam Pizza, a man asked if he could sit down at my table, and I said, “Sure.” His hands and face had the purplish lesions that are the mark of Kaposi’s sarcoma. I tried not to stare at them or at the man, but I kept thinking about how the fear of AIDS has turned society hysterical. When Houston mayoral candidate Louie Welch said that his plan to get rid of AIDS was to “shoot the queers,” he spoke for many Americans.
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As Amira uses profanity freely in the best of times, she was pretty heavy with the four-letter words, which enraged Teresa, and a few blows were exchanged. After Teresa hit Amira, Amira pulled Teresa’s arm “out of the socket” and Teresa said she was in great pain. Half a dozen police cars lined up on the street as 18 – count ’em – NYPD officers came up to the apartment.
My students’ papers are filled with tales of crime, violence, family troubles and alcoholism, often expressed in street language. It’s hard for them to come to class and do work when they’ve got so many serious problems at home. One girl is going to the hospital to have her baby; a guy got cut in a street fight; another student has to take care of four kids, her own and her sister’s.