Mostly, because I don’t know
what else to do, I take the hand
of this little boy, different than me
in so many unimportant ways.
His feet are calloused
from the hard red rocks;
my hands are cracked, from overuse
of Purell hand sanitizer.
He sees his world clearly
and knows all about it; I am
so young and inexperienced.
His mother and father are dead.
The only thing darker than his skin
is his prognosis, I think bitterly.
Earlier today I spilled his blood,
to cover the test strip, enough
to show me the two red lines
I was praying wouldn’t
materialize. But they did.
I grip harder than I should
and think about the pain
he feels. How could he not?
But he does not speak of pain;
he is merely intent on kicking
the wadded up paper covered
in packaging tape — a sad excuse
for a soccer ball, to me,
but to him and the others
a source of daily joy.
It bounces erratically,
but the boys have steady feet
to match their steady laughter.
He looks at me. His black lips part
to reveal teeth that are whiter than me,
and his eyes say, friend! I give
a final squeeze and he goes off to play.
The little paper test had told me
he was positive, but I needed
an afternoon with him to know
just how much more positive
than me he was.