Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Brotherly Love

I walked into Jorge Castaneda’s room unaware that the cherub-faced young man at his bedside was his own personal demon, in the flesh. After introductions, Jorge asked that he leave us alone to talk. I had known some of Jorge’s torments from reading his chart: sexual abuse history, repeatedly kicked out of the house, both parents dying of AIDS when he was 5, his sister dying of AIDS last year. At 27 years old Jorge had seen more death and suffering than people many twice his age.
He had come to the hospital just two days earlier, facing his own death by drug overdose. It was intentional and had happened twice; Jorge wanted to nothing more but die. His overdose was so severe that he laid comatose in Intensive Care for his first 48 hours, breathing on a ventilator, but somehow he miraculously pulled through.
Even with all that, Jorge managed to keep some surprises for me. Seems the cherubic youngster was the brother who had raped Jorge repeatedly and regularly since Jorge’s fifth birthday. When I say rapes I mean just that; molestation was an understatement. “He would hold a kitchen knife to my throat, sometimes he’d cut it just a little, to let me know he was serious. He ripped me open so bad I would bleed and couldn’t sit for days.” This, I realized, must have been the young man who had been calling our hospital so many times telling us he was coming to take his brother home.
“It looks a lot like you get along well, though,” I observed.“Yeah, that’s what I like it to look like, but deep down I want to stab him and cut his fucking heart out,” Jorge said, lips quivering.“Who’s your audience?”“My grandma. She raised us basically our whole lives. After mom and dad died, she took us in. But he was always her favorite, the ‘good son’ who couldn’t do anything wrong. When I first told them about the rapes, no one believed me. Then when they knew what was happening, they didn’t care. My grandma told me to basically get over it. Because I’m gay, they thought it was okay. ‘Oh, he’s a little fag so you know he really likes it.’ But for some reason I still want to put on a show for her. Out of respect I guess.” Or was it out of self-hatred?
I soon learned that Jorge had a repeating pattern. Towards the end of his high school career, he became involved with a boyfriend in the tough Latino gang-riddled East LA who introduced him to crystal meth. “That’s how I became addicted,” he states. Jorge recounted that he would score the drug for his boyfriend and on several occasions after they got high, the boyfriend would rape the patient using weapons. “He would make me do things that I didn’t want to do, either with him or in front of him with other people.”
The police apparently became involved at one point, but the boyfriend’s mother “hid me in the closet and told the cops we just had the TV really loud.”
Lately, Jorge has developed a pattern of binge drinking to the point of blackout. He states, “I would come home with no shirt, no underwear, and I had no idea what had happened.”
That is what worries me most about Jorge. His world has been nearly decimated by AIDS and he continues to play sexual Russian Roulette. He told me that he’s tested HIV-negative, “so far.” But consider his exposure to its destructive power: His parents and sister dying of AIDS. His little brother being HIV-positive. And his gangster-rapist ex-boyfriend in East LA now dying of the disease “with some kind of cancer that he has bumps all over his head.” Jorge thinks about this for a moment then smiles. “I guess he got what he deserved.”
My hope is that Jorge doesn’t give himself what he thinks he deserves.Sphere: Related Content
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