Her search began with a cancer support group that met at a VFW hall in Burbank. She dropped in a couple of times, but she found them too optimistically intent on survival. She needed a man who was hopeless and desperate. Cancer was wrong for her. She toyed with the idea of placing a personal ad, but an ad would leave evidence of her plan. Besides, what would she say? SWF seeks SWM for long walks, intimate conversation and possible insurance fraud, must be terminal? For a while she was stuck, even beginning to doubt the plan, but then in the LA Weekly she found an article about the tenth anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, and knew the kind of man she wanted and where to find him.
The church was on Highland above Hollywood. Chrissi sat rigidly on an uncomfortable folding chair in a basement room that smelled of mold and bubblegum. Given the cartoon pictures of Christ on the wall, she figured they taught Sunday school down here. She’d been coming for weeks, though, and still no luck.
As she waited for the meeting to start, her feet quietly throbbed and she knew they’d scream when she eventually stood up again. She hated high heels, but wore them every day; just like she wore a thick layer of makeup and did her hair up as big as she could; just like she wore a tailored suit that fit her like a sausage casing. At forty-one, men still found her appealing and that mattered to Chrissi. Not that she’d ever had much interest in sex, she’d lived through the sexual revolution of the sixties but it had struck her as nothing more than a male plot to get for free what they ought to be paying for.
A washed-up blonde stood in front of the group and said, “Hi! I’m Gail K. and I am a drug addict!” The group greeted her in unison and then, in a lazy Southern accent, the young woman laid out the myriad hardships that had befallen her; the boyfriends who’d beaten her, the family members who’d had sex with her. “...and so today, November 29th, 1991, I am ninety days sober!”
The organizer of the meeting, Ted J., who looked like a homeless biker but was probably a musician, offered Gail a red plastic chip. She took it like she’d just won an Academy Award. When he got her back into her seat, Ted J. looked over the group to see who might want to share next. His eyes stopped on Chrissi and he raised a questioning eyebrow. The first time she came to one of the meetings, he’d given her a white chip that said “Keep Coming Back” on one side. She could tell he was dying to hear her tale of drug-addicted woe and if she had one she would have coughed it up just to get him off her back. A young man of twenty-five or twenty-six rescued her by standing up. Ted J. frowned and returned to his seat, while everyone turned expectantly to the new kid.