We sat in my jeep. I had a thermos of hot coffee, and some Styrofoam cups.
The man and I sat up front. The boy and my dog, Navajo, sat in the back.
I cannot relate the exact conversation. For one thing, I do not remember it. It is a blur. For another thing, I agreed not to do that. The issue of privacy is something I take very, very seriously. In the religious ceremonies of the Navajo, masks are worn by dancing participants. The masks must not be removed. To do so would be to strip away the faces of the gods, and you might not like what you see. The only thing I remember vividly is the sound of the rain on the top of the jeep. It had a soft top then. A top you could put down. Since then I have had a hard top put on the jeep since I am not someone who drives with the top down anymore. In my old age I am conservative and cautious. I avoid the wind.
It poured like hell.
It pounded on the top of the jeep like a drum at a Yeibeichai. When it rains in Navajoland, you remember it.
Parents often seek me out. My work with disabled children in school districts all over the Southwest is not a secret. What I know comes from having worked with children in real, hands-on ways. It comes from experience. Not a book. The people in this part of rural New Mexico know about my memoir, The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams. They've read it. Usually the parents are looking for advice. Simple. Sometimes they want you to actually work with their kid. Not so simple. Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can't.
The man was sick. I could see that. His eyes were in that beyond exhausted place where everything goes numb.
He moved his long, Navajo hair away from his neck.
He wanted me to see. I did see, and then I looked away. Outside the window of the jeep, rain. I could not even see the lake. I looked over at the man again. I am not a doctor.
Purple lesions ran up and down his neck like a road map. Something had exploded inside a plethora of dark veins that spread themselves out not unlike a spider. Now I knew what this was about.
Something inside of me grew very quiet. Very sober. The man had AIDS. I would learn his wife had AIDS. The boy in the backseat with the dog had it, too.
Thunder. Lightning. Pouring rain. The sky had gone black again.
I do not know if the gods of white people actually speak to them. I think not. My gods speak directly to me. Unlike the traditional Navajo who live here, my gods look at you right in the eye, and they are not always good or benevolent.
Begochiddy is no god I ever want to know. Begochiddy is the mythical Navajo sun god who cast his sons out, sending them to earth with enormous, almost impossible tasks to complete. Armed with lightning, intelligence, and the ability to adapt to an always changing world, the war twins defeat the ravaging monsters. Their father was always testing them.
My little jeep shook.
I could not do this. I was sorry. But I could not take some boy I did not know into my home. Into my life. The responsibility.
Even if my house is empty not unlike the way some men are vacant shells.
I am not a candidate to care for some child with pediatric AIDS.
I had no advice. Sometimes you can be real slick, coolly professional, give parents referrals, and sit back smugly, like you've really helped them out.
It is professional bullshit. You fool no one.
The kid had AIDS. The parents could no longer care for him. They had probably done a rotten job of it from day one. But they had tried. They were putting their affairs in order. They were not terrific parents, but they wanted this child to have a chance at life.
Or these two people would not be here.
I'm sitting there thinking: just fuck me.
I have gone by that house a hundred thousand times.
Excerpted from The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping by Nasdijj Copyright© 2003 by Nasdijj. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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