Transcript of 22nd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Alex Rozzi, Wednesday, October 29, 1997 at 5:00 pm.

Mr. Rozzi: Hey, Doctor Balis.
Dr. Balis: Hello, Alex. How are you doing this week?
Mr. Rozzi: Okay, I guess. Gosh, I wonder what bug crawled up her butt? Katherine just brushed past me like I wasn't even there. I don't know--I guess I'm not so good, really.
Dr. Balis: You look a bit tired. Have you been getting enough sleep? What's going on?
Mr. Rozzi: Well, it's been a weird week. And I mean real weird. Since Benny has got himself that delay we talked about, I've been having trouble sleeping again. But it's okay, really, because I've been spending more time painting. That's what I've been doing when I can't sleep--paint. It keeps my mind off him, and I'm able to do the work that I want to do. I got myself some good paints and started this huge painting--stippling, sort of. It's a bunch of splat-like dots, and it's real big. I picked out a six by four feet board. I'm doing a car, but that's beyond the point. I'm just stressing.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad that you're able to spend your sleepless time productively, but I also want you to get the sleep you need. Have you tried taking the medication I previously prescribed for insomnia?
Mr. Rozzi: I haven't even thought about it. But you know the weirdest thing that happened? This thing with Jake and my artwork has been bugging me.
Dr. Balis: You sounded so positive last week; what's bothering you?
Mr. Rozzi: Well, it's's like...oh, I don't know. I'm not ready for it. I followed Jake's advice and went down to that publisher and met Esther--she's the one that runs that place. It's a small publishing company. So I showed her my work, and we talked for awhile. We really hit it off. She's so cool, you know? She's very eclectic, kind of like a gypsy. Anyway, she and I were talking, and she told me that I wasn't ready. She didn't say it in a bad way, she just said that I needed more experience, more training. So I think Jake was humoring me, you know? He was trying to make me feel good about myself. And the finished pieces he has are real good, you know? It kind of surprised me how good they turned out. They are much better than the small rough drafts I showed you. And it totally surprised me that he hung them up. But Esther said I needed to get more work under my belt and get some professional training. She knew Selvin and said that he's one of the best art teachers around and that I need to really take advantage of his knowledge. She even said that Jake is too generous sometimes.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. I think Esther gave you very good advice. I'm not an artist, but I think that with training and art classes, your work would certainly improve. But I wouldn't assume right away that Jake was just trying to humor you. He probably did like your work.
Mr. Rozzi: So Esther and I did some painting together last weekend, and she helped me to see that I'm really not prepared for a professional art career at this point. I brought her over to the house and showed her my stippling. She seemed real impressed. Sometimes the work I do surprises even me--that I did it, I mean, that it came out of these hands. Did I really do that? But Esther was real honest and upfront with me, and she encouraged me to push forward. So now, when I can't sleep, I paint. The painting is almost finished now, and I just started it last week. This is the biggest thing I've done so far.
Dr. Balis: I'm looking forward to seeing it or at least a picture of it, I guess. But I do want to encourage you to take your medication when you're having trouble sleeping. Do you still have any left?
Mr. Rozzi: Uh, I don't know, dude. I don't want to feel drugged.
Dr. Balis: The medication I prescribed is very mild and shouldn't make you feel that way. It will, however, help you to get the rest you need. I'm just worried about you, Alex.
Mr. Rozzi: I don't feel bad, though. And there's more on my mind. One night, I was feeling tired of painting, so I watched TV. I saw one of those commercials for the psychics, you know? Well, I called one for kicks, but this woman, the psychic, told me some interesting stuff. She said that there was someone in my life that felt tremendous guilt over something that happened between us. I think that must be Benny. Well, I got quite a surprise after that. Remember I told you that Ralph was sick with the flu? The next morning after heaving his guts out again, Ralph sat me down and said that he had to talk to me about something. And I thought: "Oh no, here it comes. He's going to throw me out." Well, he told me that he really liked me staying there with him and that I was welcome to stay as long as I want to. But the kicker is that he said the same thing months ago--when I first met him and did that buttered white bread thing for him. He said that he really thought that I was much older then. He said that if he knew my real age, he wouldn't have asked me to do that or go to his house. He said that he felt real guilty about that. See? And I don't even believe in all that psychic shit. Pretty weird, huh?
Dr. Balis: So you think the psychic woman from TV meant Ralph?
Mr. Rozzi: Sure. Don't you think?
Dr. Balis: I think it was good of Ralph to try to talk to you about that stuff.
Mr. Rozzi: Yeah, but the weird part is yet to come. Ralph never once wanted to have sex with me. Not then and not now. And, as far as I know, he hasn't had anyone else over for that since. So I asked him about it. You know what he told me? He's sick. He's impotent, and he's sick. He has AIDS! AIDS! I was like: "No way, dude." But he has been HIV positive for almost ten years now. He's on that Crixovan cocktail combo, and he's doing pretty well. Well, at least better than he did before when he almost died. That stuff hides any infection pretty well. Ralph was able to hide it from me--the drugs and the doctor appointments and all that. He hid it all from me. He said he thought that if I knew, I would run out on him. And he said that having me as a companion has been the best thing for him. I was so freaked, man. I told him that his being HIV positive doesn't and won't scare me off. But I also told him that now I was scared.
Dr. Balis: What are you afraid of, Alex?
Mr. Rozzi: He's going to die on me, Doc. He's going to die, and then I'm all alone again. I don't want him to die. I want him to stay here with me and not leave. But I know he's going to go away just like everyone else. He's going to leave me here by myself. Oh, why do people do that? Why do they get sick? I wish I could do something to make him better, but I can't.
Dr. Balis: You're doing a lot for him, Alex. You're a good companion and a good friend. Ralph is lucky to have you around. Having HIV today is not the same as having HIV just a year or two ago. People who were once on the brink of death have made stunning comebacks with the new and highly successful drugs that have just came out on the market. It sounds like Ralph is doing very well. Now the flu he has is bothersome. Did Ralph say that it was a side effect or a complication due to HIV?
Mr. Rozzi: He said that it's not, but I don't really know. He seems to think the virus is gone--that this cocktail thing has chased it away. But if that was true, then people wouldn't still be dying, you know? He insists that his viral load is undetectable, but I have trouble believing that.
Dr. Balis: It's true that some HIV infected people now are showing no symptoms and their viral loads are down and their T-cell counts have increased. Right now, as long as the regimented drug therapy is continued, the most successful cases seem to be very stable.
Mr. Rozzi: But I just know he's going die on me. I just...well, it's like I can't...uh, I'm real worried that he's going to die!
Dr. Balis: I understand how you feel. You have experienced a lot of loss in your life...
Mr. Rozzi: I don't know what to do. I walked all over town that day and half the night, too. I can't abandon him; he needs me as much as I need him. I talked to Luke about it, and he said that having me live with Ralph probably really helps him--it gives him another reason to carry on. You know, Ralph doesn't have anyone. His parents have been gone for years, and he has no brothers or sisters or any other family that I know of. I'm all he's got, and that's almost too much for me to handle. But I can't just leave him. It wouldn't be right, not after all he's done for me. With Tony up in St. Helena, and Roly in la-la land somewhere out there in the streets, it's like I have no one left either. We need each other--I can't let him die.
Dr. Balis: Well, I'm afraid that this is something well beyond your control. I know that the uncertainty is very hard on you, Alex. But none of us can predict the future. Ralph may live a long and full life. Going about worrying when he will die will just make you anxious. My best advice is to carry on like you have. Someday soon, HIV may be treated and regarded just like diabetes is now--with proper drug therapy, it will be under control, and the patient will be able to expect to live a fairly normal life. Be there for him, Alex, and let him be there for you, too.
Mr. Rozzi: Yeah...
Dr. Balis: But to do that, you need to care of yourself, too. You've got to get some sleep. Take the quazepam I prescribed
Mr. Rozzi: I don't know. It's just that the drug thing kind of scares me, too. You know?
Dr. Balis: It's perfectly normal to feel that way. But I wouldn't prescribe it to you if I thought it would hurt you. Please do take it if you continue to lose sleep. Are you able to keep up with your school work?
Mr. Rozzi: Shit, that stuff is so boring--I could've done that crap when I was five years old. You should see what they teach now--such useless shit. But yes, I get it done before I even get home each day. And my grades are good, so it's not affecting that.
Dr. Balis: Okay, then. I suggest you get some current literature on AIDS and HIV. The StopAIDS project may be a good place to start or the San Francisco Aids Foundation, they are very good, too.
Mr. Rozzi: I'll check them out. Oh, yeah. I brought another drawing for you. I call this one "Performance Anxiety." See? He's got a cello. My grandmother used to play one in a symphony or something. I still have her cello, but don't know how to play it. I used it as a model for this drawing. Just about every piece of work I do involves something I either own or something I do. I started to do some animated drawings of Ralph's cats, too. I can't stop thinking of ideas for my next piece of work, and I don't seem to have enough time for it all.
Dr. Balis: Well, keep up the good work, Alex. As you've figured out, keeping oneself productive is a good way to ease one's mind. And get some rest.
Mr. Rozzi: I'll try.
Dr. Balis: Good. I'll see you next week.
Mr. Rozzi: Okay, dude, catch you later.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye. And Alex?
Mr. Rozzi: Yes?
Dr. Balis: If you need anything, please call.
Mr. Rozzi: Thanks a lot, man. Later!
Dr. Balis: Goodbye.
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