Rickee pushed his tousled hair back out of his eyes, he was sweating profusely in the afternoon sun and his hair kept falling down annoyingly into his eyes. Rickee was glad to be back home, back with his daddy and his moma, his brothers and sisters. It had been a rough two years since he had hit the road, threatening never to return home because the country life was boring and he was going away to the city lights. As Rickee worked on the greasy car parts, he thought about the last two years while he had been away.
The city life was not the way they showed it on television nor was it the way that he had imagined it to be. In fact, it was actually ugly, very ugly, and Rickee had learned many things he wished he didn't know. He was glad that he had never told his parents the true story of his life in the city. But somehow, even in his lowest moments, he had managed to write back letters to them to make them think that he was doing fine and getting rich, just like he had planned! But the sad thing was that he had not gotten rich and he had not done fine. In fact, what Rickee's parents didn't know wouldn't hurt them, for there was a lot that if they knew it about their son, it would hurt them deeply. Rickee had resolved that they would never know, for that chapter of his life was closed, and now he would forget everything behind.
Unfortunately, what Rickee had not counted on was that he would meet up with forces in the city that would take away from him his countrified innocence, his bashfulness and his trusting nature. Little did he know when he left full of life, full of hope, full of dreams, that he would return broken inside and diseased in his body. Rickee had come home again --to die. At twenty years old, in the midst of his city life, he had found out that he had AIDS.
Now out in the country where Rickee came from not many people ever got AIDS, because most of them got married right out of high school or while they were in school, and most of them didn't go much to the big city, but just stayed in the country. Some of them got drunk and talked real big but most of them never did anything different. What was even worse for Rickee was that his parents were Christians and they went to the church every Sunday and believed what the preacher said. No one from their family on either side had ever had AIDS and it just wasn't something that decent folks got involved in. It was more something for the big city people, but country folk felt themselves kind of immune to it.
Rickee was not so strong, nor so tough, nor so brave, nor so happy when he found out that he had AIDS. He had been introduced to sex once he entered the city life, and he didn't know much about it except what his partners taught him. Then, because he was hard up and couldn't find a job anywhere, an older man had befriended him and asked him to come and stay at his apartment. The older man's apartment was real big, and very nice, and he fed Rickee just about whatever he wanted. So, Rickee thought he had it made, and he wrote home about how good his life was in the big city. Needless to say, the family did not know all of the details of Rickee's life and he kept it that way. For, if his moma knew, she would have cried, and his daddy would probably have hit him with a two-by-four or something. But his parents were old fashioned and too strict, and his new friend, Waldo, told him that he could earn lots of money working for him. Waldo explained to Rickee that times were different now and people could do some things they didn't get to do in the past. Waldo explained to Rickee if he wanted to go to work with his company, that he could get him lots of jobs.
Rickee swallowed the bait and soon became hooked, working as one of Waldo's boys. Little did Rickee know that Waldo's speciality was boys like him who he sold as male escorts. At first, Waldo only used Rickee to escort older women to parties, and other places where he would pose as their companion or lover. Then, Waldo informed Rickee that if he wanted to move into the real money then he could move up into the higher ranks of the company, "for men only". Since Rickee was going to prove that he could make it rich in the big city, he joined the "for men only" branch of Waldo's company. Of course, Rickee would never have let his moma know, nor even his own brothers or sisters, and for sure he would never tell his daddy. He would just write them letters and sometimes enclose a fifty dollar bill as proof that he was "making it rich".
In Rickee's new position, he met a lot of men of high position in the city, and he was popular because he had a boyish wholesomeness about him that attracted many of them. Some of them paid him very well for his services and a couple of them wanted to set him up permanent like in special apartments. But whenever Rickee would ask Waldo, of course Waldo would say, "No way, Country Boy, you belong to me."
Rickee continued to live with Waldo and somehow, Waldo seemed to change towards him. He never bought Rickee anything anymore and he told Rickee that he had to give him, Waldo, seventy five percent of his earnings because he was his agent, and without him Rickee would not be able to get any jobs. So, Rickee, not really knowing anyone in the big city, did what Waldo wanted, for he was too ashamed to call his moma or his daddy and ask for help.
Sometimes, Rickee would get so sick from his job that he would vomit and vomit and not be able to stop. But Waldo would give him something in a needle to calm his nerves and he would go off into a stupefied sleep and wake up several hours later. Waldo would not give him the shots too often, but just when he got so miserable. Rickee began to lose his looks after a while because of the darkness in his heart, and he no longer looked innocent and boyish but grew hard as a rock inside. Many times when he was alone, he would pound his fists on the floor or the wall and pound his head, he was so frustrated, and trapped and alone. But he was in the big city and he had to make it rich to prove to moma and daddy that he was right and they were wrong!
One night, Waldo got real mean with Rickee and he told him that he was fired because he thought Rickee earned more money than he said he did, so Waldo accused him of stealing. But really, Waldo had a new boy he wanted to move into the apartment named Andy. So, he picked the fight to get rid of Rickee. Rickee left, cursing Waldo, and throwing what few belongings he had in the back of the beat up car he had brought from the country. For all of his big money earnings, Rickee didn't have anything. Waldo had taken seventy five percent as his agent and now he had not much to show for his big time in the big city. Scared and alone, Rickee drove through the streets of the city, not knowing where to go, or who to turn to. For two days, he drove aimlessly around, wasting time, wasting gasoline, wasting and wasting. He was empty and alone in the big city where he had come to make it rich. Finally, he parked his car by an abandoned warehouse and started walking. Where he was walking, he didn't know, he didn't care, he didn't even know how long he had walked. Finally, he crumpled down on the city sidewalk, hitting his head on the pavement. The next thing that Rickee remembered, he was in a hospital. It was not a very nice one, but a dirty one where they took helpless, homeless cases like him. The doctor came in to check on him and told him that he was suffering from nervous exhaustion, exposure, pneumonia, and AIDS. He then went on to explain to Rickee that his chances for recovery were almost non-existent and that if he had parents, they should be notified of his condition.
That night, Rickee slipped out of the hospital and walked weakly to the place where he remembered his car was. It was luckily still there and he opened it up and crawled inside. He was too tired to try and drive so he fell asleep, shaking off and on throughout the night because he was so sick and tired. When morning came, Rickee prayed to God for the first time in a long, long time and asked God to help him get home again before he died. The drive back from the big city was not easy nor was it fun, and Rickee shook a lot because he was sick, because he was tired and because he was scared.
Moma did not believe her eyes when she saw his car pull in the long gravel road to the house. When he honked the horn, she walked slowly to the car, not sure if this was a stranger or what. Then Rickee managed to get out of the car and she threw her arms around him and showered him with kisses and love. She couldn't believe that God had sent her baby back. Oh, how many tears had she cried, how many times had she wept in longing for her boy? All the time he was gone, she had known as mothers do, that all of his good reports and his big money weren't just quite right. Now, he was home. Moma quickly scurried him into the house, then she put him up to the big old kitchen table and began to feed him. After he had eaten she put him to bed. Rickee slept straight for two days, and he didn't even have any of those shots of Waldo's. He just slept like a baby, and every so often, moma would check on him to make sure he was still alive and that she wasn't dreaming. But, sure enough, he was there. When she went to get his things out of the car, she was shocked at his clothes, but she told herself, maybe that was how they had to dress in the big city.
Finally, Rickee came back to life and decided to try and fix his car which had rattled and sputtered all the way back home. He wasn't used to the hot sun anymore or even any hard work because Waldo had pampered him too much. But, Rickee was determined so he went out into the brightness of the afternoon to work on the car and get it shaped up. His hands shook a lot and sometimes, he even cried because he didn't know what he was doing anymore or for that matter, who he was. Poor, poor moma, if only she knew, would she love him, or would she ask him to leave for the sake of the others?
For three days and nights, Rickee struggled within himself as to what he should do. Then, finally, at the end of the third night, he could take it no longer, he fell down to his knees and buried his face in his hands and cried and cried and cried like a baby. He asked Jesus to forgive him and to help him and he could feel a warm flush of love come over him. Then he heard, as clear as day, a voice which said to him, "Obey me and I will heal you, and you shall live." Rickee stood up, a man ready to face his problems and believe God.
Rickee decided not to tell his moma, nor his daddy, not even his brothers and sisters, but just to believe the voice that had given him hope. It was a struggle to hold to that promise but he believed, and now, he has a wife and two beautiful little children. She's a country girl, not too pretty but good as gold and she loves him. And his children are a gift to him from God. Once a year, he goes off by himself for a couple of days, and he gets a test, but he doesn't tell his wife nor his moma. And always, when the results come back negative, he gets down on his knees and thanks God that he gave him life, and the chance to come home again.
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