Irina Martkovich 425 9th Street Greenport, New York 11944 (631) 477-6912 / Irina@OhWhataMassage.com Words: 602 AIDS BENEFIT The sun was shining and the warm blue waters of Long Beach were smiling at me. I was biking past Long Beach in Sag Harbor towards Bridgehampton. As I was nearing the village, a group of women walking down the main street attracted my attention. They were heavy women slowly walking like bovine animals on their way to the watering hole. To my eye, they appeared somewhat unfinished. I imagined that a sculptor who was making clay figurines, had thrown together big clumps of clay, and, after molding their heads, was called to attend to some urgent matter. The lumps got tired of waiting, got up and walked out of the house. Now they were here walking down the street in pants and T-shirts, and there was no bringing them back. I followed the women. They led me to the building of a local “Y” with a big sign, “AIDS benefit,” hanging over the door. I looked around. In a steady stream, men were coming to the “Y,” as well. Contrary to the women, most of them were well molded. Tall, with shapely legs and athletic torsos, they were well groomed and dressed. Some wore mustaches and others had nose and belly button rings. Women settled on the steps of the “Y,” joking, laughing loudly, and patting each other on the back. In spite of their primeval size, they were light-hearted and playful. Men, who found their presence somewhat alarming, kept watching them out of the corner of their eyes. Most of the men went in right away and, after a while, briskly walked out. Like divers under the water, they could stay in the building for a short time only. The intensity of their emotion, their somber tragic faces clashed with their playful appearance, and shapely legs, athletic torsos, earrings, exotic hairdos and exquisite clothes. Some people would come out of the “Y” in tears and then immediately start laughing and talking to other people. There were some striking couples. There was a young man with a pair of the most beautiful, shapely legs that I have ever seen on a human being. He wore brightly colored shorts and held, on a leash, a tiny white dog whose fur was tied in many multicolored bows. He was chaperoned by an older, dignified, grey haired gentleman. Two tall almost identical blonds, still beautiful in their early forties, coiffed, and tastefully dressed, came out, sat down on a bench in front of the “Y,” talked, laughed animatedly, and then simultaneously burst into tears. There were also some heterosexual couples with small children. An old couple shuffled slowly towards the “Y,” fanning themselves with newspapers. A big family was being photographed against a quilt. “To my cousin, my nephew, my son, who died at thirty-two years of age,” read the inscription on the quilt. A strikingly beautiful young black lady with a pair of very long legs, which seemed even longer on account of her high–heeled shoes, emerged from the “Y,” sobbing. A blond black man. A mother and a daughter. Who are they grieving for? Some people have lost a loved one only recently and their loss was like a gaping bottomless wound. For others, whose loss was further removed in time, the pain was like a pricking thorn. This disease has changed us all. There is not a person who has not been robbed by it. It’s in our midst. It is here to stay. AIDS is breathing down our neck and waiting for the next human sacrifice. Nobody is exempt. Nobody is safe. Nobody.